It’s been a busy and crazy day today. We’re rearranging our staff offices; I’m dealing with chicken pox at the home, dealing with a rock being thrown into our church office window [luckily, no one was in there because the pastor sitting there was home because of an ailment], getting ready to head out tomorrow to Sabbath for couple days, and blah blah blah. And it’s probably about to get a little crazier…
Last night, I finally had a chance to respond to an email I received from Dan Savage, the editor of The Stranger - wittingly described by a friend as “the alternative paper to Seattle’s alternative newspaper [Seattle Weekly]. As readers of this blog know, he authored what I thought to be a witty review of Quest Church in the paper’s last edition. I was surprised that he posted my personal email and his response on The Stranger blog for the rest of the world to see. Oh well. My hope is not to engage in battle. That is the farthest thing from my heart. Most that know me will attest to this… While many have assumptions that Christians are hate filled, bigoted and ignorant, it’s my hope that more will realize that issues of justice, compassion, and mercy are dear to the heart of Christians – because they are near to the heart of God.
I am first posting my latest email to Dan, and then posting my first email and then his response…I share this here [with some trepidation] knowing that anything can be said. I guess that’s the beauty and beastly nature of blogs. It’s my hope that my email to Dan will answer some of the numerous responses from his readers and because I know my email will be posted anyways on his blog. Last week, I very much enjoyed reading the thread of comments from Scot McKnight’s [jesus creed] post about the church’s lack of compassion with the gay community. I had no idea that I’d be smack in the middle of this conversation as the culprit of that bigotry…
My latest email:
Thanks for the prompt reply. Maybe it’s just me, but I was surprised that you posted my reply on the Slog Blog w/o my permission. I responded to your personal email with my personal response not knowing that it would move into a public venue. Perhaps, it’s just a given and thus, will take that as an OK for me to post our dialogue on my blog. So be it. However, please do not interpret my delayed response as “silence.” I’ve been backlogged on my emails which is why I responded to your first email within the hour saying that I’d get back to you in a week or so. Clearly, you are more of a brilliant and witty writer than I am. You can articulate your thoughts quickly; I’m slow.
To your email, thanks for the education on my syntactical usage of “lifestyle.” My usage of that word wasn’t to imply that you don’t have a “similar” lifestyle to me. I’m sure you go to work, eat, fart, take care of your kids, pay exorbitant property taxes, go bowling, and remove weeds from your backyard. What “rubs” [me] the wrong way isn’t the sex either. Why would that rub me the wrong way? Isn’t sex and physical intimacy an important component of the larger human need for intimacy?
You asked me a direct question: “But where’s Quest on the gays? Just as progressive? Or leaning on Leviticus?” Thus, I tried to answer your question directly while attempting to convey [clearly I failed] that it’s neither “progressive” or “leaning on Leviticus.” You wanted an answer and I’m saying: “I acknowledge how painful it must be for the majority of the [C]hurch to disapprove of one’s gay or sexual identity. I understand that to be gay is not to put on an accessory. It’s not an elective class; not secondary, peripheral, and may not even be a choice for most. It’s personal and speaks to the core of one’s identity. While I at times in the past have been tempted by simply looking at this from a theological or sociological perspective, I have been cautioned by friends – both straight and gay – to be wise not to dehumanize the issue. It’s not simply about academics, books, exegesis, hermeneutics, interpretation…they are real issues and real stories for many people.
That is why I am cautious and discerning how I communicate my thoughts – however firm or open they might be. That is why I don’t like to openly post my “views” on the gay issue on my blog, the church site, or elsewhere because I know that it’s not just simply an issue. It involves and affects people – feelings, emotions, and souls. I’d rather respond to people individually. By the many responses you’ve received, it’s clear that your readers are pissed off at my views and thus, pissed off at me…I am a bigot, a closed minded fool, a fundamentalist, and other nice stuff.
While it may surprise you or your readers, there are many Christians [at least the ones that I roll with] that are conflicted over the issue as I am. There are many that genuinely wrestle with issues of mercy, justice, and compassion. I have wrestled, studied, prayed, argued, listened, and wrestled more over the issue. It’s not my intent to damn people. To have my answer received in such ways is what grieves me. And the reality is that it is what folks are looking for. That is what you were looking for. On both sides of the issue, people simply seem to care about the answer to this question, “Are you for or against…” The answer is the end of the conversation.
So, here are couple questions for you. Your readers are more than welcome to post their thoughts on this blog…
- Is it possible for a person to be in friendship with you that holds a different position on the gay issue?
- Is a person – despite their friendship with a gay person – automatically a bigot if they don’t share your view?
- Rhetorically speaking – can you and I be friends?
- And here’s my last question for the time being. That is, if you’re interested in dialogue – which I wasn’t quite sure by the tone I perceived in your email. Is it possible for a person or a church to be “welcoming but not affirming?”
As for your question about marriage: I don’t own marriage or the social institution of marriage. While I personally believe marriage to be a gift that God gave to creation to be enjoyed in a monogamous relationship between a man and a woman, I don’t believe in legislating my beliefs upon you or others. So, to answer your question directly, I’m open to the gay community and their right to marriage.
The church can be so obsessed with morality and conversion that it loses out on the beauty of conversation. While I can’t speak on behalf of all Christians or even all at Quest, I can only speak for myself: I am an open book. I am both a learned and a learner. I struggle with this issue even while I have an answer to your question. I am open to pursuing dialogue, conversation, and friendship – this is my life philosophy and the manner in which I seek to influence Quest as its lead pastor. I desire to learn how to better Love God and to Love my neighbors.
Look forward to your response.
My first email in response [posted on his blog] to Dan’s email asking, “I know where you’re at re: women in leadership roles. found it on your blog…but where’s quest on the gays? just as progressive? or leaning on leviticus?
I really wish I was more articulate…
Sorry for the delayed response. Not that you were waiting by your inbox waiting for my reply…
Because we are theologically so different than Mars Hill, that’s why the “Mars Hill wannabe” definitely rubbed a few of our church folks that wrong way. As you might assume, MH and driscoll can be fairly polarizing so for those on the other spectrum, it’s not the best thing to be compared to him.
Regardless, to your question about our position on gays. No matter how I answer, I know it’s going to always hurt or offend one side or the other. I say this not to be trite but it’s been a difficult issue. Always is when you’re dealing not just with an issue but one that deals with people…human souls. Quest welcomes the gay community but does not affirm the gay lifestyle.
While I can’t speak on behalf of every single person at Quest, I believe I speak for many when I share that there’s much hypocrisy in the church especially when we isolate homosexuality out of the context of the larger conversation of sexuality that needs to be addressed. Heterosexuals have much to answer to. So, while I do not affirm the lifestyle, I also believe in human rights and the rights that the gay community deserve—the most important one being the freedom to be safe. I wrestle with how a gay person can feel safe in the church—even if they are “welcomed” when their lifestyle isn’t affirmed as God honoring…
Let me know your thoughts if you have the energy.
This is Dan’s response:
Is the right to marry included on your list of rights to which we’re entitled?
Re: The gay lifestyle. What you mean is gay sex, right? My “lifestyle” is probably shockingly similar to your own: go to work, go home, eat, take care of my kid, pay the bills. It’s the sex I have with my partner that rubs you the wrong way, so to speak. There is no “gay lifestyle,” Eugene. Some straight people have no kids, never marry, and sleep around—which is what the phrase “gay lifestyle” invokes. My unmarried, 45 year-old heterosexual brother Billy lives a much gayer “lifestyle” than I do.
And, yes, straight people have their own sins to answer for—but your philosophy at least allows for straight people to have fully intimate lives, loving partners, and some sexual release. Your theology disallows that for me, so… I don’t see as how that amounts to equal treatment. Copping to hetero shortcomings (“Hey, look at the way we dress!”) while advising gay people to forgo all intimacy, a.k.a. “the gay lifestyle,” does not amount to the loving tending o’ the flock that you seem to believe it does. Telling people that God disapproves of their deepest needs for love and companionship, and that they must forgo that “sin” in order to be right with God, is an act of emotional and spiritual violence.
If there was a God, you would answer for it one day. But there isn’t and you won’t.