Blog: Review of Facing the Music by Jennifer Knapp

By Mary Sinnamon

By Mary Sinnamon

In the book, Facing the Music, Jennifer Knapp tells her own story beginning with the birth of her and her twin sister all the way to the nearly ending career as a musician.  During her childhood, she tells of her experiences and feelings growing up in a broken home where she only sees her loving birth mother on occasion, her father is emotionally absent, and her step-mother is jealous and persistently berates her and how her passion for music and writing was the only thing that kept her sane.  While in college, she tells of how she fell into a cycle of alcoholism and meaningless sex out of self-harm, but then how she met a Christian dorm-mate and became a Christian herself in college.  God became an integral part of her life when it came to healing and finding meaning in it all as well as starting her career as a musician.  Along the way, she met many Christian people and learned a lot about her faith good and bad.  Because she surrounded herself predominately with Christians, her life became stricken with fear and anxiety when she fell head-over-heals in love, realized she is lesbian, and needed to eventually come out of the closet in order to live life to the full.

She describes in her book that coming out was like losing everything, but gaining everything.  Being in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM), she lost many of her fans as well as some close friends.  Jennifer tells of her struggles and how she remained a Christian but also true to herself and the way God made her throughout it all. “My entire adult life had been all about pleasing other people, all about jumping onto the next lily pad that God seemed to put in front of me. It seemed like a thousand years since I had a dream of my own. Now, there was nothing and everything all at the same time.” (p. 197).

After reading this book, I contemplated the main argument of the book which I believe is to be who you are, love yourself for who you are, and do what you love regardless of anyone else’s opinion. And, don’t let anyone else tell you what God’s plan is for your life. Only you can know what that is. If Jennifer wanted me to get one idea from this book, it would be that love and hope are the only things that matter. She discusses how the best of Christianity taught her that love is of utmost importance, and that if the stories of Jesus taught her one thing, it was how best to love.  At one point in her book, she talks about how it isn’t who you love, but how you love that matters. “I believed that no matter who we are, who we love, it is how we love that matters.” (p. 185). She also discusses how the struggle isn’t against being gay, but rather it is against how one is treated for being gay. Also, it wasn’t until she allowed herself to come out and love the woman God brought into her life that she discovered how great love is and how sacred. “Good, God-fearing Christians are supposed to struggle against homosexuality and feel the turmoil of the Holy Spirit. As a woman, I was supposed to want to pray it away, change, be straight, submit to a man, and have babies. I was afraid because, the truth of it was, I didn’t want any of that. I didn’t struggle to accept my sexual orientation, I struggled against the embarrassment that my nature was not what others insisted it should have been. In fact, it wasn’t until I met my proper soul mate that sacred love even began to make sense…Love is sacred. Love is love.” (p. 248).

My favorite part of the book is where she writes this segment (pp 104-105):

“On any given Sunday, I’d find myself immersed in a church culture obsessed with how imperfect or lacking we are as human spirits. The conversations always seemed to center around how broken humanity is, how distant from the imperfection of Christ we all are, and how laborious and frightening it can be to continue to aspire to the seemingly unattainable sinlessness required of the Christian disciple. At times it left me wandering why I even bothered imagining that I could renew my life if all I could ever be was one misstep away from spiritual disaster…None of us are immune from precariously trying to balance our primal and cognitive needs. We have sex drives and hunger, greed and compassion. Strangely, along the way we usually manage to mix our own experiences with shame and insecurity that threaten to overpower our sense of emotional well-being. If we’re lucky, we will discover what it is within us that helps us press on…Between the rational and the spiritual, I felt like I was finding my peaceable footing with my own peculiarities. In my own life, I was eager to move beyond the Christian idea of flawed humanity and get on with living life to the full. If we are what we are–that is, inescapably human–then part of my responsibility is to learn how to honor myself and others along the way. From a Christian perspective, if Christ’s sacrifice was to represent how my sinful nature (read: human nature) is reconciled with God’s perfect holiness, then why should I be afraid to acknowledge my true self? I was free to be loved for who I was and wanted to live that way. I didn’t want to live under a cloud of shame for being, as it turns out, only human. The best of what Christianity would ever teach me was that even on my darkest days, no matter what condition I was in, I was a person made to be loved.”

I think this is a great read for gay Christians who have been spiritually abused by their church and peers.  Jennifer’s life story provides encouragement and strength and lets us know that we are not alone and lets us know that life is better when you are true to yourself regardless of the spiritual attacks we may endure. Some Christians have strict guidelines and impose what they believe a Christian ought to be on others.  Christians attack other Christians on many different grounds whether it be taking the Creation story literally or not and other silly things.  Stay true to yourself and grow in your own walk with God. Love as God loves us, and that is all that really matters.

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Blog: Gearing Up For the New Year

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

There is a buzz in the air: a mixture of excitement, anxiety, curiosity, and more. A new school year awaits and the MSU campus is beginning to come to life once again. Spartans from all corners of the world will descend on East Lansing in the next couple weeks. Studies and sporting events will begin, parties around campus will spring up (yes, they do happen!), and all kinds of extra-curricular activities will vie for students’ attention.

There are many aspects to college life including time for personal exploration. It is a time to investigate personal goals and values. It is a time for one to figure out one’s identity, passion, discipline, and life path. A question to ask may be, “What will I find at the core of my being?” People in many disciplines of study have been asking this for centuries. Included in one’s identity is gender expression and sexuality. Also included is an understanding of a force greater than ourselves—whether a person chooses to believe it exists and if so, if one will choose to engage it through religious practices.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

“The Thinker” sculpture by Auguste Rodin Photo Credit: Public Domain

This is where Q-CROSS@MSU fits into the equation. We are a student organization at MSU that celebrates the intersection of queer-identified and Christian* students. We come together for weekly events including Bible study, fellowship activities (movie and game nights), discussions on current events in the queer and trans* community, and worship that includes the Holy Supper (denied to many in the queer and trans* community). Our gatherings celebrate the wholeness and holiness of each other. It is a place for those who are questioning various aspects of their identity. It is a place to share stories and reclaim missing pieces of self-hood.

Photo Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

Gutenberg Bible Photo Credit: U.S. Library of Congress

The concepts of sin and abomination have dominated the conversation about the queer and trans* population in Christianity for decades. However, current scholarship on the intersection of queer and Christian invites one to take a different look at how these terms are used in Scripture and how we can find affirming language in the Bible. When the concepts that used to color perspective and understanding are off the table a new life emerges from ancient texts. New life also emerges within a person when they are affirmed on every level.

Photo Credit: Project Happiness (Facebook)

Photo Credit: Project Happiness (Facebook)

We are looking forward to a year of educational opportunities, fellowship, worship, and collaboration with other student organizations. This is another year where anything is possible. We look forward to meeting you. You are invited to our Open House on September 2 from 7-9 pm (location is TBD). Our regular weekly meetings begin on September 16 in the Union building. Connect with us on our Facebook page so you stay up to date on our events. Connect with Religious Life at MSU here for other opportunities on campus. Blessings on your academic life here at Michigan State. Go Green!

Blog: God and the Gay Christian

By Mary Sinnamon

By Mary Sinnamon

In the book entitled, “God and the Gay Christian,” Matthew Vines outlines scripture passages that have caused the gay community severe grief and even death over the past several years. He wrote this book after examining other authors’ research and perspectives, studying scripture in different translations, and after reflecting on his own experiences as a gay Christian. He takes these passages and confirms that there is a better, more sophisticated, and loving way to interpret and understand them. He had collected information on the culture of the time and place in which the books of the Bible were written and analyzed the original language and terminology (e.g. Greek, Hebrew) of which the verses were written. That way, he could discuss the Bible verses appropriately in context with deeper insight, unlike those who have read and interpreted the verses frivolously at face value.

Library
I recommend this book as a good “first read” for Christians who are in the process of coming out and for the family of those who are coming out who are struggling to reconcile their family member’s sexuality with their spirituality. I believe this because it was the first thing I read after having come out myself and impacted my spiritual growth greatly. I also hope to share this with my family eventually. It is a relatively short and easy read while also including all the relevant and compelling arguments surrounding these Bible passages. Vines hits on many of the big topics such as Adam & Eve, the gift of celibacy, Sodom & Gomorrah, the laws in Leviticus, Romans 1, who will inherit the Kingdom of God, a biblical argument for marriage equality, the image of God, the hurts of the ex-gay movement, and the uplifting work & hope of the reformation project. He also discusses the importance of understanding sexuality as an “orientation” and the ways in which it affects how the Bible verses are interpreted. Vines examines all these topics and wards off the misconceptions bridging the gap between Christianity and the gay community.

Book CoverStain Glass

I don’t want to give away too much detail about this book because I want you to read it, rather than reading a giant paraphrase of it by me lol 😉 but I would love to share some of my favorite quotes that I’ve highlighted under various topics from the book. This way, you get a good sample/snapshot of what the book is like!

  1. About the laws in Leviticus & Paul’s idea of natural: “…Leviticus prohibits male same-sex relations, but it uses similar language to prohibit the eating of shellfish. And while Paul did describe same-sex relations as ‘unnatural,’ he also wrote that for men to wear their hair long was contrary to ‘nature.’ Yet Christians no longer regard eating shellfish or men having long hair as sinful.” (and there are many more laws that aren’t valid today!)
  2. Vine’s reflection on same-sex relations relative to sin: “…as I became more aware of same-sex relationships, I couldn’t understand why they were supposed to be sinful, or why the Bible apparently condemned them. With most sins, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the damage they cause. Adultery violates a commitment to your spouse. Lust objectifies others. Gossip degrades people. But committed same-sex relationships didn’t fit this pattern. Not only were they not harmful to anyone, they were characterized by positive motives and traits instead, like faithfulness, commitment, mutual love, and self-sacrifice.”
    “Sadly, negative attitudes toward gay relationships have led to crippling depression, torment, suicide, and alienation from God and the church. I suggested that, if for no other reason, those destructive consequences should compel Christians to take a closer look at the relevant Scripture passages.”
    “There was no word in ancient Greek, Hebrew, or Latin that corresponds to the English work for ‘gay,’ as the concept of an exclusive, permanent same-sex orientation is little more than a century old.”
  3. On sexual orientation: “…sexual orientation is not a choice, and it is highly resistant to change.”
    “If you are a straight Christian, I invite you to think about your own experience with sexuality. I doubt you could point to a moment when you chose to be attracted to members of the opposite sex.”
  4. On celibacy: “We can embrace gay relationships and maintain a traditional view of celibacy, or we can change our understanding of celibacy and keep a traditional view of gay relationships. But we cannot do both.”
    “…the New Testament endorses celibacy as an honored way of life. But at the same time, it makes clear that celibacy should be a voluntary choice, not an imposed requirement…Jesus said celibacy could be accepted only by ‘those to whom it has been given.’ Celibacy is a gift, and those who do not have the gift should marry”
    “…for those who have the gift, lifelong celibacy should at least be possible without causing them grave damage. Sadly, for many gay Christians, that isn’t the case.”
  5. About creation: “…the account of Eve’s creation doesn’t emphasize Adam’s need to procreate. It emphasizes instead his need for relationship…Adam’s spouse couldn’t have been a man any more than she could have been an infertile woman.”
  6. About Sodom: “Sodom’s sin was declared to be arrogance and inhospitality.”
    “…this (requesting Lot’s guests to have sex with them) was not an expression of sexual desire. It was threatened gang rape. In the ancient world, for a man to be raped was considered the ultimate degradation…Aggression and dominance were the motives in these situations, not sexual attraction.”
  7. God’s image: “In Genesis 1:27 ’in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’—most likely means ‘that both male and female are created in the divine image…[and] that all the dignity, honor, and significance of bearing the divine image belong equally to men and to women.’”
  8. About marriage: “In Jesus’s understanding of marriage, covenantal commitment is foundational. The ability to bear children is not.”
    “…and despite the significance of procreation in the Old Testament, infertile marriages were not considered illegitimate.”
    “What seems to me to be the most important in marriage is not whether the partners are anatomically different from one another. It’s whether the inherently different people involved are willing to keep covenant with each other in a relationship of mutual self-giving. Differences in personality, passions, careers, goals, and needs are the differences that require each partner’s self-sacrifice, which reflects Christ’s sacrificial love for us. Those kinds of differences, when valued and sacrificed for, bring the Bible’s basis for marriage to life. Same-sex couples can and do live out that deepest sense of difference.”

Oh my goodness gracious, now I’m writing the whole book. There’s no way one blog post can do it justice, so read it. It’s really great! 🙂

Blog: Pentecost: Using our Gifts to Renew the Face of the Earth

By Steven Kandow

By Steven Kandow

This weekend, the church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, the day in which many denominations celebrate the birth of the Christian church. It’s marked by the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of the arrival of the Holy Spirit, sent amongst the apostles to renew the face of the earth through spreading the good news.

Photo credit: Parish of Saint Monica

Photo credit: Parish of Saint Monica

Throughout most of Lent and the Easter season, I’ve been pondering these questions: What can I do to help renew the face of the earth?  How can I advance the good news of Jesus’s message of salvation for all?

One late April morning, the Holy Spirit answered my questions of how I could contribute to advancing God’s kingdom using my own gifts.  The arguments for the Obergefell v. Hodges case had just concluded earlier that week and there had been no references in the priest’s homily that morning for the need for society or the Supreme Court to embrace the “traditional definition of marriage,” so I thought I was in the clear from any political commentary for that mass.

However, when the priest began saying the general intercessions, he offered a prayer for the Supreme Court to uphold the definition of marriage as intended by God.  At first, I was taken aback as I was every time a reference to the marriage equality movement surfaced in mass.  After reflecting on the moment, though, I couldn’t help but smile, and I found myself joining in the congregational response: “Lord, hear our prayer.”

For me, marriage as intended by God references God’s solution for the problem of man being alone (Gen 2:18).  For heterosexual couples, that mirrors the first human couple Adam and Eve, but for same-sex couples, their “suitable partner” (Gen 2:19) does not fit this model.  Marriage, therefore, reflects a commitment to a lifestyle in which two suitable partners-God’s words, not mine!-come together to share their lives with one another.

As I sat down after the general intercessions, I reflected on how my personal spiritual journey had led to me viewing scripture in this way.  I had to come to appreciate the scholarly, historic, and contextual way in which God’s word revealed itself to me, allowing me to look beyond the face value interpretation of scripture to see the meaning behind God’s message on how we are to develop a relationship with Him and with others.

I thought of the many other affirming Christians that knew in their hearts of God’s love for the LGBT community, but were forced to hear messages of condemnation, intolerance, or fear from their pulpits.  At that point, the Holy Spirit revealed a way in which I could be a source of affirmation from a scriptural perspective.

Bird Book

Today’s blog post, therefore, is the first in a series of affirming reflections on scripture readings within the context of the Church liturgical year.  It is intended for anyone searching for affirming scriptural meditation.  It will always focus on the readings for a Catholic Mass on that particular day and will reflect through a Catholic lens (for the most part) on things such as Mary, the saints, and the sacraments, but my goal is to write these reflections so they can be used by any and all Christians searching for reflective meditations without fear of condemnation of the movements for full LGBT inclusion in Christian churches.

The feast of Pentecost offers several options for readings between the vigil and Sunday Masses.  One Old Testament option for the Vigil Mass tells the story of the Tower of Babel, in which God created the many languages of the earth to prevent the builders from stretching their tower all the way to the sky.  In the first reading of the Pentecost feast day, the Holy Spirit negates this barrier by allowing the Apostles to share the Gospel with people from all nations, languages, and walks of life.

Photo credit: Catholic Bible 101

Photo credit: Catholic Bible 101

Another contrast between the story of the Tower of Babel and the story of Pentecost involves perspective relative to location.  The builders of the tower sought only to reach God in the heavens.  However, the mission of the Apostles upon receiving the Holy Spirit was very clearly an earthly one.  God desires for us to seek His presence in others rather than simply looking above.

This is a trap that the Apostles fell into briefly when Jesus ascended into heaven.  They found themselves looking up until two angels reminded them of the work they had yet to do here below.  Unfortunately, it’s a trap that many today seem to also fall into.  It’s easy to spend so much time looking to heaven that we forget about God’s creation here on Earth.

The reading from 1 Corinthians for this feast reminds us that “[t]here are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor. 12: 4-6).

Today, on this feast of Pentecost, remember that the Holy Spirit has given gifts to you to bring about the realization of God’s kingdom here on Earth.  Take some time to reflect on what gifts you have been given and how you can use those gifts to share the good news of Christ with others.

Photo credit: Pixgood

Photo credit: Pixgood

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus offers peace to his disciples after his resurrection.  It is this very peace that remains at the core of Jesus’s teaching; this is the crux of the message we are to “renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104: 30b) with.  May God’s peace and joy be with you as we celebrate the birth of the Church on this feast of Pentecost.

Special thanks to QCROSS @ MSU for posting the pilot blog for this series of reflections.  For more articles, be sure to visit Affirming Catholic Reflections at:

https://affirmingcatholicreflections.wordpress.com

Dr. Steven Kandow is an alumus of Michigan State University and is former Vice President of Q-CROSS @ MSU

Blog: Gay Conservative Christians: Discussion on the Politics

By Andrew Shutt

By Andrew Shutt

My life has been incredibly complicated internally as I have grown up. I’ve been raised with many values aligned with political conservatism and with mainstream protestant Christianity. When I reached high school, I started to struggle with my own sexual identity. Despite having a girlfriend for nearly the entire time in high school, I was having feelings towards other guys and I was trying to figure out my own orientation, what it means to me, what it means to God, and what it means to other people who share similar philosophical and political views.

Long story short, I’ve discovered myself and I’ve completely accepted myself. I finally figured out that one, I’m a homosexual; two, politically, I’m a conservative libertarian (and I probably always will be); and three, I’m a Christian. I’ll explore more of the homosexual Christian intersection in a later blog post, which I think is a much more important topic, but I would really like to focus on the political aspect of this complex intersection, because it seems this is more immediately useful to the LGBT community.

Forget the fact that I’m Christian, but focus only on my political persuasion and sexual orientation. From what I’ve found in terms of the LGBT community, this is a very rare pairing. And I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that LGBT persons’ first and foremost political subject we like to focus on is same-sex marriage and same-sex rights. Liberalism as a whole appears to be supporting such a positive position while conservatism argues it will harm the institution of marriage. So naturally, more LGBT persons will consider themselves liberal, often for this only reason, only then do the other general views of liberalism get tacked on later.

So of course, I’ve been in fear these past few years, being a conservative, being a Christian, and being gay, all while supporting gay rights including marriage. My conservative views seem to polarize the LGBT community, and my LGBT views seem to polarize the Christian and conservative communities. (However there are some pro gay rights republican groups out there. See Log Cabin Republicans)

What I would hope to do is to help dissolve the tension in former, and I think, if it can be eradicated, can help the progress towards the latter. If conservatives can be reminded of their inner core values of individual liberties and rights and ignore some of the religious dogma when it comes to same-sex marriage views, I think we can get the conservatives on the right side of the same-sex marriage debate.

So here is my call for anyone and everyone to convince any conservative that same-sex rights should be a belief they have. First, ask them the following questions:

As a conservative, do you believe in the individual rights of the person?

As a conservative, do you believe in the religious rights of the person?

If they answer no to either one of the questions, odds are, they are not a conservative. If they answer yes to both, then follow up with these statements:

Then you believe that people should have the right to marry the person they love.

You also believe that people have the religious freedom to marry the person they love, according to their religion.

Some may argue that these are not the same thing, that marriage isn’t a right. To the first, they may be able to contest. But to the second, they cannot contest the religious freedom to marry, regardless of their own religious views. In my opinion, the only solution for the conservative to get out of this situation while maintaining their conservative integrity is to stand on the position of government getting out of the institution of marriage. A position, I believe, that can be the solution for the LGBT community. There are many justices of the peace in several states who are willing to marry same sex partners, and if government got out of such institutionalizing and recognized any such religious marriage, a huge problem would be solved, and it would be a huge step in the right direction to securing many same sex rights. It’s turning the argument from “trampling on the institute of marriage” to “tramping on the religious rights of people.”

Because we are

Because we are.

So consider my intersection again, I’m a gay conservative Christian. And yet, I can advocate for gay rights through the politically conservative lens. I want to use this example to remind LGBT people that not all conservatives are against this particular issue. Conservatives should be on the right side of this issue, given our base beliefs, and yet we are not. This is one of the reasons why I want to arm people with the proper ammunition to get conservatives to be on the proper side of the debate. So I call to please give some of us (conservatives) acceptance and tolerance. We want many of the same things; we simply disagree on many of the means. So the next time you meet someone who says: “I’m a republican” or “I’m conservative,” remember what I positioned in this article, don’t jump to conclusions and immediately shut them out or think less of them (which you shouldn’t do to anyone anyway), just try to get them on the right side of the debate, where conservatives should be. Allow me to leave you with the words of Paul:

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:5-7 ESV