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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Breaking Ranks!?

This is NOT my writing.  It is copied and pasted from Brian McLaren’s blog.

I could not have said it any better…  so I didn’t.

Thank you Brian.  You are a soldier and a man of God.

IMG_0093.jpg   Grace and Brian McLaren, January 2007

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Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and networker among innovative Christian leaders. His dozen-plus books include A New Kind of Christianity, A Generous Orthodoxy, Naked Spirituality, and Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? He and his wife, Grace, live in Florida and have four adult children and two granddaughters. He’s an avid wildlife and outdoors enthusiast who believes God’s first language is this amazing universe.

 

A “farewell, Brian McLaren” moment, or not

I recently received this note from a reader of my books, someone I had met on a trip to Asia a few years back:

I read recently about your recent stand on homosexuality … Don’t know if everything is correct – but this was my comment on that article:,

“I have regarded Brian as my mentor in coping with expressing my Christian faith in the postmodern world but now I have to break ranks with him – it leaves me devastated. “Neither do I condemn you – go and sin no more” the words of Jesus in the situation of the woman caught in adultery gives me guidance on this issue – “not to condemn” is not the same “it is not sin”. To use a supra concept of “Loving God and Loving Neighbour” to excuse what is clearly sin in the Bible is to dilute the fundamental of obeying the Bible for its teaching authority in our lives in defining ethical behaviour – what else will happen next?

Brian my dear friend, thank you for journeying with me and opening my eyes to see my faith being worked out in a post modern world – your journey has taken you in a different direction from where I want to go – I feel lost as to who will be my next guidepost, but I will carry on this journey with Jesus as the author and finisher of my faith …”,

I met you when you were in [Asia] some years ago. If you get to read this and would like to respond it will be great but otherwise it’s ok. God bless you brother.

Thanks for sending me your comment. I appreciate your warmth and feel your sadness in needing to (as you say) break ranks with me. There is a lot I’d like to say – but I’ll just offer three (actually four) brief comments.

First, as you probably know, I’m not a “we have to keep ranks” type of guy. One of the characteristics I most appreciate about “a generous orthodoxy” or “a new kind of Christianity” is the freedom to stay unified and stay in fellowship even when we disagree. In fact, if we only “keep ranks” with those with whom we agree, it pretty much guarantees we won’t be challenged to think new thoughts and grow into new areas. So, it’s important for you to know that if you hold a different view than I do, whatever the issue – I would not want to “break ranks” with you. In fact, I am continually enriched, instructed, and challenged by people who differ with me on this and other issues – and I hope the reverse could be true.

My view on human sexuality has indeed changed over a period of thirty years, and actually, the views of most conservative Christians have also been changing over that period. It wasn’t too long ago that the only conservative position was, “It’s a choice and an abomination.” When that position became untenable due to increasing data, the conservative position evolved to “it’s a changeable disposition, and we know how to change it.” When fewer and fewer people who claimed to have been reoriented were able to sustain the reorientation, the position shifted to “it’s a hard-to-change disposition, but it can be done with great difficulty.” More recently, I hear conservatives say “the disposition may be unchangeable but the behavior is a choice, so people may choose to live a celibate life or a heterosexual life, even against their orientation.” All that’s to say that it would be unfair of me to break fellowship with people who are themselves on a journey, just because they aren’t where I am at this point.

So I’m glad that difference doesn’t need to mean division. Which brings me to a second comment …

In many settings – some cultural, some multi-religious, some denominational, not taking a firm anti-homosexuality stance can cost you your reputation, your job, and even your life. Because you have been an outspoken supporter of my work in the past, I can see how my public stand would put you in a terrible position. If you don’t publicly break ranks with me, people may practice “guilt by association,” branding you a “friend of sinners,” or worse – someone in ranks with a heretic. Those costs would be very high. So be assured – I don’t criticize you for breaking ranks with me – and doing so in the most public way possible. I can see how even if you privately agreed with me (and I know you don’t), it would be almost impossible to do otherwise than break ranks, as you say. Many of my friends have been in a similar position. I’m deeply sad about this – for both sides – but understand it.

Finally, this issue is not going to go away. A significant percentage of people are gay – I would guess around 6%. This percentage seems to be a remarkably consistent feature of every human culture and population, every denomination, every religion, including those who deny it exists among them. If each gay person has two parents, the issue affects 18% of the population. If each gay person has one sibling and one friend, we’re up to 30% who are directly affected by the issue.

It’s much easier to hold the line on the conservative position when nearly all gay people around you are closeted and pretending to be other than they are. Eventually for some, the pain of pretending will become greater than the pain of going public. Whenever a new son or daughter comes out of the closet, their friends and family will face a tough choice: will they “break ranks” with their family member or friend, or will they stay loyal to their family member or friend – which will require them to have others break ranks with them?

In my case, I inherited a theology that told me exactly what you said: homosexuality is a sin, so although we should not condemn (i.e. stone them), we must tell people to “go and sin no more.” Believe me, for many years as a pastor I tried to faithfully uphold this position, and sadly, I now feel that I unintentionally damaged many people in doing so. Thankfully, I had a long succession of friends who were gay. And then I had a long succession of parishioners come out to me. They endured my pronouncements. They listened and responded patiently as I brought up the famous six or seven Bible passages again and again. They didn’t break ranks with me and in fact showed amazing grace and patience to me when I was showing something much less to them.

Over time, I could not square their stories and experiences with the theology I had inherited. So I re-opened the issue, read a lot of books, re-studied the Scriptures, and eventually came to believe that just as the Western church had been wrong on slavery, wrong on colonialism, wrong on environmental plunder, wrong on subordinating women, wrong on segregation and apartheid (all of which it justified biblically) … we had been wrong on this issue. In this process, I did not reject the Bible. In fact, my love and reverence for the Bible increased when I became more aware of the hermeneutical assumptions on which many now-discredited traditional interpretations were based and defended. I was able to distinguish “what the Bible says” from “what this school of interpretation says the Bible says,” and that helped me in many ways.

So – many years before I learned I had members of my own close family who were gay – my view changed. As you can imagine, when this issue suddenly became a live issue in my own family, I was relieved that I was already in a place where I would not harm them as (I’m ashamed to say this) I had harmed some gay people (other people’s sons and daughters) earlier in my ministry.

I know this won’t be convincing to many people, but it’s an honest though brief accounting of my story. I express a similar thought in my new book (p. 52). I’m addressing the issue of hostility toward other religions, something many people feel they must uphold in order to be faithful and orthodox Christians:

I think of a friend of mine from the same background of Christian fundamentalism I hail from. When his son came out, he had no support to help him accept the possibility that his son could be both gay and good. With deep ambivalence, he stood with his tradition and condemned his son. The cost -alienation from his son – was high, but it grew unspeakably higher when his son internalized the rejection and condemnation of his community and took his own life. Or I think of another friend, the mother of a gay son, also from my heritage. She came to me in secret to talk, knowing that one of my sons had come out around the same time as hers. Through tears she said, “I feel like I’m being forced to choose between my father and my son. If I affirm my son, I’m rejecting everything my father stood for. If I stand with my father, I’m rejecting my son.”

In religion as in parenthood, uncritical loyalty to our ancestors may implicate us in an injustice against our descendants: imprisoning them in the errors of our ancestors. Yes, there are costs either way.

I want to add one more brief comment. You ask, if we change our way of interpreting the Bible on this issue (my words, not yours) “- what else will happen next?” Here’s what I hope will happen. After acknowledging the full humanity and human rights of gay people, I hope we will tackle the elephant in the room, so to speak – the big subject of poverty. If homosexuality directly and indirectly affects 6 – 30% of the population, poverty indirectly and directly affects 60 – 100%. What would happen if we acknowledged the full humanity and full human rights of poor people? And then people with physical disabilities and mental illnesses and impairments? And then, what after that? What would happen if we acknowledged the spiritual, theological, moral value – far beyond monetary or corporate value – of the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, of seas and mountains and valleys and ecosystems? To me, Jesus’ proclamation of the reign or commonwealth of God requires us to keep pressing forward, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, proclaiming God’s amazing grace to all creation.

So – thanks for your note, for the warm spirit in which it was written, and for the invitation to respond. No need to be devastated. You will be fine. God bless you too, my brother! I hope our paths cross again soon. In friendship, as always – Brian

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Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Journey to Authenticity

 

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My Obituary

I know, I know, the title sounds alarming. It used to sound alarming to me too! Fortunately for me I no longer view death as an ending, but a new beginning. A BEAUTIFUL new beginning.

Thanks to You Tube, I have viewed videos about cremation and all other sorts of Mortuary Science stuff. I have no personal fear of death or dying.

I no longer struggle with suicide as I did throughout my childhood and most of my adult life. I enjoy the life that I have today as my authentic self. I don’t wish to die any time soon. I have two elementary-aged daughters, a best friend, new and “old” friends that I wish to make more memories with for a very long time.

I have been to countless funerals and memorial services in my brief lifetime of 43 years. Some have been pure celebrations of life and others have been pure hell and pain. In each category both have included an obituary which was typically someone speaking words of encouragement and remembrance of the deceased. Some even included the words or phrase, “if ‘John’ were here, he would want to say, or want you to know that…” You fill in the blank. Most of you know exactly what I’m attempting to communicate. Some of you even sat there thinking that the person speaking was a big fat liar or was at the wrong memorial service. Laugh out Loud!

I have sat at those services and often wondered what that person would really say if they were actually there. I have often told myself… self…, before you die, be sure to write your own obituary so that no one will have to lie or wonder what you really meant to say or communicate to the guests at your service. So I decided to take a break from my childhood story to write exactly what I would want said at my service, should I get to opportunity leave this world for my new world sooner than I hope for. I’m leaving for my annual cruise on October 5th, so I’d really like to wait until then. Laugh out Loud.

Here goes.

Chet Lloyd DeRouen was born in Southwest Louisiana in the Town of Franklin. He grew up in Baldwin, Louisiana. He is the third child of Charles Lloyd, Sr. and Marie Perez Derouen of New Iberia, Louisiana and Jeanerette, Louisiana respectively. Chet was very scared, anxious, shamed, sad and depressed. He kept secrets and believed lies about not ever being good enough. He was guarded and did not let people (especially men) ever get close to him. He was afraid that they would “find him out” and learn the truth about who he “really was.” He kept people close enough to love but far enough away to not be hurt by them. This didn’t always work out as planned.

Upon graduation from Franklin High School, he moved to Baton Rouge and then on to Springfield, Missouri to attend Bible College where he earned a degree in Bible and Pastoral Ministries. He is a former Licensed Minister with the Assemblies of God Denomination and served unpaid in several churches in Arizona and Louisiana respectively.

At age 29 he married Christa Marie Nohl in Springdale, Arkansas after being introduced to her by a mutual friend. They had two children, Casslyn Elizabeth and Carly Virginia and were married for 14 years. Chet always acknowledged Christa as his best friend even after the marriage was dissolved in 2012.

Chet was a very insecure child and adult. He had a large amount of friends but always felt alone and lonely. He loved to tell stories. Some true and some not so much, most of them were funny and kept most people in stitches laughing. Chet was happiest when others were happy. He always said “I LOVE YOU” by doing things for you. He felt wanted and needed when he was doing projects for others.

He loved Interior design, Architecture, Landscaping, Singing and Traveling. His favorite color was purple. Many of you have “memories” of those talents in your home, businesses and hearts. He never felt that his work was adequate even when others assured him that it was. He was insecure in private but a lion at perfection in public.

Chet was passionate about issues and people that he believed in. He would not back down when he believed that he was protecting someone or himself. He was at times gentle enough to admit that he was wrong and corrected his course when necessary. This did not happen too often so don’t go thinking that he was a softy or something…

He loved senior citizens and spent much of his life serving them in more than one capacity. In turn, Senior Citizen Ladies had a die-hard love for him. He was proud of that.

Chet wants each of you to know how much he loves you. He is so thankful for your friendship, support, mercy and grace. He never took your friendship and kindness for granted and if he did not get the chance to apologize and make it right with you, then he wishes to do so now. Chet loved you and cared for you the best way that he knew how. When he knew better, he did better.

Chet loves his THREE girls endlessly. Casslyn, you are the best Casslyn that a daddy could ever want. You are so creative and kind. I had no idea that I could discipline someone for behaving the exact way that I did when I was a kid. Laugh out loud! Carly, you are the best Carly that a daddy could ever want. You can do anything that anyone else can do. You are a tender spirit and don’t ever lose that quality. I had no idea that someone could talk, joke or laugh their way out of a spanking or punishment better than I did when I was a kid. You ladies are top-notch. I love you to the moon and back, To Infinity and beyond. Christa… You’re still you. A man couldn’t ask for a better best friend and a mother to his children. You are the hand that I reach for when I’ve lost my way.

Later in life at the age of 42 1/2, Chet accepted his authentic self. The fear, anxiety, shame, sadness and depression dissolved into truth, acceptance, love and confidence. While his circle of family and friends became fluid at this time, he was confident that he had done the most honest thing that he had ever done in his life. The secrets and lies were gone and with the absence of those, his heart was full of joy and his life was full of hope and promise. His relationship with Christa, Casslyn and Carly became deep and solid.

His final request was that there be no funeral. Instead he requested a service where the talents of others could be expressed and a big party to follow. He wished for his ashes to be thrown from a cruise ship. He loved to cruise! There must be a sea in heaven.

May God bless you and keep you. May God smile upon you, and bless you with gifts and talents, May God look you full in the face and cause you to prosper!

Go now and treat others like you wish to be treated. Practice Love, Mercy, Grace, Forgiveness and Acceptance.

I love you each individually.

-Chet

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Journey to Authenticity

 

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