Hey Pascal, Read This.

letter

Dear Pascal,

I’ve made some progress on my post about last night’s meeting, but I’ll probably need a few days to finish it. It always strikes me how you and I can think so alike in many ways but come to profoundly different conclusions because of our differing views on scripture’s authority. I think we probably agree in more areas than we disagree, but we never talk much about the positions we share. The only time you and I ever interact in a non-professional setting seems to be when we’re arguing—you could not possibly like me (Russell agrees that I make it difficult for you).

I like you. I like that I can still respect you even when we disagree. I can’t do that with some people, and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way—I used to be a person that the current me couldn’t have respected in debate, and I am likely currently a person the future me would not respect in debate. You ask such thoughtful questions, and you give thoughtful responses to mine. Your reason for your position last night (based completely on the authority of scripture) is honest and consistent with who you are, and that’s an issue we’ve spent enough time arguing about already.

Why did I argue with you last night, knowing that we disagree on such a fundamental level? It’s because I know what could help me return to faith, and the issue of homosexuality highlights it well. I feel like I keep hitting a wall with the authority of scripture, because it seems to conflict with another Biblical principle—that I am made in God’s image. If I’m made in God’s image, what does it mean if my heart tells me “This is not from God” when I hear it said that obedience requires gay people to either have their sexuality “reformed” or be celibate—and any time I think about hell? If I’m made in God’s image, what does it mean if my heart tells me it doesn’t matter who we love, but how we love? I’m not gay, so it was easier for me to just keep proclaiming the authority of scripture than to feel this overwhelming burden for gay people and this uncomfortable sense that we’ve been wrong all along. I find no personal benefit in advocating for the gay community, and I cannot relate to their type of sexual attraction—so why does this fuel passion within me? When I read scriptural references to homosexuality and pray about them to whoever is listening, I feel this sense that God says, “These are the words of men. You have my heart.” I would be wary of accepting words like that if I were using them to justify my own behavior—but I’m not.

You seemed to feel like my views are unique. If I deny scripture’s perfect authority regarding homosexuality, much of the church won’t agree with me. If I believe in the concept of sexual immorality (defined not by loving the wrong person, but rather by loving the wrong way) even without faith and take a position against it, much of the rest of the world won’t agree with me. These two coordinates mark exactly where I am, and it’s lonely sometimes. Perhaps this is actually the road less traveled. What if this is where I’m meant to be? What if this is the answer to the prayer “Break my heart for what breaks yours”? Could it be that the boundary-breaking love of God endures beyond ancient words? Could it be that he reveals himself to me in the heart that he gives me, even if that heart is offensive to those who give scripture ultimate authority in their lives? Is there any chance that we have had it wrong? Is there any chance that with my love of scripture, I missed out on knowing God and sharing his love?

Those are the questions I’m really asking when I argue. I want to believe that my heart might be from God, even if it means denying the full authority of scripture. I want to believe that a living God isn’t leather-bound with black and white pages. Just like a gay Christian would want to feel that there’s room for him as an active participant in the Church without a requirement of celibacy, I want to believe that there’s room for me without having to proclaim the authority of scripture and lay down the passions and burdens in my heart—passions and burdens that I have hoped might reflect the heart of a living God.

As I have before and will again, I apologize if I argued too aggressively. You and Russell are the only people I ever apologize to for that. I speak up louder with you for a different reason than the one we discussed last week as a possibility—I feel safe and comfortable, not insecure. Of course, you can rest assured that my workplace interactions will look different.

Thank you for coming last night and two weeks ago—this week ended the series on hard questions. I’ll miss the discussion with you that I have valued so much through these two weeks and through Détente, but I hope that you and Russell continue to write.

Friends even if we disagree,

J

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22 thoughts on “Hey Pascal, Read This.

  1. It’s very difficult not to like and respect Pascal for many reasons. J, you’ve written such a great letter here in so many ways. Expressing the true heartfelt friendship you have with Pascal and at the same time expressing for many of us why we do feel so strongly for other friends all of us have that we know struggle with a stigma that many in society have unfortunately laid upon them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pascal, I no longer have any close friends who are believers. Friends, yes. Family, yes. None close though. Your relationship with Russell and J has given me hope of new and rekindled friendships with believers. Alas, perhaps that’s not possible after all. I hope you will respond and I hope I will be surprised by your answer if you do. Given what you have said in the posts J linked to, I do not have much hope. There are many ways to be ignorant and bigoted in our world and I always try to understand the person behind the prejudice. But for me, there are some forms of bigotry I can no longer tolerate in any amount.

      I’m wondering what your views are on many issues now. Marrying after divorce for non-biblical reasons for example. Can those people marry in a church?
      Why should your interpretation of scripture be the one that decides who can and cannot do what in a church? Why should any one person or group’s interpretation of a belief system dictate the actions and rights of any others in or out of that belief system?
      Short answer: it shouldn’t. Ever.
      There are so many rules in the bible – what to wear, what to eat, grooming, when to work, whom to submit to, etc. Just look at what happens when people truly try to live biblically:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2011/09/a_year_of_biblical_womanhood.html

      I do not see how you can seriously talk about biblical authority in a modern, secular world with regards to homosexuality while you ignore all the other rules and their possible interpretations. Not to mention those of other belief systems.

      Jesus himself said many times that every law in the Bible was to be strictly adhered to or else. Every one. I’ve read your thoughts on biblical authority, but the more I try to accept your reasoning and world view, the more nonsensical it is. You can have your faith, Pascal. You can believe and think whatever you please, but the moment you start infringing on the rights and equality of others, you lose me and my respect.

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      • I think I see it differently. I’m not at all surprised that he believes that scripture has authority in the lives of believers—for so long, I did too. Pascal believes that the God who inspired scripture has been faithful to him and has earned his trust—so he trusts Him, even when the words are hard to accept and live by. He does not expect non-believers to abide by scriptural authority (it has no authority in their lives), and he supports gay marriage and gay adoption for that population. It is the gay Christians he believes are called to something different—to make such a significant sacrifice for the sake of obedience. He believes that they should deny themselves the fulfillment of their desires if those desires do not conform to God’s will and that they should not enter into a same-sex marriage. I disagree with him, but I also understand him. I’ve been trapped in a broken faith before, and I hated having everything my life had been built upon challenged by people I found myself not even wanting to oppose. It sapped me of energy and I eventually changed my position. Pascal doesn’t need to change for me to respect him. I had dinner in his home with a lesbian couple a few weeks ago—he truly does have so much love for them. Could he love them better by viewing their love as no different from his and his wife’s? Yes, I think so—but not without reducing scripture’s authority, and that’s a giant step to take.

        He is being faithful to the God he has come to trust, and I can respect that. I am being faithful to him in friendship, even though we see things differently.

        I don’t think he is a threat to the gay community—he doesn’t fight against their equality, and I don’t think he would mention the authority of scripture to them unless a Christian gay person asked him to. He would do it in as much love as he is capable of (far more than most believers I have known).

        I don’t think he’s the threat that you might fear, but I also don’t think he’s the advocate he could be. And that’s okay with me—I understand where he’s coming from because I’ve been there so recently. I’m so glad he’s willing to have the conversation with people like me. He still has me and my respect—but you are free to disagree and continue to be always welcome here and at R&P even if you do.

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        • I think you misunderstand my issue, J. I get that he doesn’t care what non-Christian queer people do. That’s dandy, but I don’t give him extra credit for being a decent person in that way.

          He does care what Christian queer people do and I take issue with that. I know many religious gay people. I know what an internal struggle it is if they interpret the Bible how Pascal does. I heard the argument of sacrifice he makes from the lips of my gay best friend’s mother as a teenager.

          I also know Christian queers that interpret the Bible differently. He can speak of biblical authority all he wants, but he is not the ultimate authority, no one is. From what he has said, he IS standing in the way of equality, even if it is just a small subset of the population, and he doesn’t have the right to do that.

          He is the threat I fear. I have seen again and again what religious belief does to otherwise decent people. I thought I was finally seeing an exception, someone that could truly let their faith be a personal thing that they don’t push on others in any way. His rules for queer Christians don’t live in a vacuum. Others believe that way and it makes churches inhospitable to people who have the desire and right to be there and marry there. He doesn’t have to dismiss his interpretation of biblical authority, he just has to accept that his interpretation should have no baring on the actions of any others, no matter what belief system they hold.

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          • OK, we’re on the same page now.

            I’ll leave you for now with the words he said to me regarding this matter:

            “CC – – I will not judge you. Please don’t judge me. I’m trying to love the best that I can and to follow with the light that I have. I know that I may be wrong and that I don’t have all of the answers. But I know that God loves you and never forgot you.”

            He doesn’t think he’s an ultimate authority—he believes scripture is. I disagree, but I understand. I also think that individual churches have the right to build themselves upon their own interpretation of the authority of scripture (especially if, as Pascal suggested last night, they are willing to give up their tax-exempt status). While I think gay Christians should be able to marry in churches, I think it should be in a church that has an interpretation of scripture that allows for that—and that each church can decide for themselves.

            You probably won’t hear Pascal talk about his own rights—I tend to jump to defend my friends even when I disagree, and even when they don’t need it. I’m weird like that…that’s why he calls me a labrador.

            I do understand your disappointment and share it in many ways.

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            • You’re a good friend, J. I understand your desire to protect and defend. You’re far more thoughtful than a dog.

              I’m all for churches paying their taxes. I’d be a lot less interested in their actions if they did. As far as Pascal is concerned, perhaps you (or him) can answer me this: If he was invited to a queer Christian wedding in a church that embraced the practice, would he go?

              Would he go and be joyful for the union without hesitation? Would he openly share where he was with those opposed to gay marriage/gay Christian marriage? It is one thing to police yourself, to think that your interpretation works for you. It is another to object or hesitate when others live their lives according to their interpretations.

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      • Hello Madalyn,

        It was really hard to know where to enter this conversation. J seemed willing to play my part for me and for that I’m honestly grateful. Am I a hypocrite for not objecting to marriage after divorce for non-biblical reasons? That is a piercing question. Would you trust me if I confessed that I’ve asked myself the same thing? I too am from a broken home rejoined by remarriage. Is my compassion there only from felt experience and familiarity?

        What of my views as a Christian feminist? Am I a hypocrite for believing that women can and should be ordained as ministers. That is a modern cultural interpretation of the context of an ancient text. Are my actions to support female professionalism and success betraying the orthodoxy of my faith? I’ve never felt that way, but I could be blind to my blind spots after all.

        Am I wrong about what Romans 1 means in today’s context? If so, then which sentences? Am I wrong about myself being lost and putting myself in front of my creator too?

        We don’t really know each other Madalyn. We’ve begun to write and we share a love of reading, writing, and people who don’t have easy places to talk. I’m sorry that I’ve disappointed you, but if you are willing to delay your judgment perhaps our understanding of each other (and ourselves) could grow.

        Hands open,
        Pascal

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  2. Well said, J. You are in a difficult moment in your life, yet your self-awareness is high and your words are thoughtful.

    I don’t know if you want this post it become about homosexuality and I don’t know how your argument/conversation went, but I feel the need to thank you. I am surprised that Pascal feels the way he does about this issue. Maybe he has voiced it on a post I have not read. It doesn’t fit in with the image I had of him and I am saddened (and I’ll admit a bit angry) with the realization. I know your relationship is complicated and the reasons you spoke up are your own, but thank you for challanging when you could have stayed quiet. It means a lot.

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    • Thank you Madalyn. Our argument was just that—not a “fight.” No yelling or name-calling. I do admit that I felt exasperated, and I’m sure he could tell. Pascal doesn’t do what so many Christians do and condemn the gay lifestyle as “disgusting”—and I respect him for that. What he does do is what a lot of other Christians do these days—they say they will not pass judgment on gay people because they are also sinners who struggle in different ways—with heterosexual lust, pride, anger, greed, etc. While I appreciate the fact that they do not take a superior attitude, I am frustrated that they bring homosexuality down to the level of their vices. A committed, monogamous gay relationship should not be compared to lust, pride, anger, and greed as things in need of reform. The only reason I heard him give yesterday for why he believes it does compare to sin is because of scripture’s authority on the issue. I dont know what I wanted him to say—I know he stands by scripture in all things, and that’s not going to change. I just have a hard time believing in a living God who shapes my heart if what’s in my heart is always trumped by words written in a far away time and place by men with their own cultures and biases.

      Pascal is for gay marriage in non-religious ceremonies (which excludes gay Christians, and that breaks my heart). But that’s far better than most Christians I know, so I admire him for that. You can read more of his thoughts here:

      http://russellandpascal.com/2014/05/03/sexual-orientation/

      http://russellandpascal.com/2014/05/04/romans-1-24-27/

      http://russellandpascal.com/2014/05/06/hard-questions-deserving-honest-answers-part-1/

      http://russellandpascal.com/2014/05/07/hard-questions-deserving-honest-answers-part-2/

      You’ll see a lot of my thoughts in the comments under those posts.

      I love Pascal, and he knows that. It is a privilege to have the freedom to argue with him, even to the point of exasperation. I’ve been wondering since last night how difficult this might be for him—does he wish scripture said something different? Would his God be any less good if it did? How does he feel when he defends scripture without understanding why he should agree with it? He does it out of trust—but does he ever wonder if that trust is unfounded? He doesn’t want to be a bigot—he wants to be obedient. With scripture as his ultimate authority, I feel like he is loving the best way he can, and I do respect him for that. My heart hurts for him that it isn’t easier.

      But my heart hurts more for the gay people who are condemned under that scriptural authority, regardless of the purity of their commitments.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay y’all might not like this, but I want to throw a new thought in.

    I got very fat, 241 pounds, and been that way several times. Once I even reached 254, nine months pregnant. I would lose and gain. But God did create me a beautiful creature complete in Him.
    Yet all of society looks down on fat people. ALL people. Yes, we are to love everyone. My Christian friends loved me, my husband loved me, at least they said they did. I still got those looks of disgust and irritation. My opinion was not respected because I was obese. My husband almost left me once due to my food obsession.
    Remember God created me as beautiful in His eyes. Yet I chose to overeat. People could say, “Poor thing she was created with that fat gene. She had a food obsession. She was born this way. Her mother overate, took diet pllls and laxatives to lose weight. Her mother was depressed and sucidal . So it’s not her fault. She can’t help being obese. God created her this way with her fat gene. Guess He messed up on this one.
    WRONG. I chose to overeat. I chose. God does not make mistakes. I chose to participate in gluttony. I never overate in front of others. How I really ate in secret would have grossed them out. I once told my husband I get more pleasure from food than you. (I’m being real here) God gave mankind free will and I freely chose my pleasurable sin of gluttony.
    I was a sinner, but God has set me free.
    Sin is sin is sin is sin, no matter what we choose. God loves us just as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.
    We ARE to love the sinner, just not the sin.
    With all my heart, I believe Gods Word is real. Yes, it was written by men, but God spoke to their hearts telling them what to write.
    In my blog, there is dialog between God and me. Yes, I wrote it. But when it came to Gods part of the conversation, my pen just flowed without any pre- thought of mine. It was God whispering to my heart. I wrote the words God gave me. No, I’m not writing a Bible, but it will be a book, a statement of what God can do to heal a glutton.
    Just given you another concept to think about and chew on. (Pun intended)
    http://www.talkingtomyweightlosscounselor.wordpress.com

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    • I appreciate your comment and your transparency. Thank you for joining us!

      I do disagree on your comparison. I would not equate homosexuality with gluttony, but with eating a normal portioned meal to meet a physiological need. I would equate pornography addiction, multiple partners, and prostitution to gluttony—those things are harmful, as gluttony is.

      Gay love is not in itself harmful. It’s just a different flavor of something healthy and beneficial. Telling someone they can’t be active in a gay lifestyle is less like telling them they can’t binge on food with harmful ingredients, and more like telling them they can’t eat their favorite healthy food.

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  4. Beautifully put…it seems to me you do indeed have God’s heart. What scripture seems to me to say on the issue (and oh what a loving God!) is that we are to be true to ourselves. It says not to do what is unnatural. A gay person having gay sex is doing what is natural to them. A straight person having gay sex is doing something unnatural as well as a gay person having straight sex. I believe it is a loving God truly desiring us to be our true selves. We are all made in his image and we are all unique.

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  5. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like there is a part of you that still hasn’t let go of your faith. The reason I say it is because of the questions you’ve listed above and some of what you’ve said in previous posts. Also, the reason why I feel the need to point this out is because it appears to be causing some internal friction.

    At one point I was doubting and asking a lot of what-ifs. It took a major event in my life to finally stop roasting my psyche over the coals of that faith. You might need to ask yourself if you are fully comfortable with the implications of faith v. no-faith. If there is no deity, then asking what-ifs about that deity serves no purpose except to put a different color on the unicorn. If there is a deity, your questions do not matter at all to it.

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    • You’re not wrong at all—I haven’t completely let it go, and I openly admit that. I still want it back (although it would look different than it did before). Internal friction? I think that’s the theme of this entire blog. The faith I had before didn’t allow for what-ifs—my questions were heretical. I’m exploring them now—I’ve rejected the God I grew up worshipping, but I wonder if that’s because of who the people around me (and even at times the writers of scripture) made him into.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Maybe you might want to consider what “it” is that you want back. I say this because there’s an ease to just say (in my case), “I want the peace I used to have” without even being able to describe what that peace was.

        It took me reading Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” for me to begin realizing that I was getting mixed messages from the Bible. To paraphrase that book, the Bible has instances of decent philosophy if one would just take the supernatural away from it. Allowing myself that one guilty thought ended up tugging on the yarn that would eventually unravel my sweater of faith, as it were.

        At any rate, one other question you’re going to need a good answer to is whether or not you can have the faith you desire and be the moral person you need to be. I say “need” because clearly you have a strong sense of how you want to treat others. There is nothing wrong with that.

        Ultimately, saying the answers out loud to other people probably won’t do you much good. Saying them out loud to yourself, though, will probably be deafening. I wish you the best as you search for answers.

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  6. Hello friend,

    I’ve had a day to read and think and even write. It is almost tomorrow, so I’ll try to be brief.

    I do think that God can and does move us with compassion. It can be a general compassion for all or for a certain group of people that you are drawn to: young, old, immigrant, native, marginalized, privileged, poor, special education at both ends of the bell curve. Your compassion is general and gay people fall under the general grace that you offer to all. They are people before they are gay. And that is right. People. People whom I believe are made in God’s image and deserving respect for that reason primarily. But, I feel that you may have a special call as well to extend grace here.

    Where does that concept live in my heart? In the place where scripture has authority. I realize that God’s character as portrayed in scripture may offend you. The gentle Jesus, meek and mild calls a woman to come and die. At least that is what he called me to do, yet I resist him at every turn. Would I ask a gay believer to do what I haven’t done? Is it fair that I have a biblically accessible option to express who I am? The character of God as portrayed in scripture broke my heart. And then it . . . healed stronger. The character of God who came to suffer with us tells me that I don’t clearly see all as I once will.

    Scripture calls all to act contrary to their nature. Perhaps to say that a gay Christ follower choosing to live celibate is a greater sacrifice is patronizing. Sexuality is an extremely important part of who we are, but it is not the whole and perhaps not even the greatest part. We are more than the sum of even our most important parts. Bring gay believers of deep faith to detente. We can learn from them together.

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    • Why should your pride die? I know you can think of reasons. Why should lust die? Anger? Plenty of reasons.

      Why should a committed, monogamous same-sex relationship die? Can you just give me one valid reason? One reason you would think it’s wrong if scripture didn’t say so? Just one, Pascal? Why does Jesus hate homosexuality? Don’t dance around the question as you so skillfully do. By the way, you still didn’t answer what I asked in my post.

      I love you, Pascal, but you are frustrating me.

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      • Scripture is enough for me J. If I’ve ever misrepresented my opinion there I apologize.

        “What if this is where I’m meant to be? What if this is the answer to the prayer “Break my heart for what breaks yours”? Could it be that the boundary-breaking love of God endures beyond ancient words? Could it be that he reveals himself to me in the heart that he gives me, even if that heart is offensive to those who give scripture ultimate authority in their lives? Is there any chance that we have had it wrong? Is there any chance that with my love of scripture, I missed out on knowing God and sharing his love?”

        I do think that it is right for your heart to break for people — all people — just as I believe that God’s heart breaks for all people. And I certainly don’t find your heart offensive. But no. When God speaks to my heart, I fact check with scripture. Compassion for people corroborates scripture. Deciding whether scripture is right or wrong in naming sin with my heart grants my heart the authority. So I look to synchronize my heart with scripture. In doing so I rarely find that I love too little, but rather too much.

        So, I’ve answered your questions for myself. But you didn’t ask your questions for myself. What if? Why don’t you decide to pursue the question by finding a community of gay believers and serving there? Invite some new friends to our table who can speak with more personal knowledge than you or I.

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        • “Yes, I am made in his image, made with an intellect that he intended me to use. But for me to judge his fairness, he would have to be made in my image.”

          Is this what it all boils down to? Did we finally hit rock bottom? Because what I just read in the words above is this: But who are you, O man, ato answer back to God? bWill what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

          I do not have faith, and I don’t see how I could ever arrive at it if I can never trust my own judgments of God. The standard must go both ways—I wouldn’t even be able to trust my judgments of God if they bring me to faith.

          If this is your conclusion, what have I been doing? If your conclusion is true, my journey must end here. Why did your first long email to me have the subject line “Come, let us reason together” if we must not make judgments with our intellect?

          You did answer my question—last night, really, with the sentences I quoted. This is hopeless.

          Will we still have détente? Last time I asked, you didn’t know. If we still share a table…challenge accepted.

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