I spent my formative years attending the Amherst Foursquare Church. It pains me to type the word, “Amherst” because they were the arch-rivals of my hometown, Vermilion, idyllically situated on the shores of Lake Erie.
Anyway, the Foursquare Church is a Pentecostal denomination of a few million started by the early-century revivalist Aimee Semple-McPherson (who was a fascinating individual and figure). I never knew what all the fuss was over women’s ordination! My experience in the church was good and bad and I’m glad I grew up there.
So, one of the tenants of belief held by the Foursquare Church that I have come to appreciate is this:
We believe a Christiansâ€™ moderation should be obvious to others and that relationship with Jesus should never lead people into extremes of fanaticism; their lives should model that of Christ in uprightness, balance, humility, and self-sacrifice (Colossians 3:12, 13; Philippians 4:5).
It seems a bit ironic that Aimee penned this tenant, because, well, I suppose it was a tenant she hoped to live into because her life seemed not quite moderate. Moderation in all things – lives model after that of Christ consisting of balance, humility, and self-sacrifice. This is a good word.
I’m on a gay tangent, it seems. Perhaps because I am feeling the loss of relationship, and for a Christian living in New York City thinking about relationships, well, perhaps I should take up the Apostle Paul’s admonition to “remain as I am…” I don’t know.
After istening to the good pastor’s rant about “Sodomites” and how real men “pisseth against the wall”, see below, and then having listened to a Christian radio interview on 2/25/08 conducted by Dr. Larry Bates of the Info Radio Network between Peterson Toscano ( “a theatrical, performance, artist, a very queer and quirky Quaker, and an ex-gay survivor”) and a pastor from Central Church that hosted the “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference put on by Focus-on-the-Family, after listening to all that it is easy to get discouraged.
It’s just easy to be discouraged by the inability (and at this point I really do think it is more than simply an unwillingness, although for some it is intentional unwillingness) of people to comprehend a life of a gay person that isn’t anything other than the horrendous sex-crazed, drug addicted, disease inflicted, and hedonistic stereotypes Religious Right political groups and pastors and anti-gay activists unrelentingly present to the world. It is easy to become discouraged by the willingness of people who claim to be Christians and who knowingly deceive and scapegoat and castigate a whole class of people because they want power and money. These religious political groups have co-opted ex-gay ministry that I know originally had well meaning and caring people who were trying to help homosexuals (even if their theology and methodology was and still is screwed-up). It is discouraging when listening to Peterson who is still very much a Christian (even more so than when he was an ex-gay for 17 years, married to a woman, and with everything tried to be a former homosexual), and who defies all the stereotypes, yet they are not willing to question their own presuppositions – they will believe he is demon possessed and thoroughly deceived by Satan rather than consider the possibility that their understanding just might be wrong. These are the people and groups that are so influential within the Republican Party right now.
What this does to the psyche of young people who struggle mightily with their faith and orientation. It is easy living in New York City (or many other urban areas) to forget what it is still like in most of the rest of the country. As a Christian and as someone who went to seminary in one of the centers of urban, gay America, from whence the stereotypes come and are very real, I can’t help by feel a strong desire to minister to these lost souls, but to insist that every gay person (particularly Christian gay person) must be the poster-boy for the crystal-meth induced, sex-addicted, emotionally screwed-up “homosexual lifestyle” is just plain wrong. Just plain wrong. They can see an obvious exception to their stereotypic belief, yet they will not see, will not consider, will not believe anything other than the stereotype.
How do Christian gay people survive in this kind of climate – and what I mean by Christian gay people are those who desire to live within God’s ways even if to their own detriment, dying to self, and not seeking to appease their conscious by justifying what is not within God’s desire for all people regardless of orientation (and yes, I know that is a loaded statement that opens a can of worms of controversy). That sounds too much like what the anti-gay people say about homosexuality, period. Yet, God does call us to an ethic, a moral life, to be holy – but the standard is the same regardless of orientation and not bound up in culturally determined and nationalistic definitions.
It’s just discouraging. Meeting with the God of all things in the quiet of Evening Prayer has certainly been a balm to my soul.