A comment on my previous post which will probably won’t make anyone any happier…

August 5, 2011 — 3 Comments

In my previous post I raised some questions related to a statement that Amy DeLong made in regards to change and grace. Several folks have rightly suggested that I took the sentence in question out of context, and that Amy was obviously referring to change in regards to GLBT folks who have spent their lives being confronted with the call to be something other than who they are. I understand her argument from that perspective, and recognize that all whose backs are up against the wall need to know of God’s amazing love and willingness to accept us as we are.  If I unfairly raised questions for conversation that were less than sensitive to that context, then I apologize for my late night writings when I should have taken more time to reflect on that context.

But here is the problem when any of us speak in a public forum related to the things of God — what we say is important for we have no control regarding how they are heard by others. We may understand our intended context, but others may not, or in the scanning of an article that context may completely be passed over. More importantly definitions of God’s grace and issues of inclusion and exclusion are rarely adequately explained by pithy soundbite theology that fails to deal with the deeper issues of God’s nature and our response.

Some take this as a deliberate attack on Amy DeLong, suggesting that I deliberately interpreted her words out of context to make a point. “It’s obvious she means that God doesn’t require one to change one’s sexual orientation,” some of you have said. And in re-reading the statement with that context in mind, I can certainly understand that interpretation. Yet, my first reading was based in a different context — a context where discipleship has been cheapened into moral therapeutic deism, and where change is generally resisted. My context is one that is hesitant to claim the transformative power of Jesus Christ’s love and grace, and in their holding onto tradition is sometimes resistant to the call of embrace. Any misinterpretation that I may have in her words is based in the reality of where I live, just as the interpretation of her words in others ways is based in the context of where she lives.

Where I continue to struggle is that I think there are so many better ways she could have responded to the question — ways that make specific claims of God’s welcome, love and acceptance, ways that acknowledge the reality and power of God’s presence in her life, and ways that focus on God transformative power for all. We are all being called to be “perfected” (to use a Wesleyan word), which I believe is the movement from the false and distorted self that is the result of human sinfulness toward the true and honest person that God intends for us to be.  What I heard in the soundbite seemed like simplistic responses to a question that offered great opportunity for engagement about the church’s mission, which is more than being “positive” but rather involves being faithful to God’s call of love and grace.

So yes, I took her statement out of context. I’m sitting in my office under sackcloth and pulling out the ashes.

I simply wonder if there isn’t a better way to convey what she was trying to say.

 

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3 responses to A comment on my previous post which will probably won’t make anyone any happier…

  1. 
    Jennifer Freeman August 5, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Jay, I took no offense at all and agreed with your post as far as if someone took a little piece of it. If you read it the way you did, I’m sure a lot of people would have, too. I would have made the same mistake she did because people have said it to me so much, about changing, that I thought it was just as prevalent a word (about sexual orientation) in everyone else’s world as mine. I can see now, though, that it wouldn’t be the case. People have commented on how I should change so much over my 49 years as a gay person, that if someone walked up to me and said, “You need to change.” I would automatically take it that they meant my sexual orientation. If they said, “Come here, I want to show you a verse in the Bible,” I would automatically think they were going to show me one of the 6 clobber passages because that’s almost totally what people have pointed at when showing me a verse out of the blue. You may want to write to her and tell her how you took it, just to get her to maybe say it in a more specific way.

  2. 

    I Think the context of the passage is important, but not just the context of the article. Regardless of Amy DeLong’s meaning, the context of of the bigger conversation that includes assumptions on the part of participants. In light of the latter, Jennifer’s point makes a lot of sense. There is an unspoken (or often spoken) context of all conversations that take place regarding GLBT issues that will be taken as THE context unless defined otherwise. In this situation, “change” will be assumed to apply to a specific type of change. On the other hand, Rev. DeLong’s comment, (if it was quoted correctly,) still touches on a point of great importance. We, as Christians will be transformed and will continue to change as we grow in Christ. Even though I took the statement to be targeted at a specific change (sexual orientation) when I first read the passage, I still felt that it was encompassing the idea that we will not change in general. What form the change takes in our lives we do not get to choose, if we are truly open to God’s will. If we believe that He takes GLBT or other issues off the table, so be it. However, such a statement is going to be open to misinterpretation as a blanket statement covering change in general. If, in fact, she meant it as blanket statement, we are back to Jay’s original post.

  3. 

    The problem is that both 1950’s liberal protestantism is fully at home with the absolutist relativism and narcicisstic hedonism under which the homosexualist army marches.

    Bishop Timothy Whitaker correctly points out that a biblical and christian anthropology rightly rejects the notion that there is such a thing as a homosexual. And this must be, because there is absolutely no support for the notion that homosexuality (so-called) is innate.

    And yes, Amy was referring to the fact that the “glbt folks” (homosexualists) rebelliously insist that their “practice” (women having sex with women, men having sex with men) embrace their sinful practices as central to their identity as persons, and by God, they damn well are not going to change. Because they do not want to.

    No, thank God, we don’t have to give up our sin for Jesus to accept us as we are. But we reject his offer of grace to become who we were meant to be at great peril.

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