Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘gay

I know what happened to John Paulk in terms of logistics, because we are Facebook friends. I know he’s gone from a nerdy looking man to Chef Cuteness in the last 13 years. I know I’d like to cook like him. I know he’s a dedicated father and has gone through deep pain with recent changes in his life. But I’m here to talk about what happened to him…

You see I’m an unofficial expert in the way things look. I can see print and know if it’s off by a fraction of a millimeter. I’ve been given a good eye for balance and what looks right: too many words in a sentence, the balance of flowers in a centerpiece, too much fabric in a dress, and too little grace in our churches.

My Twitter account has been blowing up with all kinds of religiously negative words about John. Everyone has their input, so I’ll tell you what happened to John Paulk: In 2000 he walked into a drag bar, if my memory serves me right. It was in DuPont Circle in DC, I know for sure. He was there for about 45 minutes before he was recognized by someone who told the press. Because of John’s position with Exodus it was a big deal. After that a series of official statements were made by the board of Exodus International—a board from a ministry based on high Christian standards.

This isn’t about Exodus, because I’m very impressed with the willingness of Alan Chambers to listen and embrace the hurt. No, this post is about the board that was overseeing the program in 2000 and what happened to John Paulk…

For a moment I will digress. We conservatives love to point fingers. We say our problems would be solved if only we had an Evangelical President, hadn’t let gay people marry, hadn’t legalized pot, and on it goes. Ironically our fingers never point to ourselves. There’s nothing ever said about getting before the Lord with sack cloth and ashes, and repenting for our sins. The top of our sins should include not being Jesus to others.

Where would John Paulk be today if one of the male humans on that board had been a man and washed John’s feet? What if they hadn’t sent him off into the vast wilderness called “excuses”. I have no idea what happened outside of all their weekly missives of “what really happened that day on DuPont Circle”, but soon John disappeared from our lives. These men went right on with their lives believing they had been the voice of God in the matter. Instead they abandoned him in his hour of greatest need. How could they sever ties as casually as one would unfriend someone on Facebook? But Jesus tells us a story like this in Luke 10. The priest and the Levite have nothing to do with the man wounded on the road, but the Samaritan comes along and helps.

Just recently John Paulk issued a statement about that time and the years since. His words were raw. As I read, I could feel the beat of his heart. Suddenly a new decade of gossips rise up to try to take John down: their words are condemning; their fingers are pointing. Some are close relations and some are self-proclaimed experts, but none are seeing through the telescope of grace. They offer no edification. I suggest they don’t know grace. The grace we saw when the Amish embraced the family of the shooter. The grace we love to see when the Bishop gives Jean Valjean the candlesticks.

What happened to John Paulk happens to countless others in our churches. They probably aren’t associated with Exodus, but they have hurts and stumble, and then we continue to pour salt into their wounds. We must remember that there’s only ONE difference in our faith and countless other religions: Jesus took our sins in an act of grace. We are told to walk in His Steps. Consider the verse below. Consider what would say if it means grace and grace only…

Matthew 28:18-20…Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.


And You Invited Me In--available at your local bookstore  My book: And You Invited Me In.

I’ve taken my last few thoughts from the last blog and started this new one. I want to clarify when I comment about “my church” I’m bringing together dozens of conservative churches I’ve attended/visited over the last three decades. My current pastor is a very merciful man who wants the members to extend grace to others to the fullest. While all other churches are nameless, Church of the Living Water is a real church in Nashville, and I have permission to be specific about my wonderful association with them.

Here goes:

Why should a 14-year-old girl (in 1968) with all the white privilege be concerned about people of color? Why should she compromise her safety to stand up for a cause that wasn’t hers? Why should a 46-year-old straight woman (in 2000) who has all the straight conservative community privilege stand up for gay people she is barely acquainted with and risk anything for them

My life-long investment had been in my conservative Christian friends and our mutual beliefs. In my local church I had support for my life in every area. I was well respected intellectually because I had gone to Vanderbilt University for my Masters—actually went there on a scholarship and make all A’s during a catastrophic time of life. When I got the scholarship, my husband had just been diagnosed with a chronic illness, I was 7 months pregnant and taught behavior disordered kids, and had no choice but to push forward and keep going.

On the spiritual side. God was a significant part of my life from an extremely young age. I got saved the Thursday evening before Palm Sunday in 1963. I chose to be conservative, and went through many many years of being radically conservative. For a period of time I was oppressive to others and to myself. I’ve been to camp meetings, tent meetings, large revivals and even stood in an Ernest Angely prayer line. But that visit to the gay conservative church in 2000—Church of the Living Water—did something profound to my heart.

What did it do? I have to let you know that when I went, I expected straight-bashing and a liberal, New Age church that had nothing to do with Jesus. But instead I saw men, women, and even a few kids who very obviously loved the Lord. So what things made my mouth drop open?

First, one person after another praised their partner…I can’t remember the last time I heard such praise about a significant other in my church. Actually at one church of my past the pastor is always joking about his wife burning his toast or her knowing every inch of the local consignment shop. (My thought as I sat there that first night at Church of the Living Water was: wow, if only my church would have people praise their spouse like this!).

One woman at Church of the Living Water had gotten saved and was fasting the two weeks before her baptism so she would get everything out of it that God had for her. (My thought was: wow, if only we straight Christians took our baptism so seriously.)

The pastor, Rev. Tony Sirten, actually spoke to me for at least ten minutes after the service with many guests in attendance. I can’t tell you the number of churches where the pastor is looking just over the top of my head to find the next person they want to talk with—and leave talking with me, and do not remember anything I’ve said. 

As well the members took time with my kids. They have never looked on them as children but as people who were valuable to their church. A few years ago on the spur of the moment the girls and I dropped by on a Wednesday night. They were discussing a chapter from The Purpose Driven Life, my eight-year-old’s comments and ideas were allowed during that class (with all the congregation present) just as if she was 28. Today, this same daughter has desired for over a year to participate on a worship team, however, in conservative churches the general rule is to be part of the team you have to be 18 and she is 11. Hum, I wonder where that is found in scripture? Sorry to be sarcastic, but consider this if you’re in a conservative church.

At Church of the Living Water the members wanted all of Jesus they could get. I was never taught that a group of gay people would want more of Jesus. It seemed like an oxymoron. After one visit, I had an unquenchable thirst to find out why would these gay people love Jesus so much—had I been taught wrong? That’s when my daughters and I went to a Bible study. And my trouble with conservative friends (not just locally, but at various places around the US who knew what I had experienced) began when I started attending the Bible studies. I was warned that I was listening to the devil and being deceived. No one ever asked why I was attending the Bible studies, they just assumed I was deceived.

Let me inject here: the Bible study was a wake-up call for me about what we straight Christians need to know about ourselves. First, there are people in the gay community who think they’re going to hell because that’s all they hear from us. It doesn’t matter if you don’t say it , OR it is only said by some radical conservative preacher from the Midwest, OR you don’t exactly mean it like that, but that’s what the gay community hears us saying.

Next, my dear straight, conservative Christian brothers and sisters, you may get offended by the way Christians are portrayed in movies like Now I Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. But they quote the words we say and the signs we carry. And the question we must always ask is: do they see Jesus in us and have a desire to follow Him because of the way we live our life? If the answer is “no” then we need to change.

I struggled with what I’d been taught in churchabout the GLBTQ community and Jesus vs. what I was experiencing at Church of the Living Water. I cried out to God 24/7 to help me sort through these confounding issues…but I kept coming back to two things: When Samuel was going to anoint the new king of Israel, God told him not to look on the outside, because He looked on the heart. I learned that it is God’s job to judge a person’s heart. We’re to look at our fruit. If people can’t see the fruit of our experience with Jesus, then we need to assess our lives and make changes ASAP. Answer this quick question: does your child, co-worker, or neighbor want more of Jesus because of your life?

Number two: When the day is over and we’re taking account of our day, the one thing that matters most to Jesus is that we forgive and extend grace. It is what he did for us. If that was how we truly lived our lives, then there would not be so many parodies of conservative Christians on movies. People can’t understand unconditional love, and they can’t get enough of it.

These people at Church of the Living Water were “inside the house”. I wanted to understand them and their infectious hunger for Jesus. Once inside the house, I knew it was where God had taken me. AND THEN I learned what it was like to live as a gay person in a straight, conservative Christian community. Not that I was gay, but because I was in their house. If someone came in with gun to “kill all the fags” I’d have been shot. In reality my credibility was already being shot down in my conservative community because I was in a gay “house” (aka church). Maybe this happened to Jesus when he went with Zacheus to lunch at his house.

We think of Zacheus and we think of the unconditional love of Jesus. It was in the summer of 2000 that I began to learn about true grace. Grace…..Our faith isn’t in the number of Cadillacs in our yard or in the number of people who have been healed by a huge ministry. The devil can mimic all of that. One thing old Satan can’t do—the one thing that only people saved by grace can do is love unconditionally. And that’s what being inside the house is all about for me—it’s not about my privilege, but about Jesus.