6.7.09

"What Matters More" -- Derek Webb, Stockholm Syndrome

Some of you may have been following the controversy and performance art marketing of Derek Webb's new project Stockholm Syndrome. The song centered in the controversy was released by 20 thumb drives hidden strategically and put together over the weekend. If you want an audio only mp4 of the song, you can get it here.

Take a listen - what do you think? Right message? Wrong message? I think it's "so susan isaacs". Can I say that?

74 comments:

  1. Interesting. I'm not sure I completely understand what he's saying. I mean, Christians shouldn't be mean to gays, that I understand. But the part about being straight is all that matters to the person he's singing to...I don't get that.

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  2. Maybe it would help if I post the lyrics, because I'm hearing/reading more to it than that:

    Lyrics:

    You say you always treat people like you like to be
    I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
    You love when people put words in your mouth
    'Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak

    'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
    You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak
    Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak
    Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

    If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
    Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about
    It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
    Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings

    'Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face
    About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save
    Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a shit
    About 50,000 people who are dyin' today

    Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
    Tell me, sister, what matters

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  3. @James: I think Webb's song is saying Christians care more about people being straight than dying of AIDS.

    Not sure what was so controversial. I mean, sure, it's controversial to Christian culture, but it doesn't seem over-the-top considering changes to the church in the last 5 years or so.

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  4. yeah, i agree with jordan on the topic. i think "it doesn't seem so controversial" is why he thought he could get away with releasing it when he originally recorded it. it's a shame the christian music industry is so cowardly, and can't take a stand on truth when faced with the likelihood of someone getting offended. it's a good thing Jesus didn't have that problem.

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  5. I think the attitudes reflected in this song were much more accurate a few years ago than they are now. I don't know every Christian in the world, but I know a lot, and I just don't run across anyone these days who cares more about someone's gay-straight status than if they are dying of AIDS. I don't know anyone who hates gays.
    I guess we'll always have a few (Fred Phelps being the best-known example), just like we'll never completely remove racism. But gay-hating Christians are very much in the minority in 2009.

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  6. i think the tide is shifting, but i think it'd still be a stretch to say they're in the minority. the religious right is self destructing, but there are still plenty of people who hold on to their values.

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  7. First off, Derek is borrowing the phrase "we don't give a shit" from Tony Campolo about people dying in Africa that Tony made to shock the audience into attention at a Wheaton College chapel a number of years ago. He's also starting a new website giveashit.org to raise awareness and funds to build latrines in Africa to stop the spread of disease.

    You all are right to a point; it's not so controversial to us, but it is still is to Christian culture at large. There are very few Christian retailers who would ever sell this album with this song on it. It's happened to Derek before, and it's happened to others. During a radio interview Susan mentions a similar discussion with her editor in cleaning up some of her text in her book so that it could be presented to a wider audience.

    But the gay/straight issue is far from shifting. In the denomination I presently attended (PCUSA), every 2 years a fidelty/chastity/homesexuality amended gets passed at the General Assembly only to be shot down when it gets to the presbytery votes. Except that in each of the last 3 cycles, the margin of defeat has gotten smaller and smaller.

    From the very first cycle, churches are leaving the denomination to join a different Presbyterian denomination, which doesn't seem that unusual. Except there are differences of opinion as to who owns the land and/or the building: the church or the presbytery. So there are literally civil lawsuits against churches or against presbyteries. A clear case of 'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
    You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak.


    The political momentum of the religious right might be fading, but that is just pushing these opinions into the shadows: "what I believe is my own private right, correct? But if you teach my kids in public school that homosexuality is OK, then ..." Isn't that how it's going to continue? Not all pastors are like Greg Boyd and becoming a-political.

    I wish they would. But I know that I still have a long way to go to be more like Jesus in this area.

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  8. Tim, if I am reading you right, you seem to be drawing a parallel between denominations taking a stand against acceptance of homosexuality as non-sinful behavior and hate. Those are two different things.
    Casting those of us who regard gay sex as sin in the same league as hating gay people is, ironically, a very prejudiced position to take.
    I said that I don't see a lot of Christians hating gays these days, because Webb uses that word in this song. But Christian leaders voting to not allow gay leaders or--as happened last week--parting ways with a church in Ft Worth which is on record as being accepting of gay sex is nowhere near being hateful.

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  9. right, because these denominations don't allow any sort of sin within their leaders, they're not singling out homosexuals. obviously if they found out one of their leaders had ever told a lie, he'd be out on the streets too.

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  10. James - no, I'm not drawing that parallel at all. Or at least I don't mean to. I was mostly trying to point out that a.) this is very controversial in Christian culture and b.) the homosexual issue, at any level, is still very much in high tide.

    As for the example of the PCUSA, that goes to Webb's repeated questions: what matters more to you?.

    In the larger context of hating gays, let's discuss what that really means. Does it mean always voting against legal rights or privileges of unions and benefits? Does it mean always voting against leadership or membership in a church community?

    Or is there a difference word that hate for that? From Google, I read that hate means dislike intensely; feel antipathy or aversion towards; the emotion of intense dislike; a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action.

    Based on that last definition, would that parting ways with taht church in Ft. Worth be hate because there was "a feeling of dislike so strong that it demands action." I would have said no before reading that definition.

    I don't have time at the moment, but I have to read more about the love God/hate family context Jesus talks about in the gospel to see if there is anything we can pull in here.

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  11. If a a church/denomination's leadership reads Scripture and determines that it says that gay sex is sin, then by extension, they have a responsibility to take care to only place men and women who are committed to Jesus in places of leadership that shape the lives of others.

    I am not in church leadership, but if I were, and because I believe that homosexual sex is an act that is sin, I would ask persons actively participating is sexual sin to withdraw from influential positions in order to concentrate on their own repentance and getting their spiritual lives in order.

    I'd do this regarding a leader involved in any sexual sin. Scripturally, homosexual sin is not worse than adultery or an unmarried couple who are having sex, but it's not better, either.

    Note that I am not talking about someone who has such sins in their past. But the church in Ft Worth was actively endorsing current sexual behavior. If it were about past sins, there would be no church leaders if that were the case. Because all of us have done things listed in 1 Corinthians 6.

    If I were in leadership and applied the principles I described above, it would not be hate at all.

    I have no problem with anyone, be it Tim McGeary or Derek Webb, disagreeing with me about a theological point. But please don't characterize those who have such disagreements with you as hate. It's an unwarranted accusation.

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  12. I hardly think a denomination having debates over homosexual acts being sinful is an example of hate. Nor do I think asking rhetorical questions about whether they'd allow a pastor who'd ever told a lie is a good analogy. A more apt one would be whether a denomination would allow a pastor who is in an extramarital sexual relationship or is a single pastor that was sleeping with his girlfriend to remain in the pulpit would be more on point.

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  13. maybe not who ever told a lie, but who told a lie while being the pastor. you might not thing the two sins are equal, but paul did (maybe slander specifically, but still). or a divorced pastor who is remarried, that's one that Jesus actually talked about, so it should carry more weight for those who claim to follow Christ than homosexuality, which He never mentioned.

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  14. maybe not who ever told a lie, but who told a lie while being the pastor. you might not thing the two sins are equal, but paul did (maybe slander specifically, but still). or a divorced pastor who is remarried, that's one that Jesus actually talked about, so it should carry more weight for those who claim to follow Christ than homosexuality, which He never mentioned.

    Complete non sequitur. Christ also never mentioned incest or pedophilia. Are those up for debate as well?

    While they have similar weight in that they are both sins and therefore need to be repented of, they are not in the same league. And if you really think that tells a lie is the same as murder simply because both are sins, you're just not thinking clearly. Heck, even two lies aren't of the same weight. If you lie about whether you think a certain dress makes your wife look fat, that's bad, but no on the same level as telling a lie that results in someone losing their job or getting someone killed. Plain reason should tell us that much. So while a pastor telling a lie is a serious thing, it's not the same as a pastor cheating on his wife or engaging in gay sex. Sorry.

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  15. Aaron, I don't understand your post. Your last sentence has to do with whether Jesus mentioned homosexuality, and by implication, you are saying that it's not a sin. We can disagree about that respectfully, but that's another blog post. The question here is whether or not it's acceptable to brand those of us who do believe Scripture calls it a sin as haters.

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  16. Aaron, to answer what I think is your point: there's a big difference between past sin and current sin. If a preacher has ever lied, he's not going to be tossed out of his position. And in 98% of current churches, the same would apply if he has homosexuality in his past. In fact, there are some great ministers out there who do have sexual sin in their past. But we aren't talking about that.

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  17. I agree with James. There is a middle ground to take here where you can love someone and not engage in hate but still think something they are doing is a sin. And believing that the thing in question is sinful may mean that you don't allow those who unrepentantly or repeatedly engage in that conduct to hold certain leadership positions in the church. That is also not being hateful.

    Can some churches and denominations stand to be more consistent in applying this principle? Sure. But it's consistency that's needed, not a "new and improved" principle.

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  18. ok, i had already updated my statement to only include current sin, so you can throw that all out. but sin is sin. in the eyes of God, all sin is equal. if someone is a murderer or a liar, without Jesus they'll be condemned to hell for their sin. so common sense may say that one is worse than another, and the earthly punishment for one might be worse than another, but in the eyes of God they get the same punishment. so if someone continues to engage in homosexual acts or continues to tell lies, they should have equal consequence.
    my saying that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality wasn't to say that it's not a sin (i do believe that's up for debate, but i'm not going to touch on that here). it was just to help put things in perspective. if homosexuality were the super sin that trumps all others like the church treats it, then Jesus probably would have said something about it at some point. in the realm of sexual sin however, Jesus did say that if someone gets a divorce and then remarries, it is adultery. this practice has become so common that the church doesn't think twice about it, ignoring the words of Jesus in favor of more obscure passages that touch on what they choose to focus on.
    to sum up... i'm not saying that it's necessarily wrong for churches to treat homosexuality as a sin, but it's wrong to say that that's all that they're doing if they don't treat other sins equally. and since we all sin, it's not right to single out homosexuality. i don't think it's a stretch to call that hateful.

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  19. I don't know what to tell you, Aaron. My recent church experience has not been like what you are describing. I saw a good pastor lose his job over adultery recently. I saw another one a few years ago lose his job because of a very strong addiction to porn. I see churches treating sexual sin as sexual sin. And they're not firing people as punishment, but to allow the leaders to take time to repent, and get healing for themselves and others affected by their sin. It doesn't mean God is done with them, or that the ones who are asking them to step down are hateful in any way.

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  20. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a church where a pastor continues to be caught in blatant lies, especially about serious matters, and it's not grounds for being removed from the position. Plus, there is a difference between someone who tells a lie or two over a period of years and a "liar" -- one who tells lies regularly.

    And I'm sorry but some sins are more serious than others. Even the OT laws reflect this by the punishments God prescribed. Some punishments were things like restitution or some other form of chastisement. Others garnered a death sentence. So evidently God considers some sins as more grave than others.

    The Catholic church talks about mortal sins and whether you agree with them or not, I think they reasoning is illustrative. A mortal sin is one that involves a grave or serious matter and is done with full knowledge it's seriousness and wrongness plus consent of the will. Some things concern grave matters but are done out of neglect or without full realization of the implications of the action. Other things are done with full knowledge but are not over serious matters. ALL of these are sins, but while non-mortal sins certainly affect one's heart and conscience and relationship with God, serious mortal sins take such a searing of the conscience and willful hatred and disregard for those sinned against, it can remove one from a state of grace ("cause one to lose their salvation" in Protestant Arminian parlance).

    Now I say all that not to get into a debate over Catholic doctrine but just to give an example of what's being discussed here. One cannot seriously argue that God treats all sins with equal weight.

    Yes, dying in a state of willful unrepentance from any sin can send them to Hell. But it does not therefore follow that all sins are equally serious as it applies to one's qualifications for leadership roles in the church here on earth.

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  21. By the way, isn't in 1 Corinthians that Paul actually gets onto a local church for not dealing with sexual sin among its members? Clearly, there's an obligation there to not simply stand by and not be "judgmental".

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  22. Ragamuffin, I think Aaron has a point in when he says that sexual sin is more or less equal in God's eyes. I just disagree with him that there are a bunch of churches treating the issues that unequally. There might be a small number, less than one percent. But it's an exception, not the rule.

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  23. Ragamuffin, I think Aaron has a point in when he says that sexual sin is more or less equal in God's eyes. I just disagree with him that there are a bunch of churches treating the issues that unequally. There might be a small number, less than one percent. But it's an exception, not the rule.

    If that's his point, I'd agree with him. Homosexual acts are no worse than adultery or heterosexual fornication. But then he keeps going back to the issue of lying or other sins and I don't agree with that. Murder is more serious in God's eyes than stealing someone's stereo.

    Again, the qualm should be with churches applying the principle consistently, not over whether the principle should stand at all.

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  24. ok, here's a better example for you... Jesus says that if you look at a woman lustfully, it's just as bad as if you commit adultery with her. now first, obviously you wouldn't agree with that. obviously adultery would be cause for a broken marriage, while checking out a girl at the mall would not be. but Jesus says they are equal. so to continue that line of thought, have you ever heard of a pastor losing his job for checking out a girl he wasn't married to? i haven't. and i'm waiting for an example of a pastor being let go for being in a second marriage. if 99% of all churches hold to that, then it should be pretty easy to find examples.
    but if we're going to differentiate between severity of sin, i don't think you can put homosexuality on a level with adultery, and definitely not on a level with murder. i think for one sin to be considered worse than another, it should be judged by who is affected. in adultery, you're hurting yourself and your family. in murder, there's an obvious victim. who is the victim in a loving, monogamous homosexual relationship? you could make the argument that they're having sex outside of marriage, but that would just lead to people saying "so let them get married already!" i'm asking honestly, who is hurt by this? how could someone equate homosexuality with murder (which happens far too often) and still be able to claim that they're treating this person in a loving manner?

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  25. To allow someone to stay in a position of leadership while practicing homosexuality is not a victimless crime. This has nothing to do with allowing someone to get married.
    And I have seen pastors forced to resign when they got a divorce.

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  26. And for the record, I totally agree that many Christians treat homosexuality as worse than other sexual sins. In fact, if you do a Google search for "how should christians treat homosexuals?" the #1 item is a piece I wrote a few years ago: http://www.middletree.net/hs.asp
    My point is that Webb is out of line if he has swung the pendulum too far the other way, and considered those who regard gay sex as sin to be haters. There may be a few who are as he characterizes them in the song, but IMO, it's very few.

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  27. Great discussion, guys. Beyond my expectations. I'm sorry for steering the conversation to church leadership because I think that is just one (and small) example of what Derek is getting at.

    I do want to add two questions to the mix:

    1) are you discussing your POVs from the perspective of homosexuality as actions or as an identity? Is a person who identifies him/herself as homosexual but remains chaste welcome in our Kingdom communities?

    2) I don't think anyone touched on the literal definitions of hate but rather the standard political view, as in extreme intolerance. Moreover Jesus seems to talk in binary of love or hate. There's no in between: you me and hate family; cannot serve two masters - love one and hate the other or vice versa.

    How do we deal with that here? I've had enough gay friends or colleagues who are just like me struggling through life. Am I really loving them by voting against a legal status between them and the person they love? Is it not an unloving action to vote in a way that says "you are not worth the same rights as me"? If it is not love, then is that not hate?

    Getting back to Derek's point, is it more important for the Church to push any anti-gay agenda than it is to say the tens of thousands of people who die everyday of AIDS and starvation and other dieseases? Is it more important that we worry about correcting our image as a Church than saving lives?

    Sorry, that was more than two questions. :)

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  28. Very good questions, Tim. And before I respond, may I say I appreciate the generally cordial tone and lack of flames in these comments.

    As for one who has friends who are gay, I would say my answer about what to say to them depends on one things: are they Christian? If they aren't, then any conversation should be about Jesus, what He has done for and through me, and what He can do for and through you. You don't need to be straight as much as you need Jesus.

    If you are Christian, then Scripture is very clear that we are not to just pretend it's OK to be involved in sexual sin, whether it's porn, gay sex, or adultery. And it's not about looking down at someone. I am not disqualified to speak if I happened to have sinned before at some point in my life. I have an obligation to say something:

    Proverbs 24:24-25
    "Whoever says to the guilty, 'you are innocent'—peoples will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them."

    Ezekiel 3:18-19
    "When I [God} say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.


    Ephesians 4:25
    "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another."

    Colossians 3:16 NIV
    "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

    Now, I didn't make those up. And there are many many more. The bible couldn't be more clear about this.

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  29. You said: "are you discussing your POVs from the perspective of homosexuality as actions or as an identity? Is a person who identifies him/herself as homosexual but remains chaste welcome in our Kingdom communities?"

    Excellent question. Because of my perspective that research and the bible have shown, convincingly to my satisfaction, that many gays are, as a group, a bunch of hurting people, I would encourage a person who has strong feelings to seek out healing from God, made possible because of the work of Jesus. By healing, I mean healing the hurts that ultimately may be the root cause of feelings which did not come from God.

    Having said that, I wouldn't disallow such a person to be in leadership, as long as he agrees that such feelings are not in line with God's plan. This wouldn't be any different from any church's requirement that leaders are on the same theological page.

    Clearly, though, the sin is in the actual physical act itself, not the status as a gay man or lesbian.

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  30. Tim said: "Is it not an unloving action to vote in a way that says "you are not worth the same rights as me"? If it is not love, then is that not hate?"

    Tim, let's say you think that homsexuality is sin. Not better or worse than other sexual sins. But definitely sin. Wouldn't the loving thing be to tell your gays friend that what he is doing is not in his best interest? Is that not more loving than endorsing it?

    Let's say I walked into a room that you are already in. My hair is on fire. You immediately alert me to this condition. My reaction should be to address the situation, then show gratitude to you. Now imagine that my reaction goes like this: "Tim, how dare you tell me my hair is on fire! Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do to you?"

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  31. so why do christians spend millions of dollars to keep gay marriage illegal, but do little or nothing to make divorce illegal? or adultery? are the two sins not equal? why should one be legal and the other not? it's very hard for me to think of an answer to that that's completely removed from "because we hate them."

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  32. I guess because nobody has mounted an effort to make those things legal.
    Is there an organization out there trying to change laws about adultery that I don't know about? The gay marriage thing has been an organized effort by those who care about such things, and in response, others who hold the view that gay marriage should not be legalized have exercised their rights as Americans to oppose such changes. They didn't initiate this stuff. They are responding to what the other side has initiated.

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  33. On a slightly-related note, the mystery of what causes homosexuality is no longer a mystery after all: http://www.ananova.com/entertainment/story/sm_960575.html?menu=

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  34. 1) are you discussing your POVs from the perspective of homosexuality as actions or as an identity? Is a person who identifies him/herself as homosexual but remains chaste welcome in our Kingdom communities?

    I'm speaking of actions. A person with homosexual feelings who remains chaste and agrees with the Scriptures and historical Christian teaching that the actions are sinful is really no different in my mind than a single heterosexual person that acknowledges that sex outside of marriage is sinful and remains chaste.

    I would welcome such a person in the church community and think they should be eligible for leadership positions as well.
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    2) I don't think anyone touched on the literal definitions of hate but rather the standard political view, as in extreme intolerance. Moreover Jesus seems to talk in binary of love or hate. There's no in between: you me and hate family; cannot serve two masters - love one and hate the other or vice versa.
    I get that, but I don't care for the hyperbolic terminology. All it does is breed misunderstanding and defensiveness. Call it a disagreement. Call it insensitivity. But hate goes over the line to me and strikes the recipient of such a charge as an attempt to illegitimately stack the deck in the debate.
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    How do we deal with that here? I've had enough gay friends or colleagues who are just like me struggling through life. Am I really loving them by voting against a legal status between them and the person they love? Is it not an unloving action to vote in a way that says "you are not worth the same rights as me"? If it is not love, then is that not hate?
    That depends. If I'm saying they don't have the right to make a living, a right to housing, a right to basic protection from harassment and harm and so on, I'm in agreement with you. But I don't believe denying them a "right" to something that they can't have by definition is unloving. Marriage is a man and a woman. In some circumstances it has been a man and two or more women but that's not the norm nor the pattern God set forth and Scripture is replete with examples of the trouble such arrangements bring. If denying homosexuals the right to marry each other is unloving, I suppose I'm also unloving to polygamists or those who wish to create group marriages. They simply don't fit the proper definition of marriage and I don't feel any obligation to view this as their right to have.
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    Getting back to Derek's point, is it more important for the Church to push any anti-gay agenda than it is to say the tens of thousands of people who die everyday of AIDS and starvation and other dieseases? Is it more important that we worry about correcting our image as a Church than saving lives?

    Could we not do both. Not "anti-gay", but could we not stand firm on attempts to redefine marriage AND devote ourselves to loving homosexuals, the hungry, and those dying of AIDS and other diseases? Does one have to approve of drug and alcohol abuse to love and minister to those who abuse drugs or alcohol? This seems like a false dichotomy.

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  35. The next two comments include my response - apparently I wrote too much:

    Again, great continuation of this discussion. I also appreciate the cordial tone, which I think is necessary for any type discussion. I'm going to try to answer some of my own questions and others raised. I'll try to go in order of the comments since I have to scroll back and forth.

    I appreciate the overall view that sexual sin in all forms is sin. I would add I think sexual sin is enhanced in its taboo-ness or consequence because of the very intimate nature of sexuality. The taboo-ness is what concerns me the most because we've placed it on such a high shelf it seems we've ruined all open conversation of sex in general.

    I thought Erwin McManus did a very interesting and thorough sermon on Sex in an open sermon series he did based on questions from that fellowship. You can find it through the Mosaic podcast in iTunes. One line he said stood out: (paraphrased) Sole or primary identity based on sexuality is not good for anyone. We are much deeper than that.

    Through this, I would agree with James with the assertion or understand that many gays are, as a group, a bunch of hurting people. Tony Campolo as sociological research supporting this, too, but I would broaden it to say we are all hurting people. We all have our identity baggage that wounds us from fully knowing the love of Jesus.

    Because church leadership keeps coming up, I'll throw this out there. I don't think there is any scriptural basis for the present level of church leadership we have in place. None of the marks of leadership that Paul wrote about actually translate into the hierarchical and authoritative leadership we have in pastors, elders, deacons, etc. The scriptural basis of leadership is servant-based, exemplified by Jesus and spelled out clearly in Philippians by Paul. The qualities or "requirements" of leadership was not for those to lead over people, but for the protection of those who served under the church communities - to ensure they had what it takes to not lose their faith footing while taking on the serving tasks to support the faith communities.

    So with that said, I can't participate in the same manner about whether someone should or shouldn't be in church leadership. I would rather say discuss whether it is wise for someone to participate in church servanthood for the good of themselves and the faith community.

    Aaron asks an interesting question so why do christians spend millions of dollars to keep gay marriage illegal, but do little or nothing to make divorce illegal? or adultery?. I will take the liberty to say that the way christians seem to spend these $'s is by donations to political campaigns, whether candidates or agenda orgs. I personally don't know why because I don't spend money in that way myself. In fact, I'm, generally, against legislating morality. But as a political centrist, but also on intellectually, I understand both perspectives of protecting the traditional definition of marriage between a man/woman and the legal difficulties of unmarried but committed partners. Honestly, the solution is very simple and done in Europe: a combination civil unions and marriage. In most places in Europe, you get a civil union license from the state and marriage is left for the church to structure. The civil and legal contracts are bound and fulfill by the CU and the church and faith keeps the definition of marriage. It's also pure separation of church and state, which I also support wholeheartedly.

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  36. Ragamuffin just wrote I get that, but I don't care for the hyperbolic terminology. All it does is breed misunderstanding and defensiveness in response to my summary question of love/hate binary language of Jesus. I understand the difficulty in dealing with that hyperbolic tension, but Jesus did that for a reason. It's our opportunity in discussions like these to break through the defensiveness and misunderstanding. But more importantly, it's a view of God. Does that hyperbolic or binary perspective challenge our very idea of what love really is? Can we really love homosexuals while working or support those to defeat their agendas politically? Can we really fit in the overused cliche of love the sinner hate the sin? That always makes me uncomfortable. Here's an example based on a conversation I had with a friend over breakfast this morning.

    There has been a person coming to one of our worship services who is a transvestite. Kind of hard to miss even in a crowd of 400. This person sought membership to our church and after discussion by our leadership, they extended a membership invitation with the caveat that future leadership would not be permitted. (ok, so now I'm bringing traditional leadership back into the conversation). My friend and I were discussing his conversation with another about whether this person should have been extended an invitation to join or not.

    As I understand the definition, this person is dress and acting in a manner that he is really a woman. That makes me very uncomfortable. I just don't know how to relate to that perspective. He sits in the front row and I watch the pastors week to week interact with him as normal as ever and think "I can't do that. I don't know how." And then I get sad. I wish I could. I see no reason why he cannot come worship. I see no reason why he cannot be loved by Jesus and us as a community. I see no reason why he can't participate fully in the live of our community. I see no reason why I can't learn more about him and his lifestyle. Except fear. It's out of my comfort zone. It's unfamiliar and un-"normal" to me. It's culture shock.

    Which brings me back to Derek's song. He is going for some culture shock here. And to answer Ragamuffin's question for myself - I'm not sure that I really can do both. I have a hard enough time doing love in the simplest way of giving my wealth away to the poorest of the poor.

    More to the point of your question, I have yet to find a way to love someone as Jesus did when their life and cultural perspective is so different than my own. So I'm very hesitant to stand against them on an intellectual or political position without really knowing them because that's all that will be seen: my position. And that's not what I want them to see - I want them to see the love of Jesus. I'm finding the same in the simplest of arguments with my wife. I'm sad when I realize or learn she only sees and hears my position and not my love for her. Really, truly, I want love to stand out.

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  37. Tim wrote "Can we really love homosexuals while working or support those to defeat their agendas politically?"

    Absolutely. As a dad, I love my children constantly by not allowing them to do things which they want, but which I know are harmful. God does the same. We, the church, are an extension of Jesus. Allowing the church to believe that sin is not sin is akin to harming the church. See the "hair on fire" description above.

    "Can we really fit in the overused cliche of love the sinner hate the sin? That always makes me uncomfortable."

    I'm sorry it makes you uncomfortable, but looking at the example set for us by Jesus, He managed to do both (a)make people uncomfortable; and (b)love the sinner while hating the sin.

    "As I understand the definition, this person is dress and acting in a manner that he is really a woman." This person should be loved by everyone in the church, no doubt. Does he have sex outside of marriage? If so, we see plenty of Scripture examples which tell us that his fellow church members should not fellowship with him. It's very clear. We can't just choose which scriptures we want to ignore.

    If I were in church leadership with this man, I would get to know him, find out what caused the hurts which have led to this behavior and address those.

    "I see no reason why he cannot be loved by Jesus and us as a community."

    I think that pretending that this behavior is what God wants for this man's life is the most unloving thing you can do. Please see my most recent blog post, which covers the topic of God watching us hurt ourselves with our sin.


    "I have yet to find a way to love someone as Jesus did when their life and cultural perspective is so different than my own."

    Jesus didn't tolerate sin. That's His way of loving people.

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  38. But here's the thing...it may be hard to do both but I think we *have* to give it our absolute best attempts. We won't be perfect at it, but I don't see maintaining a stance on morality and loving those who don't follow said morality as mutually exclusive.

    For example, the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn't condemn her in the sense that He shamed the Pharisees into not stoning her, not only because of their own sinfulness in other areas but because of their unequal treatment (where was the male participant waiting for his stoning?). Jesus looked on her with compassion but what He didn't do is affirm her in her okayness. He told her to go and sin no more.

    Yes loving people while still holding that some things they do are wrong is hard. Yes it seems at time to be two ideas in tension. Yes it's a tightrope to walk. But walk it we must.

    Now as to the hyperbolic language, I think we have to be careful in employing such language just because Jesus did, because we don't have the perfect knowledge and pure motivations that Jesus did. When we who do not typically evaluate others' motives properly and without prejudice start tossing about accusations like "hate", it does little to further the conversation. It's sort of like the advice you hear on "fighting fair" in a marriage. When arguing about something of importance to you both it's key not to use blanket statements or exaggerated words. Things like "you always do this" or "you never do that" should be off limits because the conversation only crumbles into bickering over whether it's *really* always or never and debating examples rather than the central issue. Similarly, don't tell the other person what they feel or what their motives are. It's fine to tell someone "when you do/say that it makes me feel unloved/hated/etc." But don't go and tell them "you only do that because you hate me." You don't know their heart so don't presume to.

    The question is whether you want to foster conversation or win an argument with rhetoric. To me, using words like "hate" to describe actions you don't like or disagree with steps over the line and presumes to know someone's motives and heart. And it's terminology destined to cloud the issue rather than effectively deal with it in conversation.

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  39. Tim said "is it more important for the Church to push any anti-gay agenda than it is to say the tens of thousands of people who die everyday of AIDS and starvation and other diseases?"

    Christians can walk and chew gum at the same time, Tim.

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  40. I think the point of this song is that we are distracted by discussions just like this one. This is the 41st comment. The last article about aids (http://burnsidewriterscollective.blogspot.com/2008/12/twentieth-anniversary-of-world-aids-day.html) generated 1 comment. Interesting comparison.

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  41. It is interesting, but then again, that article did not pose a question ask people to give their impressions on the subject. It reads almost like a PSA.

    On the other hand, this subject takes a provocative song on a controversial subject and asks people to engage the debate. It asks specific questions. And once you get a few answers to those questions, you get people responding to the responses and it snowballs from there.

    All that to say, interesting but not apples to apples.

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  42. Jeremy, I don't think the song is just about distraction. DW uses inflammatory, provocative accusations and words like "hate". It's bound to spark some discussion.

    In contrast, what more is there to say about AIDS? We all know it's bad. We all want a cure. There's very little to discuss there.

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  43. Jesus never condemned people who were considered sinners, we only see Him condemning religious people. with the woman at the well, He didn't "affirm her in her okayness," but he also specifically said that he didn't condemn her. he spent much of his time with the lowest of the low, but there's never any indication that He made sure they knew He thought they were the lowest of the low. i think that's pretty key to what tim is saying. you might think that treating homosexuals like lost children is a loving thing to do, but that's not really the example Jesus sets forth. Jesus loved people as friends, not as people who needed someone to tell them what they were doing wrong. it seems to be the people who would point out the sin that Jesus would condemn, saying "hey, you're not so great yourself you know."

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  44. First off, great comment Jeremy.

    Secondly, I think the point that Derek is making is in the title itself. "What matters more" to us as a church, and as Christians?

    Does it matter more that the people we can or do identify as "homosexual" are chaste, not in leadership, behaving themselves, repenting, and tighlty bound up into our straight interpretation of how they should act in order for us to accept them, or does it matter more for us to just see them as people Christ died for and love them without pre-qualifications.

    When I encounter a homeless person on the street I don't say, "ok well, before I give you this money I want you to promise me you won't spend it on drugs because drugs are sin and I can't make it seem like I encourage you sinning". That's proposterous. You give him money because he's hungry and he needs it, and Jesus commanded us to.

    It should be the same with homosexuals as it is with straight people. If someone straight comes into church you don't ask them to stop all their sins before fully accepting them, as I feel Christians expect gays to do. We're showing exactly what we think "matters more" by singling in on and focusing on their sexuality instead of their identity as people.

    I also completley agree with Tim who said that Europe's model for civil unions/marriage is what we should have here. Regardless of whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin the government should have no right to legislate laws based on religion. There's a reason we have seperation of church and state. Marriage SHOULD be up for the church to facilitate but the state sanctioned CIVIL rights afforded by it should be given to whichever two consenting adults would like it.

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  45. Jesus never condemned people who were considered sinners, we only see Him condemning religious people. with the woman at the well, He didn't "affirm her in her okayness," but he also specifically said that he didn't condemn her. he spent much of his time with the lowest of the low, but there's never any indication that He made sure they knew He thought they were the lowest of the low. i think that's pretty key to what tim is saying. you might think that treating homosexuals like lost children is a loving thing to do, but that's not really the example Jesus sets forth. Jesus loved people as friends, not as people who needed someone to tell them what they were doing wrong. it seems to be the people who would point out the sin that Jesus would condemn, saying "hey, you're not so great yourself you know."


    I think you make the mistake of equating "no condemnation" for "never mentioning that something is sinful." No he didn't condemn the adulterous woman, but neither did He act like her behavior was no big deal and just give her a hug. He said 'go and sin no more.' Implicit in that statement, as gentle and loving as it is, is the notion that what she had been doing is wrong and she should not continue in it.

    Neither is making such a statement "conditional acceptance." He walked that fine line just right: no condemning, uphold God's view on the matter, love the person.

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  46. exactly. which in this case would be "my personal view is that homosexuality is a sin, but i won't stone you by using all my time and energy to make sure you can't get married." there's a difference between acknowledging sin and actively working against people.

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  47. "All my time and energy?" What if I simply decide that when the subject comes up and I'm asked, I express my opinion on the matter and if given the opportunity to vote, I participate in the process and in good conscience vote against gay marriage?

    You seem to swing between these wild extremes of what the opposing position has to be without considering that the real situation on the ground is far more nuanced. One can be opposed to gay marriage without running around "stoning" people, ranting and raving about it all the time. You seem to be setting up this false dilemma where the only way not to "hate" is to simply abandon the discussion altogether or better yet, fully support gay marriage.

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  48. Aaron, for one thing it's not just about what Jesus said. He is referred to as The Word. The entire bible is the Word, and therefore it's all His words. Some of it happens to have been written through the likes of Paul, Moses, Peter, Isaiah, etc. But all the words of Scripture are Jesus' words.

    Secondly, Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more. Paul later told Christians to say the same toward Christians who were in sexual sin.

    Third, when Jesus called out the religious people, it wasn't because they were religious; it was because they were prideful. They put themselves and their mis-interpretation of God's commands above God Himself. That is no different from anyone in 2009 who would seek to place themselves above God's commands regarding sexual sin, including minimizing that sin.

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  49. I think it's the wrong message. I also thinks it's the wrong way to present any message.

    To use coarse language to try to slap other Christians for being against homosexuality doesn't make any sense. I've seen no place in scripture where coarse language is an approved tool of communication, so there seems to be a problem before we even get to Derek's point.

    And, without him explaining exactly what he's addressing, it's hard to know the details (and motivations) for what he's trying to say.

    I will say that I don't believe people are ever drawn toward repentance by being made to feel good about their sin or told that their sinful behavior is no big deal. Should we spit on the sinner? Of course not. Never. But we sure shouldn't pat him on the back and stand by his side when people who care tell him he's doing wrong (as verified by the scriptures).

    I can feel in my own heart that the times we live in now are tearing people away from the truth. (Hmm, seems like I've read somewhere that this would happen!) Of course I don't know what's going on in Derek's life, but seems to me that he's more caught up in creativity and controversy than he is being conformed more to Christ.

    The bottom line? would Jesus have made (and then profited from) this song?

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  50. Welcome to the discussion Jeremy, Emily, and Martt! I'm glad that you contributed.

    A couple things real quick - I forget where it is, but there is a place in Paul's letters where he uses the Greek for shit. I'm not great with my Greek or my memory of such references, but I have heard it discussed by people who know this better than I a few times. As far as what is course language, that is a bit more relative even than our conversation of what is love, sin, and hate.

    I'm seeing a couple patterns developing here, and I wanted to throw out an idea that comes from my review of Phyllis Tickle's book The Great Emergence which was published here a couple weeks ago. These are two patterns of community happening today in churches and faith communities:

    Believe -> Behave -> Belong

    Belong -> Behave -> Believe

    I'm not trying to tie down anyone to either of these streams, but I think each of you would feel more comfortable in one than the other. But they are diametrically opposed in how they build community and faith, and I think it is important to recognize that difference.

    It is equally important to recognize where we fail to live up to God's standard of love, which is what I am trying to communicate in some of my comments. Every Sunday morning I'm surrounded by a bunch of secretive sinners with whom I blend in perfectly. We don't have to deal with that in our face at all. But then someone different walks in to worship God who possibly to wear their sin on their sleeve or marked on their chest like an scarlet letter. My response in that moment is what defines what matters more to me. Right there in my heart, maybe on my face, but mostly in the secret of my heart. That's where I'm at in all of this discussion.

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  51. i'm mostly ready to step away from this discussion, but wanted to back up tim's last comment... the verse in question is philippians 3:8 "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" in the greek, the word that is translated as rubbish (skubalon)was a vulgar word for excrement, which would more accurately be translated as "shit." i think it's very sad that people find a need to censor the bible to make it acceptable to christians.

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  52. @aaron

    I'd say there's a big difference between using 'shit' to accurately describe something for comparison sake, and using it to be 'coarse' and to elicit a shocked reaction.

    When I was a kid, I heard my strong Christian grandad use the word once or twice to describe 'exactly what it was'. I knew it wasn't foul or coarse in that context.

    The way it's used by millions of people everyday (and I believe in this song) is specifically designed to be rebellious and shocking. I might be wrong, but seems the motivation to be rebellious and shocking is pride.

    So, if you were talking to me, I wasn't censoring (however, unlike the kids these days, I think censoring, at the right times, is not only a valid but absolutely necessary tool in living life)

    Rock on.

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  53. i wasn't talking about you, i was talking about the translators and publishers.

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  54. Those of you who don't think this song is relevant in 2009, I am curious to know what community/culture group you are a part of. I believe this song is still very relevant to a majority of people who call themselves Christians today.

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  55. James said

    "In contrast, what more is there to say about AIDS? We all know it's bad. We all want a cure. There's very little to discuss there."

    Really? Here are some discussion questions,

    How can we get the drugs we do have to the people most afflicted? How can we curb the spread of AIDs in areas with high poverty? How can I get my church to help with AIDs caregiver kit building? How do I contribute to the poverty that is causing massive inequity in the world... This is all so much more important than nuanced discussions about homosexuality.

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  56. I'm curious as to who said it wasn't relevant. I don't really think that's what the discussion has been about at all.

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  57. Really? Here are some discussion questions,

    How can we get the drugs we do have to the people most afflicted? How can we curb the spread of AIDs in areas with high poverty? How can I get my church to help with AIDs caregiver kit building? How do I contribute to the poverty that is causing massive inequity in the world... This is all so much more important than nuanced discussions about homosexuality.


    However, none of those questions were asked in the AIDS post. It read like an FYI or a public service announcement. On the other hand, this thread showed a video clip of a song that provocatively engaged the topic of homosexuality and the church and specific discussion questions were asked about what we thought of the song.

    Hence, you get discussion on one thread and none on another. If all these questions were of such burning importance, perhaps one of you who brought this up could have posed them on that thread.

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  58. Well I guess that is an indictment of us. That atrocity occurs, and we only comment when asked to.

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  59. I don't see it that way. The directives on that post were all things that we could be doing off this blog. It wasn't a call to debate or discuss the matter, it was a call to action...get involved, use Facebook, work with World Vision, demand universal access to ARVs, take 5 minutes to pray and fast...

    I really don't see the need to look down one's nose at this debate by comparing it to the lack of discussion on a completely different kind of post.

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  60. I think the not relevant opinion came early on when some comments indicated there wasn't the level of hate as DWebb describes in his song.

    As for what we can do, YES! That is the whole point. Here are two ideas, one that I partner and one forthcoming. Blood:Water Mission and Derek's future project to provide latrines to stem the spread of diseases through poor sanitation.

    Another albeit somewhat subversive method that I'm doing is removing my giving to my local church until our leaders stop wasting resources on unnecessary in-house programs and start focusing on these real needs, local and global.

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  61. How am I looking down my nose at anyone, when I have indicated my own guilt? I have never used language saying I am doing great things and anyone else is not. I am saying I am as guilty as anyone else.

    I say I am guilty because a discussion like this is easy by comparison, and clearly I am involved in it. Discussion of Aids demands action or apathy.

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  62. I'm sorry. I lumped you in with the sentiment of some that act like people are so silly to be discussing such trifling matters and that's not what you were doing.

    It just gets old to see the subject broached, then when you don't come to see things their way within a few posts, the derisive tone starts. "People are dying and all you care about is teh gays! Let them be!" *rollseyes*

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  63. If anyone took my statement about gay-hating being not as big as it used to be to mean that the issue isn't relevant, I want to clarify: I never meant that at all. I am saying it's easy to say in 2009 that Christians are mean to gays, when that statement was a whole lot more accurate a generation ago. It has never been more acceptable, in American society and in the church as a whole, to be gay, than it is now.

    Aaron has said that a portion of the church has recently began a campaign against one gay-related issue: the redefinition of marriage. But it's only recent because up till 5 years ago, nobody was calling for gay marriage. Those who are against it are just now getting vocal because that's their response to something they didn't initiate. Should they not respond?

    For the record, I don't care much about gay marriage. I'm specifically arguing against what I believe is a misrepresentation about anti-gay-marriage being some sort of attack.

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  64. great discussion so far.

    anyone want to comment on the lines about putting words in the other's mouth, or making the other sound like a freak? it concerns me that there's something about our church culture that doesn't elicit the voices of homosexuals, the homeless, the other. maybe dwebb is in part calling on us to listen. anyone had any experiences listening to the voice of the other within the church?

    about the coarse language, dwebb uses the word "damn" in a perfectly reasonable way. after all, it's the tongue that has the power to damn. the tongue is a matter of (eternal) life and death. strong language might be appropriate here.

    as for shit, good call on the tony campolo reference. perhaps we all agree that 30,000 kids dying each day from hunger (tony's number) is a miscarriage of justice, but we've fallen into tony and dwebb's trap: we're talking more about the medium than the message. 30,000 kids died last night. that sucks. Jesus is pretty upset about that. can i get a amen?

    and anyway, let's give dwebb some credit. perhaps christians really ought to follow paul's example and count as shit any religious pride that distracts even a little bit from talking about and doing Jesus' work.

    with love from the people's republic.

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  65. Jeremy, I took your discussion questions as a real request for conversation about the AIDS portion of dwebb’s song.

    Q: How can we get the drugs we do have to the people most afflicted?

    Since much of the conversation so far has been about legislation, we might talk about ways to end the for-profit “healthcare” system in America. Maybe providing necessary treatment to the least of these is a responsibility of the entire national community.

    Q: How can we curb the spread of AIDs in areas with high poverty?

    One thing we can do is stop having areas with high poverty! Insist on fair trade, call on congress and the president to stop funding the IMF and WTO’s neoliberal structural adjustments, switch the public debate from the “financial crisis” to the “food crisis” afflicting a couple billion people.

    Q : How can I get my church to help with AIDs caregiver kit building?

    I don’t have an answer to this, but I’d like one.

    Q: How do I contribute to the poverty that is causing massive inequity in the world.

    Let’s avoid this one. None of us likes feeling guilty.

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  66. @James - just real quick - the gay marriage agenda is not merely gained traction for the past 5 years. Clinton's administration passed the Defense of Marriage Act when it was clear a constitutional amendment wouldn't pass. It's been a bi-partisan issue from the start.

    Also, James, I've noticed in a number of conversations you and I have participated in that you are clear to draw a line about what is or isn't "an attack". I'm interested in learning more about why that delineation and if you were in the minority opinion's shoes what term you would use to replace "attack".

    @manley pointer - welcome! I'm glad you think this conversation is a good one. After 68 comments, I hope it's not a waste. :)

    I think the putting words in our mouth is a huge issue for Christians, especially when put into the media. It's been a huge issue, especially since 9/11, that Christian talking heads have played into the media context battle.

    Here's the razor's edge, though: christianity is most attractive and has grown the most when it is counter-cultural. Peter Gomes has an excellent description of this in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good About the Good News?. When the Church becomes too much like the culture, it becomes ineffective. But the teetering point comes with how is the counter-cultural perspective presented? Do we look like freaks out of touch with reality or do we look like something different that has a scandalous attraction that Jesus himself had?

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  67. Gosh, Tim, I don't remember why I used the word attack here. The length of posts is so long. In general, I have seen others call something an attack when they actually referring to comments that someone made, expressing their opinion, and not really attacking anyone. I guess if I had to define it, I'd say that true attacks are personal, commenting on the messenger instead of the message. But that's not a perfect definition.

    As for the 5 years thing, I wasn't sure about the timeline, but I was addressing Aaron's assertion that the anti-gay marriage folks only recently took it upon themselves to fight this particular item. The truth is that they were not proactive, but reactive. Gay marriage was never "attacked" before because it was never a possibility before.

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  68. Manley - I think your answers to the first two questions point towards an answer to the avoided question. I wonder if sometimes we back off a topic for fear of guilt, when really we are being convicted of something? Just to be clear I'm speaking of topics in my own life, not your comment necessarily. I recall the Rich Young Ruler left his interaction with Christ feeling very sad because he was very wealthy. I think that sadness was conviction. He saw his wealth as a roadblock yet was grieved by thought of giving it up. I think we have to wade into these issues, and wrestle with them. We can't be apathetic, and we can't be motivated by guilt. Somewhere Christ offers us freedom. Freedom (much like marriage) is a word we have asked the state to define for us, which is ridiculous. Freedom to the RYR could have looked an aweful lot like not be so attached to his wealth that he was grieved at the mention of giving it up.

    There is another article about Hoarding on the blog, and I think some of the response is related to this topic. Especially the mentioning of the parable of talents. Would God want us to invest in financial systems so we get a large monetary return, or we would He want us to invest in the Kingdom to get everlasting returns. I have really wrestling through these lately as they pertain to my life. It is often frustrating because I am so soaked in and biased by the culture around me. But we can't turn back when the conversation demands we make some choices that might require change.

    I've rambled enough caregiver kit info below

    http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/getinvolved/caregiver-kits-church-volunteer-activity

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  69. @James - it's cool. I just wondered if it the idea of attack had a substantial meaning to you personally in these discussions.

    I'm not sure if this is of interest to you all here, but I stumbled across this survey of spirituality differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals by the Barna Group as I was cleaning out my RSS feeds.

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  70. The album is quite good. Just download it.

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  71. Aaron, I so appreciate what you said. I been tired for a long time of feeling like homosexuality is the one intolerable sin for Christians, when really, it's a struggle that deserves the most compassion. That aside, I particularly LOVED your answer about Christians' involvement in the legislation of homosexual social issues. Why AREN'T people trying to pass legislation preventing divorce, or pornography, etc...things that absolutely tear people and families apart?
    I personally believe that Christians should never try to change people through politics, but through personal relationships.
    Anywho, I loved your comments on this very challenging topic. May we all have the humility to recognize sin as sin, and to have compassion for our fellow prisoners of it.

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  72. I must admit I did not read every post here, but certainly a large portion. Knowing Derek, I am fairly confident that his intent is not at all to attack the orthodox beliefs of the church nor to seek to change the church's moral standards for self-leadership. However, when the church attempts to take even Biblical qualifications for pastors, leaders, etc...and impose/legislate those views on any of the "least of these", then the church has missed the point of what said standards were all about.
    Also, a point of basic theology is that any sin (lie or sexual immorality) is punishable by eternal separation from God because any unrepented sin breaks relationship with Him. However, this does not mean all sin is equal in earthly weight or punishment.
    As a church leader, I have the Biblical authority and mandate to not endorse any sin as acceptable for other church leaders...and as a church leader, I have the Biblical authority and mandate to live my life in contact and concern for those who are hurting, needy, unclean, diseased, "untouchable". The problem I believe Derek seeks to address is when those two areas become blurred. That is, when I begin to accept the later as church leaders as well as when I begin to place the standards of the former on those who are not church leaders.

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