Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Letter to a Friend

(A friend commented that "Born This Way" is a crutch, birth certificates say "baby boy" or "baby girl" not "baby gay."  This is my response.)

Born This Way vs. Choice

The usual question is, “When did you choose to be heterosexual?”  If you did choose, then maybe you are not a heterosexual as you think.  Actually, research would say that most of us are not as heterosexual or homosexual as we think.  Kinsey would tell us that, for the most part, we all fall somewhere in the middle.  Most of us are primarily heterosexual or homosexual, but very few of us are totally one or the other.  Our society is stuck in this dichotomy and it tends to rub off on us.
Could I choose to be heterosexual?  I could choose to ACT heterosexual.  I could choose to date women.  I could choose to go through the motions of being heterosexual.  I could have gotten married.  I could have fathered children.  (I have many friends who are/were married and also have children.)  Does that make me heterosexual?  In some circles, yes it does.  Some circles will narrowly define homosexuality as solely what one does with ones genitals.
I find that definition, that our sexuality is based purely on what we do with our genitals, to be demeaning.  My relationship with my partner is more than just sex.  I would hope your relationship with your wife is more than just sex.  Generally, relationships that are based on purely sex don’t last.  Relationships have to do with love, companionship, care, and sacrifice.  We can look at many straight and gay relationships where this is present and these relationships have true staying power.  (I was able to celebrate a 50th anniversary with a gay couple.  They were bucking societal norms for a long time!  Their relationship has weathered things that most straight couples cannot comprehend.)  I am sure we can also find relationships, both gay and straight, that appeared doomed from the start.  A relationship is a relationship:  whether it is gay or straight has less to do with its longevity than the people who comprise the relationship.
Now, again, if we ask, “When did you choose to be gay?”  I would have to say, “Never.”  But if we modify the question to, “When did you choose to acknowledge that you are attracted to men,” then I have to give you several answers.  There really was not one day.  There was a FINAL coming out to myself, but it was not a “Eureka” moment.
For all of my life, I knew that I was different.  I was not like everyone else.  Did my parents do anything to me to make me this way?  I don’t know.  And, frankly, I don’t care.  I believe my parents did the best they could.  (As I believe you are with your children.)  And I do not think they did a bad job, I like the way I turned out!  I was never into football.  (But there are gay football players.)  I was never into baseball.  (But there are gay baseball players.)  I got along with girls as friends but I also had male friends.  I was more cerebral than most, but that doesn’t make me gay.
I do remember looking at the Sears catalog being fascinated with the men’s underwear ads.  I do remember not being so interested in the bra ads.  I remember the bulges in the men’s jumpsuits while watching Star Trek.  I remember thinking that women in leotards looked weird.  I remember (in detail) one of the first men I saw naked when I was around 5 year old.  (My father would never think of being seen naked.  I actually did not see my father naked until I was in my 30’s.)  When looking at my brother’s Hustler magazines, I remember being much more attracted to the naked men in the pictorials than the women.
So, is there anything that “made me gay?”  Is there anything that could have/should have been done that would have “made me straight?”  I can’t think of any.  I would pray that I would be like everyone else.  I would pray that God would provide a girlfriend.  I would pray that I could find someone and get married and make babies and live “happily ever after.”  I would pray and I would try and I would tell myself that everything that I was feeling was wrong.
I would date.  I tried to convince myself that I was in love.  I would try to figure out want I was doing so that I could do the right thing.  It was all weird!  I didn’t really want to make-out with girls, it sounded boring to me.  I did not understand what everyone else was talking about.  I had kissed girls, I even got aroused while kissing girls, but it just did not feel right, natural.  When I lost my virginity, I was drunk.  And it was a disaster.  And it didn’t suddenly make me straight.  I had sex with another woman and it didn’t make me straight.  I dated and just didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t get the signals.
I eventually decided that I was destined to be alone.  Relationships with women never seemed to work and, of course, God didn’t want me to be gay, so I would have to live alone.  I bought a house.  I bought furniture.  I bought dishes.  I decided that there was no way God was going to give me a wife so I should learn to live alone.
Now this God question needs to be addressed:  What was I to think when I prayed for the feelings to go away and they do not?  Part of me questioned if God cared about me.  I am praying and God is doing nothing; so God must not care.  Part of me questioned if I was being too pushy; maybe the right person is just not “ready” yet.  Part of me wondered if God was cruel, giving me these feeling and then saying, “Naughty, naughty!!”  I truly had to wonder, if God did not want me this way, why did God make me this way?  It took a lot for me not to give up on God, but I had always been taught that God loved me and God did not make junk.  So I was loved and not junk.  But I was going to have to spend my life sad, depressed, and alone?  What kind of loving parent would want that for their children?  The whole “Pray the Gay Away” thinking is definitely “crazy-making.”
The finally deciding to “come out to myself” moment happened when I was at Stony Lake.  I was cleaning the White House when a friend of mine said, “Where is a broom?”  I said, “In the closet.”  And I would swear he said, “That is not the only thing in the closet around here.” 
Well, I was pissed! HOW DARE HE SAY THAT!  Then I started thinking:  If I am fooling no one else, why am I trying to fool myself?  And that was my “choice point.” 
Of course, this had more implications than just deciding that I really was attracted to men.  I was suddenly dealing with the ELCA polity of being gay but not doing anything about it.  I could still be an ELCA pastor; I would just continue to be lonely and depressed.  I could lie to the congregation but that just did not feel authentic to me.  I could not tell people to trust in God’s wonderful creation of each person while hiding such a huge part of who I was.  So in deciding to come out, I was choosing to lose my call, lose my insurance, lose my standing in the church.  I was risking my home.  Risking my car.  Risking my family.  Risking my friends.  Some may think that coming out is an act of “throwing their sin in our faces,” but actually, it is quite an act of courage.  I could have said nothing at church, but I probably would have ended up leaving the ministry instead of just leaving the church, because you cannot hide that much of yourself and still be effective.
Many in the congregation supported me.  Some were angry that I was not staying around to fight an unfair rule.  Some people who normally would come out the center aisle started to go out the side doors so as to avoid shaking my hand.  (After three years of being in a congregation, you get to know people’s habits.)  The church, which normally is a place of support, suddenly became a part of the “problem” which is a very scary place to be.
So the question becomes:  Why would I “choose” this?
Why would I choose to lose my home, friends, family, and credit rating?  Why would I choose to have people hate me just because I share my life with a guy?  Why would I choose to (quite literally) place my life and livelihood at risk when I could just choose to have sex with women?  Yeah, doesn’t make sense to me, either.
That is because being gay is not a choice.  Living life with integrity is a choice.  Not placing some woman in the situation for being “instead of” is a choice.  (I think that “settling” for anyone in a marriage is cruel.  And marrying a woman that I didn’t truly love and desire is “settling.”  Marrying a woman just to “make me straight” is no reason to get married.  Would you want either of your daughters to marry a guy just because he HOPED she would make him straight?)  Choosing to celebrate your sexuality as a gift given by God is a choice.
I was born this way.  There is no other way I can think of it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Post-Op Recap

Well, the surgery is over.

In truth, I actually hurt worse now than much of the time before the surgery.  Since Rocky was content to stay where he was, there was not a whole lot of pain.  There would be moments of pain, and then it would be over.  But now, the pain has been more constant.

The surgery itself wasn't too bad.  I went in at around 9 am and I remember getting on the bed in the operating room.  They put a mask over my face, adjusted it a bit, and then I was in the recovery room.  And I HAD to pee!  And it HURT!  There was the constant feeling like I had to go but couldn't.  I was told to expect this, but it still was not pleasant.

I had been told to drink a lot of water.  Problem, every time I peed, it HURT!  BADLY!  And then, because they put a stent in (from the kidney to the bladder), when I would go, it would hurt as if someone had stuck a knife in my back.  And also it would feel like my bowel was about to explode.  Now, I know this is reference pain from the irritation caused by the surgery, but that doesn't make it hurt any less.  (I am again taking some pain killers, and that seems to help.)  But between pain in the whole urinary tract and drinking copious amounts of liquids, recovery has been unpleasant.

A bright spot was the recovery room nurse.  He was a cutie!  Trim, a bit of a 5 o'clock shadow and a cute butt.  (Scrubs can do wonderful things for people!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It is only "Minor Surgery" when it happens to someone else.

Well, tomorrow I "go under the knife."  Well, not actually.  Actually I will be having a device shoved up my penis in order to pull a kidney stone out of my ureter.

I have been having all kinds of mental images of this.  The one that keeps popping into my head is Arnie Schwartzengovernor pulling the tracking device out of his head.  All that I can imagine is them sticking a long metal thing up there, grabbing on to the stone and then streatching my poor penis all out of shape.

Also, the concept of people doing things with my organ is kind of weird.  Not that I don't like people doing things with my organ.  But to be passed out and having people do things with my organ, well that just weirding me out.

Oh well.  Leaving the thing in place really isn't an option so tomorrow, "Rocky" the stone is going away.

(Oh, I must admit that I stole the title of this post.)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Get out there! Pentecost 2 Year A

I was watching a movie yesterday.  It was called The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  Now, this sermon is not going to be about that movie, but there was something in the movie that really got me thinking about today’s gospel reading.  In the movie, the Apprentice is told that once he starts on the path of learning, there is no going back.  Once the Apprentice steps into the circle, there is no going back.

I was thinking that stepping into the light of Christ is sort of a similar thing.  Once we take being a Christian seriously, we will find that we are in the same place; once we take our call to be Christian seriously, we find that our lives are changed in ways that will never allow us to go back.

Yet, unfortunately, being the humans that we are, we may not want to go back, but we may be very content to stay where we are.  We find something that we like and we decide that this is good enough.  We get to know people and decide that these people are the ones we want to stay with.  We find a place of comfort and decide that we just don’t want to move from there.

Really, this wanting to stay in the same place makes sense.  If we know we are safe, then we don’t have to be spending a whole lot of time keeping watch for threats to our health and well being.  If we find a safe place, then we can spend our time doing other things like raising our families, cultivating friendships, and pursuing our passions.  But, eventually, staying in the same place begins to fail.  We run out of food.  We become bored and complacent with each other.  We begin to see enemies where enemies don’t exist.  When groups become to content with their surroundings, it is then that the group begins to fall apart.  This almost sounds counter-intuitive, but I have seen this happen too many times to just write it off.

This was a problem that was facing the early Christians after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  They were all together in a room because it was safer to be there.  Stories were being spread that sightings of the risen Christ we hoaxes that were being perpetrated by the disciples.  The disciples were huddled together in the upper room to avoid the very real danger that awaited them outside their walls.

But whether the walls of a cell are imposed on people by another or the people choose to stay where there are; cell walls are cell walls.  The disciples were locking themselves away.  Their fear was placing them into a jail of their own making.  The disciples may have felt safe, but that safety would eventually destroy them.

When we look at the world, it can seem big and scary.  There are so many things out there that can feel threatening to our well being.  There are things that are unknown.  There are murky gray areas which seem to have no right or wrong answers.  There are multiple options out there with no sure-fire guarantee that any of the options will succeed.  When the world looks scary, movement becomes difficult.  When resources like money become scarce, staying put looks like a pretty tempting choice.  But in today’s gospel reading, Jesus calls us to move beyond that tempting choice.  In today’s gospel, Jesus calls us to be something more.

Many of us have gone through the heyday of being Church in America:  All we had to do was plop a church down and open the doors and the people would walk in.  Churchlife was part of the fabric of society.  This was a very comfortable place to be!  We knew that the folks who were walking in were of a similar mindset as we were.  We knew that although we may differ on a few points, for the most part we all agreed.  But now things are changing.  We cannot assume that people believe the same things we do.  We cannot assume that a person’s understanding of scripture is similar to our.  We cannot even assume that a person adheres to the same scripture we do. (Possibly tell “Our Father” story here)  With all the changes that are occurring in the world, it may feel safer to stay within the walls of our churches than to go out and face the challenges of the world.

And we may even convince ourselves that staying inside is a good thing.  We may convince ourselves that by closing ourselves within our walls that we are protecting the faith and building up our congregations.  In a former congregation, I had a person seriously tell me that she liked her small congregation and that we needed to be spending our time caring for ourselves rather than looking out into the world.  Unfortunately, that congregation is now closed.  When a congregation becomes totally inward focused, it just starts to feed on itself.

However, Jesus was not about to let the disciples become that inwardly focused.  While they were all in the upper room trying to be safe, he called them and sent them to Galilee.  And while he was there with them, he told them what we heard in today’s gospel; the words which we have come to call the “Great Commission.” 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Jesus wasn’t telling them to spend their time looking after their own little congregation and make sure they were all dealing with their grief in appropriate manners; he was telling them to move out into the world.  He was telling them to go out to the nations and spread the word that they received from Christ, himself.  He didn’t tell them to make sure they were all ok with the system, even though we are told that some doubted what they were seeing.  He told them to go out; go out and make disciples of all nations!

That is rather scary!  But Jesus does not give us any wiggle room.  We may say that we don’t know enough to go out.  We may say we are too old to go out.  We may say we are too young to go out!  We may try to come up with all kinds of excuses to not be out in the nations making disciples.  But like I said before, Jesus does not give us any wiggle room.  If we are afraid to go out, Jesus reassures us that Christ himself will be with us.  We are not being sent out to the nations on our own, we are being sent out with Christ himself as our traveling companion!  Could we ever ask for a better companion?

I am guessing that you, as a congregation, are going through something similar.  Your beloved priest of many years is no longer with you.  The tendency may be to feel like it is better to draw together and keep safe to heal.  But the words of Jesus would challenge you to think differently.  Yes, the disciples did come together for a time of healing, but then Christ sent them out; sent them out to baptize, to teach, to make disciples.  Christ knew that part of the process of healing was to reach out and help others.

We as Christians have been called.  And when we recognize that call, there is no going back.  If fact, Christ is not content to just let us stay where we are.  Christ is moving us ahead, sending us out.  Out into a world that needs to hear the message of Christ’s love.  It can be scary going out, and like the disciples, we may have our doubts, but even those disciples who doubted were not given a pass.  Jesus called them all and sent them all.

And because they went out into the world, people heard the message and lives were changed.  And those people went out and spread the message and more became disciples.  And those disciples went out to teach and baptize and still more learned of Christ’s love and followed.  And this chain of disciples has passed through the years and now comes down to you and me. 

So, what are we going do?  Who is waiting to hear the good news from us?  Even if we may doubt, Christ sends us out.  And in all things, we can be assured we are not alone.  Christ is with us, even to the end of the age.