Category Archives: Discussion

Things Not to Say

Conversations over topics where friends disagree can be very awkward at times. I’ve been having good chats with friends of varying emotional investments. We all have our core group of friends, the ones that are more family than our family. After that, there seems to be spheres of relational clout that blend out.

There’s no clear lines in these relationships. It’s difficult to say how to tell a casual friend apart from an acquaintance, but I would be remiss to say there isn’t a difference. My face lights up over some casual friendships (classmates, work friends, people I see regularly on the bus) and other relationships are grace growers in my life. These are people who are friends with people I care about, so I make an effort to get to know them. For a myriad of reasons, I don’t particularly get along well with these folks. Of course, I treat them with respect and dignity as I would anyone made in the image of God (note, this is every human on the planet ever.) However, being kind, interested and invested in these folks takes work because they seem to be the folks that say those things your mother taught you never to say.

I believe it’s a casualty of the #YOLO generation. The “I do what I want” philosophy and “Screw you if you’re offended” trend is creating huge walls and isolation in the young adult community. We say things that are hurtful,  bigoted, mean-spirited and down right cruel with one of two caveats. Either the offender was “only joking” and the onus is on the offended party to “lighten up” and “learn how to take a joke” or it was just their opinion. In this second option, the speaker usually tries to belittle other points of view. They point out how backward those who think that way are, how deceived the opposite side must be, all while stating “it’s my opinion”. This leaves the listener feeling insulted but also that it would be rude to call out said opinion as wrong…after all, people are entitled to their own opinions right?

Being entitled to our own opinions is different that giving air to them in a way that knowingly hurts the person listening. Live and let live is more about letting people live by their philosophies while you do the same–as long as no one is being damaged, than it is about sharing with anyone who has ears how absurd the things we don’t agree with are.

The most difficult thing about these conversations, is I am so busy being polite that I forget to call out the offence until well after it has taken place. It’s almost as though I am so concerned with what not to say that I end up saying nothing at all. It’s not okay to say nothing. It’s not okay to take abuse in the form of homophobic, racial or demeaning comments simply because someone says “I’m just kidding” or “it’s just my opinion”. Opinions can be wrong. Hate speech in Canada is illegal. If you are being hateful, even if it’s by accident, you are breaking a law that has some steep consequences–not only relational but potentially criminal.

I want to take a moment here to apologize to the people who I’ve offended by saying stupid shit. There’s no other words for it. I was behaving like an uncultured hateful bigot and I am deeply and profoundly sorry.

I resolve not to let others saying harmful things in my presence or sphere of influence whether in jest or otherwise. I would appreciate it if you held me to that same standard too. As a follower of Christ, love needs to rule my actions. I hope it will.

Writer Wednesdays: Your Voice

Think of the stories that you tell your friends and family. What triggers you to share? I can think of three main reasons I share my experiences with others. Moving forward, I would like to formally invite you to consider a moment or some moments in your life that need to be share with others.

These moments could be tragic. These moments could be hopeful. They could bring laughter or they could bring tears. Most importantly, these moments are truthful.

What are the three reasons I share stories from my life?

  • I share stories to give encouragement

There are times in my life that have been straight out of a Law and Order: SVU episode. I grew up in rough circumstances. My choices as a teen were destructive. My young adult life has been plagued by trials, grief, illness and shame.

Yet, God has brought me through. I am an overcomer by nature and my blood type is resilience. If I can share who I once was in light of who I am now–my voice matters–it gives people hope.

  • I share stories to bring abundant laughter.

I’m hilarious. It’s true. Sometimes, I forget how funny I am. People get used to me. Then, I’ll be out at an event or in public and I’ll say or do something that’s classically Cheryl–and people will choke from laughter.

When life tries to suck the joy out of you, when all the news is bad news, when people seem to be negative for no reason–humour aptly placed can bring life. Just think of how much time we spend (waste) laughing at memes or watching Youtube videos. Laughter is the best medicine for many things.

  • I share stories to create understanding.

“What’s the big deal?” & “Lighten up.” are two phrases you wouldn’t expect are spoken to someone as laid back and hilarious as myself. Fact is, I hear them more often than is comfortable. You see, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had a lot of hurts and I’ve helped a lot of broken people.

We might not know why something is important until someone tells us how it impacted them. Casually mentioned atrocities can cause deeps wounds in those around us and retraumatize them without our knowledge.

This is where you come in. Your voice, your story, your humour, your experiences can make the differences in the lives around you.

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “you have no idea”, here’s your chance to give the world an idea–a new perspective. Who knows, you just might change a life.

~Cheryl

My First Hate Mail: LGBTQ+ and Christianity Part 2

I wasn’t intending to write a follow up entry to the lovely post about my mom, but less than twenty four hours after I praise her for being unconditionally loving and supportive of me–someone professing to be a follower of Christ said some very rude, hurtful and shameful things. Rather than repeat those things, I would like to take this moment to turn it around for praise.

Thank you for being concerned enough about my salvation to publicly humiliate me. I forgive you. This is not sarcastic or tongue and cheek–I mean it. Rather than turn me away from the Christian faith, those hurtful words highlighted the importance of love and grace when delivering truths to one another.

Paul said, 

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (NIV, Biblegateway.org )

If I or my brothers and sisters in Christ cut one another down in effort to stand for truth or righteousness–we are missing the point. Jesus said :

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36. (NIV Biblegateway.org)
In my understanding, regardless of which side of the great debate you find yourself on, you’d do well in the sight of the Lord to be merciful, to love those who mistreat you and treat others the way you want to be treated. If you can say with all integrity you wish believers to slander you publicly and treat you with wrathful disdain if they believe you to be sinning–I will certainly pray for your view of God and of justice. 
Jesus was moved by compassion, the only harsh words he spoke were to legalistic religious leaders. Look at the woman caught in adultery, the conversation with Pilate, the tax collector, the leper who told everyone Jesus healed him when instructed not to, look how he treated Peter after his denial of Christ…compassion is the rule of the day. 
 
They will know we are his disciples by our love for one another–not by how loudly we oppose one another.
~Cheryl

5 Things I Learned from Discussing Sexuality with a Pastor

Recently, I did something that I was afraid to do. I talked with a local pastor about LGBTQ people and their relationship with the church. I was scared before I went, even though I know this person and knew the content of the conversation, that it was going to be about trying to convince one another of opposing views. Here’s what I learned:

1) Bridging is bumpy.

One of the most helpful things we did for one another at the start of the discussion is define our terms and our lack of exhaustive knowledge on the material we were about to discuss. We laughed a bunch and admitted that it felt weird to talk this openly about being “not straight” (as I put it) and loving Jesus.

2) Something’s got to change.

The reason for today’s conversation was the recognition that when people come out as LGBTQ they feel, for one reason or another, they need to leave the church. LGBTQ Christians feel like they have to choose between fellowship with people who love Jesus and worshipping/serving together and their sexual orientation. We both recognize that conversations need to be had at an open table. This table needs to have listening ears on both sides–not to convince each other about theological ideologies but to listen to one another with empathy and understanding. There will be an “us” and “them” as long as we talk past one another.

3) People are hungry.

Pastors and lay workers within the church (read many churches, not one specific church) are meeting outside of Sunday services with LGBTQ community members to learn how to engage with people and begin ministering out of a place of love. What’s being discovered is the amount of people who were raised in church, attended youth group, and even went to Bible College who identify as other than straight and left the church. They desire greatly to worship alongside other believers without being seen solely for whom they love. They want to be seen as God’s children walking out faith.

4) We don’t agree on every sin.

In the course of our conversation, we discussed whether or not conservative and mainstream Christian churches would be able to understand that LGBTQ Christians do not believe that their orientation is sin. We talked about how wide the spectrum is within the LGBTQ community–where some hold to traditional male/female marriage teachings opting for celibacy as the way to honour God with a same gender orientation and others hold to same-gender long term committed marriage. Similarly, Christians don’t all agree on alcohol consumption, secular movies and entertainment, swearing and modesty.

5) One important question remained.

How can we remove the stigma, isolation and fear for those who come out in faith communities?

There’s a few ways to do this. All of them take a long time.

First, sexuality regardless of straight or LGBTQ needs to be discussed in the context of church teaching. How can we expect a conversation round sexual orientation and inclusion if we can’t even discuss sex in the context of marriage? It is astounding the amount of young adult Christians who didn’t know how their body worked…or why it worked that way when I was at Bible College–because it was dirty and taboo.

Second, we need to create a culture where someone disclosing sexual orientation, sexual confusion or gender related questions is met with compassion and not solutions. Thank them for sharing with you. Admit that it must have been scary and difficult to talk about. Let them know that your love for them has not and will not change. Maybe consider waiting until later to discuss they why and how they know or are questioning. First just hold them and tell them it will be okay.

Third, how can the church make space for LGBTQ people and families to participate in church? We discussed the various reformations in church culture: women in ministry, divorced leaders, children outside of marriage–and how the church has embraced and including those once marginalized groups (some better than others). In light of those revelations of grace, how can the same attitudes be applied to the LGBTQ people in our communities.

What about you? Did you feel at one time or another like you had to choose between living authentically and being accepted? How can we walk with you?

Radical 2.0

This is a post I wrote when I felt like I was at the bottom of a dark pit and the only way out was honesty. With LGBT issues taking centre stage in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, now more than ever, it’s important to share our coming out stories. It’s important to offer hope, to offer solidarity and to hold one another up with love and respect. If you’d like to share your story, visit the Contact link in the main menu.

517bf-img_0884Just over a year ago, I came out as Bisexual to those who know and love me and then on social media. For the sake of Christian connection, I put myself back in the closet so to speak in order to avoid hard conversations, criticism, isolation and potential loss of relationship. In doing so, I became judgemental, defensive, angry and isolated. I ended up perpetrating all of the things I was afraid of happening to me to others.

Friends and family tried to reach out and be close with me. They called, texted and emailed regularly. I shut them out. I kept telling myself “they won’t understand” which really meant “they won’t accept me”. What I was forgetting is that many of these people already love and accept me…what’s more, is many of them suspected I was struggling with something that was bigger than my anxiety.

I’ve been a part of The Gay Christian Network for almost three years now, to learn more about them click here. At GCN, I’ve found people on all sides of “The Great Debate” as they call it. There’s a spectrum from allies and parents of LGBTQ+ believers to married and committed same gender couples. There’s opposite gender couples in mixed orientation marriages trying to make it work. There’s celibate Christians who take a literal approach to scripture. And there’s dating LGBTQ+ Christians who take a more liberal approach to scripture.

Here’s what isn’t there….judgement. There’s no inquisition. No need to defend one’s existence or choices.

There’s room to ask questions, find answers from all sides and chew on the heady stuff with Jesus. There’s many resources for scriptural analysis for both Side A (Same Gender Marriage) and Side B (Celibacy). There’s resources on how to have the conversations that are hard. Theres a community full of love and support.

What does that leave me with? Hope. Hope for reconciliation between the marginalized and the church at large. Hope for me, that I have a place to fit without feeling like a leper or having to have it all figured out. Hope for the kids that are holding back from relationship with Jesus because “Christians hate gays”.

I would love to have a discussion about how to support people who are marginalized rather than how to support that my existence (as someone who is Bisexual and a Christian) is okay with God.

I’ve chosen to remain silent for the last year because I’ve not wanted to argue. I don’t want to defend myself when people say “it’s not who you are”, “God didn’t create you this way” and so many things that are meant to be encouraging but really aren’t.

If you’d like to know more, I can hook you up with some resources:

The Great Debate-Side A and Side B
Kevin Garcia, LBGTQ Speaker and Writer, Lover of Jesus
My Personal Hero, Vicky Beeching +Vicky Beeching
Believe Out Loud, and movement removing the stigma for LGBTQ+ Believers +Believe Out Loud
Matthew Vines and I are not on the same page, but here it is anyway. I take more of a Side B approach. +Matthew Vines

Feel free to share and comment. If comments are hateful, they will be deleted. Let’s move forward in love and respect.

Since the original publishing of this article, many hurtful and vehement comments have been made regarding LGBT hate crimes. Hate crimes are never okay. They are never God’s judgement on people. Reading the Bible, we see that Jesus took the full wrath of God against sin on himself when he was nailed to the cross. To say that God is doling out punishment on people for simply existing as an LGBT person (even though I personally don’t believe it’s a sin), is to limit the power of Christ’s atonement. There’s nothing we can add to make that payment more complete.

“Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, my sin was but a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.”

~Cheryl