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Hopeful Honesty

From Will Coile http://www.facebook.com/will.coile

I should preface this by stating the obvious: I am a Christian. I am not perfect. I struggle. I watch R-rated movies. I make mistakes. I think the Christian media we put out is terribly cheesy and not reaching the real world. I am in college and know there are plenty out there smarter, stronger, wiser, and more ‘hip’ than I ever will be. Oh, and I think we have completely missed what Christianity was supposed to be about. 

Got your attention? Okay, good. 

I grew up in the church. Like every kid in middle school, I went to youth group for the friends and the girls. I heard the same message: do this, don’t do this, act this way, don’t act this way, look like this, don’t look like this. And so on, and so on. The list of Do’s and Don’t’s encompassed my small, middle-school mind. 

Naturally, I had developed this view of God that was swarmed by the Do’s and Don’ts. My God was the God of perfectionism. 

And that is the God we are preaching today. 

The God of rules and regulations. The God that says you MUST read your bible everyday, you MUST journal, you MUST listen to the repetitive, same-note Christian music, and you MUST be safe. If not, why then, you are not “in”. You have not made the club. You have missed it. You are not the beloved. You are not righteous. You do not know really know Jesus. You have missed the mark. 

What a small, cruel God that is. I HOPE for a God of mystery. I HOPE for a God that is not the God of Do’s and Don’ts but a God that teaches grace, that teaches true love, that teaches adventure. I HOPE for a God that outpours His love to the worst of the worst. That is right: the strippers, the gays, the straights, the construction workers, the homeless, the porn-addicted pastor, the drug-addicted single mom, the drunken stay at home dad, the divorced couple, the party hard college student, the grown-up-in-the-church-all-his-life-Christian-who-has-more-questions-than-answers. (That last one is me, anybody out there feel me?)

A God that can handle questions. That can handle anger. That can handle sadness. That can handle HONESTY. Because the God I see preached today is the one of DO NOT ASK. THIS is how you pray, THIS is how you worship, THIS is how you seek God, THIS IS GOD. 

And what are we? Broken human beings that believe we are too wise for our own good, spending countless of dollars on theology training, only to go into the world and realize, oh SHIT. That is right. Shit. The world is a scary place. And we are far from understanding it, grasping it, SOLVING it. 

FEAR. The fear of admitting I am broken. The fear that if I DO NOT act like this way, DO NOT read this way, DO NOT pray this way, DO NOT worship this way I will “miss out” on God. What a God. A God that is outpouring fear rather than love. Where is this “perfect love that casts OUT fear?”

I challenge you to ask God a question. Who are YOU, God? Who are you? Because when you start looking at the world, you get a horrible look at the God I have read about that is supposed to be full of mercy, love, and righteousness. I challenge you to be HONEST with God, and YOURSELF, and the WORLD. 

This is all for now. Like myself, this ongoing rant, essay, call it what you want, is unfinished. I will most likely be posting more regarding the subject. Thank you for this opportunity, Craig. 

-Will Coile 

//www.butterflyhousefilms.com

Line In The Sand

Submitted From http://hdssh.weebly.com/

I was struck by the topic of grey … given I had just independently blogged about it in relation to gay relationships in the church. The propensity of people to take on Gods role of defining black and white destroys productive conversation about complex questions. Yet, given we don’t see with God’s perfect eye, we have to accept some confusion. Nonetheless, God does have a position on gay relationships, so we’re left with a quandry, because we MUST address it. This was the starting point for our church discussion.


This is the first problem: We don’t know how to discuss the issues of hetero-sex and same-sex practices without implicitly putting people on trial.

This is the second problem: Until we know how to articulate our position, we implicitly and unthinkingly endorse a position by our reaction to emerging situations.

Let’s say a gay couple joins my church, lets call them Fred and John, or Susan and Jean. Great. No problem. In fact, wonderful, because it means the barrier of prejudice has been broken. The church is (should be) fully open and welcoming to everyone. OK, so there will be some grumbles from people who like their comfort zone to be left untouched, but hey, they’re the same people who grumble when the homeless come into the services, or the rituals are changed.

Now Fred or Susan want to help with tea or with sound mixing in the services. Good … for as Mark Melluish said, “bless, belong, believe, become.” We’re all in different stages in our walk with God.

Then perhaps Jean, who is musically talented, wants to join the worship team. Or John, a gifted teacher, wants to run a bible study group.

Notice how the levels of authority change; we transition from being a family member serving others, to being a family leader. It’s at this point we have to ask a critical question: “what are our leaders leading us toward?” … for our leaders explicitly (supposedly) stand for Christian God-defined normality. If the church’s theology agrees that same-sex relationships are good in the sight of God, then theoretically we have no problem in our hypothetical example. Jean leads worship, John teaches, the congregation sees gay relationships as part of the Christian norm, and those who don’t like it grumble or leave. If the church’s theology is that gay relationships are wrong, we have a potential outcome that can damage, hurt, and break relationships.

So, we’re back to our first problem. How does a church work through the dialogue without implicitly putting people on trial? This places the local church in a quandary, for it’s the local church that needs to do this, because the situation arises in the local church.

A typical response is to run to the nearest biblical proof text, and if we find the conventional interpretation uncomfortable, we look for alternative hermeneutics; what other ways can we legitimately shape our reading of the text to see if it can hold what we’d like to be true? Can we fit the issue into our desired biblical “Christian normal”?

Unfortunately the almost inevitable result is that we end up drawing a line in the sand, an implicit “putting people on trial” to see of they meet a defined standard. The outcome? Argument. Condemnation and judgment … at least implied if not explicit. Hurt people, broken relationships. Fragmentation and polarization.

But ask yourself: who is perfect in all their finances, charity, spiritual disciplines, gossip, ambition, desires, mercy, love, or grace? No one. None. So a line in the sand is useless, because we’re ALL standing together on one side of that line, and God is on the other side. Who can justifiably cast the first stone?

The issue is not the line in the sand, it goes much deeper than that simplicity. The issue as far as God is concerned is “Where am I facing, what direction am I headed, are my life’s habitual practices and actions convergent or divergent with God’s intended normal?”

Now the problem becomes not a question of “is that sin or not”, but what is “God-normality”? For that is the goal, that is the intention of God as he gazes at all of us standing on the other side of the line. That is the Easter purpose, that is God’s teaching, that is his desire: convergence with his unchanging normal.

All of us are deviant. Whether born with such deviancies or whether we’ve acquired such deviancies through choice. For example, on the biological level I have two spleens (it’s true). On the spiritual level I’m not going to list my deviancies here, but there are many. I am deviant in propensity and practice, yet I hope and pray that I am converging with God’s normal.

But I also know God’s original design. He intended me to be perfect in nakedness, unashamedly unblemished in my physical and spiritual exposure. Able to stand face to face in his presence. Male and female he made us, as companions in perfection.

Now wait a moment: before you jump to conclusions about what you think that implies about my position on gay relationship, let me go a further step. There are some things that are obviously not what God intended (murder, for one), and there are things God definitely did intend (the union of man and woman). But is there a grey zone in between? Take for example the question of polygamy. I don’t see anything in the bible that says God either approves of, or judges polygamy. In fact we see many examples in the Old Testament of polygamous people who nevertheless had God’s favor. Likewise, is it against God to smoke (it damages us, causes cancer, and shortens life)? It doesn’t seem so from the bible. Or is it wrong to lose our inhibitions from drinking alcohol (and I’m not talking about all-out drunken stupor)? Wine was a common drink endorsed by Jesus (he even made it himself, and classy stuff it was by the sounds of it).

These are in that zone of behavior where God seems to say “Not the original design, not the intended normality, not optimal, but your choice”. That’s the grey zone - we all have grey in our lives.

But don’t we want to live in the ideal zone, the white zone, the light zone, the zone of intended creation? Should we not be seeking to be perfect (Matt 5:48), and be holy (1Pe 1:16), as originally intended? Isn’t that God’s desire for us, to come out of the dark and into the light? My whole life has been a journey, even a battle, to get further into the light, and I won’t be fully there till the day I die.

This is perhaps why we have Paul in the New Testament saying to Titus and Timothy that a leader should be of one wife … implicitly he’s saying yes, you could have more than one wife, but that’s grey zone living. If you want to be a leader, then you need to be fighting to get into the white zone and lead by the example of seeking “God’s normal”. Relativism - the current name of the game, choosing our preferred reference - does not define God’s normality (whether I like it or not).

So, when all is said and done, where do I stand on gay relationships and other sexual issues, and where does my church stand?

First I need to make one distinction: there is a big difference between bed-hopping recreational sex built on hormones and hedonism, and that of a loving relational commitment. Personally, I think the former is very much outside the grey zone. With that in mind the biblical position on sexuality and the gay perspective (Genesis 18:20 and 19:5; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; 1 Timothy 1:10) seems to be in a context of lifestyle attitudes to casual sex and hedonistic desire. Such behavior - general sexual promiscuity - is outside the grey zone. But what about a loving committed relationship, whether gay or of unmarried heterosexuals living together? It comes in varying degrees of ambiguity. So I place much of this in the as grey zone, and depending on the specifics ranges from darker to lighter shades of grey because of the inevitable broader consequences that sexual relationships have on other people.

As with much of grey zone behavior, when it comes to Christian leadership I struggle to accept the implicit endorsement where a leader’s habitual lifestyle is not “white zone”. Through holding a position of leadership there is a tacit endorsement that what a leader practices as normal is God-normality. Leaders carry a burdensome responsibility and accountability that they “don’t cause my brother/sister to stumble in their walk toward perfect holiness”.

God’s call on our life is to journey toward his created normality. Hence Paul’s position on leadership and polygamy; leaders should be “of one wife”. Christian leaders have the responsibility to lead us into the white zone, the God-normality zone — for that, after all, is our ultimate destination as Christians.

Where does my church stand on this? It’s ambiguous, for we have yet to really have that discussion, perhaps for fear of communicating judgment and implying people are on trial. How will we deal with this? I’m not sure, but I hope it begins with a focus on Holiness and Humility. Let God’s light illuminate, not my prejudiced personal candle, not my comfort zone preference.

-Benjamin

I Grew Up In Church But…..

Submitted by @EthanCaughey

I am living in a culture that at times seems foreign to me. Things have shifted. The way I was raised is often irrelevant. Perhaps this is the way it always happens. Perhaps this is just a part of growing up. But it is new to me.

I remember going to church when I was young. Everything was easy, there was never controversy. Of course, there were the abortionists, the gays, the Muslims, the unsaved, the evolutionists, the outsiders. But my parents were diligent in teaching me that they were wrong and that we were right. It was simple. It was black&white.

I don’t even come from an overly sheltered background. I think I can confidently say that that was just the reality of Midwest Christian culture in the 90s.

Then I went to college and started really brushing shoulders and eating meals with the abortionists, the gays, the Muslims, the unsaved, the evolutionists, the outsiders. In fact, we became friends. And I became grey.

There’s this story of Jesus and the disciples meeting this demon-possessed guy. Unlike other stories about outsiders, Jesus isn’t the first person to show him attention. The local townspeople had put him under guard many times before. They had chained and shackled him. But he kept breaking free. Eventually, he ends up alone, naked, wandering through the tombs. Wandering through death.

I’ve met countless people and heard countless stories of church and my generation. They start the same way, “I grew up in church, but…”. There is an entire generation who has been chained and shackled by the rules/restrictions/commandments/preferences/black&whiteness of the church. But with a little time, the chains break and the shackles fall off; yet they still feel so incomplete. Sometimes they try again, with new rules or a new denominational creed. Eventually, they’re left alone, wandering through death.

I’m not saying that being gay or believing in evolution is equivalent to being demon-possessed. What I am saying is that Jesus has a habit of finding people, wandering through death.

You are never too far gone. More importantly, they are never too far gone. People don’t need your rules. What people need is Jesus, a grey Jesus.

@EthanCaughey

Should we be friendly? Yes. Generous? Yes. Patient? Yes. Grey? Never!

I had no clue that Christian Today was writing something about Grey God. They didn’t contact me for an interview or anything so I was surprised today to read this article online.

I enjoyed all of it except the title.

"Theology around homosexuality is not black and white"

That is not really what I am trying to communicate or prove with this blog or my article. This blog is not about one issue and is not about whether that issue is black or white or grey.

The blog and thoughts I am willing to share are to help people understand that our worldview/assumption set/judgment is what needs to be grey. Maybe God is black or white on certain issues….I believe that but when we decide without a doubt what those issues are is when things tend to be get a little grey.

Anyways, back to the Christian Today article.

The end of the article the writer mentions a blog from 2012 from Joe Hamper called ‘Have You Met the Grey God?

I think me and Joe would be great friends :)

Here is my favorite part of his blog:

When discussing God the Father, Jesus Christ, salvation, or religion, the true believer must have a backbone.  The faithful follower must have a sound and biblical understanding as to what sin truly is, and who the holy and perfect God he serves truly is.   The evangelist (for that is what all believers are) must be black and white, with no sign of grey except in those few areas our Lord intentionally left without full explanation.  Was Elijah grey?  How about John the Baptist or Moses?  The more someone is sanctified, set apart from sin as holy unto the Lord, the more they will become black and white, just like their Master.  Great care must be taken to be sure that we are entrenched in the same positions as our black and white God, but once we are, let us never become “grey” to accommodate the comfort of the lost, or to avoid discomfort in a conversation.  Should we be friendly?  Yes.  Generous?  Yes.  Patient?  Yes.  Grey?  Never!

Wow. 

Well, Joe… I am sure glad you are generous, patient and friendly in person because on your blog you seem like a real know it all that is unapproachable and one of the very reasons why a lot of my friends want to leave the church and run away from this black and white God.

Your points could be valid but what do you prove by winning this argument? You want to be right. That is my issue. Joe has Jesus figured out and communicates to everyone about this Jesus that he knows and the Jesus that I know and try and communicate about must be a different person. 

Or is there maybe room for grey?

Joe - email me craig@xxxchurch.com and lets have a chat that we can post on our sites.

Constantly Changing Culture

Brought to you by @MattWhitacre

In a culture that is constantly changing, constantly updating, rearranging and shifting its standards, it is easy for people, Christians, anybody, to become lost. Lucky for us (Christians) we have a set of standards that has not and will not ever change; the Gospel. 

Let me explain a little about myself and about where I am coming from before I either A: Offer some interesting thoughts, or B: Piss some people off and waste their time (which is going to happen for some people regardless…sorry.) 

I grew up in Massachusetts as a pastor’s kid, I’ve been involved in church ever since I can remember, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I am by no means perfect, I have tattoos, enjoy a good cigar, forget to read my bible some days, and I even cuss every once in a while (Some people are surely questioning my salvation by now; but stay with me.)  Oh yeah, and I have gay friends, growing up in Massachusetts its kind of hard not to, it’s part of life there whether it’s at school, at work, at church, or even in my family…and I love them. I think this gives me a little credibility on this topic of “Grey God” that is starting to trend.

Today the church is growing divided and misled in an era where it is so vital that we be united. One of the obvious pressing issues for the church today is without a doubt homosexuality. Believe it or not, the Bible has a lot to say about this issue. But lets start with this.

 #1// The Love of God is for Everyone- Gays, straights, addicts, porn stars, and pastors.  I will admit, this is where a lot of Christians mess up; a lot of times as Christians, because of who a person is or what a person does, we put them in this category of “Undesirables”. We don’t associate with them because they are sinners, it would make me look bad, Jesus would never approve of this! Right? Wrong.  In John 4 we see the perfect example of this. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this passage it goes like this. Jesus was a Jew, and in those days one of the biggest no-no’s for a Jew was to associate with a Samaritan. Jesus, being the perfect Jew, obviously embraced this, right? …Not quite…actually…not at all. One day he was walking with his disciples and took a little detour, towards a Samaritan town…the disciples must have started to freak out a little bit, (what will people think of them, what will people think of Jesus, associating with these people?) But there was a reason he was here. He was waiting for someone, a prostitute actually (wait…what?) He was not waiting there to yell in her face but to befriend her and love her. The religious leaders of the day would say Jesus had no business hanging out with someone like this! This was blasphemy! Jesus was showing a picture that his love is for all, and he commands us as Christians to love others no matter what. BUT there is a second part to this! Jesus accepted her, however; He did not approve of her lifestyle. He urged her to give up her ways and told her of a better more satisfying life. This brings me to my second point

#2// We Must not Confuse Acceptance and Approval. – This is going to be a deal breaker for some people.  Throughout scripture, Jesus loves people, accepts them for who they are, yet he never approves of sin. Like I said, it is important for us as Christians to have relationships, but does that mean we have to approve of everything other people do? I have come to the conclusion in my life that not every body is going to approve of my actions or even my thoughts. Some of you, many of you, reading this probably do not approve of my views as a Christian, so who is in the wrong? Who needs to compromise? Or can we just agree that acceptance and approval are two completely different things?  The bottom line is this; sin is sin. There is no way around this. Truth is truth and time will never change that. What is starting to happen today is that there is a generation of Christians who are beginning to distort who Jesus really was, they look at the Bible through the lens of a polluted culture rather than looking at culture through the lens of resolute truth.  

To be honest, I’m not sure if I believe that any sin is worse than the other but I do know this, there is sin that is more public than others.  Can we as Christians please be honest and agree about this; Homosexuality is not of God (the Bible makes it clear as day in Romans 1) but neither is my heterosexual sin! There is no way to argue that if I am sleeping with my girlfriend (or even having impure thoughts about her) before we are married, it is right in the eyes of God. If anybody does think this, we have an even bigger issue on our hands! It is easy for Christians to look at things like homosexuality or drugs, or porn, and point out the people living in them, Jesus had something to say about this too; Take the log out of your own eye before you point out the speck in someone else’s. (Matt 7:5) in other words, we have enough of our own problems to take care of. 

Here is the point. We are all sinners, we have all failed and none of us are good enough. But that’s why Christ died. We don’t have to be good enough, (like we ever could), we need to love others like Jesus did and do our best to live like Christ.  Stop getting so caught up in the world and look to Jesus. 

I write this because I think this new relevance/ tolerance is one of the two biggest dangers in American Christianity today (the other being the pursuit of pleasure). 

The danger is that this is happening under the name of Jesus and inside the church. 

- @MattWhitacre 

Grey Topics & Honesty

This one from twitter.com/@RobertBrennan

I should start by saying I’m a Christian. I believe very much in Jesus Christ and His saving Grace. I believe God loves me and God loves you and God loves everyone. I believe that God has the power to transform lives and change hearts and save souls. I believe that God is working to pursue you, to do amazing things in your life. I honestly believe these things down to my very core.

I also believe that God wants to do these things through other people.

I mention this because, throughout my life, I’ve spent a lot of time in Christian circles and a lot a time not in Christian circles. There are (as I suspect is the case with many) huge chunks of my life where my faith took a backseat, and I dove headfirst into worldly pleasures and pursuits. Having had these experiences, I’ve developed a heart for people who don’t hang out at churches or ministries, who either regard faith as something irrelevant or something they claim while having little to no impact on their daily lives.

I bring this up because something strikes me about non-Christian groups/events/etc. I’ve found, much to my dismay, that they are often more honest than places with a Christian label. I find that when I walk into places with ‘Christian’ in the name, the conversations largely go something like this:

“Hey, how are you?”

“I’m good, just busy. How are you?”

“Can’t complain!”

Some variation of pleasantries are exchanged, with everyone explaining they’re doing well, just keeping busy with school, work, the kids, etc. Maybe, for most people, this is true. But I suspect for a pretty decent percentage, this is far from the truth. We’ve been trained subconsciously (or maybe told verbatim at some point) that to be Christian means having everything together. I think the thought process is a mixture of two things: the thought that admitting problems means somehow you’re admitting God isn’t good enough, and the romanticized American notion of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and not needing anyone else.

Before you disagree with me, consider this: In almost every action movie, there comes a climactic scene where our hero throws down his badge and goes rouge, taking on the bad guys by himself and rescuing the girl/world/whatever in the process. The lesson being taught here is that a ‘real man’ doesn’t need a team (whatever form it takes,) he can do it on his own. When’s the last time you saw the hero in a blockbuster movie fail spectacularly and willingly admit he needs help? When’s the last time you saw a hero collapse into another’s arms, recognizing his weakness instead of pushing through his wounds to conquer all? Some examples can be found, of course, but we largely buy into the notion that we can do it ourselves, we don’t need other people.

What if this isn’t the case?

What if you were made to need other people?

What if recognizing this and admitting this led to something far greater than trying to do it on your own?

I ask these questions because more and more, I am coming to believe they need to be asked.

I do believe that God loves you, and that Jesus calls us to loves others. There’s a good chance if you’re a willing participant in this Jesus thing, that you believe these as well, even if it’s just on a surface level.

But if God calls us to show His love to others through us loving them, how can we deny that He wants to love us this way as well? If you believe that Jesus is working through you to love people, wouldn’t it follow that He’s working through others to love you?

Please hear my heart in this, I’m not saying that God can’t work on His own and do incredible things; I very much believe that He can. But isn’t is also likely that He’s working through the people around you? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t being honest about the things that are hurting you be the best way to go? When we talk about laying our burdens down at the cross and letting God carry them for us, couldn’t we also talk about letting the people around us carry them? Isn’t it possible that God has placed them there for exactly this purpose?

This is a hard concept for us, because we’re prideful. We think that needing help is weakness. I’m here to tell you that that’s a lie. That needing help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human. Letting people love you isn’t an affront to God, it’s embracing the love God has for you. Accepting love is a requirement for giving love.

This is a critical thing to grasp, because keeping our problems to ourselves is killing us. Don’t believe me? 2/3 of people who struggle with Depression never seek help; untreated Depression is the leading cause of suicide. Only 10% of people who struggle with an eating disorder get treatment; eating disorders can lead to organ failure and heart failure. Only 11% of people who need treatment for substance abuse get treatment; I don’t think I need to prove to you that substance abuse leads to severe problems.

To pretend these things (and an infinite amount of other struggles) simply don’t exist in Christian communities is not only näive, it’s delusional. And I think it stems from the Black & White God we’ve come to adopt. These things are topics to discuss in church, these things aren’t. But a Grey mindset does away with all of that. A Grey church mentality says “we’re willing to walk with you through whatever struggles you have, because we understand its not as simple as dividing things into good and bad, black and white. There’s a lot of grey in there, and we want to help you navigate.”

I’ve seen time and time again, Christian communities rally around those who just lost a loved one or who need food in time of financial crisis. Why are we willing to accept help in these instances but not in others? The Christian response to struggles, no matter what, should be one of love and burden-sharing. Avoiding certain topics because they’re not the sexy ones we’re used to talking about is unacceptable. Avoiding conversations because they’re uncomfortable is unacceptable.

If we are called to truly love, there can be no struggle that is off limits to discuss. The church should be leading the way in honest conversations, not shying away from them. Honesty is hard, vulnerability is scary, needing people is counter cultural. But God made you to need other people and He made other people to need you.

Please talk about the things that are hurting you, and listen when someone talks about what’s hurting them.

Please be open and honest about your struggles, and be willing to have conversations you’re uncomfortable in order for someone else to be honest.

Please let people love you.

Please let God love you.

Accept love, give love.

-rv

@RobertBrennan

My Name Is Billy

I don’t know what yet, but I need to write it.

My name is Billy.

Back story, ready? Twenty-six years old, married to a beautiful woman named Maggie, we’ve been married for almost 3 years. Both grew up in Christian homes, church every week, youth group all the time, all the trips, missions, all that. We both volunteered with the youth group when we were old enough, Maggie eventually took a position on the youth staff. 

Fast forward a few years and…we’ve completely dropped out of church. 

Why? Disgust, mostly. 

Our church (and church in general) doesn’t work for us anymore. Our church became too much about building and money and new things and fancy shit at the services and all that. And it became less about people, less about people that didn’t go there. More about the people inside the church walls and never about outside. And the church in general is just too much about what they’re against and not what they’re about, or, I guess, what they should be about.

And then I found Grey God, completely by accident.

My wife and I are still in a small group with close friends. Friends that, like us, are just bummed out left and right by the church. You can tell, sitting in that group every Monday night, that we all feel church is doing it wrong and we can’t fix it or just don’t know how. And in that process by beliefs have been changed. I’ve been saying over and over again that I don’t want a God that is about this but not that, or for this and against that. But I’ve never had a term for it.

Grey God, that’s it.

I’m a writer, seven months ago I quit my job to write full time. In that time I’ve written a book, countless short stories and too many words to count. Sometime during the process I wondered why I never wrote about God, why I never put any find of hint towards it anywhere in what I wrote. If this is my gift, this is my tool, what I do, why don’t I do it to spread love? I don’t know, I didn’t know.

So, now, I need to write something for Grey God, I don’t know what yet but I know I need to write it. I need to write about love and feeling embarrassed by Christians and angry at them and wanting them to do it different, do it with love. I need to write about the God I know, the one that loves and cares for everyone, not just some people. Hopefully Grey God is the platform I can do it at.

Thanks for listening.

Billy 

Cages and Walls

I wrote this post called GREY GOD. My friend Rachel who says she is going to blog before 2017 sent me this. I am posting this on my blog since she lost the log in for her blog I set up for her.

There is way more tension in our faith than absolutes. But people love cages and walls because that keeps them safe. But love is never safe. The black and white is that God is the ultimate pursuer and lover of His people, gays, women, fringe. It’s like do people understand that he loved the people out in ‘the grey’ ? Doesn’t mean that we don’t hold scripture to be true, it just means that loving God and loving people requires you to do things that go beyond our comfort. All I know is that guy in your blog should be loved not ‘caged’. He needed people to walk with him through the difficult places and not leave him with professionals in a camp. To know that it’s each one of us that works out our faith in fear trembling before God.

And I believe most Christians that I know are scared to talk about the grey because people think they don’t believe in scripture. I freaking love scripture. I love God and people. And Gays. All of them. And loving people means you have to get comfortable with the Grey. Cause we DONT always have the answers. We don’t. And God is still good in that. He still speaks. Okay. I need to stop rambling.

Welcome… Let Me Explain

My name is Craig Gross.

I recently wrote a piece for Relevant talking about how Christians need to follow a Grey God instead of a Black or White God. 

A couple of weeks later, I got an email from a guy named Aaron I met once before who read it and felt like he needed to reach out to me. Here is a piece of that email:

The reason I felt impelled to write you this note was not to discuss the movie,  but more so declare my admiration for how you handled your accusers.  It also made me wish that you were the type of person I had in my life when I was in the process of de-converting from Christianity. 

Yes,  you read that correctly.  De-converting.    A quick backstory on myself.  Born in a christian home.  I was the model of the perfect child of a christian parent.   I went to youth group,  went on every mission trip,  went to a Christian University.   I loved Jesus.  When I was 19 I became aware of my homosexual attractions and I have spent the last 15 years in reparative therapy trying to reverse those attractions.  I have finally now come to the conclusion that reversing my orientation is not possible.   My journey of having my homosexuality “fixed” is long, complicated, heartbreaking, and exhaustive.  Unfortunately through all of this my faith in God suffered.  I started asking too many questions,  I was suffering with too much doubt and all paths led me to where I am today….Agnostic.   I actually prefer to say “Agnostic Deist” because although I don’t know for sure there is a God,  I choose to believe there is a creator God.   The concept of a personal God is completely lost on me and I don’t believe in the reliability, relevance, or inerrancy of the Bible like I once did.   This is not something that came overnight or was an irrational decision based on me not getting my own way.  The last two years of figuring out the ridiculousness of Christianity and detoxing from strong beliefs that I once thought helped me have been extremely intense.  What I thought helped me actually hurt me  

I loved the part in your blog when you were talking about the grey areas and that “grey” represents your belief system.   This is the part where I wish i had someone like you in my life years ago and I could have that same mentality.  Unfortunately I was raised, indoctrinated, and educated in a religion that only endorsed black and white thinking and if I made one step or had one thought in the opposite direction,  I was going straight to hell.  Living a black and white life is destructive and my relationship with Jesus suffered because of it.  I think that the Jesus of the bible lived in a grey belief system. Thats the Jesus i think I could love now if I ever had the faith again to believe his existence was true and worthwhile.  I could fall in love with a Gray Jesus.   The Black and White Jesus failed me.   The Gray Jesus could have restored my hope in a personal God.   Black and White Jesus only presented me with despair.  I could fall in love with a Grey Jesus.   I could.  But i’ve been tainted.  Faith in God represents hopelessness to me.   

I read this email and knew I had to meet this guy in person. If you know me, you know I act pretty quickly on things, so I contacted Aaron and met him for lunch the next day. I sat and listened to Aaron’s story for almost two hours, asking a lot of questions and discovering more reasons why I wish people who “issue statements” or “take a stand” would just listen a bit more.

I found it interesting that Aaron’s church enlisted him to do a video testimony that played on Easter Sunday about his freedom from homosexuality—even though he was still gay. And then he did a “cardboard testimony” stating the same thing, and then some donors in his church (as well as the church itself) spent thousands of dollars to send him to “Straight Camp” so he definitely wouldn’t be gay anymore.  

The problem is, it didn’t work. 

Nor did the nine months he spent at YWAM’s discipleship training school.

Nor did any of the countless therapy sessions, psychologists, counselors, homosexual healing groups, books written by ex-gays, bondage-breaking intercessory prayer, or anything else he has tried for the last 15 years.

So, what has the church left him with? Unbelief. He can no longer believe in God because everything he has been told about God “curing” him and “fixing” him hasn’t worked. All it’s given him is a long list of questions about God and about himself. 

I can sympathize. If I was told for years that what I was doing was wrong and the feelings I felt were wrong and that God would give me a way out, but still felt all that stuff after thousands of dollars and thousands of hours invested… yeah, I’d have trouble believing, too.

I shared Aaron’s story with a friend today and she told me, ”Come on, Craig. I get the idea of a ‘grey God’ but he has to be black and white on some things…” I wanted to mute her. She’s got it all wrong. 

Last month World Vision got it all wrong, first issuing a statement saying they would employ homosexuals who were either celibate or were in legal, church-sanctioned marriages. Countless vehemently angry phone calls and 10,000 cancelled child sponsorships later, they retracted the employment policy and reassured donors everyone working there would be straight.

Let me say this clearly, Christians: we don’t need more statements and stances.

You know what we need? More people who are willing to see that this is not about morality or culture wars or doctrinal differences. 

It’s about people

Think about the people who were welcomed to work at World Vision one day and unwelcome the next? How do they feel about Jesus now?

What about the 10,000 kids whose sponsorships were cancelled? What should we tell them about Jesus?

What about Aaron and a 15-year struggle that has left him on fragile terms with his family, as well as without a church family or God? How should he feel about Jesus? 

I’ve said this before, but it needs to be said over and over: be quick to listen and slow to speak. Most people and companies issuing statements and talking about a definitive black and white God have never sat and listened to the people and lives on the other end of their statements. That takes a little work; you have to get out from behind your stance and sit down for a two-hour lunch with a confused kid who’s been told he doesn’t belong. You have to blow past the black-and-white rhetoric of the establishment and get down in the grey dirt with the outcasts. 

You know. What Jesus did. 

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I just bought greygod.com and have no clue what to do with it or what else I will write about this but I think there is something here. Maybe it is a book or maybe it could be a blog. Not sure but thought it was worth 7 bucks. And for all you people reading this thinking I spelled grey wrong. That to is just your opinion because there are two ways to spell grey and both are right. Grey or Gray. Imagine that two different ways to spell the same word…kind of like two different ways to see the same God. Just saying.

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