Friday, August 19, 2011

Excerpt from Is Love Wrong? Chapter 39: Bill

From: Bill Davison
Sent: Wednesday, 1:03 PM
To: SPF7
Subject: Read

Hey Guys,
I have had an email exchange with Don, and he and I are on the same page here. He and his life style are being singled out a bit too much. Yes, he is open about the choices he has made, but not always in sharing them, or being singled out. Admittedly, I was a lil uncomfortable the other night in talking about the gay life, not because I am homophobic, but it makes Don look like "Don the Gay Guy".
Well that’s bull****! He is Don our brother! I can tell ya’ll, and I can speak with a vast knowledge, there is no difference between the gay or straight community. I have had a lot of experience in being around that community, more than some of ya’ll been alive. What I was saying the other night is that we all are in Don’s shoes when it comes to reaching other non-believers. The minute we step out our doors, if we aren't too medicated, we will run into someone needing to know God the way we do. To think Don has a better chance is false. Now maybe in your coming and goings in the day you are surrounded by nothing but believers. I'm sorry your life is that boring—heathens are cool!
Many in our group have little or no real exposure to the Gay community, so you are not even qualified to judge what goes on there. I can tell you from working undercover and basically infiltrating the scene so to say. There is no difference in the amount or type of sexual decadence. In fact the worst pervs I have seen have been straight guys. And I have seen or read about a lot in damn near 20 years as a cop. Now I don't think this was done by anyone on purpose, but Don has received a label, and it’s over. If Don chooses to share that part of his life then so be it, but singling him out is over, end of story. Don is a new believer and follower and nothing more.
Now some of ya’ll may think I am out of place, but I have received confirmation from Don about what I was feeling, and he approached me about it in a roundabout way. Don and I are the same in as much as we have both struggled with addiction and come through clean and sober. So he and I can communicate on a common ground about what we feel. Now if some are motivated to reply, tread lightly, you may pull back a bloody stub. Been a lil stressful at work. This month has been extra violent—so my BS meter peaks real quick.

I read Bill’s email and felt perturbed. I was one of the guys that called Don, “Gay Don.” But what else do you call him? Scripture popped into my head and then everything came full circle and the conviction hit home. Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for being proud that they were so graceful to endure the presence of a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife. They were proud of it. Look at how graceful we are!
Was I doing that? I think there was a side of me that wanted to rub Don in the church’s face and say, “See! This is who we need to reach.”
But the other side of this is that Paul also said not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian as in engaged in a host of evil stuff—including homosexuality. Bill wanted us to not make a big deal about Don being gay—to single out his sin. That was the part which I agreed, but I’ll be honest a part of me felt that if we didn’t bring it up, we might be endorsing it. Clearly, I needed more training and I wasn’t sure DTS was going to provide that—on this issue.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Excerpt from Is Love Wrong? Chapter 38: Invalid Prayer

I sat down across from Don at the DTS coffee shop, Café Koine. Don wore a yellow dress shirt with a blue and yellow sweater vest. His yellow pants and white dress shoes were unique as well. He also had on his yellow ivy-league cap resting on his head. He could have been a Steven Brothers’ model—or dressed as Payne Stewart for Halloween. I smiled as I knew Don used the way he dressed to throw people for a loop. It added to his charm.
“Have you heard from Zoe?”
“Yeah, but I am trying not to talk to her. It is just tough when she calls a thousand times a day.”
“I’ll refrain from saying anything negative. You never know the future.”
“I still love her, but it just won’t work. It just isn’t smart.” I was grateful to talk to Don and just air out my inner thoughts and I thought it incredibly healthy to not feel judged or that the answer was so abundantly clear I shouldn’t have feelings for a girl who just ripped my heart out. There was this sense of trust with Don that I didn’t have to worry about him going and telling everyone and that I didn’t have to wear the scarlet letter of idiocy. I’m not sure why I felt that way with other Christians, but I just did, it was like Don was a safe place.
Don’s face moved from warm to pensive as he moved closer to the table. “I need to talk to you about something.”
“What’s up, Don?”
“Chris, last night at church I saw a guy who looked familiar. I thought it was someone from church who had been cruising me, I often attract trolls—anyway—I received an email from a guy I had whipped and beat right before I became Christian. This guy had wanted me to go back and do him again, with more intensity, I’m not going into graphic details—it’s boring to me.”
“Thanks I appreciate that,” I said.
“Back to the story slash dilemma. The guy at study last night wasn’t the guy from church who had been cruising me.”
“Okay, who was it?”
“It was the guy I had met online in a Sn’M chat room, before my conversion, who I beat and he has been practically begging me to beat him again. I’ve really never seen much of his face, and never in a brightly lit room. He was at church last night! ****, what do I do now?”
“Well, he is at church, that’s a good thing. This could be a God thing that he is coming to you now. Tell him about your experiences and how Christ has changed your life—and you don’t do that anymore.”
“He’s just a trick, Chris. I have no desire whatsoever to socialize with him.”
“Isn’t that the attitude you accuse Christians of having? Why not share your faith with him?”
“I’ll pray about it,” Don said.
“Don’t wimp out,” I said and smiled.
“I’m not wimping out.”
We paused for a moment taking in the morning. Don stared at his half eaten pancakes. I drank my café white mocha and thanked God that I have such a weird life.
“I got an email from Matt Chandler. He wants to have lunch with me.”
“Well, he is the best preacher in America right now.”
“Better than Andy Stanley? How come you never made me watch Matt Chandler sermons like you’ve made me watch Andy Stanley? You know I wrote Andy and told him you needed to go to Andy Stanley Anonymous.”
“I do know that. You’ve reminded me a 100 times. Matt does the best job of getting a crowd to feel like he is on their team by using the straw man argument exceptionally well.”
“What do you mean?” Don asked.
“Well, he slams legalistic churches that he was very familiar with when he first got saved. And so he rails on them with humor. The weird thing is that it seems that the demographic that rolls into his church each week has never been to one that would remember thermometers out in the narthex for the building campaign.”
“Then he does an exceptional job of using that momentum to speak very directly to his congregation on issues that his congregation is wrestling with—I want to learn that method—it is super effective—which is why he has a huge following.”
“But what does he want with me?”
“I think you represent the very people that his straw man arguments hammer. He wants those overly legalistic churches to see his church reach out to the community that we politically ostracize as evangelical republicans. Or he might just want to meet you—you are pretty weird.”
“**** you.”
I smiled.
“I had a conversation with Steven yesterday,” Don said.
“What happened this time?” I said narrowing my eyes.
“Steven is tormenting me, not me tormenting him this time. The last time we met at group we had our usual prayer requests, and Chris, I have earnestly prayed for all the requests that you and the other guys mentioned, I have prayed the single guys would find the wife or girlfriend they want. I have even prayed those requests when I’m at home. I left that last Monday thinking if I weren’t in my relationship would my prayer request for a man to come into my life that I could love, would that request be as valid as the exact request that you straight single guys make? The same request I pray for them, would my request be as supported?”
“What did he say?” I asked.
“He said that it wouldn’t be supported. What about you, do you support that?”
“No Don, I don’t,” I said.
“What the ****? It seems you desire me to be a second class Christian. Only straight guys can be first class. I personally don’t see anything in heterosexuality that I would ever need. It’s cool for the ones who were born straight, without you guys the human race couldn’t breed, but that’s not me.”
“Don, you are not second class…” I started.
“I may be totally off here but it seems you think I need to be straight. God didn’t, he made me this way and he chose me, I didn’t choose God, I just didn’t fight. I’m offended that you think straight means first class. If I have to be a second class Christian I will be, but I’m doing everything suggested and more. The same things you guys do. I don’t have the answers. But I won’t ever go back to feeling like human debris or a piece of ****.”
“Nobody wants that,” I interjected.
“Coming out of the closet was hell for me, Chris. For years I allowed horrid things to happen to my mind and body. I felt worthless. I can’t go back to that. I won’t go back to that and I will never believe God would want anyone to feel like ****.”
“He doesn’t Don and you know that. If there is anything that has come from our Bible Studies it’s that God loves you and gave His Son to die for you and He rose from the dead so we could have a perfect relationship with God,” I said.
Don looked down at the table, defeated. “I’m just exhausted with my sexual orientation occupying my time and the time of anyone else. I’ve told you specifics about what happened to me, and I don’t feel like I should have to defend myself against my new Christian brothers. Ya’ll treat me just like Christians did before I was converted.”
 “Don, when the subject comes up of ‘is homosexuality sin?’ we can’t just lie and say, ‘That’s great, I’m so glad that you are living that way, when I wholeheartedly believe that is not what God wants.”
“You showed me in 1 Corinthians 6 where Paul wrote about whom Christians should not associate. He lists off things like killing, getting drunk, lying, stealing and in the midst of all these evil verbs is homosexual offenders which is a plural noun. Paul is a bigot—or was raped in prison. That is the only possible way that he came to these conclusions.
“I pulled out my computer and opened up my BibleWorks Program to 1st Corinthians 6:9-10. Look man, all those words adulterers, drunkards, swindlers are nouns in Greek or English—Not verbs.”
“No, a person can stop drinking. A person can cheat once on his wife and then not do it anymore. I can steal, but then give it back.”
“Don, not quite, what is an adulterer? Is it someone who commits adultery, or someone who just wants to?”
“Someone who has sex with someone who is not their spouse.”
“Jesus puts it differently. He says that if you lust after a woman in your heart then you have committed adultery with her.”
“It says nothing of looking lustfully at a man,” Don shot back.
“Don, c’mon.”
“What? It doesn’t. You’re the one who takes the Bible literally,” Don said.
“Yeah, what the Bible literally means, not what it literally says. I don’t believe that when Jesus says in the same portion of scripture in Matthew 5 that when Jesus says to gouge out your eye or chop off your hand if you lust after a woman that he means that. If you followed the scripture by what it literally says, it wouldn’t solve anything, you would still be lusting but have one less eye. And you may want to masturbate, but you’d have to do it left handed.”
“You’re sick.”
“Me, at least I don’t have trolls cruising me wanting me to beat them.”
“Good point.”
Don and I laughed and I stole a look around the coffee shop. This was the part about hanging out with Don that I enjoyed. We laughed a lot. We could be serious and discuss heated issues and then one of us would crack a joke and we would smile and be old friends.
“Don you must have learned in AA that merely putting restrictions on someone does not take away the desire to drink—you have to train yourself not to drink and you put people around you who support you through that.”
“Yeah, okay.”
“Well, it’s the same with sin.”
“It’s different. I’m not telling you that what you are is wrong. I’m not telling your very being is wrong.”
“But that’s what I am saying. Original sin has marred all of us and we are in bondage to it until Christ frees us from it.”
“That’s bull****. I still have problems with that whole Adam and Eve original sin ****. That has to be a metaphor.”
“That’s the literal part, Don.”
“Dammit, how does anyone believe this? It doesn’t make any sense. Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and Mary Poppins are more believable than this.”
“Then what happened that night when you asked my God to be your God.”
“I don’t know. Maybe I was delusional. I have been in a weird emotional state ever since coming in contact with you and all your people.”
“Back to your invalid prayer. We have been over Romans 1 a thousand times. That was Guy’s favorite verse. The Bible is pretty clear that part is sin.”
“Clear to you. You have been trained to read it that way.”
“Don, let me read it to you, and let’s say we had only these words to go off. ‘Romans 1:26-27 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.’ Now what does that mean to you?”
“That Paul was raped in prison.”
I laughed. “You don’t give up do you?”
“There is only one reason that someone would write something like that. He must have had a vendetta against the Gay community.”
“Don, you are so reading into the text. That is called eisegesis.”
“Who is to say that I’m wrong.”
“Good point Don. I could line up a 100 evangelical scholars and you could line up 100 liberal scholars and they would say complete opposite things about Paul’s life. However, when I read this text, I get that homosexuality is a sin, and therefore when you ask me if I can pray for you to meet the right man to “be with” I won’t, just like I won’t pray for you to start using drugs—because that is sin.”
“You are crazy.”
“Thanks Don, I gotta get to class.”
“You always leave right when I’m about to make my best point.”
“Bye Don.”

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Excerpt from Is Love Wrong?: Chapter 37: Dr. Kreider

“Hey Don,” Brit smiled as he stepped into Buli’s. He sat down next to Don and had a big smile on his face.

Don, tilted his head and looked at Brit, “What’s the **** eating grin for?” he asked.

“How would you feel about going to a theology class with me?” Brit asked.

“I would love it. But you know I have to be at the store by 11am,” Don said.

“The class ends at 9am so you would be good,” Brit answered.

“I think that is what I need,” Don said, his eyes searching for a target.

“I think it’s what DTS needs, Don.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, they need to see the people they have historically ostracized.”

“Well, I want to learn, not make a statement.”

“Don, you will make a statement by learning.”

Brit and Don carried on the conversation for an hour before Brit had to get back to his Thesis. Don enjoyed Brit and could never understand why this young brilliant, talented, good looking man would ever want to spend so much time with him. There was sort of a high to all this. There was an excitement that came with this spirituality that there was something more and this acceptance that Don felt was so intoxicating.

Don called Type A with an extra amount of enthusiasm. “Chris, am I calling at a bad time?”

“Nope, you’re good, what’s up?” Chris responded.

“I’m going to class with Brit.”

“Which class?”

“Theology with Dr. Kreider,” Don said.

“You will love him. I showed your video to him—the one that you and I made on YouTube—for the class angelology, anthropology, and harmitialogy that I had over winter break.”


“Can you hear me? I think my reception is okay,” I said looking at the bars on my cell.

“Oh I wasn’t sure you were talking to me when you started with a bunch of ologies.”

“Hey when do you go?” Chris asked.

“Tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

Don got off the phone and readied himself for class at seminary. He got his journal and Bible ready and sat for a moment contemplating what he was doing. This is surreal.

The next morning, Brit met Don at the coffee shop. Don ordered Brit a venti white chocolate mocha and got himself a regular black coffee.

“Hey Don, I only have ones, is that okay?” Emily, the barista Don had come to enjoy, asked.

“Well, I hadn’t planned on hitting the strip club today, but now I might rethink it,” Don teased.

“Twelve dollars and forty three cents is your change,” Emily said as she counted out the ones.

Don stuffed the coins and bills into his pants pocket and followed Brit to the Todd academic building.

“Perfect shirt,” Brit said as he tapped Don’s chest. Don wore his favorite T-shirt, “Put your Ass on Some Class” Harley Davidson T-Shirt as well as his leather jacket and ripped jeans.

“I still don’t understand why everyone makes such a big deal about this shirt, it is just a t-shirt,” Don said basking in Brit’s approval.

Don followed Brit into the classroom. Students eyeballed Don for a moment and then opened up their computer to prepare for class. Don loved that no one knew what to make of him. It was like someone in full William Shakespeare garb walked into class. A look or two would be given, but then each person figured that was for some media class. Brit walked to the front of the class and introduced Don to Dr. Kreider. The professor smiled when he met Don.

“Great to finally meet you, Don. Please call me, Glenn.” Dr. Kreider said.

“Glad to meet you, too. This is truly a wonderful opportunity for me. I have learned so much from Brit and Chris and so many others here at the seminary.”

Dr. Kreider smiled. Don and Brit went and sat down a couple rows back off to Dr. Kreider’s left. Dr. Kreider opened the class with a cell phone reminder. “Everyone please turn off your cell phones or the ringers so that we don’t have any interruptions.”

Don took his cell phone and turned it off and put it in his front pants pocket.

Dr. Kreider opened the class with a song that Don actually knew. It was U2 and Bono was crooning, “I want to run, I want to hide. I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside. I want to reach out and touch the flame where the streets have no name.” That was from the Joshua Tree Album. Don wondered for a moment if he had that album. This was different.

After the song played Dr. Kreider surveyed the students and said nothing which made Don shift in his chair. “The song’s lyrics resound with a hope unique to the Christian experience.” He paused again and looked at the students. “One day, when Christ restores all things, life won’t hurt anymore.”

Just then someone’s cell phone went off. Don was annoyed and looked around to see the culprit who clearly had hearing problems. As he turned around he felt an elbow coming from Brit. When he turned to face Brit, he realized it was his cell phone that was going off and that the whole class was looking in his direction.

“****!” Don exclaimed putting his hand to his mouth. “Oh, no, ****! Sorry!” Don put his hand over his mouth and scrambled to get the cell phone out of his pocket. One dollar bills shot out as if on a spring. Don frantically grabbed the ones and then tried to make his cell phone stop ringing. It wouldn’t. As a last resort, he pulled the battery out of the back of the phone finally silencing it.

By now the entire class had its eyes on the 50 year old swearing man who wore a “put your ass on some class” t-shirt. Brit buried his face in his hands and laughed hard.

“I’m so sorry,” Don said.

“Quite all right,” Dr. Kreider responded and smiled. Don’s face was so red that he looked like he was back on the booze.

“****, I’m so sorry, Brit,” Don whispered.

“You’re fine.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Excerpt from Is Love Wrong? Chapter 36: Rebuke

I sat in class and watched the clock tick. The professor spoke and I know that I should have been engaged, but to be honest—I wasn’t. I loved seminary and wished that learning would just happen by downloading something into my brain. I had gotten into the bad habit of checking my email in class and I wondered if that might be hindering my learning. Nah.
I’d just received an email from Don about Steven. It seemed that Don had stepped over the line again in some way. I enjoyed it though. My mind was in pastoral mode and I wanted to walk outside and call Don. Great, here we go again. I tried to imagine how deeply that Don had offended the unstable Steven, and Steven had snapped and was now threatening to hang Don from the top of one of the academic buildings at DTS in protest of the intrusion into his life. Don never was one for the subtle.
The ten-minute break arrived and I walked outside to talk to Don.
“Hey Don, what happened?”
“Well, I may have overstepped a boundary with Steven.”
“I’m shocked,” I said.
“You don’t sound shocked.”
“Welcome to sarcasm. What happened?”
“I finally heard from him, I thought I had yet pissed off another Christian by trying to help, am I too abrasive?  Don asked and then said. “I learned it from you.”
“Don, you are failing to see that not everyone is alike. I treat you different from everyone else. Steven is not you. Watch me when I talk to Steven and I want you to see the difference. Please stop reprimanding people.”
“But I’m just doing what you did to me.”
“You are not me, and Steven is not you.”
“But he and his marriage are ******.”
“How can you judge him? You don't understand the hell that he’s been through. If you can, then why do you talk to him like Christians of the past talked to you.”
“I’m listening.”
“I never talked like that to you. I said, ‘I feel sorry for you. This God is like a freight train. Your whole life is going to fall apart. Everything is going to change. You should run away from it, but you can't. You just can't. God is pursuing you. I’m sorry.’”
“True, true, but,”
“Also, I had already hung out with you for four weeks. I had already been praying for you for weeks and had asked God to give me the words to say. You did it once with Joel. You did it twice with Steven.
“Yeah Joel was not a good move. I’m surprised he hasn’t driven his car through the seminary doors.”
“Don, this isn’t your strong suit. Your strong suit is being there so that people don't feel judged. Your strong suit is sharing how Christ dramatically changed your life. You cannot be and should not be the reprimander. You are becoming the very thing that you so desperately abhorred. One of the worst things that Christians do is project their own lives on to others.”
“But you were really direct with me. That is all I know.”
“When you view everyone as a Don, then the Chris solution is the only solution. When you view each person as someone in need of grace, then the Christ solution is the only solution.”
Don was silent. I shifted the phone to the other ear as I walked by the statue of Jesus washing Peter’s feet.
“You’re 100% right, Chris.” Don said. “Thank you for telling me what my strong areas are. I wasn't aware of that. I will back off, in AA I do scream, holler, and hug my sponsorees just to let them know I really care. The soft approach never worked with me, and I guess I’ve been treating people the way that worked for me. With God it's a different application, I’ll take this advice from now on.”
I looked at the phone for a moment to make sure it was still Don talking to me. That was the least ornery that Don had ever been.
“Well good, Don. Hey, I gotta get back to class, but let’s connect later.”