Saturday, 30 May 2015

Julie Rodgers - Freedom through Constraint (a video)


I just watched this video for the third time and the 19 minutes passed by once again in a flash. Julie Rodgers is that captivating to watch. Her story helps too. I find that a lot of what she says resonates with me, perhaps because I've reached the same conclusions as she has at this point in my life.

If you've been reading her story on her blog, you'll have learnt that she developed a relationship with Jesus at a young age, but also found herself attracted to girls pretty early on. After years of struggling, she came out to her family who promptly whisked her to an ex-gay ministry where she spent the next 9 - 10 years "being loved really well", yet never experiencing an orientation change. Find out more about her story in the video, I won't spoil it for you.

Well, I do realise that having role models like her is really encouraging for people like me. I have yet to meet another gay person in the large megachurch that I belong to and in the meantime, I'm finding solace in the small group of trusted friends I've come out to in church that have been incredibly supportive and in the lovely support group ladies that I've met through Choices. Till then, I look forward eagerly to the day when I meet someone just like me at City Harvest. Haha. Let's see how long it takes...

Friday, 22 May 2015

On gay identity

It's a good thing I didn't post this when I wanted to and waited till now to do so. But perhaps it's all arranged by God. I don't know.

Anyway, I've recently been thinking a lot about my identity. Or rather, how my gay identity and my identity as child of God can be possibly be integrated. Or not.

As I was praying two weeks ago, I felt like God gave me a verse, of which I've since memorized and it was this:

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Marvellous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.
Psalm 139:14

Wow. I don't usually have a knack from memorizing Scripture, but this verse really stood out to me. Now let me elaborate.

If I am gay, and if that is disordered, how can I be fearfully and wonderfully made? And if I am not, then I cannot praise God can I? But I know and I believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Then how do I reconcile my gay identity with that then? Should I celebrate it then? But I can't bring myself to do that.

And so round and round and round these questions kept on going in my head. For a week.

So I shared them with Ian, a friend from my support group. And he said that if you see yourselves as "damaged goods", then that's that, you can't see yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made. But I couldn't help it? What was I to do?

I had the brilliant idea of heading to the excellent blog, Spiritual Friendship, founded by Wesley Hill and Ron Belgau and keying the words "gay identity" in their search bar. This yielded several good posts but none which addressed my issue.

Then I shared with my dear friend A and her husband T about this. And T said something that levelled the ground for me a little. He said, and I paraphrase, that you are expecting to be perfect when God said that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we are not perfect.

That made perfect sense to me.

But still, the questions lingered.

And then today, near the end of cell group, as we were worshipping, I was thinking about Vicky Beeching and how she said that God's a mystery. This was after thinking about the conundrum I've shared about earlier. Then S. who I barely knew, and whom I'm not out to, and knows about none of all that I've mentioned, came up to me and offered to pray for me for no apparent reason. I accepted and was completely blown away by the accuracy of her prayer.

I don't remember all of it, but one thing that stuck was this:

The secret things of the Lord belong to the Lord.

And that nailed it for me.

After the prayer, I was like, "What just happened?"

And I felt God whispering in an inaudible voice, "That was me child," giving a big grin as he did so.

Well, so right now, I don't have the answers to my questions, but I don't feel like I need them anymore.

Thank you Lord.

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Goodness of Singleness - an excerpt

"What does this mean for our attitude toward marriage and family? Paul says it means that both being married and not being married are good conditions to be in. We should be neither overly elated by getting married nor overly disappointed by not being so - because Christ is the only spouse that can truly fulfil us and God’s family the only family that will truly embrace and satisfy us.

With this background, we can better understand how radical Paul’s statements are regarding singleness and marriage. Stanley Hauerwas argues that Christianity was the very first religion that held up single adulthood as a viable way of life. He writes, “One… clear difference between Christianity and Judaism [and all other traditional religions] is the former’s entertainment of the idea of singleness as the paradigm way of life for its followers.1 Nearly all ancient religions and cultures made an absolute value of the family and of the bearing of children. There was a no honor without family honor, and there was no real lasting significance or legacy without leaving heirs. Without children you essentially vanished - you had no future. The main hope for the future, then, was to have children. In ancient cultures, long-term single adults were considered to be living a human life that was less than fully realized.

But Christianity’s founder, Jesus Christ, and leading theologian, St. Paul, were both single their entire lives. Single adults cannot be seen as somehow less fully formed or realised human beings than married persons because Jesus Christ, a single man, was the perfect man (Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22). Paul’s assessment in 1 Corinthians 7 is that singleness is a good condition blessed by God, and in many circumstances, it is actually better than marriage. As a result of this revolutionary attitude, the early church did not pressure people to marry (as we see in Paul’s letter) and institutionally supported poor widows so they did not have to remarry. A social historian described the practice:

Should they be widowed, Christian women enjoyed substantial advantages. Pagan widows faced great social pressure to remarry; Augustus even had widows fined if they failed to marry within two years. In contrast, among Christians, widowhood was highly respected and remarriage was, if anything, mildly discouraged. The church stood ready to sustain poor widows, allowing them a choice as to whether or not to remarry. [Single widows were active in care-giving and good deeds in the neighbourhood.]2

Why did the early church have this attitude? The Christian gospel and hope of the future kingdom de-idolized marriage. There was no more radical act in that day and time than to live a life that did not produce heirs. Having children was the main way to achieve significance for an adult, since children would remember you. They also gave you security, since they would care for you in old age. Christians who remained single, then, were making the statement that our future is not guaranteed by the family but by God.

Single adult Christians were bearing testimony that God, not family, was their hope. God would guarantee their future, first by giving them their truest family - the church - so they never lacked for brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, in Christ. But ultimately, Christians’ inheritance is nothing less than the fullness of the kingdom of God in the new heaven and new earth. Hauerwas goes on to point out that Christian hope not only made it possible for singles to live fulfilled lives without spouse and children, but it also was an impetus for people to marry and have children and not be afraid to bring them into this dark world. “For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope… that God has not abandoned this world…”3

The Christian church in the West, unfortunately, does not seem to have maintained its grasp on the goodness of singleness. Instead it has labeled it “Plan B for the Christian life.” Paige Benton Brown, in her classic article “Singled Out by God for Good,” lists a number of common ways that Christian churches try to “explain” singleness:
  • “As soon as you’re satisfied with God alone, he’ll bring someone special into your life” - as though God’s blessings are ever earned by our contentment.
  • “You’re too picky” - as though God is frustrated by our fickle whims and needs broader parameters in which to work.
  • “As a single you can commit yourself wholeheartedly to the Lord’s work” - as though God requires emotional martyrs to do his work, of which marriage must be no part.
  • “Before you can marry someone wonderful, the Lord has to make you someone wonderful” - as though God grants marriage as a second blessing to the satisfactorily sanctified.



Beneath these statements is the premise that single life is a state of deprivation for people who are not yet fully formed enough for marriage. Brown responds along the lines of Paul’s 1 Corinthians passage: “I am not single because I am too spiritually unstable to possibly deserve a husband, nor because I am too spiritually mature to possibly need one. I am single because God is so abundantly good to me, because this is his best for me.”4 That fits perfectly with the reasoning and attitude of St Paul. Christianity affirmed the goodness of single life as no other faith or worldview ever has."

1 Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), 174

2 Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 104

3 “We must remember that the ‘sacrifice’ made by singles was not [just in] ‘giving up sex’ but in giving up heirs. There could be no more radical act than that! This was a clear expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family, but by the [kingdom of God and the] church…” (Hauerwas, A Community of Character, 190). “[Now] both singleness and marriage are symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s witness of the kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to convert lives for the growth of the church, marriage, and procreation is the symbol of the church’s hope for the world.” (Hauerwas, 191)

4 Paige Benton Brown, “Singled Out by God for Good.” Available several places on the Internet, including www.pcpc.org/ministries/singles/singledout.php

An excerpt from The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The secret thoughts of an unlikely convert - an excerpt

"What good Christians don't realize is that sexual sin is not recreational sex gone overboard. Sexual sin is predatory. It won't be "healed" by redeeming the context or the genders. Sexual sin must simply be killed. What is left of your sexuality after this annihilation is up to God. But healing, to the sexual sinner, is death: nothing more and nothing less. I told my audience that I think that too many young Christian fornicators plan that marriage will redeem their sin. Too many young Christian masturbators plan that marriage will redeem their patterns. Too many young Christian internet pornographers think that having legitimate sex will take away the desire to have illicit sex. They're wrong. And the marriages that result from this line of thinking are dangerous places. I know, I told my audience, why over 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce: because Christians act as though marriage redeems sin. Marriage does not redeem sin. Only Jesus himself can do that. The audience seemed a little shocked to hear this."

Friday, 8 May 2015

On Sacred Tension - A blog

Yesterday, as I was reading Vines' "God and the Gay Christian" for a second time, I decided to check out Stephen Long's blog at Sacred Tension.

It convinced me that celibacy is not for all. Yes, to some, God might have called them to it, but for others, it can be a terrible burden to bear. It was for Stephen.

When Side B (the side that believes that gay sex is sinful) became too much for him to bear, he developed a cutting habit and was on the verge of suicide. That is just heartbreaking.

Like him, I've heard the story of Rob and Linda Roberston and the tragic story of how her son Ryan came out to her and later died due to an overdose of drugs. They were present at the Exodus conference 2 years back and after sharing their story, there was nary a dry eye in the room. They shared that it was how they insisted on his obedience to Christ on the issue of his gayness that led to his death. It was what caused him to hate himself.

Just like Stephen.

Being faithful to Christ meant that he had a difficult time reconciling his head to his heart. If gay sex is a sin, then wouldn't just the thought of it, the temptation be viewed as sinful as well? After all, Jesus said to look at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart. If it's the heart that matters, then the orientation itself was an abomination. (Now that's not what I believe, and there's a lot to unpack, but let's just leave it at that for the moment.) He couldn't reconcile

My conclusion is that some mandatory celibacy is not for all gay Christians. And it would be better to have a gay Christian who is alive and in a same-sex relationship than one who is dead because of suicide.

It's on the same note that I would advocate gay marriage if Singapore were ever to vote on this issue. God did say it is not good for man to be alone. If we advocate mixed-orientation marriage to discover that the husband or wife cannot even bear to touch/kiss/hug the other, how would that build a faithful marriage? So it only makes sense that if man is not to be alone, that a loved one be beside him, regardless of gender.

Even though Stephen seems to have taken a break from blogging like he has done so in the past, the blog is filled with beautiful writing that kept me up till 3am last night reading it. You can do nothing better than to have a look at his blog to have an insight into the struggles of living a celibate gay Christian life and why one would abandon it not because of pleasure, but for the sake of his sanity and his life. A brilliant work.

Thank you for sharing your story Stephen.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Compelling Love & Sexual Identity - A Film

While looking through the blog of an acquaintance I met at the Exodus Conference 2013, I chanced across a link to this film - Compelling Love & Sexual Identity (the film is linked down below).

The directors pose a question at the beginning of the film (and I paraphrase): "If there was a person whose beliefs are different from you sitting across a table, how would you connect with that person?" And they proceed to interview different ones to see how they would answer that question.

It's a great film where they go across the United States of America interviewing people across the LGBT spectrum and their friends and families for us to gain an insight on how truly diverse LGBT people are. It allows us a peek into their lives and helps us understand their motivations, their hopes, and their fears. I would recommend it to people who might not have any interaction with LGBT people.

The only gripe I have is how slow-paced this film was. Perhaps it was because I'd just watched "The Avengers - The Age of Ultron" yesterday, or perhaps it's because the GCN film on gay Christians moved along rather briskly. But I finished the film nonetheless. The highlight for me was the interviews of Dr Trista Carr and Julie Rodgers, both of whom I met/encountered at the Exodus conference 2 years back and have been following on cyberspace on a sporadic basis. They come in about two-thirds into the film and offer great insights on the intersection of Christian faith and sexuality.

Well, I thought I'd just blog about this great resource in the event that anyone would like to use it. The website offers PDF downloads of discussion topics for a small group and even a reflection guide for the individual. Very comprehensive indeed. You can even buy the DVD if you're interested.

So go ahead and do cell group different for a change today. :)

Friday, 1 May 2015

Idols and Infatuations

I just finished reading a brilliant book by Timothy Keller titled "Counterfeit Gods - The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters". It is really good. You should go read it.

I realised how even things like ministry success can become an idol even though we profess to be serving God. It is not God that we are seeking, it is recognition instead. So we've gotta be careful. "All good things can become idols", Keller declares.

A useful chapter at the end tells us 4 ways we can spot the idols in our lives.

#1: If we think about it all the time
#2: If we spend too much money on it
#3: How we respond to unanswered prayers and frustrated hopes
#4: Our most uncontrollable emotions

That set me thinking. My infatuations have been people I couldn't get out of my head. And it was rather uncontrollable. They just invaded my thoughts. I knew that that was something I did not want. They might be idols, but they weren't those I actively cultivated as far as I knew.

In any case, what I found most helpful about Timothy Keller's book was the solution he offered. We cannot just get rid of idols. Something else would pop up to take their place. We need to replace an idol with something else. And that something else is Jesus Christ.

When I apply that to myself, I realise that I have to replace my infatuations with Jesus Christ. Because ultimately, they cannot fulfill me. I might find pleasure and enjoyment through their company, but they won't satisfy my deepest needs. Those of complete affirmation, of validating my identity, and of unconditional love. Only God can do that.

Infatuations can certainly turn into love, but even a lover cannot replace God.

Finding acceptance in an unexpected place

Not unlike Aydian Dowling who found himself crying in church , I found healing in an unexpected place yesterday. After some persuasi...