On reconciling faith with life…..

Probably most of you that read my posts have figured out by now that I am “religious.” I hate that word. It has some hugely negative connotations. I also hate saying that I’m “spiritual” because, for me, it goes beyond that (though I have many many friends who consider themselves as such and I respect them for it). More and more, I find myself leaning toward saying that I am “a person of faith.”

So here are some of the basics:

I grew up in a Christian home.

I love going to church and am pretty involved with my own.

I consider myself to be a Christian.

It’s just that that word, in particular, also has such ugly connotations to some people. Ghandi once said that if Christians really acted the way they claim they’re supposed to, not a person in the world wouldn’t want to be a part of that. Sadly, that is so obviously NOT the case. The problem, I think, is that so many of us claim to live one way (love God, love each other), but we tend to be really judgmental about the rest of the world. It’s difficult to reconcile the faith I grew up in with the faith I’m finding myself in.

I find myself living by the “holy” Golden Rule much of the time: Judge not, lest ye be judged.

As a greater portion of the country knows by now, Jennifer Knapp has come out…both as a lesbian and as a continued “person of faith.” I have been stunned and, well, not stunned by the reaction, especially by the religious community. As soon as I read the article in The Advocate, I had two very distinct reactions: one of pride that someone of her popularity and influence could be so brave and one fearing the backlash from the community that embraced her for so long. Would they still? Would she care if they didn’t? But most importantly, for me, What is my response?

I think I have several responses, honestly.

1. I don’t really care about her sexuality. She’s one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever heard and that’s what I’m really interested in.

2. It’s none of my business. Jennifer chose to come out; no one made her. It was something she felt she needed to do to be honest with herself.

3. From where my faith rests, I refuse to judge her. Period. I am (mercifully) not omnipotent, I didn’t create the universe, and I certainly wouldn’t want to responsibility of determining who is “good” or “right” and who is not.

Jennifer remains, in my eyes, one of the most profoundly influential musical influences in my life. I was talking with my husband about this very topic the other day and Jennifer’s lyrics came to my mind. Her music has been (and I hope will continue to be) deeply personal. I believe that, because she puts so much of who she is into her music, it transcends boundaries that a lot of other “Christian” music simply cannot and does not.

I often struggle with contemporary “worship music” because the lyrics just sound so manufactured and repetitive. They don’t feel personal. I can’t resonate with them. I have a friend whom I used to lead worship with at my church… a brilliant musician and lyricist. His music affects me. It gets me at the core. So it would be easy to say, “Well, his music affects you because you know him.” True. But I don’t know Jennifer Knapp on a personal level. I’ve met her once, shared brief commentary with her on our educational pursuits, took a photo, and went home. I certainly do not know her, and yet her music continues to resonate with me.

Jennifer’s music is like that perfect poem that, every time I come back to it, months – even years – later, says something different each time. She’s the lyricist that people could say, “That’s what I wanted to say, but had no idea how.”

So now, with all the hullabaloo surrounding her, should we completely write off Jennifer and her music?

I should hope not.

Watching Larry King Live the other day when she was being interviewed, I was appalled by some of the things that were said about and to her (mostly by Pastor Bob Botsford). And here’s where my opinion is going to come screaming in to this issue without apology.

I am shocked that someone who would profess to be a studied man of the Bible would come at her with the vengeance that he did. Barking religious rhetoric, interrupting Jennifer, and generally sounding hypocritical. Ironically, one of the most logical statements of the interview came from Larry King himself to Botsford: “Her ‘sin’ may be different than yours, but it’s just different.”

Hmm. Let’s think on that shall we?

Botsford claimed time and time again that “sin is sin” which, if you grew up in a religious home, you know what that statement means. Yet mere seconds after making such a statement, he would back-peddle so that he could sound as if homosexuality was somehow “worse” than all the other sins. Sorry, sir. You cannot have it both ways.

I know that there are already people who are asking, “How can a person be both a homosexual and a Christian?” For me, the answer is more simple than it probably should be. I think those two things, sexuality and religion, are as mutually exclusive as politics and religion. Maybe I live in a much for idealistic world than a lot of people, but I’m definitely of the opinion that there are certain things that don’t have to be in constant competition. Jennifer raised a good question (which was never fully answered) to Botsford during the interview: What if a young girl in your congregation was struggling with identifying her sexuality? Would you really want her to choose between that and her faith?

My question, to follow that one up, would be: What would you do if she chose her sexuality? Would you condemn her? Would you alienate her from the religious life she’s known forever? And then, frankly, what do you think Jesus would do?

I have to believe that Jesus would welcome her. I cannot, in good conscience or faith, sit back and think that Jesus – the man that preached nothing more than love itself – would turn his back on a girl who is trying to come to grips with her faith and her sexuality. At what point are we going to stop seeing homosexuality as such a stigma? At what point can we just accept a person for the simple fact that he or she is a person?

Can you honestly imagine a world where someone who didn’t like pepperoni on her pizza could be ostracized in a similar manner? That a person who suddenly outted themselves as a “person who doesn’t like the color blue” should suddenly be written off even if his writings or music were some of the most profound topics to ever be broached? Let’s not forget that Jesus himself was punished and ultimately killed for simply living a lifestyle that was markedly different from that of the time.

So what do you think? I am actually asking for legitimate responses here.

I’m sure that, from my friends who are also religious/spiritual/etc., there will be eyebrows raised and questions asked about this post. I welcome comments and discussion (graced with civility, of course), and I hope that those of you that don’t have religious leanings will offer your comments as well. What I really hope for all of this is that we can all take a step backward and really consider what we think and feel before rushing to any harsh conclusions. I hope that whatever conclusions we all come to are well-thought and founded in reason and not just what we’ve always believed or been told. I hope that grace and dignity can overwhelm other, less rational reactions.

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7 thoughts on “On reconciling faith with life…..

  1. Erik~ I agree with you…sometimes, this (and a million other issues) is seen in very black and white terms. I WANT things to be that easy, but I just don't think they CAN be.

    How do we wrestle with the fact that the Bible says not to do X, Y, and Z, but at the same time tell us not to judge and blah blah blah? I don't think it's as easy as we'd like it to be.

    Jason~ I wonder why we (society) has gotten so caught up in this particular issue, that of homosexuality. What about people that live together and sleep together before or outside the bounds of marriage? The Bible is pretty clear on this one (I'd wager to say, even MORE clear than on homosexuality) yet we don't condemn the hell out of people “living in sin” in that way.

    Thank you for your thoughts and for stumbling across my blog…feel free to add more…this has been really interesting!

  2. I think we have to be careful in these observations in general.
    Post modern culture today has essentially said, “We must accept everyone for everything that they are and are not…” An age of tolerance.
    So, I've never heard of this Jennifer Knapp, nor her music I don't think, but I heard all the news hype when she 'came out.'
    Here's the thing… I don't care who she is. She claims to be a Christian, like many others do… but she is openly, bold faced going to live a life that is directly spoken against in the Bible.
    Sin is sin is sin. Yes. However, there's a difference between punching someone once and being a serial killer. The person sinned or they are living in sin. (Pardon the crass example, but just to drive a point). Or perhaps someone struggles with their sexuality and kisses someone of the same sex… presumably a sin (?) in the name of exploration and discovery and curiosity or what have you… but then to choose to live that lifestyle is living in that sin.
    Christians, converted true followers of Christ who have the Holy Spirit living in them, cannot, or should not disgrace (grieve) the Holy Spirit as such. It is a mockery to God.
    Now, does that mean we as Christians cannot accept the gay person or love them? Of course not! Acceptance and tolerance are different. Love also repremands and corrects and teaches (any parent can tell you that), so Christians certainliy can take that approach if they so deem… but it absolutely should be done in love… not condemnation.
    Is the person who is a lesbian and claiming to be a Christian truly a Christian? Only God truly knows, but, if we follow the Bible carefully, I would tend to lean towards that not being an option… but not matter what, it doesn't make them my enemy…

    I'll stop there, but you get the sum of my thoughts.
    thanks for the discussion!

  3. I remember very specifically the first time this question was raised to me. I was in Youth Group in High School. One of our youth leaders had a close friends who was coming to terms with her sexuality.

    The question of Christianity and homosexuality seems cut and dry to so many… but I really feel they aren't paying attention to the message, no offense.

    I agree that a sin is a sin is a sin. I believe that is how God sees it. I also believe (and I know this varies from person to person and denominationally) that you are saved through faith and faith alone.

    Larry King had it right… their sins are just different from our own. They are no more or less sinners than I am.

    Their continued faith (despite and through near certain and wrong persecution) is what will save them in the eyes of the Lord. Just as it will for me.

    Short version. Sorry. lol

  4. I agree with it being a hot topic, and I am with you it makes me sad the way people will treat others. Jesus was a compassionate man, one who loved everyone. I agree with you the worst part of this whole debate, is the way some people choose to degrade someone else. That is no right at all. We are talking about an action or sin, not the person. We choose our actions but that doesn't mean that as a person we have no value. I like the 2 Tim, that is good. When we endure wih Him, we will also reign with him. I will have to check out Tim's blog.

  5. Great thoughts, Sarah..thank you!

    I definitely agree that we cannot choose which parts of our faith we're with and those that we're not with. That said, life throws a lot of curves more often than we'd like. The whole issue of homosexuality is a hotly debated issue, the country over. It's something that I struggle with often, seeing how hurtful people can be about it and how hurt people are for it, ya know?

    A guy that used to intern at my church (you might remember him, Tim Ciccone) has a blog (timciccone.wordpress.com) where he opened a dialogue about this very thing. A woman commented that we should also take into consideration 2 Timothy 2:13 when approaching this topic. Once a person accepts Christ as Savior, that's it. There's nothing a person can do to make that not be.

  6. Well said. I think you touched on some great points. Sin is sin. My lie is no worse than someone engaging in a homosexual relationship. The hardest part for me, is that when someone claims to be a Christian,I am assuming they are actively pursueing a relationship with Christ above all else. When we choose to identify ourselves with Christ and his guidance for us through the Bible, I can not justify in my own mind, how you would willfully choose sin, the Bible states I Cor 6:9-11, Do you not know the wicked will not inhert the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral not idoloters nor adulteres nor male prositutes nor homosexualy offenders nor theives nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers will inhert the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were santified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I look at that passage and realize everyone of us fit into it somehow, homosexuality is no more a sin that being drunk or slandering someone. However if we choose to indentify and choose to be justified through Christ we are a new creature, the old is washed away. So in my mind faith and sexuality can not be seperate, because we can not pick and choose which parts of Christ we will give him, it is all or nothing. When he died on the cross, he didn't say well this is only for the liars, or theives, but for all humanity and all sin. Now when you accept Christ do you atomatically stop sinning, no! But I think you become more aware of it and choose to try to follow his teachings. We all struggle with some form of sin, for some it just happens to be more out in the open. But I think it is that struggle, our constantly remembering our own humanity, that leads us back to his arms daily. I think you are right that we are not to judge, Christ didn't judge the woman caught in adultery. He met her where she was,in her shame, literally stripped bare about to loose her life. Did he condem her, no he forgave her. But he also called her to a life of pursuit, to go and sin no more. Truthfully, I have a hard time with people who profess to be Christian yet their lives have no evidence of it. I feel like either give it your all or get out. Your quote of Ghandi was right, if Christians really lived up to the purpose we are called to, everyone would want in. That said, we are all sinners, and I think people are especially judgemental of Christians because we are supposed to be perfect, but we aren't, otherwise we wouldn't need Jesus. So as far as Jennifer Knapps situation. Is she talented yes. Is she being honest yes! Will her choice to profess Christ and still continue in a homosexual relationship affect my thought towards her music, yes. I say that because if she were to say homosexuality was a struggle, one that she has dealt with for awhile, but was actively pursuing Christ. I would support her no doubt, but I think you cross a fine line when you pick and choose which part of the Bible you choose to obey, and since she chooses to be both Christian and openly homosexual, I will not support that. Do I not care for her, no acutally the opposite,I am sadden by it. I pray for her because I am sure it is struggle everyday. To truely follow Christ you must deny yourself daily, your wants, your desires. But when you follow Him wholeheartedly your wants and desire become His.

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