Friday, November 23, 2007

They Like Jesus but not the Church

I am reading a VERY good book right now called They Like Jesus but not the Church written by Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz California. Please visit http://www.dankimball.com/ to read more about him. I love his theology and the way he presents it.

If anyone reading this is wondering about Christianity and the way it is presented to non-believers, I would recommend this book. He also has another one coming out specifically for those who struggle with difficult questions and negative perceptions of Christianity and the church. It is entitled I Like Jesus but not the Church.

Here is an excerpt in the book that I read that talks about homosexuality and the "church". he speaks with a gal named Penny who is homosexual.

From the chapter The Church is Homophobic pages 146-148

THEN I ENTERED THE CHRISTIAN SUBCULTURE
Coming from that background, I entered evangelical subculture and was pretty amazed at most Christians' lack of understanding of homosexuality. One of the first things I noticed was the church consistently made a big deal about homosexuality and sex outside of marriage. I listened to how sermons depicted homosexuals and how Christians talked about them, and it seemed like they were talking about people I had never met. One time I went to a Christian camp and they showed a video clip of the gay parade in San Francisco. It showed people in drag and in bondage leather walking around and making out in front of the camera. The speaker said something like, "This is what homosexuals are like!" He tried to rally the youth at this camp to see how terrible homosexuals are. I remember thinking, I have known several gay people, and none of them dressed like that, acted like that, or marched in a gay parade. It seemed to me the speaker characterized a group of people in an extreme way in order to manipulate impressionable Christian teenagers. I was pretty shocked at the stance most churches took toward all homosexuals, looking at them as their enemies.

Granted, a small percentage of homosexuals does fit in that extreme category. But so do some Christians fit in an extreme category, such as the fringe group that carries "God hates Fags!" signs in public places. In the same way that people in emerging generations see extreme Christian groups and think that's what all Christians are like, so have some Christians drawn conclusions about gays that are more caricature than reality. From what I experienced, most gays are regular folks, living normal lives just like straight folks, and aren't bent on converting children or anyone else to their sexual orientation. Yes, vocal gay activists get the press and are probably the ones you see on the street. But we can't let them shape our impression of gays as a whole. We don't like it when Christians are stereotyped by extremists, and we shouldn't stereotype others because of extremists we see. Imagine if all Christians were stereotyped by the extreme fringe Christian groups who hold up signs saying "God hates America" and God Hates Your Tears" at funerals for American soldiers killed in Iraq. They get the media attention by their actions, but by no means do they represent the majority of Christians. We shouldn't be stereotyping homosexuals in this manner either. I think Penny put it well:

I am not a gay activist. None of my friends are gay activists. I am just Penny. I don't want people to regard me just by my sexuality. I want them to consider what kind of person I am. Am I loving? Am I caring? Why do Christians think that all gay people are like the ones who are dressed half-naked in leather out marching in the gay parade? That is so far from the truth. It would be like me thinking that all Christians are like Jerry Falwell telling people to stay away from Teletubby dolls or that all Christians bomb abortion clinics.

Remember what Karen said it was like for her, struggling as a teenager with her sexuality but feeling uncomfortable about confiding in people in her church? How many in our youth ministries right now are like Karen, struggling with same-sex attractions but unable to talk with the pastor or youth pastor because they heard them say how horrible all gay people are? What torment we must put people through, people who are trying to follow Jesus and need someone to talk to. We basically haven't left them much choice other than to go to a gay church, like the Metropolitan Church or some other church that endorses gay marriages and ordains gay pastors. But that's not what Penny would want to do:

If I were to go to a church, I wouldn't want to be part of a gay church. Because that is not my primary identity. I don't want to be ghettoized. It is very sad, Dan, feeling that even if I wanted to go, I don't feel the church would welcome me, so I don't go.

Some readers may say, "Well, sinners don't want to admit their sin and that's why they don't go to church." That's true to an extent. But again I want us to put ourselves in other people's shoes. I was once getting my hair cut by someone filling in for my regular stylist. When this girl, around twenty-five years old, asked me what I do, I told her I'm a pastor and asked if she has ever gone to church. Without hesitation, she said, "Oh no. I am gay. You wouldn't want me there." How horrible that we have painted the church in such a way that we get that as a response from someone on the outside looking in.

3 Comments:

Blogger Jeni said...

Very good post, Keith. All too often each side - gay, straight, Christian, non-Christian paints the other groups into a picture that is their view of those people but isn't actually a representative portrait of any group per se. Christ called ALL of us - not a select few - to come unto him for healing, comfort, peace love. And that means regardless of one's place in life -rich, poor, straight, gay, ethnic group, you name it. Just my opinion.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

And I so agree with your opinion on this.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Crusader said...

Amen.

God is love.

9:23 PM  

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