Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: Secret thoughts of an unlikely convert

The issue of homosexuality and the church has been very prominent in the news again lately and it hasn't been pretty. There are many from the church that are really bigoted against gays or have abandoned what the scriptures say about homosexuality in order to "embrace" the gay community. Jesus could embrace the sinner without condoning the sin (John 4:17-18; John 8:10-11; Luke 19:5-10). Most notable is the controversy surrounding the Catholic Church and most recently, the closing of Exodus, International, a Christian gay conversion therapy organization. I would argue that these organizations are not Christian, as they have strayed from the teachings of Christ. Not that there aren't Catholics that are truly born again, but I would challenge any Catholic to demonstrate the biblical foundation for Catholic dogma such as mass, infant baptism, the infallibility of the pope or the idolization of Mary, the mother of Jesus. To be Christian is to follow Christ, and to follow Christ is to follow His Word (Psalm 56:10; 119:50; John 1:1; 6:63; 8:31; 8:37, 8:51; 15:4). We can do a whole study on this but I'm sure you get my point. My foundation for my worldview and all things Christian are the scriptures.

I recently came across a testimony from a woman on Desiring God. Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield earned a PhD in queer theory, owning property with her long time partner and being a public advocate for queer issues. Through research on the Bible and the religious right, she slowly made steps to give up her homosexuality and follow Jesus. Intrigued and curious about her spiritual journey, I decided to read her book, "the secret thoughts of an unlikely convert."

Like me, her conversion was a multifaceted process. Unlike me, she didn't know the Lord before, nor was she seeking the Lord. The Word of God drew her in, and as she described, "became bigger than me." It started when a local pastor wrote her a letter challenging her presuppositions. It wasn't hostile but haunted her as she could not answer his questions.

I've been asking my secular friends these questions and I get nothing but evasion tactics. "How do you know that's true? Can you show where it says that in the Bible? Where do your get your notion of rights apart from God?" Their reticence reveals that they don't know why they believe what they believe and they have a poor understanding of the Bible and what Christians believe. I find even those who grew up in a Christian home have a poor understanding of Christianity. They were not truly born again spiritually nor did they read the Bible. They went through the motions of sitting in church or learning the Bible as "stories" without connecting it to history. Indeed, the Bible is comprised of documents that accurately identify people, places and events.

Rosaria Champagne-Butterfield writes an honest testimony that beckons straights, gays, Christians and non-Christians alike. She rightfully accuses the Church of alienating the queer community and gives clear biblical reasons why one needs to turn from the homosexual lifestyle to follow Christ. The key to opening her heart to the truth of the Gospel was Pastor Ken and his wife's approach in dialogue:

Ken and Floy did something at the meal that has a long Christian history but has been functionally lost in too many Christian homes. Ken and Floy invited the stranger in--not to scapegoat me, but to listen and to dialogue…Ken and Floy didn't identify with me. They listened to me and identified with Christ. Pg. 295

Of course, this doesn't mean the dialogue was always smooth sailing. The Gospel is offensive to people because it exposes the fact that we are not "good people." We are all guilty of breaking God's law and equally deserving of God's wrath (Psalm 14:1-3; Jeremiah 17:9; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 30:12; Psalm 36:2; Luke 18:11). Rosaria came out of that encounter asking herself the most important questions: "Does God exist? If God exists what does he expect from me? How do I communicate with him? How do I know him and what he wants? What if God is dead? Do I have the courage to face the truth either way?" (Butterfield, pg. 304, emphasis mine). Like Rosaria, I am the product of Post-modern academia, the philosophy that there is no absolute truth. Truth is subjective, identity is subjective. Never mind that this idea is self-refuting (via the law of non-contradiction), the goal is for people to believe what they want to believe wether it's true or not. Rosaria's acknowledgement that there is in fact absolute truth led to honest soul searching and I hope that anyone who reads this is willing to do that. Ask yourself: "is truth independent of what I believe or feel?" If so, how is truth knowable?" One of my favorite apologists, Sye Ten Bruggencate, engages people solely with truth claims or the presuppositions that undergird people's beliefs. His most adamant contenders are college youth who assert "no one can know anything."  This is a direct result of our education system today that tells us our experience determines truth and that no one can really know anything. This is in itself, a truth claim and therefore proves itself false.  To add fuel to the fire, these same people that assert no one can know truth are adamant in asserting that the Bible is not true! In accusing Christians of being 'judgmental,' they themselves are being judgmental. Such is the folly of refusing God's truth.

It took 2 years of searching the scriptures and her own heart before Rosaria considered stepping inside a church. Please note: church does not save you. God did a work on her heart before being a church member. Rosaria confronts scripture's stance on homosexuality She prayed from her heart that if Jesus was in fact the risen Lord that he change her heart and shape her into the woman He wanted her to be. This is that faith the size of a mustard seed that enables one to come to God admit we need his help to change:

I prayed for the strength of character to repent for a sin that at that time didn't feel like sin at all--it felt like life, plain and simple. I prayed that if my life was actually his life, that he would take it back and make it what he wanted it to be. I asked him to take it all: my sexuality, my profession, my community, my tastes, my books and my tomorrows. (Butterfield, pg. 485)

I similarly surrendered my identity to Christ, all the while admitting not wanting to change! The truth of God's word became bigger than my lesbian identity and I took a step of faith to obey him regardless of how I felt. I often have to revisit this truth regarding all sin. We have all sorts of inclinations but that doesn't mean we should do them, even when no one is looking.

I highly recommend this book for those who are seeking the truth, Christians who are unsure about how to minister to the queer community and for those in the queer community who are genuinely interested in the testimony of a person who lived a homosexual lifestyle.


Tracheostomy update

I recently spent four days in the hospital to try decanulation. Monday they removed the trach and I hastily posted a picture of my taped up stoma on facebook! But I didn't feel like I was breathing well, despite having an oxygen saturation (SpO2) of 99% Sure enough, they scoped me and found a polyp in my windpipe where the trach was. Wednesday in the OR they also found much scar tissue where the stoma is, making me feel like I was breathing through a straw. 

Needless to say, they did a lot of work opening the windpipe and I will go back in 3 months to see if there's more "excavation" to be done, or if I can safely be decanulated. Keep me in prayer. 

A thing that I notice about the hospital in contrast to the nursing home is that people are much more considerate. It's not the actual people, who are far more diverse, but how the floor is managed. You can tell the hospital staff is trained to knock gently on the door--what a concept! Here, people just come right in or knock like Con Edison coming to check your meters first thing in the morning! Nursing home staff are so used to working with severely disabled, institutionalized people that you just become another body to clean. Your body parts become inanimate objects that need to be moved out the way to get the job done. I hope the increasing number of young people in nursing homes will prompt change in how service is delivered and the ratio of staff to patients. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Don't waste your life! In light of the George Zimmerman case

Please don't get it twisted! I do not follow Jesus because I tragically fell off a roof and need to find meaning in it. I follow Jesus because His Word is alive and grabbed hold of me.

I rarely think about the accident but recently thought of my former co-workers. How have their lives been affected by my accident? Do they know Jesus?

This country is on edge waiting for the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. Regardless of the outcome, two things are certain. One, Trayvon Martin is dead and cannot choose Christ. His eternal destiny is sealed. Two, George Zimmerman is alive and so has an opportunity to repent and choose Christ. According to the atheist worldview, our lives are just random occurrence, therefore the notion of justice is absurd.  

When challenged on the issue of injustice in Luke 13, Jesus responded: "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all [other] Galileans, because they suffered such things? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. "Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all [other] men who dwelt in Jerusalem? "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." In other words, we are all equally deserving of death.

God created us and has the right to take our life in any way. I know that seems incredibly unfair, and I too have been challenged by this. Job struggled with this even after recognizing that God had the right to take his children (Job 1:18-21). God did not respond with the whys, but with asking Job how dare he question the God who created everything? In his suffering, Job learned amazing truths about God that he probably wouldn't have had he not suffered. Such has been my experience.

Elizabeth Eliot drew my attention to Psalm 16:5 "The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot." and 1 Timothy 6:15, Jesus being the only sovereign, the blessed controller of all things.

On monday, I go to St. Luke's Roosevelt to be decanulized (trach free!) I am more nerve racked than excited. If there is anything I want people to get out of my experience is to evaluate their lives in light of Christ and to prepare for that time when they will stand before him. I'm praying for George Zimmerman to be saved. I'm praying for my old co-workers and friends to know Jesus and be saved. Nothing else matters.