Friday, September 25, 2009

Poem: "Heretic"

A poem sent to us recently by a young brother who's been very active in working to help straight, conservative Christians understand that the Bible does not condemn us, and who's been struggling under the weight of this huge task. 

by Christopher Cool
11 September 2009
The wolves return to the pasture once again
To feast upon their usual unwary prey --
They with their antics drive the flock insane
All while they whine that they don't have their way.

They blame abortion, liberals, and the gays --
Screaming that evil has torn this country down --
And though they swear to uphold God's holy ways
I'd bet their fathers formed His thorny crown.

How now can man know sure that which is right
With enemies hid behind a sheep's disguise?
Why am I now a heretic in your sight --
When Truth has been confounded by your lies?

We mourn attacks on country and our flag --
"Humbling" ourselves through fasting for a day --
But is our righteousness more than filthy rags
Because we cry, "God bless the USA"?

Our patriots shout, "Them hippie-types be damned!"
At us who protest our war-created void --
But what is such devotion to our homeland --
If not an idol, like those He once destroyed?

We try to justify those bloody fights --
As though our brethren needed reasons why!
Am I now but a heretic in your sight --
When you're the ones who've made the truth a lie?

And what of you smiling hypocrites in robes
Who trample orphans and widows like the grass?
Where were you to condemn the acts of homophobes?
Where will you stand, in the Judgement soon to pass?

Oh no! We're "preserving marriage" or "protecting kids"!
So that allows you to say what you will, it seems --
Well, here's a message I hope gets through your heads:
It is NEVER true that ends justify the means!

But no, you all but slaughter human rights
As though your work is sanctioned from on high --
And am I now a heretic in your sight --
When your hateful words are full of blatant lies?

I've had enough - no more will I bridle my tongue
When the very world is an enemy of the human race --
I will not look upon where my Lord was hung
And forget why on that cross He chose His place.

In a world where all around me I see hell
You cannot scare me with, "What if tomorrow He came?"
Scoff me, scorn me, call me what you will --
I will walk His path before me all the same.

And though I hope and pray you'll embrace the light --
Just know I can't ignore your works before my eyes.
I'll gladly be a heretic in your sight --
If you won't stop defending all your lies.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Art museum theology

My mother-in-law renewed our memberships to the local art museum, so we went to see the latest exhibit, entitled: “The Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt”.

The place was packed with people – which it hadn’t been before when we’d stopped in to see other collections. Nicely arranged and accessible, with a lot of audio and textual learning tools, the exhibit offers an in-depth look at an ancient people who lived in the days of Abraham, Israel, and Moses.

As I traveled through the galleries, I couldn’t help placing what I was seeing in Bible context. In one room, for example, was a massive hand-carved stone statue of a man. I was amazed at how beautifully it was done – indeed, it was quite a work of art! But it was more than that, because among the words carved around its base was the command, “Pray to me.” And across its surface was the wearing away of actual stone done by thousands upon thousands of hands that did just that.

Elsewhere in the exhibit, one examined other idols – “gods” shaped like baboons, lions, falcons, jackals, and more. The Egyptians, we learned, didn’t worship baboons or other animals – but they did worship the power they associated with the animals. To them, “magic” was a way to gather and control the power they saw manifesting itself in the natural world – including in life and death.

So they mummified themselves, and worshiped gods like Osiris, who (they believed) resurrected himself from the dead each morning with the sun. They built elaborate tombs, covered with magical words and filled with magical images that promised to protect, feed, and guide the dead in the afterlife – into immortality.

I felt a great sadness, going through the exhibit. Here were the lifeless objects they’d left behind.

Here, even, was a human body – precisely
mummified by the most wealthy and powerful people 3,500 years ago – now rotting in a glass box while tens of thousands of strangers come by to stare and enjoy being grossed out by the whole silly idea. Were it not for the wealth of gold and antiquity associated with the various things in the exhibit, most of them would today be thrown into the nearest landfill as garbage. Yet every last bit of it was intended to achieve immortality – and all without having to rely on or bow to the One True God.

God rejected the ancient Egyptians, because they had rejected Him. When He freed the Israelites from Egypt, He gave them a long and complicated law that would train them not to be like the God-rejecting Egyptians they had lived among for so long:
"You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices." (Leviticus 18:3)
"Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces." (Exodus 23:24)
People often misquote parts of the ancient “training” law that God gave the Israelites – parts they then say mean God condemns Gay people. But as I walked through this exhibit, I saw no Gay or Lesbian. I saw blatant God-rejection and demon worship – things that don’t require any particular sexual orientation to fall into.

Sometimes those who want to “help” Gay people try to ignore or reinvent those Scripture passages that some misinterpret as if they condemn us. But I stand firm, as I pray we all do, in saying: “Give me ALL of Scripture, because God left something for all of us in it.” 

What would we miss, for example, if we simply ignored or reinvented the law books like Leviticus? How would we understand how horrible and anti-God the ancient pagan people were (in burning their children alive, and in women having sex with animals, and in incest, and more), if we didn’t read God’s specific prohibitions against the things they did? Some of what God prohibited has been lost to history – we just haven’t known for thousands of years just exactly what some of the prohibitions mean. But we do know that it was all about rejecting pagan practices, and the violent, lustful, greedy, anti-God hearts that practiced them.

The ancient pagans will have achieved an immortality of sorts – but nothing like what they planned on. The religious things they worshiped and bodies they mummified will continue to rot in museums and collections around the world, objects of interest to both side-show gawker and archaeologist alike.

Our own modern human attempts at immortality -- including naming things after ourselves (including ministries), building great things (including religious organizations), and putting anything between us and God (including our "church", "pastor", or Bible translation) -- will also all fail.

What will not fail?

The only thing in the universe that has never failed:

Jesus Christ:
Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." [John 4:13-14]
For no one can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [1 Corinthians 3:11]

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Q: "How can good people remain Christian?"

That’s a question many non- and ex-Christian people ask, every day (well, that or another version that isn’t as “polite”!). I used to ask it myself, years ago!

After all, how many wars have been fought by Christians (even today)? How often has Christianity been used to justify domination and exploitation of the poor? How much hatred and judgment is spewed out of the hearts and mouths of Christians – today against Gay and other sexual minority people, but in years past also against people of African descent, Jews, and others? How long was Christianity used to rationalize the enslavement of others? And – yes – just what about all that violent, ugly stuff in the Bible, too?

And there’s no denying any of this – though many Christians try, or try to explain it away as a misunderstanding or failure on the part of the questioner. But there is no doubt:

Christianity in the past, present, and without a doubt into the future has and will continue to show itself to be filled with people who may (or may not!) have very good (apparent) intentions, but who are nonetheless ignorant, arrogant, fake, intolerant, and hypercritical, and who love violence, control, prejudice, and abuse. And even worse, they always have and always will claim they are and do these things with divine authority and approval.

However, here are some things to consider!

(1) - Christianity in its “pure” or original form – the way we can find it in the Bible as GOD originally gave it to us in its original languages and contexts – has always predicted that most of its “followers” would, in fact, not be real followers at all.

To judge Christianity based on the people who claim to be Christians but don’t act like it in the way the Bible itself describes, then, is just like judging Native American people based on the European-ancestry people who claim to be “spiritual Indians.” It's also just like judging hundreds and hundreds of millions of normal-living Gay people around the world based on the few thousand Gays who prance around naked in parades or have sex in public places.

Jesus and His original followers (i.e., those who actually lived with and heard Him with their own ears – not anyone who came along too late to be included in the Bible) warned again and again that the numbers of those who not only talk the talk but also walk the walk would always be very small, compared to the far larger numbers of people who (intentionally or unintentionally) are just faking it. Jesus and His original followers also tell us we must actively work to tell the difference between those two groups, and to make sure we ourselves are only part of the group on the smaller path so that we will gradually become more and more like Jesus, each day.

So good people can be and remain Christian because original Bible truths and the infilling of God’s Spirit into their hearts will lead them to be! When people truly accept God’s real truth (not one or more human “versions” of God’s truth) into their hearts and minds, their hearts and minds begin to change. When that happens, they change away from ignorance, arrogance, hypocrisy, intolerance, judgment, domination, prejudice, and abuse of others, and change towards understanding, humility, sincerity, tolerance, compassion, equality, love of all God’s diverse creation, and care for others (which were all the things the original Christians we see in the Bible were well known for!)

(2) - Most Christians (because they aren’t really following Jesus after all) are judgmental, ignorant, arrogant, and so on – but then, so are most Buddhists, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, pagans, Jews, agnostics, and so on!

In fact, being a “not-nice” person is pretty much the overall human condition, true of all of us no matter what our religious or non-religious beliefs, cultural heritage, gender, racial background, political stance, socioeconomic status, sexual and gender orientation, and so on.

Still, we often hold an extra measure of distaste (or even hatred) of Christianity because it’s what seems to be all around us, in our western cultures. Bad "Christianity" is always "in our face", flexing its muscles and kicking sand in everyone's face (which means it reveals itself as part of the group that killed Jesus, and not the part that followed Him). And that can be infuriating, not only for those under attack, but also for others who simply despise the injustice and harm that causes.

But reading works by and listening to those who grow up in cultures that seem to be almost all "Buddhist", or almost all "anti-religion", or almost all "Muslim", and so on, reveals that people in those cultures can feel just as tired of being so overwhelmingly “surrounded” by those, as well. So it often isn’t the actual Christianity we’re sick to death of (in fact, we hardly get a chance to see that, especially if we aren't looking for it). Instead, it’s the badly done or false Christianity that seems to permeate everything around us, that can drive us crazy.

So good people can be and remain Christian because, as they grow more and more in God’s Holy Spirit, they actually become more and more uncomfortable with and rejecting of that badly done and false Christianity – so much so that others may not even believe they are Christian, since they don’t act like (bad-behavior) "Christians"!

(3) - There is a lot of violence in the Bible – almost all of it in the Old Testament. But there is a context to it that’s often missed (I certainly missed it myself, for many years).

You see, there is a standard, mainstreamed storyline most often given for the Bible – one that many people use to justify all sorts of really ugly, violent things even today. Problem is, most of that storyline is based on:
  • bad translations of Scripture,
  • misinterpretations of Bible context and language and history, and,
  • failure to truly understand the whole Bible story within the context of Jesus Christ and what He taught.
It's as if centuries upon centuries of sinful human bias and ignorance all rested like layers of muddy filth, growing one on top of another and forming this huge idol of refuse that we're taught to believe represents God's truth. And if we don't ever see beyond the garbage idol? We'll never get to what God's real purpose was in any of this.

For example, there is the violence of the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. Did God require that? Yes He did – but only for a few centuries, and only of a certain violent, evil people that He was trying to grow into a people of justice, mercy, and service in a way that their stone- to iron-age minds would understand. Nearly everyone across the whole world was sacrificing animals and even people in those days. And for a very short time – that is, between giving Moses the strict rules that the Hebrews were to follow, until the time that Jesus died on the cross – God went along with that because it was something that the ancient people (including the ancient Hebrews) would actually understand.

See, one truth that the Bible teaches is that God always meets us where we are.

And we should be able to understand that, just from normal human experience. We know, for example, that a six-month-old baby can't control her bodily functions. She must eventually learn to do so, but until then we will allow for complete inability and then accidents, helping with diapers and training things and so on, and encouraging and teaching her, until little by little she can eventually get to what's required to be a mature person.

God acts as a parent in this way, as well. He understand when we just aren't mature enough yet to do what's right in His mature eyes, and He helps us with the "baby steps" and training aids we need for now. But the Bible also shows that – just like a parent – He also leads us forward (individually and as a people) toward full spiritual maturity (if we will allow it, that is!). But just as a child not only doesn't need the diapers and training aids after a time, the parent also doesn't allow their continued use and stops tolerating even "accidents" after a time, too. And animal sacrifice falls into this category: "Ok for back then, because you had no real way of understanding why it was wrong and immature. But definitely not Ok any longer."

Things like slavery, inequality, and violence also fall into the same category:
  • Allowed in whole when humanity was still a babe,
  • Allowed less when humanity was a child,
  • Allowed hardly at all when humanity was a teenager, and
  • Allowed not at all now that humanity is an adult.
And that's one of the reasons that people who center their Christian beliefs so heavily in the Old Testament, or who understand the New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament (rather than vice versa), have such a hard time finding and living real spiritual maturity: They should be studying college-level by now, but instead they are still stuck in and preaching from grade-school readers.

So good people can be and remain Christian because – while they learn huge lessons from Old Testament stories and laws that seem very harsh today – they also understand them through the lens of Jesus Christ, who came to grow us past and set aside that very harsh, not-yet-mature way of living and understanding the world, oneself, and God – the Old Covenant way – and brought to us the gentle, mature New Covenant way to be and live, based on demonstrated love of God, neighbor, and enemy.

(4) - Finally, much of the Bible does appear to be sexist and homophobic -- but only in mistranslation and/or misinterpretation and/or misunderstanding of the original Scriptures, and only when the whole story isn't being told from God's point of view.

In a lot of the ugliness we see in the Bible, there is what we talked about in #3, above – that "allowing for now" but then progressively eliminating the acceptability of poor and even evil behavior, as humanity became "old enough" to understand that sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and so on are not acceptable, and to be held accountable to God when those things weren't gotten rid of in our lives.

We see, for example, sexism tolerated some of the Old Testament (though not in the Genesis creation story and other places we are traditionally trained to see it). But by the New Testament times the allowance for sexism was eliminated. Jesus Himself accepted women as being equally valuable as men, and proved that God valued them for things other than their reproductive capacity even if human men did not. We also see that Paul's writings, while often misquoted and mistranslated to keep women oppressed and block their Holy Spirit potential, actually accepted and even defended women's role within the church, treating them as no different than the men, while also demanding they be helped past and defended from the sexism of the pagan culture around them. In fact, in the first 200 years of the original Christian church, women became Christian in huge numbers precisely because of the dignity and value Jesus and His early followers placed on them – dignity and value completely denied them in the pagan religions all around them.

In a similar way, Bible words and phrases have been completely invented or twisted around to make the Bible appear to condemn Gay people (as a whole – obviously there are bad Gay people, just as there are bad straight people, and the Bible doesn’t defend bad people no matter what their sexual orientation is!). Yet sound Bible study quickly reveals the huge holes in the anti-Gay misinterpretations and mistranslations. There is just nowhere in the Bible where being a godly Gay Christian still means one is condemned to hell!

The same kinds of Bible study, intent on revealing what GOD had to say in the original Scriptures as He gave them to us in their original contexts, reveals similar translation and misinterpretation errors in what the Bible has to say about the poor, the disabled, racial minorities, and more.

So good people can be and remain Christian because it’s only other prejudiced and ignorant people who make one kind of person “superior” or “condemned” in God’s eyes – and not God Himself! Good people can, in fact, gain a solid understanding of how valuable each and every person on the planet truly is to God, in the exact way that He created them to be, based entirely on the Bible!

So, if you’ve been hurting or turned off by what you thought was Christianity or the Bible, isn’t it time to take a new look at Jesus? I encourage you to consider it!

Start by reading the Gospels to learn or re-learn about Jesus – knowing that the entire rest of the Bible must be seen through the “lens” of Jesus, because the whole purpose of everything that happened before He came to earth was to prepare human beings to understand His purpose for being here. Remember that no Bible translation in English today is perfect – all have biases and mistranslation. When you come to a difficult part, don't hesitate to seek out resources that will help you get what the original writer, in his or her original historical, language, and cultural context was trying to communicate.

As you study, keep in mind that many of those who make really bad Christians focus almost all their study and preaching energy on the Old Testament (when I’ve listened to conservative Christian radio, for example, I’ve found that about 80% of their teachings are from the Old Testament, about another 15% are from the non-Gospel New Testament, and only about 5% of the time are they teaching from the Gospels). Remember we're aiming for and required to be spiritual adults now – no more tolerating or conforming ourselves to spiritually childish ways, any longer!

But also keep in mind that others who make really bad Christians put almost all their study and preaching energy only on some parts of the New Testament. The way they talk and preach, you might think the Bible consisted of just the “nice” parts, where God is all about love – but never about vengeance on evil, for example. But keep in mind that God is about love and mercy, but also about justice and making things right in the end – and both are required (unless, of course, you believe that unrepentant child molesters, war criminals, and greedy exploiters and attackers of the vulnerable should never be punished)! The good thing is that when God shows justice and making things right in the end, He won’t do it like people do it. He won’t do it in a way that is selfish, or corrupt, or even more damaging than the evil deeds themselves. When God makes things right, they will really, truly, finally be right! And that is something we should all look forward to!


I know from my own experience that in today’s world, it can seem like a very strange idea: the thought that good people can actually be or stay Christian!

But I’ve also come to know, to the depths of my heart, that the bad Christians in your life and in the world don’t really belong to God (the Bible itself says so!) – and that God can, will, and does reject them for the fakes they are (though He still hopes they will repent and become real Christians, someday!)

And wouldn’t it be a shame to reject God based on the bad behavior of people He rejects as much as you do?

Wouldn’t it be a shame to not explore the whole point of Jesus from God’s perspective, rather than from only the opinions of those who don’t really understand Him at all themselves?

And wouldn’t it be a shame to never really know, or truly accept, the incredible depth of love that the God big enough to create an entire universe and more, has just for you?

Exploring, despite my doubts, despite my hesitations, despite my hurts and angers and disgusts, and then coming finally to begin accepting the real truth of God as I shed the false “untruth” of mainstream Christianity, was the biggest and best thing that ever happened in my life. It healed me of things that I’d been told were un-healable. It made me finally understand love, even though I wasn’t sure I’d ever felt really loved before in my life. And it gave me peace and joy that I could never have imagined before.

All because I began to consider one day, that I might still be a good person – and be Christian – at the same time.

I invite you to consider considering the same, today! 

Don't let bad Christians keep you from a good God!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Q: "Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?"

That's a great question, and one that troubles many Gay and straight people, alike.

Here's what we have to consider before we can answer it:

#1 – An outdated and faked temple is not God's church

Almost all Christians would define going to church as:

Going to a certain place on certain days, giving certain offerings, and participating in certain rituals that are overseen and run by certain officially credentialed individuals who perform certain religious services (including teaching and enforcing the rules), so that those who attend can be right with God.

(Try removing any of those things – like seminary educated pastors, or a church building of some sort, or even singing hymns – and see how many will still honestly call it a "church"!)

But there's something immediately wrong with that
. Do you see it?

Think back to the Old Covenant – to the Mosaic Law – and to the temple that was central to that. For the ancient Hebrews living under the Old Covenant, going to temple meant:

Going to a certain place on certain days, giving certain offerings, and participating in certain rituals that are overseen and run by certain officially credentialed individuals who perform certain religious services (including teaching and enforcing the rules), so that those who attend can be right with God.

Is there any difference? Only in how things look, and not in what things are. In fact, we might think of it like comparing a 1927 Ford Model A with a 2009 Ford Explorer. The function – whether it's to get from Point A to Point B, or to perform certain required religious activities – is the same. So, what most people think of as "church" is simply a remake of the Old Covenant temple, with the same kinds of requirements for religious doo-dads and priests and rituals and so on, all intended to make us "right" with God (which is why we're told we "have to go").

Here's the problem with all that, though:

God canceled the Old Covenant (including the required "House of God" His people had to go to) over 2,000 years ago, and replaced it with the New Covenant. Completely!
So it's simply not possible to be an "Old Covenant Christian" or a "temple-bound Christian" – though millions over the last many centuries have set themselves up to try and do just that! (Exodus 26:31-33; Mathew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; John 4:21; Galatians 3:1-25; Colossians 2:13-23; Hebrews 9:3-12, 10:19-22)

So, telling you that you have to "go to church" to be a (good) Christian is like saying you have to be circumcised to be a (good) Christian, or you can't eat pork and be a (good) Christian, and so on. And despite any good motives we may have in trying to accommodate any part of our Christian faith to the Mosaic Law, the Bible tells us that doing so even in small ways is a rejection of Jesus Christ and our salvation through Him! (see Galatians 5:1-4).

#2 – You can't "go to" what you are

Another thing missed by those who insist on "going to church" to be right with God:

In the Old Covenant, God had His people create a temple sanctuary for His presence, so He could dwell among them (Exodus 25:8; Hebrews 9:1)

But in setting up and establishing the New Covenant, Jesus removed the need for that temple with His death on the Cross (Exodus 26:31-33; Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45; Hebrews 9:3, 8; Hebrews 10:19-20). Another 40 or so years passed, and then God allowed the temple itself to be completely destroyed – and He's never allowed it to be rebuilt even in part, even through today.

But does that mean that God has had no dwelling place among His people in the last 2,000 years?

Absolutely not!

The Bible tells us that God does still have a "temple" – but that temple is now us! (John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19). When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, our individual bodies – both physical and spiritual – now make up Christ's Body, and His church (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 6:15, 12:12-27). So, calling some building a "church" is like calling your mother a "garage" - they are just not truly related, according to the Bible!

Of course, many church-holders will say to this, "Of course we're all the temple of the Holy Spirit! But that's different than having to also go to church!"

Not so. And #3 answers why:

#3 – What most call "church" is NOT what the New Testament calls church

Look, for example, at this church description from the 1st century A.D. As you read, think about how it compares to the "churches" that came after that (including those today):
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. [Acts 2:42-47]
What do we see here in these Christians?
  • They were devoted to learning what the first apostles taught (the teachings we now have in the original languages of the Bible), because it was what Jesus taught. Unlike most Christians since, these first Christians were not devoted to Saint So-n-So from the 14th century, or Televangelist XYZ on TBN, or Denominational Headquarters, USA, and so on. The only truth they accepted was what had come from the mouth of God Himself! (We see that also in scriptures like Ephesians 2:19-20).
  • They were devoted to each other. Not to a church building or meeting space. Not to the pastor. Not to a ministry. Not to their denomination. But to each other. That implies that they knew each other, and cared for each other, as only hearts filled with the true Holy Spirit can do. Unlike most Christians since, they didn't just smile and shake hands with the people in the pews around them each Sunday and forget about them 10 minutes later. They didn't just hang out with their "church friends" and ignore everyone else. They didn't just drop some money in the "extra collection" plate every so often to pay for anonymous needs. And they didn't just leave it to "The Minister" to minister to others in their sickness, despair, faith issues, family needs, and so on – every one of them ministered. These people had REAL "family values": they had God's family values!
  • They witnessed (real) signs and wonders straight from the Holy Spirit, which was God's gift to them: His encouragement, approval, and guidance made manifest right before their eyes. They weren't like so many today that chase after and accept any "miracle" (even if it comes from someone who does not demonstrate the real Holy Spirit in their lives, even if it comes straight from the devil!), or who deny miracles as "primitive", "unscientific" fantasies. These were people with God's real power at work in their lives!
  • They were all one – which is exactly what Jesus prayed for! (John 17:20-23) They weren't scattered into Bible-forbidden, heretical factions that today we respectfully call "denominations" (1 Corinthians 1:12-17). They didn’t even divide themselves into different "churches". Most Christians today see each other more as very different people interested in a similar idea, but having little else in common. But the first Christians truly understood themselves globally as one people – God's People, and the Body of Christ – who just happened to live in different cities and large geographical areas. In fact, the Bible never refers to any church smaller than a whole city (see, for example, "The Church of God in Corinth" [1 Corinthians 1:2], which included every Christian in the city of Corinth). If we truly understood our unity within Christ, there would be no "Baptists" or "Methodists" or "Pentecostals" and such, no "1st Presbyterian Church" or "Christ Evangelical Lutheran", and so on. Instead, if we lived in New York City, we would just say, "I am in the church of New York City". And if we moved from New York City to Taos, New Mexico, we'd then say, "I'm in the church of Taos". (And if we moved out into the country, far from any city, we'd simply say, for example, "I'm in the church of North Dakota").
  • They didn't give a hoot about retaining any material possessions, if they could be sold to provide for someone in need, and they kept in common what they needed to get by. They didn't give money to "the church" or a "ministry" so they could get even more money back. They didn't pray for cars and houses. They didn't invest for glittery, easy financial futures. And it's a pretty fair bet that they didn't twist and remake scriptures that warn that attention to money overpowers attention to God (see, for example, Luke 16:13-14), all to justify greed and self-service!
  • They had no "church building" - they met in public spaces already set up for meetings, and they shared communion, fellowshipped, and worshipped God in numerous small assemblies that fit in each others homes (see also Acts 20:7, Hebrews 2:12, and Hebrews 10:25 – often quoted as "proof" that modern churches are biblical – but which simply describe assembled believers in public meeting areas or private homes). These Christians didn't waste their money on faked Christian "temples" that require building funds and maintenance costs, and Christian "programs" that are mostly glut and glitter – they were spending their money on helping those in need, and in helping to spread and maintain the Gospel message [see for example: Acts 11:27-39; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 1 John 3:17].
  • They didn't only see each other on a particular day of the week, or on a designated schedule. They got together for each other and for God whenever it pleased them through the Holy Spirit to do so (even daily!).
  • They "enjoyed the favor of all the people". That means they weren't despised and ridiculed as hypocrites, liars, thieves, and fools, as most of today's Christians are – even by each other! (I'm reminded of an older, straight, conservative Christian businessman I heard on Christian radio the other day who said, "When I go to do business with a non-Christian, I take one witness. But when I go to do business with a Christian, I take two witnesses.")
And because of that, other people were so impressed and even overwhelmed by the first Christians that they couldn't wait to join up! Compare that to today's churches, where most "converts" are simply Christians from other churches, or Christians who've been away from the faith and wandered back for a time.

I hear Christians all over the media assuring their audiences that people don't listen to them because these non-Christian hearts are too hard to hear the Good News. Truth is, most people today don't listen because they look at what's expressed in the lives and hearts of most Christians today and go, "Ugh! No, thanks!" That just wasn't a problem for the church that God set up in the 1st century A.D. They were people who had sincere Holy-Spirit-led hearts, loved each other as a big but close family, and truly walked their – and Jesus' – talk. Who could resist the real thing!

#4 – The gates of Hell have overcome what most call "church" (so that "church" just can't be God's church!)

Jesus said that the gates of hell would never overcome His church (Matthew 16:18). And many "churches" through the last nineteen centuries have quoted that to "prove" themselves God's real church simply because their version of the "church" is still around.

Yet the New Testament's description of the kinds of things people do when they are ruled by their sinful nature (instead of by the Holy Spirit in their hearts) very closely describes almost all the "churches" that overtook Christianity after the last apostle had died. And that just proves that these "churches" have been overcome!

Even secular histories (and modern newspapers) abound with disgusting and horrifying stories of churches, church leaders, and church members who participate in and even protect each other from the consequences of doing things like:
  • Making up new "rules" and then passing them off as "God's" rules (i.e., "tradition" and "new revelation" not backed up by the original Scripture languages and contexts
  • Rape, sexual contact and abuse of children, fornication, orgies, prostitution, and adultery
  • Cheating on God by mixing His worship with other or self worship
  • Using magic, astrology, consulting spirits, and so on
  • Hatred, jealousy, bickering, attacking others, raging, forming factions, murder, war, jealousy, ego-rages (and church "leaders" are too often among the worst at all these things)
  • "Climbing the ladder" to the "top" of what's not supposed to have a top (aren't you also tired of those who claim to be the lowest of "servants" yet run everything as if they were royalty?)
  • Remaking "church" into a religious "club" or clique of "in's" and "out's"
  • Greed and materialism, gross indulgence in sense pleasures and greed
  • Tranced-out "worship" that uses the same rhythm and repetition techniques seen in pagan circles (both modern and ancient)
  • Drug and alcohol use and abuse
  • Lying, slandering, and cheating others
  • Pretending to be God's people, but having anti-Christ hearts
  • Being religious for the goodies they get (being thought "righteous", being honored, getting a career out of it, etc)
  • Putting themselves and their wants above God, and then teaching people that that's how God means it do be
  • Making themselves completely ineligible for heaven, and then also convincing others to abandon any thought of even trying
  • Obsessing on nitpicky religious things and ignoring larger (and even easily understood) New Testament requirements and ideals
  • Pretending they are "above" the religious evil of their spiritual forefathers and foremothers, while practicing the same evils (or even worse!)
  • Persecuting those who speak and hold to God's real truth
  • "Converting" people to a level of religious evil even worse than what they themselves practiced
  • And more
(Examples for all the above pulled from: Matthew 6:7, 15:3, 15:6-9, 23:4-38; Mark 7:6-13; Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 2:8; and Revelation 22:15. How many more examples can you find by continuing through the rest of the New Testament?)

Jesus tells us that we will know the real spirit of something or someone by the fruit they produce. He also tells us that if we intend to do things His real way (and therefore get into heaven), we must always be vigilant against being deceived by things or ideas or people that appear to be godly and righteous, but which are, in fact, ungodly and unrighteous (see Matthew 7:13-23 for one example).

So just doing godly things – including big godly things like casting out demons, prophesying, and performing miracles – is not in and of itself doing the will of God, and it in no way proves someone is right with or doing the will of God!

Does this mean that people aren't Christians unless they are "perfect"?

Absolutely not!

But it does mean that people who are truly part of God's real church show it in ways even pagans can recognize. Filled with the Holy Spirit, God's real people strive and become more and more like Jesus – instead of like Judas, or Herod, or Pilate, or Caiphas, or...

So, what about finding and being part of a real godly fellowship?

There is no "right" church we are supposed to "go to". But there is a church all believers belong to, as soon as we put our faith in Jesus Christ.
  • No human being can kick us out of it.
  • No human being even gets to make up rules for it.
  • Everyone who belongs to it is an equal, and,
  • the real leaders are those who make sure everyone else gets the "1st Place" ribbon, while they themselves literally come in forgotten and last.
That church is God's church. The one He set up from the beginning to be part of and a visible demonstration of the New Covenant.
  • It requires no "priests". Just faith in Jesus Christ.
  • It requires no "holy days". Just love of God and enemy.
  • It requires no creeds or offerings or special religious objects or ceremonies. Just study of and adherence to God's Word (as He gave it to us).
  • And it requires no other human being – but you!
Yet real Christianity is not a religion that can be practiced in isolation from the world. It's also not one that's easily practiced by oneself. While it can be frustrating and painful to belong to a wrongly-led or bad church, it can be lonely and even brutal to go it completely alone.

Though we have to watch for hidden pitfalls finding them, we do need good Christian brothers and sisters to help keep us out of spiritual hot water (something the devil is constantly inviting us to get into!). And that's what the writer of Hebrews was talking about when he encouraged us to keep getting together (Hebrews 10:25): it's going to be tough to go it alone, so find, keep, and lovingly care for a good, REAL Christian fellowship.

And here are my thoughts on that:

Though as a Christian you do already belong to God's global church, and to the church grouping of all Holy-Spirit-filled believers in your geographical area, you would still greatly benefit from being part of a group small enough that no one gets "lost in the shuffle". That local group could be as small as just you and one other person (that still puts you together with Jesus! [Matthew 18:20]), or as large as you and 150 other people (many people-studiers point out that any group larger than 150 people quickly loses the ability to maintain stable social relationships and such).

As part of that group, you each need to be active in ministry to every other person in the group – in humble, loving, maturity, you each need to keep each other accountable to the Lord, and you each need to encourage and support each other in your Christian walk. Those with other giftings (like prophecy, healing, pastoring, and so on) are supposed to help everyone else get to ministry work – not just do all or even most of the ministry work themselves!

You also need to work together to make sure none of you has unmet needs (and we're talking real needs here. Wanting to sponge off of others, not wanting to work for one's living as everyone else has to, somehow exaggerating a "disability" to live off the government or someone's kind heart, or just not doing one's fair share are in no way real needs. In fact, they are sin we are not to cooperate with [2 Thessalonians 3:10])

You need to meet together on a regular basis that works for all of you, sharing a simple, prayerful communion meal, remembering and honoring Jesus and worshipping together (which can be as simple as singing along with a CD), enjoying each other's company with godly manners, and so on – all without letting the devil convince you you're not a "real" church because you're not pretending to be a "Christian" version of the Old Covenant temple.

You need to share the Good News – and the opportunity to join your group – with all you meet. Be an apostle, pastor, prophet, evangelist, and teacher to everyone you meet in every part of your daily life.

You need to study the Bible together – and that means together. In the original Greek, Bible passages (like Acts 20:7) most often translated as if they justified one "expert" person talking while everyone else just passively listened, actually describe more an organized group chat where people discussed and debated others' ideas. Studying together means that everyone is to be active in sharing and learning the Bible, bring what they have to the discussion.

Use sound Bible study techniques, and tolerate no insertion of pagan ideas and such into your understanding of God's Word (allowing them in is like cheating on your spouse – not good!). Keep in mind that even those with advanced seminary degrees can be (and often are) severely wrong in their understanding of scripture because they've simply memorized other people's mistakes. Allow discussion and debate to challenge your assumptions and discover new ways the Holy Spirit may be leading you to see things. But remember that while disagreement can be confusing, even frustrating, it should never be bitter or divisive. If it is, you're doing it wrong!

You need to actively protect yourselves and each other from false and neurotic apostles, pastors, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and others who will (and I guarantee at some point they will) try to overtake and even destroy your fellowship at some point. If you do well by the Lord, the devil will show up to try to mess it up. Spend a good deal of time teaching each other not only how the Bible describes true and false ministers, but also how the Bible says to deal with them!

What if I can't find a fellowship worth attending in my geographical area?

It can happen! In fact, as we get closer and closer to Jesus' return, it will continue to get harder and harder to find truly God-centered Christians no matter where we live or who we are, because more and more will be deceived into following the False Prophet and Antichrist. And that's just as true for Gay Christians as it is for straight Christians.

If it happens that you can't find a good fellowship where you are, then consider:
  • Try starting one yourself! Jesus said it takes only two people gathered in His Name for Him to be there with them (Matthew 18:20). Two! That's just you and one other person, getting together to talk about your spiritual lives, study the Bible together, share a communion meal, and so on.
  • You may be tempted to join a "so-so" or even bad church or fellowship. If you think you might meet sincere others like yourself there, then it might be wise and worthwhile. But be careful that your faith in the real Gospel isn't warped by your time there!
  • You must always remember that you do belong to the church – God's church – even if you can't find real fellowship in your current city. You are not alone, even if you are sometimes lonely!
  • Check out the internet for fellowship resources, but keep in mind that the net isn't real life. It should never be a substitute for a local fellowship, if you have access to one. The internet alone is just never going to be what God intends you to have, but it may be what helps fill you, in the meantime.
  • And finally, hold on to Jesus, no matter what! It isn't any church, fellowship, teacher, pastor, denomination, and so on that saves you – but only faith in Jesus Christ, and adherence to His Word!
God bless you!

Q: "Does coming out as Gay mean I have to divorce or leave my (straight) family?"

No, it does not.

However, it does mean you need to work with your family to decide what is best for you and them in what was probably already a hard situation for both the closeted Gay spouse and the straight spouse, and which has now become a real stomach-twister – especially if there are children involved.

The Bible, of course, speaks of marriage (a family commitment of two people before God) and divorce (the ending of that commitment). It's often said that while the Old Testament allowed divorce, the New Testament does not. However, that isn't strictly true, and there simply are no black-or-white answers that will serve every situation.

God always insists that His people remain faithful to our commitments – both in our commitment to Him, but also in our various commitments to each other. In the case of divorce, In the Old Testament God also insists that His people take care of and protect those who have been made vulnerable in some way, due to their disconnection from a family unit.

For example, in Isaiah 1:17, God warns the ancient Israelites to (among other things), "defend the orphan" and to "plead for the widow". In ancient Israel, orphans and widows were among those left outside the family commitment that would otherwise have sheltered and provided for them economically, politically, legally, and religiously. Any divorce today can easily result in children and spouses who are essentially left as "orphans" and "widows", economically, politically, legally, and religiously, if we aren't careful in beginning, living, and ending marriage commitments.

In our modern cultures, for example, it's not only common to produce children outside of the protections of marriage, but also to later (emotionally, financially, and even physically) abandon children produced within the bounds of marriage. This has, in fact, become so commonplace that children who remain protected and provided for by two parents throughout their growing-up years seem "odd" in many parts of modern culture.

However, things are not "peachy-keen" within most modern, "traditional" Christian families, either. Two parents may remain married, yet the children are still abandoned (i.e., made vulnerable) to being physically and sexually abused, emotionally abused by ungodly and unbiblical male dominance, religiously abused by cult-like adherence to so-called "Bible-based" philosophies that have almost nothing to do with the real Jesus, and more.

Whether children and other family members are abandoned for all the world to see, or are secretly abandoned within families that pretend everything is "perfect", God isn't pleased.

And neither should we be!

All that being said, there is no, one, "right" answer that I can give you for your situation – and anyone else who tells you there is an easy "right" answer is either a con artist or a fool.

Sometimes in life there is just no answer that doesn't cause pain in one way or another. Sometimes we have to choose the least painful answer, or choose an answer that carries the most benefit to one or more despite the pain it may otherwise bring with it.

For example, yes – divorce hurts children and spouses alike. But so does marriage based upon one spouse's submission to something within the marriage that isn't right somehow. Few these days, for example, would tell a Christian woman being battered by her Christian husband that she must stay within the marriage. And few these days would tell two heterosexuals to remain married if being together made them so miserable that it was causing problems for the children.

Within a marriage between a man and a woman, where one spouse is heterosexual and the other is Gay, something isn't "right" within the relationship. And in this case, since the sexual orientation of both spouses is something God programmed permanently into their bodies, that means however much they may love each other as friends and partners, neither of them will ever have that deep, intimate emotional, physical, and sexual bond that God also intended to be a part of marriage commitments. In such a case, it won't only be the Gay spouse who is unhappy and perhaps looking for an "out". The straight spouse may also wish for that "out", which brings with it the possibility then of finding another heterosexual spouse who may provide that intimate marriage bond.

So, what should you do, then, if you are a Gay person currently heterosexually married?

First and foremost, you must consider all options for the protection of any children you have produced. This means also continuing to provide for them emotionally, and not just with a child support check each month, should you decided to end the marriage. And not just with your otherwise-distant presence around the house, should you decide to remain in the marriage.

You must also, to the best of your ability within your situation, make the decision to keep or break the marriage commitment with your heterosexual spouse. Both of you must have input into this decision. Yes, you are entitled to be who you are. However, you did choose to make this commitment with your spouse, before God, family, and community. You must honor your commitment and your spouse, to the best of your ability within your situation, in the ending of your commitment, just as you should during your commitment.

If you choose to remain within your heterosexual marriage, you must find ways to still honor who you are as a Gay person, just as you must find ways that still honor who your spouse is as a heterosexual person. You no doubt already know how difficult it is to find the emotional and sexual satisfaction all normal human beings long for, when you are living within the bounds of a marriage that doesn't perfectly "fit" you. Your heterosexual spouse no doubt has the same longings and the same difficulties within this imperfect "fit" you've decided to stick with. What will that be for you both? It will what fits you both and your individual situation.

If you choose to remain within your heterosexual marriage, you must also honor the emotional and sexual bounds of that marriage. Remaining married with a Gay lover on the side, or seeking out anonymous or semi-anonymous Gay sex in other places, is simply wrong – it's adultery. And that's just wrong, both within our human moralities, but also, more importantly, to God. Fulfilling your emotional and sexual needs outside of your marriage also threatens real harm to yourself, your spouse, and your family, in countless ways. Want to consider a few? Then think about what your family will go through if you end up arrested and have your name published in the newspaper because you were soliciting Gay sex in a public park. Think about the hurt you will cause your spouse if you bring home a sexually transmitted disease. And think about the confusion and hurt your spouse and children will live with, if it becomes known that you are cheating on the marriage.

Is any of this going to be easy? I can't imagine how it could be! But by choosing to heterosexually marry, you have bound yourself to the well-being and care of another person, and of more than one other person if you have children. And those responsibilities do not disappear simply because you realize you didn't make the best decision.

Make the decisions that need to be made, knowing there will probably not be a painless answer. Make them prayerfully, asking God for strength and forgiveness, as needed. And make them, to the best of your ability within your current situation, with your spouse and family.

Now, what about if you are a single Gay person considering becoming heterosexually married?

Don't do it!

Because of the prejudice of our society, and the unbiblical ways even our so-called "conservative" Bible translations are made, many Gay people choose to marry heterosexually. Some believe they can just make it work. Some believe it will make them straight. Some just want the family recognition that comes from such a union.

All of those are the wrong reason for anyone to marry. And they don't work for Gay people, either.

Consider, for example, the hurt you will bring to your spouse, when you are unable to commit emotionally and sexually with them in a heterosexual manner, in the way a heterosexual spouse would. How are they going to feel if later they find out you already knew you were Gay, but married them and encouraged their heterosexual commitment to you anyway? After all, marriage is supposed to be an open, honest, partnership, and here you've started off from a dishonest position.

Consider, too: who is your spouse going to be able to talk to about having a Gay spouse and all the confusion, loneliness, alienation, and hurt they feel? After all, if you got married because you wanted to escape the anti-Gay hatred of your church community, then your spouse no doubt has only anti-Gay friends and family to try and speak with about what's happening in his/her marriage to you. Will it be any surprise if your spouse either won't talk about it to anyone (and therefore suffers without an outlet to help him/her resolve this), or adds anti-Gay hatred to the angry hurt he or she already feels towards you?

Marrying heterosexually when you know you are Gay is just wrong. Wrong because it involves deception. Wrong because it promises intimacy it cannot produce. Wrong because it makes other people (including children of the marriage) have to deal – now and in the future – with the very painful disconnect of strained relationships or divorce.

It you are Gay and thinking about becoming heterosexually married, think again!

What's the better solution? It's to learn to heal the homophobic self-hate and self-denial you are struggling with, rather than simply dragging others along in it. It's to be open and honest – with yourself, and with those you wish to be responsible to and for.

It's to honor the God who created you to be who He created you to be: a Jesus-loving, Holy-Spirit-filled, Gay Christian living either celibate or married to another Gay person. And it's to honor the God who created the heterosexual person you are dating or engaged to, to be who He created him or her to be: a Jesus-loving, Holy-Spirit-filled, straight Christian living either celibate or married to another straight person.

You must prayerfully find what works for your situation, and then walk with God to accomplish it!

Here are some additional resources you might find helpful:

Gay Husbands - Straight Wives, which includes among other things "Come out to your wife", a "plea to gay men to be honest with their wives about their homosexuality", and "Why not to get married if you're Gay", which "discusses the various reasons why gay people get married, and talks common sense about why they shouldn’t".

Straight Spouse Network,  which includes among other things, online support and reading lists.

God bless you!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Q: "What's wrong with so many Gay churches? Why do the people in them act so badly?"

Many of us have been really hurt or grossed out in straight churches (see our discussion of what’s wrong with so many straight churches, too), and we may be overjoyed to discover a “Gay church” in our area. However, it’s also possible for us to discover that a Gay church can be a painful or ugly place to be, as well. Why is that? 

Well, first of all, being Gay doesn’t mean we’re immune to the same kinds of “churchy” sins that straight people struggle with!

  • Many of us have grown up in straight churches, and we unless we’re healed of it first, we will bring the worst of what we learned to accept as “normal” from straight churches to our new Gay churches, just like we’ll bring along the best!

    So, for example, if our previous straight church taught us to believe that gossiping is ok, we’re going to be gossipy in our new Gay church, as well, until we repent of it. And if our previous straight church allowed church leaders to be control freaks, then we’re going to continue thinking that’s normal until we start testing our leaders like the Bible tells us to. 

  • Many of us long to re-create the culture and atmosphere we were accustomed to in straight churches, when we join or create a Gay church. Unfortunately, a lot of that culture and atmosphere is simply human-made and unhealthy nonsense that has nothing to do with the real Body of Christ – and that means our Gay church efforts will be as human-led and damaging as the straight church efforts were.

    So, for example, if our previous straight church was very into the “things” it could get from God, then we’ll come wanting the same from our new Gay church. And if our previous straight church had people barking like dogs as “proof” of being “in the Spirit”, then we’re going to think something’s wrong with our new Gay church unless it starts sounding like a kennel, as well. 
Second of all, as Gay people we often have extra "baggage" we haven't surrendered to the Lord yet. 

    And there’s nothing wrong with that – the world gives us extra things we need healing for when it abuses us, condemns us, and so on, and a real church is a place we should be able to find understanding and healing for all that.  

    However, if it’s not recognized and dealt with, that pain can become a poison in the church, causing people to, for example:

    • Abandon rather than find their real strength in the Bible;
    • Abuse others who aren’t as strong as they are;
    • Create a theology that justifies sin, rather than seeking real sanctification;
    • Deny the gifts of the Spirit in order to maintain power and cliques;
    • Seek after signs and wonders from any spirit, rather than accepting only those from the Holy Spirit,
    • Pursue advancement into church leadership roles (pastor, prophet, teacher, elder, etc) as a way to “patch” a very low self-esteem or express one’s own neurosis,
    • And more!
    This is especially spiritually deadly when those who act as “leaders” in one form or another aren’t healed of their extra “baggage” before taking on a leadership role in the Gay church. For example, I’ve seen far too many people who were closeted and grossly unhealthy church leaders in straight churches come to lead Gay churches without first being healed of the damage done to them in those straight churches. It should be no surprise whatsoever that even in the Gay church they remained semi- or fully closeted to the world (which means that part or all of their lives continue to be lies), slack role models for their intended flock, a trouble to others with their questionable theology, and so on!

    So, what’s wrong with Gay churches? 

    In summary, they are full of human beings, just like straight churches are. And they require the same amount of Bible-commanded work and testing as straight churches do! 

    What should you do if you are unsure about or uncomfortable in a Gay church?
    • Pray and ask for the Lord’s help!
    • Seek out others to discuss the situation with (not for “gossip” -- gossiping is talking about things you aren't part of the problem or solution for! -- but to get other impressions the Holy Spirit may be giving others, as well)!
    • Never discount your own “gut feelings” about something. Even if everyone else says everything’s fine, if the Holy Spirit is putting a question mark in your gut, then listen and act on it!
    • Seek out biblical justification for what seems wrong. For example, if your pastor says it’s ok for everyone in church to speak in tongues at once, ask for the Scripture that says that’s ok. Then look that and other related Scriptures up, and see if he or she is right!
    • Realize that the people around you are just as human as you are – and they probably have the same hurts you have (or had). But don’t let that hurt be a justification for making worship time into “therapy time” where people vent their emotions chaotically just because it feels good or gains attention and so on!
    • And consider some of these things (saying “no” to any of these means something’s really wrong!):

      • Do your leaders fit the qualifications the Bible requires for church leaders?
      • Are your leaders “out” (of the closet) and holy-living role models for those they lead?
      • Does your church follow the Bible and only the Bible for its decision-making (so, for example, prophecy is only accepted if it conforms to Scripture teachings)?
      • Do you continue to grow in love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and knowledge in God’s Word, the longer you attend this church?
      • Is this church a place to worship and learn more about God, instead of just a place to socialize, or to show off, or to feel superior to others, or to get a "rush" to carry you through to the next Sunday?
    Going to a Gay Bible-based church, or a Bible-based church that welcomes Gay people, can be one of the most wonderful, healing, and growing experiences you’ll ever have – if it’s a place where the leadership is truly biblical, and where the fellowship is truly about loving God and living the life He asks of us! 

    If you are attending a Gay church that just doesn’t seem “right” somehow, then consider some other options. God knows you need friends and fellows, but you also don’t need to abuse yourself and risk your salvation with a fake church – whether it’s straight or Gay!
    • Before you do anything else, always see first if there’s some way to fix the problems you find in your church -- they may not be easy problems to fix, but they just might be fixable with prayer, repentance, and a return to God's real Word!
    • If all else fails, see if others are interested in doing a simple Bible study in someone’s home (that’s how the early church ran!), or if there are ways to fellowship with other Queer Christian people interested in the Bible on the internet.
    • Email me if you'd like some help looking for new resources or assistance.
    God bless you!

    Q: "What's wrong with so many straight churches? Why do the people in them act so badly?"

    Well, to put it quite simply, the vast majority of the people in them don't really follow Jesus, and therefore aren't really Christians! Not as Jesus and His earliest disciples would have defined “Christian”, anyway.

    Now, before you roll your eyes, let me say this: I realize that sounds a lot like one of the most popular games in Christendom – defining who is a “real” Christian and who is not. Their game-definition of “real” seems to change all over the place, depending on who's doing the defining!

    But that's not a game I'm interested in at all. What I am interested in, though, is answering your question in the way the Bible answers it – which is also the way that Jesus and His first disciples would have answered it. 

    So here are 5 points for you to think and even ask God for more wisdom about, in figuring out why straight churches and Christians behave so badly:
    1. The Bible warns everyone against submitting oneself in whole or part to the “kingdoms of the world” (even the “good” ones), rather than only to God's kingdom – but people are easily tempted and fooled.
    So [when the nation of Israel still followed only God-appointed prophets and judges, rather than a political king] the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel [the prophet]  at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” [1 Samuel 8:4-7]
     Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” [Matthew 4:8-9]
    You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [James 4:4]
    Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. [1 John 2:15-16]
    We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. [1 John 5:19]
    1. The Bible also specifically tells everyone to watch out for, test, and then avoid false leaders and fellows (or risk going down a very nice but also very wrong spiritual path) – but very few people in the churches ever really bother.
    Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them [Matthew 7:15-20]
    For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. [2 Corinthians 11:13-15]
    But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. [2 Peter 2:1-2]
    Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. [1 John 4:1]
    You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. [Galatians 5:7-8]
    1. It shouldn't be surprising, then, to discover that when so much of the Bible warns that most of those who claim to be God's people are not really His people at all – it's right!
    Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Matthew 7:13-14]
    Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' [Matthew 7:21-23]
    For many are invited, but few are chosen. [Matthew 22:14]
    At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. [Matthew 24:10-11]
    So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened. [Romans 11:5-7]
    1. Through the Bible, God specifically describes for everyone what people are like (or growing to be like) when they have His Spirit and therefore belong to Him – and what they are like when they don't.
    The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. [Galatians 5:19-24]
    Now the overseer [a church leader] must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. [1 Timothy 3:2-7]
    We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. [1 John 2:3-6]
    This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. [1 John 3:10]
    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. [1 John 4:7-8]
    1. And we can use these Bible tools ourselves – not only to figure out who to count as a “real Christian” and who we should listen to and follow, but also how to figure out if we ourselves are choosing God's kingdom over the world's, too!

    So, what's wrong with so many straight churches? Why do so many of the people in them act so badly?

    We could summarize it this way:

    You've probably heard the old expression: “Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to the garage makes you a car.” 

    Well, through the Bible we can understand that calling yourself a Christian doesn't make you one of God's people any more than calling yourself a spaceship makes you able to fly to the moon.

    It isn't what one calls oneself that defines one's real relationship with God. It isn't where one sits on Sunday (or Saturday). It isn't even how much one tithes, or sings in the choir, or gives to the needy. The Bible tells us that God makes someone a Christian, by putting His Spirit into them when they choose His Kingdom alone. And when God does that, even wanting to act badly disappears, more and more, from the real Christian's life!

    So what's our response as Gay people to be?

    God doesn't fool around. He doesn't want anyone deceived. And He certainly doesn't want Gay people walking or staying away from Him because people who aren't even real Christians have convinced us that God doesn't want us! So:
    • Don't hold bitter or angry feelings towards people who call themselves Christians but don't seem to really be doing what Jesus said. No one is perfect, and each person is at their own stage in their spiritual development. And only God knows where someone will ultimately end up! Forgive them as you are able (pray for help, if you need it), and understand that at the very least they are spiritually immature or deceived, and at the worst they are demon-possessed. They have hurt you – yes. But it is to God they will answer. Pray for and love them, and leave their fate to God.

    • Learn to use your Bible, every day. There's a lot of stuff in there that seems complicated. When you hit that stuff, try some study helps and talk to other Christians who have God's values in their hearts. If you still don't get it, then set that part aside and move on to the next part. I promise you: if you keep studying, when God wants you to understand that confusing part, it will make sense!

    • Stop sacrificing your salvation on the altar of other people's prejudices and discomforts. Your salvation is between you and God – and no one else. Stop tormenting yourself and risking alienating yourself from God's love and work for you by listening to people who use biased human interpretations and translations of God's Word to justify how they would feel about Gay people anyway.

    • Never let go of Jesus – the real Jesus, that is. God understands that Gay people in the world today have a really difficult journey to make. Read Revelation 3:7-13 again and again to understand how much Jesus understands our struggle, and how He tells us to just keep holding on to Him, and we'll make it! But that really means Him – not some New Age, liberal, or conservative version of Him. Find a Bible translation that has the least amount of human bias written into it, and then put correction notes in it whenever you learn of another spot that hasn't been translated like God put it there in the original languages (it isn't just the stuff about Gay people that people have changed or tweaked, you see!). Read the Gospels until you know them by heart – they are a record, written down and confirmed by people who were alive at the time that Jesus was on this earth and teaching them and their teachers. Remember: when you know Jesus' heart, you know God's heart! [John 14:9]
    God continue to bless you!