Archive for April 2012

Us versus Us

30Apr12

I have been a supporter of Jennifer Knapp since I first heard her Contemporary Christian hit single “Undo Me” years ago. She sings an apology and words of reconciliation about several social situations: “It’s time to get down on my knees and pray, ‘Lord, undo me.’ Put away my flesh and bone ‘til you own your spirit through me.”

That support only increased last year, when I learned that she had “come out” about being in a relationship with a woman. I don’t know the label that Knapp would use for herself, and I won’t make any assumption. I do know that the mixture of CTC and LGBTQ is surely the most challenging of any in the music business.

So, like others before her – Ray Boltz in CTC and Chely Wright in Country as examples – I have been very intentional about supporting her career even more now. Whatever headwind she was already facing as an artist has surely turned stormy. The first line from her new CD, Letting Go, speaks volumes: “Careful what you say; careful who might hear. …” She also speaks of being tired of “standing on the edge of myself.”

Violent dismissal and confrontation toward gays and lesbians is all-too-easy to document. See below for a recent example out of Cleveland, Ohio: Rape Away The Gay

This may be intentionally shocking, from a conservative talk show host trying to incite others. Still, it is easy to trace the pattern from the current political noise to numerous school bullying and teen suicide cases to here. Does “pray away the gay” equal “rape away the gay”? No, but that’s a fallacious comparison. Both are wrong. One is a criminal suggestion. The other is a hideous abuse of theology, a view of prayer that refuses to comprehend the concept “thy will be done” which Jesus taught in the Sermon On The Mount.

I have a problem, though. I’m hearing, indirectly, suggestions that something is wrong in my support for Knapp and others. No, it isn’t religious right voices telling me that the support is incorrect (I’d have to pay attention in a way I don’t intend to). “Incomplete” might be a better term. I’m left to wonder if my support is dangerously insufficient.

“I was convicted by @jennifer_knapp saying those of us who r straight but affirming need to out ourselves as allies of LGBTQ.” Although I am on Twitter now (as ic_greg), these are not my words. Still, the words of @FemmeMinister have resonated with me.

Why do I struggle with terminology like “allies” when my actions tend to be affirming in my own uninformed way? A quick look at the headlines confirms the danger of being silent.

I’m not silent, though. Long ago, I was convicted that it is far better to say something that should not be said than not to say something that should be said. I am ignorant (inexperienced) of many things LGBTQ, but it is easier to apologize for mis-understanding and getting something wrong – compared to dealing with words not spoken after consequences that could have been changed.

Is the solution really about taking sides, though? I ask because I don’t know. After more than a year of on-again/off-again contemplation, I haven’t answered this question.

To me, the notion of “allies” implies the balancing notion of “axis” and I think that’s a fair assessment. My LGBTQ friends need support in the face of fierce opposition. Naturally, that implies a good force of allies standing up to an axis of evil, in the political language we’ve used my entire lifetime.

At least within Christianity, I don’t see even most of the hateful people within the church as enemies who need to be vanquished. As an example, I reject the somewhat common notion that Christ must be denied in order to affirm any LGBTQ issue. No. Whoever the non-allies are, they are people who need to be reached not repelled.

Will a firmly entrenched “us versus them” position make things better? Isn’t this a segregation of sorts? The problem isn’t “us versus them.” It’s “us versus us.”

Picking a side in an ongoing debate can be a crucial and necessary step for some. Knapp is probably right, like Martin Luther King, Jr. (on civil rights), that quietly disapproving of homophobia from the sidelines is a curse. It isn't enough. I want to be affirming of those who “out themselves as allies of LGBTQ.” Standing up isn’t wrong.

I’m hearing a different calling, though. If picking sides takes away the opportunities I have to reach those “with ears to hear” on the other side of the political spectrum, then taking on the mantle of “ally” is a mistake.

I have questions that I’m still pondering. It’s important to get others within the church and conservative politics to face their own questions. To honestly challenge those who haven’t yet dealt with their ignorance and/or bigotry, I can’t be on the other side of a battle line. I can't be on either side. I need to be fully engaged.

I believe there is far more “us” in this struggle than “them.”

A complete system of commerce must include a final destination point for "clearance" that serves both the needs of industry and the bottom-feeder (plecostomus). I do not use that term as an insult because it describes me quite well as a loyal customer of used record stores and bookstores. Some of my most beloved rock bands and musicians were first discovered in the dollar bins or cutout racks. It is good that others' cast-offs have found a happy home. Without such a method of filtering out the unwanted production, any retail system is incomplete or under-developed.

Different Drummer: Mark E. Smith

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The concept "heart" describes the deepest, most personally "real" part of ourselves.  A great many people have never revealed this Self to anyone, not even a spouse or other family member.  At the same time, any hope another person has for truly knowing you depends entirely on getting to "the heart of the matter" within that relationship.  This is one of the great truths that Jesus came to share, and it rests at the core of what Christians mean by "having a relationship" with God.

Different Drummer: Frederick Buechner

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Ritual can be a part of authentic worship, but if that's all there is then it is almost certainly false.  My faith has consistently affirmed the conviction that God is "present" within worship, not as a judgmental taskmaster but as a loving, creative force.  Genuine worship changes over time, even from week to week.  Rather than being regimented, if it is truly God-focused then it will reflect the Lord's mysterious ways.  Anything less than a journey into this heart of wonder may be "religious" but it certainly isn't spiritual.

Different Drummer: Rick Moyer

Take Him With You

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