Exactly What Kind of Tree Is This?

I am posting an article that I first wrote 11 years ago. For your enjoyment, I chose not to update the picture. I did update a couple of the outdated cultural references. I do find it (at least) odd that we are still talking about “The War on Christmas”.

Well, it’s that time of year again. Merry or Happy Holidays, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or whatever you celebrate or do not. I think that pretty well covers everyone.

So, with an ever-changing ethnic and religious landscape, exactly what kind of tree is this? The question has deep and abiding ramifications, yet the answer is simple. It depends largely on your personal preference. For most, this is a fir tree. However some prefer spruce and there are even a few who select from a variety of pine. Fewer still – mostly our southern friends – will enjoy cedar.

Obviously I am having a little fun with a topic that seems to be creating some national discussion… and even in our own household. What should we call this tree? This season? Is there a secret plot (led by the media, the Democratic party, the ACLU and Target) to remove Christ from Christmas? This scenario would probably make many conservative Christians feel better, but I’m not sure it is accurate.

I am an admitted (not yet recovering) techie. I love gadgets. For the most part, gadgets have helped me simplify my life… and lose what little bit of memory I may have had left. After all, if my computer and iPhone are going to remember a bit of information, why should I? I will even go so far as to admit that I have become dependent on all of these great tools. I can’t even show up at the gym anymore without bringing my iPhone along for the workout. What does that thought have to do with this discussion?

For Christians this high and holy season marks the birth of Jesus. Well, perhaps not the actual birth, but certainly the celebration of that event. He was probably born sometime between April and September as this is the time shepherds are out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. Few would argue (Christian or not) that the religiosity of Christmas has changed in, say, the last twenty years. My own neighborhood demonstrates this truth. We like to drive around and look at the beautiful and varied displays of lights – think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. These days we are greeted by Santa and Frosty, an occasional Rudolph and a Christmas version of Homer Simpson. Usually these same characters are inflated to at least twice the size of the homeowner’s largest vehicle… it just works out that way. Our culture seems bent on at least expanding the definition of Christmas.

So is it up to Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson to save Christmas? Yes! And… not exactly. Yes, it does fall to Franklin and Pat and Rob and whatever your name is if you are a Jesus-follower. The job of keeping Christ in Christmas is ours. The reason He is not at the center of this holiday anymore is because of so-called Christians failing to keep Him there. There is no conspiracy. It is not the fault of pre-faith people that Jesus is being removed from Christmas. The only way that Jesus gets removed from Christmas is if we who believe remove Him. Christ leaves Christmas when Christ leaves me. And though He never technically leaves me, unfortunately there have been times I have left Him.

So what kind of tree is this? What kind of season are we celebrating? How do we keep Christ in Christmas?

  1. Be proactive, but not like you might think… make sure you understand and practice REAL Christmas.
  2. Don’t be like Herod… his answer was to kill everyone that could even possibly be associated with the Christ – resist the urge to do this in reverse.
  3. Be sensitive to the traditions of others… being sensitive doesn’t eliminate my voice or my understanding. In fact, it probably lends credence to it.
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Gender Identity & A High Regard for Scripture: A Review of Understanding Gender Dysphoria

Disclaimer: the post that follows is a recent book review that I did for a Christian publisher. As such, I was mainly critiquing the author’s work.

transgender dysphoria

The main title for this review borrows a quote from the book’s author, Mark Yarhouse. He details a disparaging story (as most of his eventually are) of a man who, in his view, mishandled the Scripture in a public meeting regarding gender identity issues. This story and its following commentary left Yarhouse saying that he and the speaker had one thing in common – their high regard for Scripture. As I did not generally disagree that the public speaker had misinterpreted the Scripture in this instance, what left me excited was that the author of this book was almost immediately labeling himself as one with a high regard for Scripture. What followed was nothing of the sort. Page by wearying page I began to see that, if true at all, Mark Yarhouse had chosen to leave his high regard for Scripture out of this work. It is my singular negative opinion of the work in total.

Mostly this work is a cold and academic treatise. One is allowed to write in this way. I just found it odd in that his book dedication says, “To the church, the Body of Christ…”

Having said all that, I do believe there is value here. Most of what he says is not unscriptural. I do believe he does an excellent job defining the key terms in and around this discussion. For that alone, from an academic viewpoint, the book may be worth the read. I also find it painfully valuable to hear story after story of churches and leaders who damaged the name of Jesus by their dismissive (often worse) handling of this sensitive issue.

His lack of biblical connectivity should also compel us to approach the whole of Scripture to seek what it has to say to these types of difficult issues. So my biggest negative here could turn out to be the greatest unintentional takeaway from this book. How do the Scriptures, both by direct address to humanness and indirect principles flowing through its pages, speak to issues of which most of academia believe them to be silent?

He does give some solid general biblical concepts as final suggestions, though the Scriptures are never mentioned as the source for these great ideas.

As the crushing tide of public opinion continues to rush the shores of biblical Christianity, compassionate conservatism cannot simply be a political moniker used in news bites. Through the sacred pages of Scripture flows the strongest of tides – the redemptive love of Jesus. It is for that reason and because of that message that our starting and ending places must be its holy pages. May we continue to hold back the darkness with the light of Christ, revealed to us in His Word.

Responding to Gay Marriage

gayandlesbianAwhile ago I wrote a piece that that went crazy. In case you missed it, you can find it here… LGBT: It’s All or Nothing. If you didn’t think this was an important issue… clearly, it is. For those who are interested, I thought we could dig down a bit today. This is a re-post that contains years of my own study and thought on the issue. Not coincidentally, several of the responses that follow are from friends of mine who happen to be gay. Grab a cup of coffee. This will take a minute.

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The very unusual length of this post (at least by my standards) demonstrates the complexity of this issue. I have friends who think this is a simple discussion. I would challenge you to re-think your position.

Clearly this is a topic that is super-charged with opinion and emotion… within the church and in the greater community. The left would say love and acceptance is the way of Jesus. All the while the right would point out the texts on the topic that seem to deal merely with condemnation.

I prefer a sandwich approach to the discussions. Admittedly this is more than a little corny. But I think you’ll see where I’m trying to go with this. While a Truth Sandwich certainly sounds best to my lofty view of Scripture, instead I have chosen the Love Sandwich from the spirit of Ephesians 4:15.

Allow me to develop the sandwich analogy a bit. You’ve probably had a sandwich that was mostly bread. Not so tasty, right? Why not? It’s not really what a sandwich is made for. Bread is good. Necessary for a diet even. But a sandwich implies that there is something else in between the slices of bread. In fact, we name it a _______ sandwich. What goes in the blank depends on your vegetarian/meatetarian inclinations. But the point is the same. The sandwich is known for what is in the middle.

In developing my position on the gay and lesbian discussion from a Christian perspective, I am seeking to be thoroughly biblical and surrounded – on both sides actually – by truth. However, what I want to be known for in this discussion is by what is in the middle. I want even my truth to be flavored by the love. Hence, the Love Sandwich.

Here are a few other cursory reasons:

1. most gays and lesbians are already familiar with the truth as the Bible states it
2. most gays and lesbians have not experienced much (if any) Christian love
3. while the truth may set you free, it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance

For starters when I began full-time Christian ministry 17 years ago I had zero friends who I was sure were gay or lesbian. That was my fault and part of the culture I was raised in. It’s not that I didn’t have any gay people around me growing up… I did. I just didn’t want or know how to relate to them. So I ignored that part of their reality and put my friendship with them mostly off limits… at least for that phase of my life. In the last few years I have been able to renew some of those friendships and begin to right some of those wrongs.

When you have friends who are gay and lesbian it takes the conversation to a whole new level. In fact until I started reaching out to people who are gay and lesbian, I’m not sure I really thought about it all that much.  When you start to listen, you hear their stories of the hatred and bigotry they have had to endure. And while the Matthew Shepard story may sound like an extreme, most gay and lesbian people have experienced vitriolic hatred that is similar in kind. They almost daily endure denigrating speech and mistreatment. It was from this place that I began to really think about what it meant to have a truly Christian perspective related to the gay and lesbian discussion.

So what does it mean to have a truly Christian perspective? Here’s how I have begun to digest it. Typically I hate lists for several reasons. Among them is that people almost always take them to be all-inclusive… even if the list-er says they’re not. The only reason I have chosen to use a list format here is to show the division and separation of items in my thinking. I have chosen to use a somewhat chronological approach. In other words, I generally think of the things mentioned here in this order…

1. I know there are some ultimate conclusions that I am going to have to draw from the data that I am able to mine from the Scriptures.

2. I know that I don’t know what it means or feels like to be gay.

3. I know that the gay and lesbian communities have, generally speaking, been treated horribly by the evangelical church.

4. I know that God created man in His image and as such all human beings have equal value… that is a truly pro-life position.

5. I know that the Scriptures have, at times, confusing and at other times, silent messages about gay and lesbian issues.

6. I know that the Scriptures ultimately seem to disapprove of same-gendered sexual relations in similar fashion to the way it disapproves of inappropriate heterosexual relationships  – i.e. (but not limited to) adultery.

7. I choose to live with this tension and maintain loving friendships with gay and lesbian friends… whether or not they ever become not gay.

8. I do so based on the teaching of Jesus. Because I am a follower of Jesus I do not believe that someone’s choices/persuasions/propensities give me an excuse to bad-mouth, slander or do anything but love every person made in His image.

So what is the Christian thing to do? Most of us have been content to arrive at a position that we feel can make us right before God. While there are plenty of theological difficulties with that approach, allow me in closing to address the practical problem. If all we do is identify what we think God’s mind is on this issue (which by itself is a pretty hefty claim), I believe we fall short because it fails to offer any solutions regarding how we treat those who do not agree with our findings for whatever reason.

I challenge all of us who follow Jesus to have a thoroughly thought-through and equally biblical, practical perspective.

The Spirit of Jesus and Religious Freedom

Indiana Religious Freedom ActWith all of the venom (from both sides of the issue) coming from and to Indiana regarding the recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I thought it might be helpful to be reminded of the words of Jesus. The phrase I use in this title is one I have come to use frequently. I am often asked what I mean by it. As I understand it, the spirit of Jesus is the heartbeat behind what he said and did. This is from Jesus’ words in Luke 6:

27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.

35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Morality cannot be legislated. The way of Jesus was and will always be beyond politics. Particularly if you claim to be one of his followers, what do you hear in the above (unedited) words of Jesus?

Ferguson and Immigration: Root v. Fruit

roots1So I had a mostly-written article on immigration that I started over the weekend and then on Monday evening came news from Ferguson, Missouri of the the grand jury’s decision. I opted to scrap much of what I had written and lean into the heat of the Ferguson situation, as I see them both in much the same way. News sources and the internet are ablaze with fruit. There is little talk of what is at the root of all of it. Because my audience is largely Christian, my appeal in all of this is to seek the roots for Jesus’ sake. Not only “what would Jesus do?”, but “what did Jesus do?”.

As is unfortunately usual, most Christians fall right into the laps and traps of anger-mongering newscasters bent on pedaling their version of truth. We argue the specifics of what’s going on (fruit) and deflect any conversations that address the why’s (root). Allow me to suggest a better path… likely not easier… or more simple, but better in that it deals with the root.

Position Not Pigment
This first part is huge. For better or worse I don’t think the primary issue is simply the color of one’s skin anymore. Racism has evolved into classism. Don’t believe me? Follow your Twitter feed or Facebook timeline and watch what is being said about these two issues (left or right). Better yet, who is doing the talking? The voices that are being pedaled seldom come from a position of poverty let alone proximity to Ferguson or immigration. Because most people on the street do not care about the voices of people on the street. We want to know what our favorite famous talking head is saying. And it happens equally from both sides of the aisle. So if this is the offense, what are we to do about it? Jesus was constant in message and practice that our focus should be on the least and the last. What if we applied that reach to these two issues? What would need to change?

Do Ask Don’t Tell
American Christianity is primarily focused on results. Ask pastors what is the first question they are asked by other pastors at “________ Really Awesome Christian Conference”. I guarantee the answer to that question has something to do with a focus on outwardly visible and measurable results. Because of this reality, much of our approach as Christian leaders has been to come up with a plan that fixes said problem and produces the kinds of results that are visible and measurable.

When it comes to these types of conversations I am deeply stricken with my own lack of knowledge. I don’t know. I don’t know what it feels like to grow up in daily legitimized fear of the police. I don’t know what it feels like to risk everything to leave my country of origin in hope of a better way of life for my family. My results-orientation has often forced me to pretend that I do know. I must come up with some kind of solution.

I think we need to stop trying to tell the disadvantaged how to think/act/be. What if, instead, we adopted a position of asking. Yes, I realize that this removes us from a position of authority and jeopardizes our grasp of tangible results. The hardest part of this for most of us is that we don’t really know anyone in either of these two categories. That would be a good first step. Get to know someone that experiences the things that you and I do not. Ask them what they think needs to be done. Listen.

Penitence Over Politics
One of the truths that I have been changed most by in recent years is this… if Jesus matters, he has to matter in context. My observation is that in discussions of this nature, Christians – like anyone else – are most likely to go to their respective political corners before returning to the middle of the ring to duke it out. This is backwards. I’m not saying our politics do not play a role in our faith, but it is our faith that should inform our politics, not the other way around.

Asking “what does the law say?” is not necessarily a bad question. I just don’t think it’s always the most important question. The most important question for a Christian is always “what does Jesus say?” Certainly Jesus did not address either of these issues specifically or as we understand them in our American context. He did, however, often speak about and act upon seeing all people through the same lens… his children in need of his redemption. That’s me, too.

A Better Path
Often my default response is silence and inaction. But what if we began to head in a different direction than our basest impulses? What if we sought a better path? Certainly this would be more difficult than following the masses. Certainly it will be hard work. Certainly following the aforementioned types of suggestions are in keeping with the spirit of Jesus. Ready. Set. Go.

What You Probably Never Knew About Robin Williams

Professor KeatingThe answer to this title… anything.

For the last few days I have read and heard pontifications surrounding the unfortunate death of Robin Williams. The fact is that a very minute number of those same people knew anything about him. Most of us only knew his persona. So for anyone to draw “certain” conclusions about his death and depression and their relation to each other and what should have been done to prevent this… is mere foolishness. It took me two days to cool down enough to write something about this. The arrogance and stupidity of comments I have read from people who profess to follow Jesus has been unnerving, to say the least.

You don’t know anything. I don’t know anything. Not about Robin or his struggles or his life or what caused him to take his life so, please stop.

When these types of events continue to come to the fore, what are some helpful responses? Seriously, what would Jesus do? A few suggestions:

  1. Resist the Rush Limbaugh, Al Sharpton, Ann Coulter, Jesse Jackson, Matt Walsh approach. If your response is inflammatory by nature, it is likely not of Christ or at very least not helpful to the current situation.
  2. Reflect on how your words may affect people who are already hurting in the same direction.
  3. Respond with Scripture… as a salve, not a sword.
  4. Remember your own fallenness and need for grace. Practice humility.
  5. Realize (and acknowledge out loud) that you may not know everything.

I know many of these suggestions overlap. I understand that not all of my readers will share my perspective. Can we all at least agree to say a prayer before we write or speak and allow our words to be directed by more than just our tongues?

The Fox News Channel Wasn’t Good for My Soul

fox-newsReposted with permission. Article written by my friend Tim Stevens.

On November 7, 2012, I stopped watching the Fox News Channel (FNC).

That might not seem like a big deal if you didn’t know that I probably averaged 7-10 hours a week for years. I was a news junkie. I LOVED watching the news, hearing different angles on the news, and listening to incredibly smart commentators share their opinion about the news. I watched other channels too, but I was probably 90% watching FNC.

I was especially focused during the election season. I loved watching every debate, and hearing the debates about the debates. For me, politics was a game and I was spectator number one. But that all changed in an instant.

After feeling deceived and misled during the 2012 election by some of my favorite news personalities—I shut it down. I was done. I didn’t know for how long. I just knew my steady diet of Fox News wasn’t good for my soul. So I walked away.

I’ve noticed several things have changed in my heart and mind as a result of no longer watching FNC…

I no longer feel hopeless and defeated. I no longer think the world is going to end, or that “America as we know it will cease to exist.” That’s a ridiculous, never-ending chant from those who make their money by us believing the rhetoric and coming back for more. The truth is, America as we know it ceases to exist every day, and I’m okay with that. As we all contribute to solving problems and helping our fellow citizens—we continue to make America a different place.
I am less cynical toward politicians. Many of them are hard working Americans who love their country and are trying to do the right thing. They need more of my prayers and less of my high and mighty criticism.

I have more of an interest in hearing from people with whom I don’t agree. I am a bit of a hodge-podge as far as my political views, but I’m mostly conservative. When I was getting a steady diet of commentators telling me every night how “liberals” were evil, that they hated America, and they were trying to take my kids and my freedoms and my rights—then I had no interest in sitting down with “those people” to hear what they believed, how they thought, what they valued, or what drove their worldview. I didn’t want to hear it because I already knew. FNC had told me what was true. Now, I’m much more compassionate. I really care what they think. They may not sway my opinion, but I really care about them.

I am becoming more interested in what Jesus would do rather than the right political stance and how it will effect the next election. When I think about illegal immigration through the eyes of Jesus and how he would care for human beings who are trying to survive or find a better life—I land in a different place than when I think about it logically or economically or politically. If my filter is first loving God and loving others instead of making a point or winning an election or passing a law—then it makes a big difference in my life and my attitude and my focus.

My list goes on. I am more loving, less tense and more hopeful. I have clearer thinking about real solutions for real problems and I have more compassion for all. I sincerely want to know about other views and have found some of my own long-held beliefs shifting as I’ve been released from the quicksand of group-think. I’ve discovered that Jesus is not a republican nor are “Christian” and “conservative” synonymous terms.

I have some friends who are still deeply embedded in the Fox News Channel sub-culture, and sometimes I feel sorry for them. I see the weight on their shoulders and tension in their face and want to say, “It’s okay. America is not going to end tomorrow. There is much to be hopeful about.” But Sean or Bill or Meghan or Brian or Karl has told them otherwise. And as I know personally, it’s really hard to see the sun if you are being told every day the storm is coming and this is the big one and we may not survive.

For those of you who worry that I might not know what’s happening in the world anymore, fear not. I read a steady supply of online news apps each day to keep up and be aware. But rather than 5% news and 95% slanted commentary—I try to find sources that are 98% news. I don’t need someone telling me what I should think about the news.

I am in a much better place. My soul is healthier and I am more kingdom-minded. I still love America, but am more aware that Jesus died for the world, not just the USA. Although my love for elections will tempt my resolve as we get closer to November 2016, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the way things were. I couldn’t see it at the time (people mired in a sub-culture rarely ever do), but that person is not who I want to be. I want to be who I am and who I am becoming—and to do that, I need to leave the Fox News Channel in my rearview mirror.

You Can’t Spell USA Without Jesus

Christian PatriotOh, wait… there’s no “a” in Jesus. Well there is in the Hebrew version… Yeshua. There you have it… USA! USA! USA! All joking aside, churches have often confused patriotism and pietism. They are not the same. Perhaps somewhat ironically, I am actually ok with both patriotism (to appropriate degrees) and pietism. Where I get lost is when Christians equate the two.

I think the Spanish Inquisition and the Crusades are fair and negative examples of what can happen when we disproportionately blend politics and religion. But unfortunately we do not have to go back hundreds of years to see places where religion got it wrong. Christianity did not do the right thing during the Civil Rights era or its handling of gender issues. Those are just two of many more recent examples where religion struck out in the culture.

So what are the proper proportions of politics and religion? While I acknowledge some slight variance due to personality and calling, I think this line of thinking gets us further down the road than when we avoid the discussion altogether. First off, this is not a math equation and these proportions cannot be graphed or charted.

What percentage of my life is driven by my faith? In my opinion, the answer had better be 100%. If not, I question the strength of the system to which you adhere (or at least your commitment to it). If faith is seen as a mere afterthought or condiment, then how can we expect it to inform any other part of our lives except the spiritual? And I know that’s where it ends for many people. Not for me. I am a Christian first and last. Following Jesus flavors every corner of my life. This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. It doesn’t mean I “do it right”, but it does mean that I cannot disconnect my faith from the other sectors of my life.

What percentage of my life is driven by my politics? Again, this is not a math problem. If you forced me to put it into that framework, I’d say 0%. I am not waiting on any executive or legislative branch to make my life better or worse. They don’t have that power in my life, actually. Further, I do not believe you can legislate morality any more than you can teach a 5′ 5″ guy to dunk a basketball… he just doesn’t have the tools. I do understand that culturally we have assigned some value to the political process and as such, I acknowledge its existence and exercise my right to vote and speak into said process.

Being a Christian and being a patriot will often be at odds with each other. If they are not, you are likely not doing it correctly.

An Eye for An Eye

death penaltyComedian Ron White hails from the great state of Texas. Part of his routine includes a bit about the death penalty…

That’s right, if you come to Texas and kill somebody, we will kill you back. That’s our policy.

That would be funny, except that it isn’t. Most of us do not need any convincing regarding the seriousness of this issue. In recent weeks the debate about the usefulness and appropriateness of the death penalty has been re-ignited. It is my firm belief that as a Christian you should have an opinion on this. Your opinion should not be based on quippy sayings like, “What goes around comes around.” Your opinion should be based on the Scripture… all of it.

We’ll finish with the Scripture part. Allow me to make an intellectual appeal in the middle. In addition to what the Scriptures have to say about this issue, I would also appeal to the same sense of justice that has previously led many Christians to side with the death penalty. No one can deny or ignore the finality of death. There are no do-overs with the death penalty. Sadly there are far-too-many documented cases where innocent men were put to death. This should at least bother us. What if the sentence was unjust?

Finally, I would like to end with the Bible’s take on the death penalty. I am well aware of the Old Testament passages that contain the title of this post. So, yes, I agree that at one point in time the death penalty was instituted by God as part of the old covenantal system. However when Jesus references this very text in Matthew 5, he does so only to highlight that the New Covenant is the fulfillment of what was incomplete under the Old Testament law. This could certainly include capital punishment. Have discussions and debates. In so doing, understand that many of the cultural laws of the Old Testament have been relieved by coming of Jesus. The gospel trumps all.

Calling Foul On the World Vision Debacle

New Orleans Saints v Green Bay PackersIn case you missed it, this week World Vision decided then un-decided to amend its hiring policy as it relates to same-sex couples. In my view this now-event highlights the growing polarity that exists within Christianity as well as the majority of the American culture. Frankly I am most often at odds with both extremes of this continuing expanse. Sadly, Christian voices seem to echo the intentional brashness modeled by news agencies such as FOX and MSNBC. Two examples worth reading are those drawn up by Rachel Held Evans (representing the left, if you will) and one drawn up by Trevin Wax of the Gospel Coalition. In my view both sides give in to sensationalism and, at times, plain untruths – whether intentional or unintentional.

So, I call, “Foul!” I wish that the reality was in keeping with the above NFL-tied picture. I wish that these were offsetting penalties. Unfortunately they are not. This kind of infighting only makes Christianity look arrogant and as equally confused as the rest of the culture seems to be.

Not ironically, I have many common friends with each of the above authors. I also wrote to both of them soliciting some clarifications. Neither responded in time to be included in this post.

Here are few scattered thoughts that I think “both sides” could afford to consider in their writing:

  1. arguments based in emotion are typically short-lived
  2. you could be wrong… allow for that in your language
  3. throwing rocks is sophomoric and unfruitful
  4. the gay/lesbian issue is not going away… we have to learn to handle it better
  5. what you say is always trumped by how you say it

Having said all of that, I understand how and why many in the evangelical world spoke out. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the gay issue is likely to become a benchmark issue for people of faith. I say unfortunately because I find the attention given to this issue to be incongruous with the scope of Scripture. While many have made it a touchstone issue, the Scriptures (by proportion to today’s attention), give it little. In fact, some of you are reading right now mainly to determine if I have come down on “the right side of the issue”.

I have MANY gay friends. And, yes, I am proud of that. Because I have worked hard to earn and keep those friendships. Most of my hard work has had to come because of the ignorance and cruelty of many so-called Christians. People that have spoken and acted in hatred toward people who are gay. 100% of my gay friends know my theological position regarding their sexuality. And if you ask any of them – and if we know the same people, feel free to ask – they will tell you that I have and will always show them the love of Jesus as true friends.

The bottom line in this story for me is that I don’t know why Richard Stearns and the board of World Vision thought their initial revised position was a necessary step. I’m not sure that I would have made the same initial decision if it was mine to make. However, I’m equally bothered that they could change course so quickly when pressured. Why would such a weighty decision that was presumably prayed about and considered deeply be abandoned because of the cacophony of the masses? Policymaking should be done slowly on the basis of principle… not constituents.

So the biggest foul for me continues to be the way in which Christians express their varying points of view. If we say we are trying to follow Jesus, the way we express ourselves matters as much or more than having the “right position”.

Weeping With Westboro

Westboro Baptist Church Case to be Heard by Supreme CourtMost of the tears I have shed in the last many years with regard to the Westboro Baptist Church have been because of their actions. However, Romans 12:15 also reminds those of us who follow Jesus that we are to…

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

And so today we weep. As difficult as it may be, we weep at the passing of Fred Phelps. Mr. Phelps, I will not do him the honor of calling him by any other name, was clearly a tormented soul. But he was a soul. One for whom Jesus died… even if he did not have a clue what following Jesus was supposed to entail.

There will be a day when it is appropriate to talk about the legacy of Mr. Phelps. Today is not that day. May he rest in the peace that he so often attempted to refuse to others.