Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Natural and Unnatural

The home-run text often used to knock gays out of the church ballpark is Romans 1:26-7:

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
Supposedly these two verses guarantee that God condemns all same-gender affection. "It just ain't natural" so goes the argument.

So what is "natural?" Is this natural?

The one on the right would be me. Steve of Monkey Muck is the one playing coy. See that little blip of hair there in the back? It's the new ponytail I have been sporting to the bemusement of my congregation, family, friends, and mother.

It is more serious than that. Paul, the same Bible guy who was worried about unnatural shameless acts, had this to say about Self-Affirming, Practicing Long-Haired Preachers like me:

Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him,
Nature! Nature! I am degrading and unnatural. A misfit. A freak of the cosmos. An abomination. A C Minus! Yet I'm still a-preachin' beloveds. Nobody has challenged my ministerial credentials over my unnatural hairstyle for which I remain unrepentant.

Seems like the the true Bible believers are a bit selective in regards to what is natural or not, or at least in regards to how they will prosecute said unnaturalness. They don't believe in the authority of the Bible any more than a three-eyed fish.

They are selective and they put their own prejudices onto the text. They are so dim that they think their own personal comfort is what 'nature' is.

Tim at Straight-Friendly posted an excellent piece, The Unnatural Lifestyle
. Tim writes:
“Unnatural” is a despicable word loaded with malicious connotations. Worst of all, though, people who tag others as “unnatural” at the same time boast of being “natural.” They expect everyone to define the world—and themselves—on their terms. Such arrogance and ignorance are astounding. With very, few exceptions “unnatural” is a misnomer because it’s no easier for humans to override their native instincts than any other creature. What seems unnatural to one is inherently natural to another.
Well said, friend.


  1. Unnatural? The only thing I see as unnatural is your preoccupation with kissing Monkey!

    That, and the pony tail.

  2. I think we should take ownership of the term "unnatural" just like we did "queer."

    To that end, I find you completely and wonderfully unnatural, Preacher Man.

    Would that I could attain to such status.

    How happy that you're so unlike those boring, narrow, rigid "natural" folk!


  3. An unnatural silence has filled the comment room.

  4. Open heart surgery is unnatural.

    Taking aspirin is unnatural.

    Driving cars is unnatural.

    The problem of course is that one would imagine that these so-called Biblical scholars would at least take the Bible seriously enough to understand the meaning of the words they use. The word translated as "unnatural" in this context does not mean bad or wrong. It is, in fact, the same word Paul uses elsewhere in Romans to distinguish the "natural" children of God (ie. the Jews) with the "unnatural" or "adopted" children of God (ie.. the Gentiles.)

    But I guess that much nuance gets lost in their phony piety.

    So then, arguing what is or is not "natural" isn't even the issue ... since even the verse itself is talking about idolaters and people who are involved in temple prostitution.

    Blogging isn't natural, BTW, but I notice that even the tattletales, fusspots, busybodies and scolds do that too.

    But that ponytail? That ain't natural. :)

  5. Black sea bass feature prominently on many menus, but wild populations of the fish are in decline and their availability is limited. Because of the high demand, they’re a good candidate for aquaculture on the east coast. Except, that is, for one problem: they have a tendency to change sex unpredictably in captivity.


    How "unnatural" of nature ;-) Folks, sexual behavior and morphology are morphing in nature all the time, and what could be more natural than nature!

  6. With respect, Rob, I think the "but in the animal kingdom" arguments are flawed. The response is inevitably, "But aren't we humans better than animals?" etc., etc., etc.

    It's all part of the script now. They bring up "unnatural", we say "Oh but what about..." then they compare homosexuality to bestiality. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    I think the argument over what is "natural" or "unnatural" is to miss the point entirely. I don't want to take up pages of John's comment thread, but you can read what I mean here:

    I think it's time to stop playing their little game.

  7. But game playing comes so naturally to then, Alan!

  8. lol. Ain't that the truth.

    It may be natural for them to play games with other people's lives, but they don't have to act on that inclination. ;)

  9. Alan,

    That was an excellent post on your blog and I am going to hyperlink it so folks can click and go.

  10. I wish some of my fundie relatives could be party to this conversation.

    Maybe yous guys could teach 'em a thing or two. God knows I haven't been able to make any headway.

  11. Thanks John, glad you liked it. Mostly it's just a riff on Corvino's essay, so he should get the credit. He has many other great essays at:

  12. I appreciate your take Alan, but I don't really think they are that flawed as long as they are viewed in context. Humans are animals, and aspects of our sexual orientation (not totally thought) are biologically based. That is not such a far feteched idea.

    Of course, there is the nature vs. nurture debate, but I think it is pretty consistent that homeosexuality is report by those who are homesexual that it was NOT a choice, which means there is a very likely biological basis for fundamental ortientation.

    And the biological evidence would only confirm this.

  13. In addition, the "But aren't we humans better than animals?" argument conflates two issues:

    1) Is sexual orienttation a choice (fundies want to claim it is) or are we born with a basic orientation (that could well be more of a continuum than black and white) and is this a biological phenomena? The biological evidence is pointing in this direction, but we being highly cerebrial animals can modify and override basic biology in many ways.

    2) Moral behavior with regards to sexuality. Heterosexuality and homosexuality can be monogomous and within the committed relationships. This is a different issue than is sexuality largely/partly etc. determined.

    Two separate issues often conflated.

  14. So our sexual orientation has a biological basis. So what? I don't get the purpose of that argument ... and I don't want you to think I'm picking on you, but I seriously don't get it.

    Why would we make an argument that basically says that a person's basic human rights should be determined by their genetics (or more broadly their biology)? Consider carefully the historical antecedents of such ideas and you'll see why that's not really an argument I feel comfortable making.

    Frankly, I don't care if LGBT people are created by accidental exposure to radioactive pixie dust. The cause of one's sexual orientation should not be a determining factor in whether or not that person has access to the same basic human rights that anyone else gets. I think that playing their game by their rules is a lose-lose situation.

    So we're created gay. Fine. Doesn't mean we have to act on it. It's the obvious rejoinder and the reason it's so obvious is because it is true. I just don't see what good it does to have that conversation over and over.

    What if it was a choice? I'm not saying it is, but what if it was, hypothetically? What difference would that actually make? Does that choice, a choice which in no way affects anyone else but me and my partner, serve as a valid basis for denying me over 1000 special rights given by the federal government to some other guy who made a lifestyle choice to get married to a woman? On what basis is such a distinction a moral one? I can't think of one.

    Not to mention, of course, that trying to convince a group of people who view science as blatantly anti-Christian, that science says that sexual orientation is biologically determined will never work. These people aren't even capable of understanding that the Earth is over 6000 years old! Does anyone honestly believe a scientific argument about the causes of sexual orientation is going to be convincing to them? And even if you were to convince them, they've already got a response: "So? You don't have to act on it."

  15. Oh, right. Try telling someone, "You were born straight but you don't have to act on it."

    Your argument assumes a double standard when none should exist. Don't have to act on it? That's ridiculous.

  16. Lee, I have no problem telling someone who is straight that they were born that way but they don't have to act on it. If they're not married they shouldn't act on it. If they're under the age of consent, they most surely shouldn't act on it. If they are married, they shouldn't act on it with anyone other than their spouse.

    Now of course, the fundies want to argue that if you were born gay you should *never* act on it, which is the double standard to which you refer. Telling them that's a double standard is unlikely to be convincing as most people don't appreciate being called hypocrites, even when it's so obviously true. So again, if we already know that the argument is:

    Them: "It ain't natural"

    Us: "Yes, it is, here's the evidence..."

    Them: "So? You don't have to act on it."

    Us: "That's a double standard, Mr. Hypocrite."

    Them: "No, it's God's standard."

    Lucy: 4, Charlie Brown: 0

    yadda, yadda, yadda...

    My point is why even play the game? Particularly with (to get back to John's original post) a group of people who:
    1) define the word "natural" in Romans 1 to mean only heterosexual sex, between married persons, in the missionary position, with the lights off, and only for procreation, and
    2) believe science is eeeeevil.

    The argument itself is a waste of time. Just because we can find rejoinders for their rejoinders doesn't mean we aren't still just spinning our wheels, and at the same time making two arguments that we frankly ought to be embarrassed that we're even making in the first place: 1) that human rights should be determined by biology, and 2) that human choice is irrelevant.

    I don't think we really believe either of those ideas are true.

  17. Alan is making a crucial point.

    The fundamentalist ideologues who think homosexuality is a sin and a disease will go after gays in the womb.

    Read Al Mohler:

    Is your baby gay? What if you could know? What if you could do something about it?

    Writes Mohler: "In other words, finding a biological causation for homosexuality may also lead to the discovery of a "cure" for the same phenomenon."

    The argument needs to be framed in terms of civil rights rather than trying to gain sympathy by putting people under a microscope.

    We don't need to uncover the mysteries of human sexuality before we treat people with equality and fairness.

  18. So you're saying there's no point making any argument?

    I would agree totally, as far as my own family is concerned. They all believe I'm evil, or at last possessed by it, and am damned to hell.

    Jesus himself could come down from heaven and tell them they were wrong and they still wouldn't believe it.

    "That wasn't really Jesus. No way he would have said that."

    That's why I have no contact with my family. Why bother?

  19. Your "what we should be doing instead" argument needs fleshing out. Quite a lot.

    What makes you think the fundies would buy the "one human being marrying another nonrelated human being" any sooner than they'd accept a genetic basis for homosexuality?

    The Bible still says it's wrong. Period. How does your nowfound way of addressing the issue change that?

    John, I can't even read the link because the first thing that came to mind was aborting fetuses that tested positive for the homo gene.

    I'm not in any emotional frame of mind to deal with that today.

  20. Lee is asking one of the most painful questions of all:

    What argument, plea, request is there to the family that rejects you, who says "you could be different but you choose to sin?"

  21. John: Hate to toot my own horn again, but I wrote a post about Al Mohler some time back when he wrote that drivel. The title of the post is "Rev. Al Mohler, Eugenicist" which oughta give you some notion of what I think of Rev. Mohler. ;)

    Lee: I'm saying that there's no point in making an argument based on assumptions with which we fundamentally disagree. The "It's natural!" argument basically says that queers should have rights because we can't help being queer, because we were born that way, it's genetic, it's biological, whatever.

    Think about the main assumption inherent in that argument: rights should be determined by biology.

    Do we really want to give people rights ... or take them away ... because they were "born that way"? What if we're not talking about sexual orientation, but say, gender or race? Is that still an argument we want to be making!? Do women deserve equal rights because it's not their fault and they can't help having another X chromosome instead of a Y chromosome? Or do they deserve equal rights because they're human beings? I say the latter. But the "It's Natural!" argument assumes the former.

    The "It's Natural!" argument also assumes that, if being gay were actually a choice, then it would be OK to discriminate. Is that true, particularly in this country? Does the first Amendment cover only Presbyterians, but not Catholics, who make a different religious choice? Of course not.

    So I'm saying that we don't actually even believe the assumptions underlying these nature vs. nurture arguments, so why even have them? (Particularly with people who don't understand what "nature" means, and with people who think science is evil.)

    As for whether or not there is any point in making any argument, that's a different topic. My short answer would actually be no, there is no point in arguing or debating these issues. But again, that's a different matter entirely. If people *are* going to argue or debate them, then they should at least use the best arguments possible, and not those arguments based on such flawed, and frankly offensive assumptions as the "It's Natural!" argument.

  22. No argument exists. You say goodbye to your family, as painful as it is, and move on.

    Nothing else can be done.

  23. I will suggest there is a biblical answer to the question of how to respond to the family who rejects you.

    You find a new family.

    "46 While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’* 48But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 49And pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’"

    No one needs to argue their value. It is painful when our families of origin reject us, but it is their loss. There are plenty of wonderful people in the world who "do the will of the Father in heaven" which is to treat others as you would want to be treated. Find them and surround yourselves with them whether it is in a church or not.

  24. "What makes you think the fundies would buy the "one human being marrying another nonrelated human being" any sooner than they'd accept a genetic basis for homosexuality?"

    Oh, I don't.

    My point isn't about them at all.

    My point is about *us*, and having a little self-respect, and not making a clearly flawed argument that we don't even believe in ourselves.

    I don't think arguing with them is useful at all.

  25. I understand what you're saying. It makes sense logically.

    But it does nothing to alleviate my pain, nor does your argument give me any new strategy for dealing with the ever-present problem.

    So, I suppose what I'm saying is that while you make a good argument, my reaction to it is, "Why should I even care?"

  26. Yes, John, and that's precisely what I have been and am doing.

    But I didn't mean to make this about me, and I apologize. I've steered the conversation off course.

  27. Steering back to making the argument based on civil rights in the absence of the influence of religious fundamentalism, here is an interesting tidbit about Prop 8.

  28. Our comments are crossing which is interesting.


    A couple things. When I am talking about finding a new family, I mean that in the sense of self-respect not in the sense of not grieving the loss as if we 'just get a new puppy to replace the lost one.'

    Sometimes family of origin relationships are so toxic (for a variety of issues) that it is best sometimes for our own survival to move on. We can keep the possibility of reconciliation open, but we cannot base our self-worth on it. That is when arguing is worthless.

    But it doesn't make it any less painful.

    The part that makes me frustrated is that it could be much less painful for so many people if it weren't for the Al Mohlers and others breaking families apart with their hateful an ignorant rhetoric about who and what is sinful.

  29. I agree completely. No argument here.

    I think I have to get to a place where I can address these issues free of the weight of my lately acquired baggage.

    I'm not quite there yet, but I'll get there.

  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

  31. Regarding your family, I wouldn't even presume to give advice. And I can't think of a single reason you should care about my points here unless you think these arguments are useful. If so then, my point is only that if we're going to have arguments with people, they should at least be good ones.

    Now I happen to think that arguing these issues with the fundies is pointless, but obviously most people think I'm wrong about that.

  32. I happen to think that arguing these issues with the fundies is pointless, but obviously most people think I'm wrong about that.

    It's not at all obvious to me, at least, and I have a good deal of firsthand experience.

    I think we're in basic agreement on the issues overall. It's just that I meet the argument from a completely different perspective than you.

    Nothing wrong with that. It just is what it is.

  33. "... from a completely different perspective than you."

    Oh, I hear that a lot. Most of the time, in fact. LOL

  34. "The 'It's natural!' argument basically says that queers should have rights because we can't help being queer ..."


    You are reading into my point more than I intended or ever said. You are poking at a "straw man" argument.

    "Think about the main assumption inherent in that argument: rights should be determined by biology."

    This is your assumption, certainly not mine. It also missed the point by a mile.

    First, society has many different standards that are deemed worthy to be protected as rights.

    The color or one's skin is determined by biology(ethnicity), and we as a socieity have created laws that protect individuals from discrimintation because of their race or ethnicty. That does not preclude them being protect by other rights that are not defined by biology, such as their religious beliefs.

    This is a false either/or statement. We deem it worthy to confer civil rights that say no discerimination based upon ethnicity (a biologically determined reality) because it would be simply unfair to discriminate against someone based upon race or ethnicity.

    If, (and I am not arguing this should be the basis of legal arguments for civil rights) sexual orientation has biological basis, that logically has a bearing on the entire argument it is a sin because the bible says so BS. That is my only point, not such should be used to argue for civil rights.

    "There's no point in making an argument based on assumptions with which we fundamentally disagree."

    That is an odd statement; I cannot think of single serious issue that has been debated in society that is not based on "assumptions" with which people fundamentally disagree ;-)

    I am not one for arguing with fundies, but we do need to argue for civil rights for eveyone in our courts and society.

  35. Now I happen to think that arguing these issues with the fundies is pointless, but obviously most people think I'm wrong about that.

    Like a moth to a lightbulb, I keep going back! : )

  36. Rob wrote, "We deem it worthy to confer civil rights that say no discerimination based upon ethnicity (a biologically determined reality) because it would be simply unfair to discriminate against someone based upon race or ethnicity."

    Yes, we have laws that specifically say that we do not discriminate on the basis of biology. Such laws do not give anyone additional rights nor take any away, they simply state that people should be treated equally *regardless of biology.* Those laws, in fact, illustrate my argument precisely.

    At the same time I have also said that we also protect people's choices, such as religion. I believe the "It's Natural" argument runs away from that, basically trying to make an excuse for sexual orientation, instead of doing the hard work of coming up with a real sexual ethic.

    We've done their work for them. We allow them to bully us about choices we make, and we allow them to push us into untenable arguments about being "born that way."

    You wrote, "That is an odd statement; I cannot think of single serious issue that has been debated in society that is not based on "assumptions" with which people fundamentally disagree "

    Sorry I wasn't clearer. What I meant was that Person A should not make an argument based on assumptions with which Person A fundamentally disagrees. For example, I'm saying I will not argue for LGBT rights using an argument that sounds suspiciously close to biological determinism at best, and eugenics at worst, because, even though I believe in equal rights, the argument rests on assumptions I find offensive. That is, I do not want to make an argument based on biology, because I don't agree that people should be given rights based on the particulars of their biology.

    What is purpose of the "It's Natural!" argument except to say, "We deserve rights because it isn't our fault, it's in our genes." I think that's a poor excuse for getting rights. We ought to get them because we're human beings, not because we fit a particular genetic profile ... or not.

    I don't doubt that you do not intend to make those assumptions which underly the "It's Natural" argument. After all, we've all heard that argument for 20 years or so, and I'm sure no one intends for it to be essentially a eugenics argument. But one cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that it is based on an assumption that rights should be given or taken away based on inborn biological factors.

    I simply disagree. (Well, that and I'm really bad at towing the party line.) :)

  37. BTW, just to lay all my cards on the table, I find it hard to believe that something as complex as sexual orientation is only, totally, and completely a biologically determined phenomenon.

    What's the point then of oversimplifying the argument to either nature OR nurture, if we don't believe it ourselves?

    Since when has anyone heard this argument?

    Them: "It ain't natural!"

    Us: "Well, actually there's lots of evidence showing that it may involve prenatal maternal hormones, birth order, and perhaps some genetics, but it there may also be elements of personal choice, and child rearing, and societal expectations, and many other aspects involved too."

    I'm going to guess that the number of times such an argument actually gets used rounds to nearly zero when compared to this version:

    Them: "It ain't natural!"

    Us: "But what about the gay penguins!?"

    Oh, good grief.

  38. " I find it hard to believe that something as complex as sexual orientation is only, totally, and completely a biologically determined phenomenon."

    You sure don't read very carefully do you Alan ;-)

    Is that by intelligent design?

    I believe somewhere above I noted it was not in humans "totally, and completely a biologically determined phenomenon."

    While humans are animals they possess langauge and culture and intellectual (reflective self-conscious thought) powers which transcend our animals cousins.

    That should be clear to anyone who thinks deeply about these issues.

  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. "Nature OR nurture" ...

    I hope you don't attempt to create arguments for civil rights for gays and lesbiains with the same distorting of others words as you are exhibiting here. It does not refelcte well on either intelligence or moralality.

    It is not a black and white either or when it comes to humans. We have language and culture and a level of intellectual self-reflective consciousness that radically changes nature via nurture.

    Yet, we also are biological creatures. So, Al, if want to become a little more informed take a look at the NOVA show "Ghost in Your Genes" to see how much biology CAN influence social behavior, which would include sexuality. And the evidence this documentary is based upon is solid empirical evidence.

    It is called epigenetics, and they are discovering that epigenetics most certainly can influence behavioral tendencies.

  41. Them: "It ain't natural!"

    Us: "But what about the gay penguins!?"

    Oh, good grief.


    The only joke here Al is your dishonest twisting what is being said. It appears dishonesty extends beyond being a fundy, for the simply honest recognition that we as human animals are subject to biology along with the rest of the animal world has little to do with your silly argument. That we are also creatures with language and culture seems to elude you, as you attempt to make a caricature of a real world in which humans are part of the evolutionary world, and subject too biology along with the rest of life.

    Is this another form of religious fundamentalist we are witnessing here?

  42. "I believe somewhere above I noted it was not in humans 'totally, and completely a biologically determined phenomenon.'"

    First, I'm glad we agree. Second, I never said you said that it was only biological. What I said was that, in general, that is how the argument gets stated, whether people actually believe it or not. I think mostly you're having a difficult time seeing that I'm arguing against the general perception and use of these nature vs. nurture arguments and are instead taking my critique of the argument itself personally.

    My point stands: "It's natural!" takes the argument no where, because the refutation is obvious.

    "While humans are animals they possess langauge and culture and intellectual (reflective self-conscious thought) powers which transcend our animals cousins."

    Yup, and that's obvious even to the fundies, which is why they respond to this debate with "You don't have to act on it." Check Mate.

    To reiterate my position, I am simply making the same argument, from the Enlightenment, that our founding fathers made, to wit: we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. As a Christian, I would say that that we all are endowed with those rights because we are created in the Imago Dei, the image of God. Do we deserve those rights because, even though we're not straight we were "born that way" (ie. gay)? No. Do we deserve those rights because we choose to be gay? No. We deserve those rights because we're human beings. Period.

    "It does not refelcte well on either intelligence or moralality."

    Well, then I won't bother with the rest of your comment. Don't want to bore you with my stupidity and immorality. ;)

    Thanks for what was, up to now, an interesting conversation!


  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

  44. BTW, with due respect to Paul Simon, you cannot call me "Al." Thanks. :)

    You appear to be making far too many assumptions about me to bother refuting, nor do I find any reason to try. But enjoy. If, in the future, after you've calmed down a bit, you'd like to have another pleasant conversation, I'm always up for it.

    Take care!

  45. You're preaching to the choir here, Rob. LOL. I'm not sure whom you're even addressing. :)

  46. Gentlemen, gentlemen.

    Why the bickering? Aren't we ultimately on the same side?

  47. The science of Evolutionary Developmental Biology is telling us a lot about the biological basis of sex determination and sexual behavior in animals, but this goes only so far when we ask the question of what determines sexual orientation in humans. This is because humans transcend the lower animals in the use of language and culture, and they possess an degree of freedom when it comes to behavior that lower animals do not possess. There are limits to the range of learned behavior in even the high primates. Yet humans appear to have a range of freedom in culture and behavior that gives them a degree of freedom from many biological limitations.

    Nevertheless, we are learning more about the nature of the ways in which nature and nurture interact that we only speculated about before but are now being empirically uncovered in the lab. Take the experiment where it would found that the manner of nurturing of a mother rat actually reconfigured the epigenome of the baby rats, and this reconfigured epigenome actually altered the behavior (from less aggressive to more aggressive) of the offspring when they reached adulthood. By simply giving them a drug that revered the epigenetic markings, the rats reverted to the less aggressive behavior. (Ghost in Your Genes)

    Here, a change in behavior by the parent altered the genome of the offspring after birth, which in turn altered their behavior. They have also documented that what the mother eats while pregnant can alter the epigenome of the offspring and have hereditary effects for further generations. This was all once denied by biologists, and now it is being proven in the lab.

    What does this say about homosexuality; nothing directly, but it does indicate if one human behavior (aggression) is able to be altered by epigenetics that another (sexual orientiation) might be too. Should it be used to determine the legal status of gays and lesbians in civil society; absolutely not, but I doubt this will stop Al from making his silly arguments.

    It does tell us though that sexual orientation, etc., is like any other human behavior, such as aggression, is capable of being altered by altering the epigenome. And that means that we are as much a part of nature as we are of our nurturing families and cultures.

  48. I agree, Lee.

    Rob has, I think, completely misread my comments.

  49. It is hard to tell what you are aiming your caricatures at Alan.

    That is all I am saying.

    As far as I am concerned, gays and lesbians are as natural as anyone else, and personally, I think biology supports this common sense view. But I am not saying biology is the reason they should have equal civil rights.

  50. Never said you were.

    Whatevs. I'm done with my "silly arguments." ;)

  51. Wow. A person leaves the room for a day and look what happens: the "Natural" life-cycle of a discussion happens!

  52. Wow, John. First, thanks for referring to my post--it's a honor to say the least. Second, I clicked over to say this and see the torrent of thought on the loose is more than enough to encourage me to read, listen, and be silent.

    I do, however, want to support your comments to Lee about family. Psalm 68.6 says, "God sets the lonely in families." When I was dealing with being rejected by "both" of my families--my biologic and faith kin--that Scripture sustained me. Instead of mourning what I'd lost, I started paying attention to where I'd been placed.

    My "family" turned out to be a 70-something radical atheist, his highly opinionated (and troubled) children, the widow of a former family friend who, having lived on the down-low, died of AIDS, and a congregation of several thousand African-American Pentecostals who rejoiced in the fact that we're all sinners saved by grace. Nothing in my genetic or environmental background suggested my family would look like this. Yet these people loved me, accepted me, and even those who didn't believe in God encouraged me to pursue personal fulfillment in my faith.

    That mattered more than anything to me then, and still does. I understood what Christ meant by forsaking our natural families to follow Him in a very real way. And, over time, an odd thing happened. Many (though not all) of those who denied my right to believe have come around to defend it. For example, my parents--both of them Pentecostal preachers who once pleaded with me "to get right before it's too late"--are daily readers and avid supporters of my blog for GLBT believers. My mom--God love her--litters email boxes with links to posts she wants others in our family and circle to read.

    After saying God puts us in families, the Psalm adds, "He leads for the prisoners with singing, but the rebellious live an a sun-scorched land." I'm a singing fool these days--and I pray for those who continue to rebel against the truth of His acceptance of all His children.

    Just a little witness to confirm the wisdom in your words to Lee...

    Blessings always.

  53. Thanks for your words. They soothe.

    But, unlike your parents, I have no hope whatsoever that they'll come around.

    I have so little hope of it that I don't even pray for it to happen. I'll save my prayers for something that might actually bear fruit.

    I've had some incredibly hurtful things said to me, one in particular just this week, and the wounds remain raw.

    As I'm sure you well know, it's hard to get past it.

  54. But, unlike your parents, I have no hope whatsoever that they'll come around.

    Very poorly worded.

    Unlike your parents, I have no hope whatsoever that mine will come around.

  55. Lee, while I don't mean to hijack John's blog (and trust he understands my compulsion to reply here), I want to encourage you to hang on to any shred of hope you have.

    Check out the first few verses of Romans 5--Paul's step-by-step "faith map" that starts with trials, which family turmoil certainly is, and ends in hope. He says, "Hope doesn't disappoint because of God's love." I happen to like the KJV translation: "Hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." Hope is the key to every believer's dignity.

    Knowing God loves and accepts you, you must also know His Spirit is speaking to your family. If they turn a deaf ear, that's on them--to their shame--and signifies their weakness. As the stronger believer, you can only love and accept them as you would were the tables turned, if they were the "outsiders" and you were in the "mainstream." (Because, in reality, that's the situation, anyway. You are "inside" God's love. They've been blinded by legalism and can't see that.)

    Accepting them as they are does two wonderful things. First, it reorients your responses (inwardly and outwardly) to view them with compassion, shifting your expectations from what they'll do to what you'll offer in return for what they don't do. But second, it secures your position of strength and shields you from a lot of unnecessary pain that comes from their iron-fisted attempts to exert authority over you.

    I speak from experience here. My situation grew so dire and the battles with my folks so exhausting I had no alternative but to surrender them to God and prepare to live completely apart from them. Both my parents are preachers, which means they're extremely adept at manipulating the Word to inspire change. And after hitting me with all they had, when I didn't change--not because I didn't want to, but because I knew in my heart I didn't need to--my dad went for the gut. "Son, heaven won't be worth anything to me if you're not there."

    This broke my heart, but it steeled my hope. I knew I would spend eternity with him in God's presence, because God's love would see to it. But more than that, I realized if my folks never came around to understand and accept me, the truth of God's love would be revealed the moment they entered His glory. Taking my cue from Paul, I realized if I limited my hope to this life, I would be the most miserable man alive. So I gave up all expectations for changes I would see here in hope of changes I can only see by faith.

    My brother, you have hope. Your faith in God's love gives you hope. Give your family up to Him. Thank Him for the family of friends and loved ones He's given you. But with every test your natural family brings you, hold on to your hope.

    Blessings. I'm praying for you.

    PS: Rather than co-opt John's space, I'm more than happy to continue this conversation via email. Feel free to write me at (And thanks, John, for your patience and understanding.)

  56. Wow, Tim. I'm truly blown away by your words. Thank you so much for sharing your story with Lee and the rest of us. This is what John's blog is all about, and I am sure he is thrilled to have you take up the space!

  57. Tim and I have struck up a bit of a friendship thanks to John's blog. I'd consider it a friendship, at least, and I think he would concur.

    He's agreed to be one of the people to talk me through this process, and I'm so grateful for it.

  58. Yes, absolutely. This what this blog is all about. Thank you, Tim, for sharing your experience and your wisdom gained from it.

    Thanks to all for the passionate and heartfelt comments.

    We are all trying our best to bind up our own broken hearts.

    From our PCUSA Brief Statement of Faith

    In a broken and fearful world
    the Spirit gives us courage
    to pray without ceasing,
    to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
    to unmask idolatries in church and culture,
    to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
    and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.