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Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Boy to be Sacrificed

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The Bible explicitly condemns several types of homosexual activity. It condemns homosexual rape, the homosexual abuse of person by otherwise heterosexual people (think “prison rape”), homosexual activity between an older adult and young boy, homosexual activity that is unnatural to the person practicing it, and all homosexual activity that is abusive, dehumanizing or based upon a power differential.

Some people interpret these prohibitions as being universal prohibitions against all homosexual activity. The logical argument is: If A-Example is Wrong, then A-Universal must be also wrong. (Prima facia, this logic is a fallacy.)

But the Bible also condemns many kinds of heterosexual practices, including rape, incest, adultery, etc.

Interestingly — though certainly not surprisingly — those who choose to interpret these prohibitions as being about all forms of homosexuality do not apply the same logic to the passages condemning and prohibiting certain examples of heterosexual activity.  

This inconsistent exegesis reveals not a committment to Biblical authority and inerrancy, as these people claim, but rather an adherence to a personally held bias veiled in spiritual language. The Bible says nothing about committed, loving gay relationships. Anyone who claims otherwise is simply lying.

To better understand why the Bible might take the time to condemn such abusive forms of homosexuality, a look inside a culture with similiar views of homosexuality as ancient Judaism might be helpful.

In Sunday’s New York Times, there is an essay by Abdellah Taïa, a native of Morocco, who is gay. His essay is very powful and has narrative elements that are reminiscent of the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorah.

Here is his essay in full:

IN the Morocco of the 1980s, where homosexuality did not, of course, exist, I was an effeminate little boy, a boy to be sacrificed, a humiliated body who bore upon himself every hypocrisy, everything left unsaid. By the time I was 10, though no one spoke of it, I knew what happened to boys like me in our impoverished society; they were designated victims, to be used, with everyone’s blessing, as easy sexual objects by frustrated men. And I knew that no one would save me — not even my parents, who surely loved me. For them too, I was shame, filth. A “zamel.”

Like everyone else, they urged me into a terrible, definitive silence, there to die a little more each day.

How is a child who loves his parents, his many siblings, his working-class culture, his religion — Islam — how is he to survive this trauma? To be hurt and harassed because of something others saw in me — something in the way I moved my hands, my inflections. A way of walking, my carriage. An easy intimacy with women, my mother and my many sisters. To be categorized for victimhood like those “emo” boys with long hair and skinny jeans who have recently been turning up dead in the streets of Iraq, their skulls crushed in.

The truth is, I don’t know how I survived. All I have left is a taste for silence. And the dream, never to be realized, that someone would save me. Now I am 38 years old, and I can state without fanfare: no one saved me.

I no longer remember the child, the teenager, I was. I know I was effeminate and aware that being so obviously “like that” was wrong. God did not love me. I had strayed from the path. Or so I was made to understand. Not only by my family, but also by the entire neighborhood. And I learned my lesson perfectly. So deep down, I tell myself they won. This is what happened.

I was barely 12, and in my neighborhood they called me “the little girl.” Even those I persisted in playing soccer with used that nickname, that insult. Even the teenagers who’d once taken part with me in the same sexual games. I was no kid anymore. My body was changing, stretching out, becoming a man’s. But others did not see me as a man. The image of myself they reflected back at me was strange and incomprehensible. Attempts at rape and abuse multiplied.

I knew it wasn’t good to be as I was. But what was I going to do? Change? Speak to my mother, my big brother? And tell them what, exactly?

It all came to a head one summer night in 1985. It was too hot. Everyone was trying in vain to fall asleep. I, too, lay awake, on the floor beside my sisters, my mother close by. Suddenly, the familiar voices of drunken men reached us. We all heard them. The whole family. The whole neighborhood. The whole world. These men, whom we all knew quite well, cried out: “Abdellah, little girl, come down. Come down. Wake up and come down. We all want you. Come down, Abdellah. Don’t be afraid. We won’t hurt you. We just want to have sex with you.”

They kept yelling for a long time. My nickname. Their desire. Their crime. They said everything that went unsaid in the too-silent, too-respectful world where I lived. But I was far, then, from any such analysis, from understanding that the problem wasn’t me. I was simply afraid. Very afraid. And I hoped my big brother, my hero, would rise and answer them. That he would protect me, at least with words. I didn’t want him to fight them — no. All I wanted him to say were these few little words: “Go away! Leave my little brother alone.”

But my brother, the absolute monarch of our family, did nothing. Everyone turned their back on me. Everyone killed me that night. I don’t know where I found the strength, but I didn’t cry. I just squeezed my eyes shut a bit more tightly. And shut, with the same motion, everything else in me. Everything. I was never the same Abdellah Taïa after that night. To save my skin, I killed myself. And that was how I did it.

I began by keeping my head low all the time. I cut all ties with the children in the neighborhood. I altered my behavior. I kept myself in check: no more feminine gestures, no more honeyed voice, no more hanging around women. No more anything. I had to invent a whole new Abdellah. I bent myself to the task with great determination, and with the realization that this world was no longer my world. Sooner or later, I would leave it behind. I would grow up and find freedom somewhere else. But in the meantime I would become hard. Very hard.

TODAY I grow nostalgic for little effeminate Abdellah. He and I share a body, but I no longer remember him. He was innocence. Now I am only intellect. He was naïve. I am clever. He was spontaneous. I am locked in a constant struggle with myself.

In 2006, seven years after I moved to France, and after my second book, “Le rouge du tarbouche” (the red of the fez), came out in Morocco, I, too, came out to the Moroccan press, in Arabic and French. Scandal, and support. Then, faced with my brother’s silence and my mother’s tears on the tele
phone, I published in TelQuel, the very brave Moroccan magazine, an open letter called “Homosexuality Explained to My Mother.” My mother died the next year.

I don’t know where I found the courage to become a writer and use my books to impose my homosexuality on the world of my youth. To do justice to little Abdellah. To never forget the trauma he and every Arab homosexual like him suffered.

Now, over a year after the Arab Spring began, we must again remember homosexuals. Arabs have finally become aware that they have to invent a new, free Arab individual, without the support of their megalomaniacal leaders. Arab homosexuals are also taking part in this revolution, whether they live in Egypt, Iraq or Morocco. They, too, are part of this desperately needed process of political and individual liberation. And the world must support and protect them.

This story is tragic. And I believe it makes God angry — how this child, created in His image, has been treated.  And I think it reveals why God would condemn such abusive forms of homosexuality.?

THOUGHTS?

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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Brief Thoughts on the Trayvon Martin Tragedy

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The Treyvon Martin tragedy raises important issues about race in America.

Those who think unless you wear a white sheet or hang a confederate flag, you aren’t a racist, are terribly naive. Racism is much more subtle and destructive than that. Racism is in how we see people, profile people, and react to people in different contexts.

This is the honest conversation we must be willing to have together. If Treyvon had been white, he would be alive today. If the shooter had been black, he would be in jail.

The answer is not to pretend race doesn’t exist, but to sit down over coffee — or a beer or shared meal — and actually have these conversations with each other. The answer also includes a lot of corporate reflection and confession and a willingness to acknowledge our own bias and issues.

We also need to remember that racism is both about individuals and about systemic and cultural discrimination. While individual racists are abhorrent, the truth is that it is the systemic and cultural racism that is more dangerous and destructive.

Individual racists can be ignored, marginalized, laughed at and easily dismissed as crazy loons. But systemic racism cannot be ignored or laughed at… it is a disease that destroys our souls.

As a seminary professor I had used to say, if you put a cucumber in vinegar long enough, it will become a pickle. Systemic racism is the vinegar of our society… pickling all of us. We need to change the environment to change the culture. It starts with acknowledgement and conversation.

Hopefully, this case will lead to some important dialogue and reflection.

As always, imho.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Right Gospel

There are four soul-killing mistakes I often see when trying to understand the Gospel:

  1. Antinomianism
  2. Legalism
  3. Pelagianism
  4. Soteriologism
(1) ANTINOMIANISM
The rejection of all law/rules. This belief is that the introduction of any commands or calls to action/obedience undermine the Gospel. ?But the antinomian goes too far and throws out the baby with the bath water. ?While we properly reject a works salvation, Jesus does call His disciples to actually follow Him, surrender to Him, and be obedient to Him. ?Those who embrace such a position tend to like Jesus as savior, but reject Him as Lord.

(2) LEGALISM
The embrace of a new law and a works salvation. These are folks who reject Old Testament law (the 613 commandments of the Torah), but embrace all kinds of new legalisms and laws required to follow in order to "be saved". ?There is no GOOD NEWS in this kind of legalistic approach and it is what the Apostle Paul ranted against again and again. ?Salvation is a free, un-earned gift — that no man may boast!

(3) PELAGIANISM
The belief that we causally effect our own salvation. ?This one is a more subtle problem. ?This position is that we are causally effective in our salvation. ?We are not. ?A part from Jesus, we are dead and dead people don't save themselves… even a little bit. ?Jesus is our all-in-all and totally sufficient for our salvation and life.

(4) SOTERIOLOGISM
The belief that the Gospel is only or primarily about individual/personal salvation as opposed to the coming of the Kingdom of God. For this person, the Gospel is reduced to "praying the prayer" and "getting a ticket into heaven."

All of these fail to capture the power, mystery, grace and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ?And all contain some truth — but fail because they get the order of operations wrong. ?Just as in math, the order of the equation matters.

The key word that Paul uses to describe this reality is in Romans 12:1. ?"Therefore," he says. ?Therefore is about the order of operations.

The first 8 chapters of Romans lays out an argument for how and why salvation in Christ works. ?Chapters 9-11 are a case study (of sorts) about Israel and salvation. And chapters 12-16, starting with "Therefore", is the "what now" argument.

I have often been accused of being both a antinomian and a legalist (by different people). ?Because of my strong emphasis (though no stronger than Paul's!) on grace, people think that I argue that your behavior doesn't matter or that you shouldn't change after becoming a Christian.

But I have also always preached a strong message of repentance, change, and action. ?So I am sometimes accused of secretly being a legalist. ?And because I am a passionate evangelist, who does call people to make a decision for Christ, I am also accused of being a pelagian and of holding a soterological view of the Gospel.

But it is all about ORDER OF OPERATIONS.

And Paul sets this up in Romans for us.

We are saved by grace and faith alone in the work and character of Jesus Christ.

Period.

Add nothing. ?Nothing else required.

We are saved. ?Both as individuals and as a community.

And having been saved, we are called to live a life worthy of the gospel, IN RESPONSE to what GOD HAS ALREADY DONE — not so that He will do anything. ?He saves, therefore we worship with our lives, surrendering to his Lordship, obedient to his commands.

But if we get the order wrong, we get the Gospel very messed up.
 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Wrong Gospel

It is predictable… whenever people find out that I am an ordained Christian pastor, their first response is, “Oh no… I will be careful to not swear around you.”  — or something along those lines.  “I’ll watch what I say!” “No swearing, I promise.”  “I’ll try to keep it cleam around you.”  etc etc etc.

What is striking to me about these responses is that it assumes that the Gospel is about being good or doing good.

But that is not what the Gospel is at all.

The Gospel is a mad love story between a groom and His Bride.

The Gospel is about the irrational and passionate love of The Father for His children.

The Gospel is about endless second chances, about a deep and personal relationship with God, about following Jesus.

It is noit about not swearing.

It is not the Gospel of look good, be good, do good.

It is the Gospel of BE YOUR SELF.  BE HIS. RUN THE RACE.  BE FREE.

It is an adventure, a journey, a relationship, a mission, a movement and a family — all wrapped together. 

So you can feel free to swear around me — and then join in the adventure if you so choose.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Interpreting Romans 1:26-27

There are only seven Biblical references to homosexuality.  Romans 1:26-27 is one of those passages, and perhaps the most controversial.

During a series about the importance of scripture and God’s Word, my pastor gave a great message about how to interpret the Bible well, using Romans 1:26-27 as case study.

She did a great job.  I wish I had had the courage to preach this message ten years ago.

When you have a chance, listen and let me know what you think.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
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