Den of Vipers – Part 3

This is based around Mark 3:1-5 ESV

Many Christians today have built their day-to-day dealings and world view around the Bible, or so they claim. Hear me, I don’t think having a Christian or Biblical World View is wrong – I went to a Christian University because of mine – but sometimes we followers lose sight of the real goal in doing so. Too often, we create parameters or definitions of morality and then hold people around us to those standards that they might not even follow. Or we interpret “the rules” we follow in the Bible and treat them as more sacred than God, losing site of the ultimate goal in the first place.

Take the recent push for “religious freedom” laws spreading across the USA. In the name of Christianity (which the USA is not supposed to honor more than other religions), employers and businesses are being given the right to refuse services to people they define as outside their belief system. Most often, these people are homosexuals. So, in some states, a restaurant can refuse service to a gay couple or a doctor can refuse to offer medical treatment to a gay person. Why? “I do not agree with their lifestyle, the Bible says it is wrong.”

When Jesus walked the earth, the Pharisees and Scribes had PLENTY of things they called wrong as well, most of which they based on the Bible. As previously shared, eating with the “impure” was a big no no, and yet Jesus did it and chastised the leaders when they called Him out. “True” Jews followed strict rules, even when they were under the power of Rome, and were fearful of being kicked out of the faith if they failed. One such rule was honoring the Sabbath; the Pharisees already had a run in with Jesus when His disciples pulled grain to eat on the Sabbath, so they were watching for a misstep to give them authority to arrest Him. Here’s how the new situation went down:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 

Jesus challenged the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law because it lacked love and compassion. It made rules more important than people, just like I believe the new “morality laws” under the banner of “religious freedom” do today. The rules the Pharisees insisted on and people today insist on not only are not founded upon love, they do not incorporate the law of love that Paul wrote so much about. Jesus instead did what was good and kind and loving: he met that man’s need in love and healed him – even on the Sabbath. And I believe Jesus would provide food service to a gay couple and medical service to a gay man.

I pray that we, especially those in this country that are Christians, stop manifesting this problem today. May we stop struggling with letting rules be more important than loving people. May we definitely strive to be good and do what is right, but not forget the bottom line of LOVE.

Den of Vipers – Part 2

One of the things I love about riding my motorcycle is the sense of community I feel with other riders. If you’ve never ridden, there is a common thing that happens; when other riders pass you, we wave at each other. It doesn’t matter if you are on the same kind of motorcycle, if you are wearing leather, the size of your engine, if you’re a weekend warrior or hardcore biker, if you’re a guy or not……we always wave. There are no conditions involved, and there is a sense of relating without knowing more about the other person other than they are riding a motorcycle. There is an unspoken agreement that we have each other’s backs and appreciate each other.

As simple and silly as this may seem, it is truly beautiful to me. How much better would the world be if we all acted this way with other strangers we interact with throughout our days?

In the world, however, things are not so simple and certainly not as friendly. For thousands of years we, as humans, have created lines to separate each other. We divide communities by race, by politics, by religion, and millions of other ways. Too often, by creating these segments we allow ourselves to create perspectives that designate a person’s worth (or lack of it) by what side of the line they exist. And that is wrong.

When Jesus walked the earth, this was also true. The Pharisee, the Scribes, and the Sadduccees were all experts on the Torah and the law it taught. Not many during the time Jesus was about had access to the Word, and therefore relied solely on the leaders to tell them what needed to be done to stay in God’s good light. As the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadduccees all believed that following the law to the “T” was the only way, they provided little help to people who were illiterate and often poor. Further, as they were “experts”, they often felt they were better than most every other group that existed during this time. After all, not only could they read, but they insisted they KNEW the law, and because of that were of a higher social order than the majority. The Sadducees, who consisted of rich, almost aristocratic families, had an added layer of prestige that made it easy to look to the rest of the community as “filled with others”.

Then Jesus hit the scene. He did not come from a rich family. He was not a Pharisee or a Scribe. He, in fact, was shaking up the traditions and even the authority of the leaders, which made Him not only suspect, but endangered the foundation in which the leaders had built their “line” of separation. This is abundantly clear in many scriptures, including this which is found in Mark 2:15-17 ESV

“And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

To the religion leaders, communing in any way with “tax collectors and sinners” was a horrible thought. They taught that doing so would make a person unclean, and being unclean meant you could not commune with God – who they taught did not associate with the impure. They had created a mechanism to draw so many lines, it was almost impossible to live let alone create a community. Jesus, however, was clearly saying that avoiding people didn’t help them in any way, especially as it related to God.

It is easy for any of us to create a line to differentiate ourselves from people or actions we do not like. Especially in the religious context, that has been tradition for far too many centuries. Even in the political realm, we humans have created a “community” where acting as if it is “us against them” is more righteous than getting along. And none of that has anything to do with Christ or Christianity if we truly listen to the teachings of our Savior.

Further, it is clear that the Pharisees did not consider themselves sinners. Too often we forget that we are sinners, too, worthy of death. Those who have accepted the Grace of God through Jesus have been saved from the sting of death, not by anything we’ve done but by a free gift given to us. Yet, too many Christians put on the robes of the Pharisees and claim they are saved, and maybe even no longer sin or at least cannot be called “sinners”, while condemning those who are different.

But I want to be more like Jesus, who I picture would also wave if He was riding past me on His motorcycle, not caring what kind of bike I rode, what I wore, or if I was a sinner (which I most certainly am).


Den of Vipers – Part 1

The bulk of my study here is derived from Matthew 12:1-37 ESV

One of the many characteristics that are brought up today by Christians regarding Pharisees relates to their judgmental attitudes. I think many envision their hatred for Jesus and their part in His crucifixion. I didn’t want to just “go there”, but wanted to understand a bit more where Jesus was coming from and why His interactions with the Pharisees and the Scribes were so dramatic.

Reading from Matthew, the first thing that comes to mind is that the Pharisees had developed a very pristine and detailed rule book to follow in order to be considered holy. It appears, based on these rules and the Pharisee’s call to follow them, they viewed God as a God of Demands. “Do this and don’t do that”. This clearly is exposed at the beginning of this chapter as they confidently confront Jesus because His disciples were plucking wheat to eat on the Sabbath. It is very clear that the Pharisees elevated the rule of not working on the sabbath as a clear sign of the holiness of God. In other words, those who broke this “law” could not follow God, while those he did not break this “law” were holy. Jesus, for His part, clearly references the true law in His response to the Pharisees, clearly indicating where these man-made additions were faulty. He specifically highlights in verse 7, “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

You see, I contend via this interaction that the Pharisees’ view of God was skewed and Jesus wanted to make sure others in that time saw it, too. Where the Pharisees believed “follow the rules, God demands it, OR ELSE!”, Jesus obviously viewed God’s role and ethos differently. For example, even as the Pharisees ruled, the Old Testament clearly stated that God was merciful, slow to anger, and loving (Psalm 145:7-9). I believe that is why Jesus reminded the Pharisees of this Truth, exposing that they had changed God’s role and were trying to conform people to a false God.

As Matthew 12 continues, we see the Pharisees stuck to their guns and their view of God. When Jesus attempted to heal a man, they immediately hoped to convict Jesus by asking if it was LAWFUL to heal a man on the Sabbath. Because, again, the Pharisees clearly viewed their definition of the law (do not work on the sabbath) as exceedingly more important to adhere to than aligning with mercy or love (healing); their God did not work that way. Jesus quickly points out the hypocrisy of their question, clearly showing this would not even be raised if one of them had a sheep in trouble on the Sabbath, and ends with “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Through all of the interactions that occurred in this chapter between Jesus and the Pharisees, it seems to have boiled down to this; for the Pharisees, God looked only at their external compliance with their definition of the law of God. For Jesus, God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). That is why, for example, Jesus declared lustful looks as adulterous based on the desires of one’s heart while the Pharisees only condemned those caught in the physical act of adultery (Matt. 5:27–28). In all of these interactions, the Pharisees’ antagonism toward Jesus lay in His non-compliance to their hundreds of elaborate but petty rules that were based on their interpretation of God’s law. Not only did they create and enforce their hundreds of man-made rules, but they treated then as if they were Scripture, so that to break one of their rules was to violate the law of God itself. And yet these rules not only obscured the true intent of God’s law, but also, in some cases, actually violated it (see Mark 7:9–13). 

In today’s world, I fear we have all fallen guilty in this regard. Too often, we establish a “game book” that defines if we are righteous or not. If we are “in” or “out”. And, if each of us are truly honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that most of the time, our rule books are stacked to assure WE are in and THEY are out. For example, in Deana’s youth REAL Christians didn’t own TVs, girls NEVER wore pants, secular music was of the devil, and kissing before marriage was fornication. However, the denomination she was in has been exposed to have one of the highest case histories of sexual abuse by their male pastors. Their rules seem to provide a list to check off to assure “righteousness” on the outside of their lives, while it appears not enough on the inside. That is not God’s way.

We need to be careful that we do not add our own man-made rules to the Scriptures. Even, as has been the case in recent months in the USA, create government laws in the name of morality or Scriptures. Some convictions that we hold dearly may be derived more from our particular Christian culture than derived from Scripture, and we need to learn to discern the differences. It is okay to have cultural convictions, but we should be careful that we do not elevate them to the same authority as Scripture, especially if we then claim someone is NOT a Christian based on these convictions. So much judgment among Christians today occurs because we do this. But that is basically what the Pharisees were doing. So, let’s be careful that we are not modern-day Pharisees.

Den of Vipers – Introduction

I have been extremely blessed to have the opportunity to assist many people I encounter, with a focus often being with LGBTAI+ people of faith who struggle to feed both realities of their faith and sexuality within their lives. This area, while very important to me for over 10 years, has been dormant for a while. So, its reawakening has been very exciting, though has also opened the doors I thought I had nailed shut pretty strongly. These doors were to hold back many friends and family who feel very comfortable telling me I am NOT a Christian, that homosexuals cannot be Christians, etc. I would be lying if I didn’t admit I get angry and hurt when this happens. However, despite these opinions, the truth is I DO have the Holy Spirit within me and He is directing my path and that it worth ALL of the negative responses I may encounter!

One indirect (okay, passive/aggressive) post I was exposed to recently involved a Pastor speaking about the sin of homosexuality, and specifically how Pete Buttigieg claimed to be a Christian and “attacked” Mike Pence, calling him a Pharisee. The Pastor went on to say that Pete could NOT be a Christian, and that Mike Pence (who he knew personally) was a wonderful man, a great Christian, and followed the laws of God. He emphasized that it was “horrible” that Pete suggested Mike was a Pharisee, which was offensive and wrong.

Now, let me be clear – the following series is NOT a reflection of Pete Buttigieg or Mike Pence; I do not propose to suggest I know either man’s heart and I will certainly NOT declare either of them a non-Christian! The Bible is clear that we cannot know the heart of man and that those that appear holy can have evil hearts and those that appear retched love God. But this DID make me think long and hard about Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and how it impacts our interactions today. So, over the coming days I’d like to review each of these interactions from Jesus and try to see how ALL of us can benefit from His words. I would love to hear from any of my 2.78 readers for their thoughts as well!

How I Reconciled My Life to My Faith

This blog entry was written a few years ago privately. It is my answer to a stranger on Facebook who happened to be commenting on a Christian site that advocates acceptance of LGBTQ. She reached out to me and asked how I have reconciled my faith with my sexuality and how it involves relevant verses in Romans and I Corinthians. I have other blog entries that touch on this subject, and just yesterday read this shocking article, so I thought I’d share both here today to answer some possible questions one of my 2.78 readers may have. And, for what its worth, the woman who reached out to me had no further questions. 🙂

Response to said FB Person

First, I have not been called to convince anyone of anything.  I choose not to debate.  I am merely trying to answer, as clearly and honestly as I can, your question.  Therefore, I would appreciate if you respect me in that, if you do not agree with what I share, you leave it at that.  I appreciate that you may not agree and may even think I am completely wrong.  I am cool with that assessment, if it should occur.  But it will do me and you no good in sharing it, if it happens to be the case.  I do not ask this in arrogance or to belittle your beliefs or even to be intolerant of them; I do it in the spirit of not debating or arguing.  Thanks for working with me in that regard.

However, and I want you to be free to do so, I don’t mind questions.  If you are sure in your heart that your questions aren’t to lead me to some point you think I should be lead, that’s cool.  And I guess I don’t want to set you up to fail, so ask away and if I am uncomfortable or feel like it leads to a debate, I will just say so.  Maybe that’s better.

Second, I’ve spent decades getting to this place and it’s hard to summarize it in bullet points and show all the facets, prayers, soul searching, and time with the Lord this encompasses.  I know you must appreciate your own life as a Christian and even leading up to your decision to accept Christ – there is so much involved.  Even when considering such expansive and yet so simple ideas as Grace, how it applies to the law, and other items that can be such long journeys and one day you get to a point where a light turns on and BAM!  And yet others are next to you and are not there yet.  I don’t knock those who don’t see things the way I do – that is between them and the journey they are on with the Holy Spirit – and I respect that my views and life and experiences with the Holy Spirit are hard to articulate.  Where some scriptures speak so clearly to me that I can do nothing but nod in agreement, I also know others look at the same words and scratch their heads.  Predestination is a great example, and I’ve watched “tennis matches” many times between amazing theologians who can prove their respective sides of predestination and free will with tons of scriptures.  Alas, I am off topic – thanks for allowing this sidebar.

So, let’s break this down.  I apologize, I am very clinical in this area at times, and I am sorry if this is dry.

In a general sense, translation of the verses is a big issue.  The original text was written in Hebrew (Old Testament), and Greek (New Testament) and only later translated into English.  And it was VERY much later; the first English version of the Bible that gained a relatively wide distribution was the Tyndale Bible in 1534 and later still the King James translation in 1611.

In many cases, the ‘old’ English word used in the King James and other early translations had little or no meaning to us today (such as the word “catamite”) or has totally changed its meaning (“effeminate”).  Another problem is that in many cases the original text was meant to be used as an example, or in a figurative rather than in a literal sense. For example, we may say today “all eyes on the chalkboard”; in the literal sense the statement asks us to physically place our eyes in contact with the chalkboard. In the figurative sense, this phrase means, “look up at the chalkboard and give me your undivided attention”.

However, to me the biggest challenge is that the English language is very limited when compared to the Greek dialect. This problem can be highlighted with the word “love”, which has three versions in Greek but only one in English. This is not very descriptive and cannot begin to convey the levels of intensity involved.  With this in mind, I came to realize that there is a real and logical case that inadvertently during translation, verses have taken on meanings that were never intended. Despite fighting this realization for years, it’s very possible that God’s perfect word may have gotten muddied with man’s attempts to give the Lord a hand in translating His book! I believe this is apparent with the scriptures that many attribute to homosexuality. 

I should add that, through this journey, I’ve been given a filter of sorts from the Lord; every interpretation must ‘line up’ with other Scriptural truths and commandments (aka, the law of love). God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33) and “every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (2 Corinthians 13:1). Basically, I have relied on the fact that scripture will interpret scripture and my conclusions should make logical sense. If they don’t then I acknowledge I have missed it and need to start again.

Romans 1:26-28 NIV

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.  Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

This is the only place where women are noted in the homosexual sense directly in the Bible, so I do take specific and detailed notice of it.  First, it is historically proven and universally accepted that the Romans during the time Paul wrote this epistle were very much involved in temple and other sexual activity.  This included orgies, temple prostitution, and often involved young boys who were not willing participants.  Most of these sexual activities were religious in nature and also included temple prostitutes and pagan rites.  In that analysis and context, the texts become a condemnation of pederasty and prostitution, things of which most Christians (conservative or liberal) disapprove even today. There is also the perspective that Paul’s pointing to same sex intercourse as being idolatrous could be referring to the practices of priests and priestesses of Mediterranean fertility gods who regularly practiced that type of prostitution and elevated it, within a religious context, to the state of idolatry. Those approaches are valid and mostly convincing perspectives, but they do require a small leap of logic to arrive at their conclusions. Much less of a leap of logic, mind you, than believing that these texts are about something of which people at that time had absolutely no comprehension, but slight conjecture all the same.

But the real concern and focus for me is, what is “natural”?  It’s clear that this scripture talks about “natural” and “unnatural”.  Most use this scripture as a very clear condemnation of homosexuality.  But when looking at the original Greek, the word here (physikos) doesn’t mean “natural” or “nature” so much as it means “produced by nature.” Those who use these verses as clobber verses tend to understand “natural” to mean something closer to “normal” than “produced by nature.” I know for years I viewed it that way, and was one of the reasons I struggled feeling so guilty about who I am.  It is easy, as humans, for us to define what is and isn’t “normal” based on our personal biases rather than on science or the reality of the world around us (“I think gay people make me feel creepy, so that must mean homosexuality is an unnatural act.”).

But feelings aside, the meaning is misused in this verse, in my opinion.  The Greek work physikos has more to do with how things naturally occur in God’s Creation.  I believe the way Paul used physikos here in Romans, also means something very similar to “the realities of nature.” It is concerned with what is of our nature and not with what is defined as acceptable. That is to say, Paul is concerned with how God created something or someone to be. He is concerned with people going against their nature or in the words of Lady GaGa herself, if they are “born that way” he’s concerned with them behaving as if they were not.  Let me tell you, I have 35 years under my belt living in the “unnatural”, trying to appear to be a straight woman in America.

I believe THAT is the real sin noted here in Romans – that I was acting against the very nature of who God created me to be. Or, for a straight man or woman to have sex with a same-sex person!  In this case Paul seems to be addressing the idea of a same-sex sex act in which at least one of the two are not attracted to someone of the same sex; they just are not born that way.

Finally, immediately following verse 28, Paul provides an extensive list of sins. It is so extensive that we all fall into at least one of the categories. “So there you have it,” says Paul, “we all sin. Don’t try to deny it.” And let’s face it, we all go against who we know we were created to be. How many times have you done something, felt guilt or shame, and then said, “I shouldn’t have done that. That’s not who I am.”?  As Paul says in the very next chapter, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As he also says to start that chapter, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.”

1 Corinthians 1:9-10

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians uses a particular Greek word in a particularly way. The word is arsenokoitēs and it means “male prostitute.”   Well, that is what some experts have explained. Others have noted it could mean “the customer of a male prostitute,” or “boy molester” or any number of translations or arguments or even insertion of agendas, but who am I to accuse?

So, the word that is frequently interpreted as “homosexual” (which I’ve decided is absurd because, in Greek, it is clearly only a word referring to men) or “sodomite” (which I’ve also relegated as absurd, among other reasons, because the sin of Sodom was lacking hospitality, not being just, bullying, hating strangers, not caring for those marginalized.), is really difficult to translate. Why? In part, because it is only found in two places – 1 Cor and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.  And also, in part, because it is entirely possible that it is a made up word. It is very likely that Greek speaking Jews created this word to port a Hebrew word to Greek and over time the meaning has been lost. So, it is just hard to translate. So difficult, in fact, that scholars can’t agree on a single best translation. What most biblical Greek scholars can agree on is that it is not meant to be a blanket statement about a male-male sex act.

For example – of the many translations out there – the above NIV translation “men who are having sex with men” is not exactly accurate.  The KJV doesn’t say that at all, it says “effeminate”.  The NASB (translated hundreds of years after the KJV in the 20th century) was the first translation that used “homosexual”.

There is another word used in 1 Corinthians 6:9: malakos. The good news about this word is that it is found in lots of literature, so there are plenty of references about its typical intended meaning. It literally means “soft.”  Some say it means “soft” as in “effeminate”, but not in terms of sexual orientation. Others, say it is connected with being wasteful of sexual and financial resources. Still others convincingly point to it singling out a particular type of male prostitution involving young boys. Also in the list of contenders: sexual perverts, sodomites, weaklings, the self-indulgent. Malakos was a word that could be used to refer to things as diverse as men who were weak in battle (or who were “soft”), to men who lived extravagant and pampered lives (or who were… well, “soft”). It was not specifically about sexual relationships. If Paul was actually trying to describe something about a submissive male in a male-male relationship (which is still not the same as homosexuality as we understand it today), it’s very likely that he would have used kinaedos, which was frequently used to describe that very relationship. But he didn’t. So, I stopped reading these verses like that was what he was trying to communicate.

Summary

In summary, if you want to call homosexuality a sin, go ahead. However, I don’t.  And it’s not just my way of justifying my life, it is something I understand intellectually with these studies as well as spiritually over years with my Lord.  But mostly, I personally don’t try to convince people of what the Bible says.  Christians have the Holy Spirit in them, they are guided by our Lord and He will work it out.  I do not want to use the Bible to thump on anyone, to demand that it be viewed as I do nor to use it to suggest gluttons are sinning, those who practice premarital sex are hopeless, or anything else.  Even non-Christians have a right to not be brought to alignment with the Bible; Paul is clear that we cannot hold non-believers to the Biblical precepts we observe.  While many of these things in life totally make me sad and there are real earthly consequences, that is NOT my job.  My job is to love – my neighbors, my enemies, everyone.  There are tons that are sure to get it wrong, just like I often do, but I pray for people, wish them God’s great blessings, and go on with my life.  And if/when they don’t see things my way, I smile because I KNOW that I am crucified with Christ.  I know He holds me in his hands and nothing can snatch me out of them.

The Story of My Life Thus Far Part 3

I am going to jump ahead a bit.  Deana and I “dated” for about a year while I continued on the “business relationship” with my husband; we were really just together for the financial pieces and the kids.  But around a year we started the divorce process on friendly terms, though I never told him about Deana.  I moved in with Deana and it was a very happy time, all things considered.  But we both had no intentions of “coming out”; we both had huge risks of losing our jobs, we were both very much in love and happy, but both felt our relationship (as wonderful and fulfilling as it was) was wrong.  This was a weird time for us……being so very happy and whole, but feeling as though everything about our relationship was illicit.  I had no desire to tell my family (apart from my mom), and she felt the same way about her family (she has 7 siblings, she being the 3rd born and the oldest daughter).  So, all the people in our lives and work believed she was helping me out as I transitioned to being divorced.  This made a lot of sense to everyone because the cost of living in Southern California was so high.  Eventually, we bought a house together – using the same “it’s too expensive” argument – and even had a room designated for me, though I never even spent one night in it.  We were very careful during this time.

Also during this time, we remained involved in church as well.  Our careers at the Christian Credit Union were going well, both of us having received several promotions.  We also had “weekly staff meetings” held for all employees, though it really was a chapel and included worship and a message.  I was part of the worship team there as well as the worship team in our church.  Deana and I would often read through the Bible trying to decide if we were breaking God’s heart, but were not willing to break up with each other, so we felt double guilt.  During this time, I also went back to college, hoping to obtain my bachelor’s degree which I had started on and off since my first marriage, though did not sustain due to babies and finances.  Deana was a huge part of that, attending some classes with me even though she already had 2 degrees.  Finally, I enrolled at BIOLA University (Bible Institute of Los Angeles), in their BOLD program for working adults (Bachelor’s in  Organization Leadership Degree).  I really wanted to go to a Christian University and the degree required a minor in Bible, so that was right up my alley.  But, to enroll you had to sign a moral contract, and declaring you were not homosexual was part of it.  I signed it – what could I do? – and added yet another layer of deception.  I often chastised myself that I had given up one lie, to move in a new one.  It was very difficult.

I loved BIOLA and worked hard, graduating in 2009.  My work, who was associated with the university and in fact included many in leadership who got their degrees there too, encouraged my efforts.  I was already a supervisor and was on the track for leadership.  I was often sought after for work related activities as well as ministry/biblical teaching tasks.  Despite the duplicity of my life, things were good and my faith (as well as Deana’s) were very strong during this time, even as we would quietly question how much we were disappointing our Lord.

About five years into this, I had reached a boiling point – I could no longer lie about our relationship.  It was wrong, and I felt we should at least be honest with our family.  This was a bone of contention with Deana, who felt it too risky with our jobs to tell anyone.  One night while we were hanging out with her sister and my best friend, Deana had a little too much to drink and suggested that she and I were together.  She then back pedaled, saying it was a joke.   Her sister and my friend had suspected for some time, and seemed to be wanting to assure me that they supported our union, but when they sat with us to basically say “we know, you can trust us”, Deana turned livid and began to speak so negatively about homosexuals she could have been at a Baptist pulpit bringing down fire and brimstone.  It broke my heart on many fronts; not just the rejection of finally being able to be honest and have two close people accept us, but I realized that I had been leading her to do something that was against her core.  In retrospect, I also realize she was very scared of our house of cards crumbling, but at the time I didn’t allow for that to take hold of my emotions. I want to be clear though, my actions after this point may have been under the umbrella of “I have forced Deana to go against her convictions”, but were more from my hurt of the rejection than any care for Deana.

Shortly after that, I left Deana.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done and now something I contribute to one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done, but I would no longer live with the duplicity, and I could not feel her hold me without hearing the vicious things she said that day about basically our relationship.  Sure, I could tell you I was being honorable, releasing her from the sin of our illicit love, but I was too hurt to continue with her despite my overwhelming love for her.  She was completely blindsided by my actions, as by now we had adopted two kids from Russia, she was not working, and relied on me financially.  In her hurt and anger, she posted a blog (we blogged very heavily back then) “outing” us, divulging our entire relationship for all to see.  As many of her followers worked with us (her blog had started as part of our adoption process, or really HER adoption process since everyone didn’t know we were a couple) it was quickly communicated to the leadership.

Despite just the week before having been told by the CEO that I was a “rising star”, I was brought into HR and basically interrogated for 5 hours.  Even when I needed to go to the bathroom, I was escorted and a woman stood outside the stall as if I was a criminal.  I refused to speak about anything apart from my job performance, though I heard how my “moral failing” disqualified me from leadership, management, and even playing the drums in the worship band.  It eventually ended with them saying we would reconvene the next day and they would let me know what would happen to my position.

At the time, I had been going to therapy as I was really having a hard time with not sharing my relationship with Deana to our family.  I told my therapist what had happened at work, and she immediately put me on disability so that wasn’t subjected to their “torture” as she called it.  During that time, I had sought legal and other help to see what options I had, but the credit union had recently filed as a religious organization (yeah, lending money to churches is religion?  Hmmmm) and their stance was that they could absolutely discriminate based on their religious beliefs.  Anyway, I never went back and did end up negotiating a “departure package”, but in an instant I lost my job, 99% of my friends related to work, 100% of my friends related to church, and was even told I could not attend church or step foot on the credit union’s property. Nor could my children or my eventual grandchildren.

At this time it was very dark for me.  I had lost Deana, I had lost my job, I had lost most of my support system, and I was seriously questioning my faith as I had seen a side of it that was so venomous, it appeared like they were instead followers of Satan.  In fact, despite being told the information in HR would be confidential, rumors and details from that meeting (and not the blog) went in every direction coupling me with many different women at the firm in addition to Deana. If I had to label myself at this time, I would say I was “an agnostic that loved Jesus”.  I didn’t want to kick Jesus to the curb, but anything to do with church or Christians were no longer part of my world.  I was extremely hurt by Deana, who I blamed for causing this mess (it was easy to ignore my part in it). Adding to my negative view of Deana was my best friend (who was a Director at the credit union and ultimately lost her job as they learned she knew about my relationship with Deana) would tell me horrible stories about Deana and what she told HR after the blog was read.  I believed everything I heard that was negative about her, and all the anger and hurt I felt for everything that was happening I laid on Deana’s shoulders.  But at night it was a different story – at that time, I would cry for her.  She was my home.  I truly thought I was created to be with her, and in those moments the “evil Deana” did not exist.  I was too scared to reach out to Jesus other than to ask Him to hold me so I could sleep.

Having lost everything, it’s hard to hide.  So, since the proverbial crap had already hit the fan, I decided I’d update my family.  Kirstie was the first person I told; she was 17 at the time.  I was so nervous, but it went extremely well and she’s has been accepting and loving from day one.  She often shares that anyone that insists being LGBT is a choice, they should have seen my face that day; I was so scared she thought I was going to tell her I was dying and the fear of losing her was obvious. She says no one would come out with such fear if they had a choice. But I didn’t lose her. My siblings all seemed not overly shocked, in fact, a few said they always thought I was and the others said it made sense.  Of course my mom already knew.  My Dad was loving, though he said his wife Ellie would probably have an issue with it (she is a Charismatic Christian), though she’s never treated me differently.  My Dad has gotten a bit more conservative and has told me he is concerned that I might be going to hell, but I have long since accepted he is speaking from a place of love. 

For her part, Deana did the same, and received many of the same responses from her family. Her Mom was extremely supportive, her siblings the same, some even saying they’d seen us give small kisses to each other over the years. It is almost funny to look back on now.

Deana and I reconciled about a year after the fiasco, though candidly we often saw each other during this time and never really left each other.  While she absolutely posted the blog (and took it down, though too late), she didn’t do the majority of things my best friend accused her of.  And, really, I loved her too much not to be with her, and she loved me too much not to be with me.  We both made mistakes and had regrets, but our love sustained us. We never really reconciled with any of our close friends during that time, but many whom we worked with have since reached out to us and most are advocates, if not supportive.  Our kids are thriving.  We were legally married in NY in 2011.  Though we lost everything, we have been restored ten times over and are so thankful.

Our walk with the Lord was not immediate, however.  I was truly jaded and if I heard the words “Christian”, “Evangelical”, or “Church” I immediately associated them with hateful, judgmental people.  I wanted nothing to do with any of it.  While I was not willing to throw Jesus in with that, my relationship with Him was strained at best.  There was a part of me that felt that, if He had only healed me, I wouldn’t be in this mess.  But the main thought at this time was that the majority of Christians wanted me dead and had no love in any part of their being for me or anyone who fell outside of their boxed view of humanity.  The only piece of church that I could NOT let go of was worship; it was so ingrained in me that I kept listening to it, played it, participated in it in my personal way, and let that be my church.

That is hard to sustain, however.  I wanted my kids to know the love of Christ in a real way, and if I was honest with myself, I missed the fellowship.  I found a new job in Texas and we moved in 2009; once there we found a gay church (I say that because there were mostly gay men in attendance) and my views changed.  For the first time ever, we were honest about our relationship AND opening worshiped, prayed, and learned about God!  I became part of the teaching staff, and was slowly healed to accept my faith and not basically hate Christians.

(I’m rushing a little sorry, but this is getting long)

One of the things I learned there was that being gay was not as bad as we were told.  A great resource of this is Shaw Ministries, one of the women I met and worshipped with.  She had an excellent dvd that breaks down the scriptures.  I am not sure if she updates her site, but you can find it at https://shawministries.org/  She also has a blurb at our old church here http://www.crossroadscommunitychurch.us/homosexuality-and-the-bible.html

The Story of My Life Thus Far Part 2

Gina 1986, bad perm 🙂

My teenage/high school years were rough, I am not going to lie.  On the surface, I had a great life; I was outgoing, did well in school, had many acquaintances and friends, had the trust of my parents, and appeared to be very, very happy.  But inside I was dying.  I was still very different from my friends, and I was actively fighting my attraction to girls.  While I don’t want to blame this on the depression I suffered, it certainly added to the pain of it.  I often missed school for days at a time due to my depression (untreated), though I kept my grades up.  My parent’s “hands off” approach to my schooling, especially as my grades were often A’s and sometimes B’s, seemed to extend to them not really wondering why this occurred and we never addressed it.  I am type A and a perfectionist by nature, and in later years they shared that they just assumed that I was dealing with that at the time.  And they were partially correct, but a bit and undiscovered reason was that my entire life was a lie.  I was “on” 24/7, presenting to the world what I thought they wanted to see, and inside I knew (even if I didn’t acknowledge it in words) that what I presented was not authenticity, but a complete lie.  I was NOT happy, I was NOT perfect, and it became clearer with each day that I was NOT straight.  I talk about this a bit in my blog here.  I would encourage you to read this blog entry as it touches, at a high level, what I had intended to share with you via these “entries”.

I accepted Christ when I was 16, and He changed my life in countless way.  I believed at that moment that my struggles would end.  That I would be whole, and that meant I would no longer be attracted to women.  I felt as though being saved and loving Jesus would create a new Gina, and He did, but I soon realized that this new vessel still very much was pulled to women.  When I realized this truth, I immediately felt as though I was doing something wrong; I was not faithful enough, I didn’t work hard enough at church or on my walk with Christ, maybe when I accepted Him I didn’t really give Him everything…….the list went on and on. Bottom line, I believed there was a deficiency in me that was holding me back from everything Jesus had planned for me, and I needed to fix that.  I remained in that realm for the next 19 or so years.

I married a godly man at 20 and we were uber active in ministry.  Worship band, marriage ministry, children’s ministry, were in a traveling Christian band that ministered all over the state.  I tried to be selfless, I tried to be so many things.  I cried painfully in my prayer life to God, begging Him to heal me, begging for direction on what I needed to do to move from my attractions.  Through it all, I was an empty shell, while continuing to present to the world the perfect wife, perfect Christian, eventually tried to be the perfect mom, and always stared at the mirror knowing I was none of those things.  Worst of all, I was a liar and a fake.  I couldn’t be saved and serve Christ when, really, I was gay.  Even when other’s met Jesus through my actions and ministries, they felt like failures, because I REALLY wasn’t a “true Christian” because of my sin.  And I hated myself for it.

At 25, my husband, 3 year old daughter (my only child at the time), and I moved to San Antonio, Texas.  He and I began to work at the same small company, where a very out and “butch” lesbian worked in the kitchen (it was a fresh food vending machine company).  I was dumb struck – not because I was attracted to her, but it was the first lesbian I met in the flesh.  We couldn’t be more different, but I was drawn to her out of curiosity and maybe because I felt like I was not the only one on the earth like “me”.  She also fully embraced her sexuality, which was something very new for me.  We became friends and she awkwardly fell in love with me, which was very flattering but also terrifying.  I also was going through a very real life crisis, as hearing about her life made me want to be honest and open, too.  But the truth at the time was that was impossible; I was a Christian, I was married, I was a mom, I was a daughter, and everyone in my life would be SOOOOOO upset and/or disappointed if they found out the truth about me.  And, truth be known, I was also very ashamed that I was gay.  VERY ashamed.  I wanted to be able to embrace it, but I really thought it was wrong.  My husband and I were also having marital problems; I knew I had married him for the wrong reasons (I wanted to be straight and needed a strong, church loving man to keep me accountable and also help indirectly make me appear to be normal) and we were also struggling financially.  I also resented very much moving to Texas.  It was the perfect storm of horribleness.

As we were losing our apartment, the electricity having been disconnected for non-payment, I refused to go to his parent’s place and remained alone in the apartment.  I called my dad crying (I was super close to him throughout my life), fully intending to tell him the truth about my struggles, but I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t be honest.  I was so afraid of losing his love, and his comments throughout my childhood about gays resonated in my mind.  He begged me to come home, but I refused.  After hanging up, I sat in the dark room, where no furniture remained, and for the first time thought about suicide.  I mean, Jesus evidently didn’t love me enough to heal me and I was sure it was because even He knew I was not worth it.  My parents would hate me if they knew about me.  My husband would be devastated.  And I believed I would damage my daughter.  I went all the way to actually slitting my wrist about 2 inches, but then I had the horrible vision of my daughter being told when she was older how I died.  Despite having no desire to continue in the struggles I was facing, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that, and stopped right then and there.  I still have the faded scar from that night that reminds me how close I came to ending my life.

Instead, my mom (who was by now separated from my dad, and whom I was not very close to – another long story I will skip for now) called me and said she was flying me to live with her.  She didn’t really give me much of a choice.  I resented that really, and had no desire to open up to her at the time, but the idea of putting on my mask with my husband and his parents seemed much worse of a burden to bear.  So I flew back to California and stayed with her.  I actually opened up to her within days, as described in this blog entry, though it is less important to share at this time – so if you want to skip it for now please do!  Well actually, it IS pretty important in that it was the first time I told anyone and, though I was looking for her to “scare me straight” instead of sitting at her house and doing nothing to fix my situation, she instead loved me and accepted me.  It was a big moment.  My life didn’t come together for many years in regards to my sexuality, but it was the beginning of me not seeing Jesus with an angry, disappointed face when I begged Him to heal me.  Instead, He slowly began to take on a face that showed love despite my situation……

I returned to my husband out of “Christian guilt” and a newfound strength to get through my thorn in my side and become the straight woman I was intended to be.  I also didn’t want to impact my daughter negatively with a divorce.  We “worked things out”, but I still was very good at pretending most of the time and I can’t say I was overly happy in the marriage.  But he was a nice guy, a kind man most of the time, a pretty good father, so I toughed it out and did what I thought I needed to do.

Gina and Deana circa 2003
Gina and Deana 2003

Jump forward about 9 years; I was starting a new job at a Christian Credit Union and I thought God would be pleased.  I was excited to be back in a Christian organization (I had worked for a few others over the years) and I was excited for my future.  Suddenly, this beautiful woman came into the lobby to meet me and the three other new hires to tell us that the Orientation Manager was delayed in traffic and would be with us shortly.  It was the first time in my 35 years of life where the attraction I felt was overwhelming, and as I was sure I heard angels singing behind her, I thought for the first time “this could be the one” and then proceeded to nearly throw up.  Imagine me, beginning to work at a CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION, and be hit with a love at first site moment WITH A WOMAN!  The dissonance in that moment almost killed me.  In fact, I was so scared that I called my previous job and begged them to take me back.  While they actually agreed, in reality my desire to get to know her overruled the part of me that wanted to run away from sure fire and brimstone.

We slowly became friends as I unofficially pursued her for nearly a year.  Throughout that time I knew I loved her and I knew I’d like nothing better than to be in a relationship with her, but there were many problems with that idea; first of all, I was married.  Second, I was a Christian and same-sex attraction was wrong.  Third, she came from a very conservative religious background (Independent Baptist, where she didn’t even wear pants until she was almost 28 and caused an uproar when she finally did).  Finally, dang I could lose my job if this came out!  If you asked me then, I had no intentions of acting on my attraction with her, I just wanted to be friends even if I knew I would love to have more if it wasn’t so wrong.

One piece of info I missed – by this time my marriage was not great.  I was not a great wife, and my husband was not a great husband.  We went through the motions, we didn’t really fight, but we just sort of lived parallel lives, paid the bills together, etc.  He had several different views about finances than I did, and that on top of my suppressed sexuality really built walls that we no longer tried to break down.

Then one day, as Deana was at my house helping me color Easter eggs with my kids (I had 3 by this time; Kirstie was about 12, Kenny was 7, and Josh was 2) I received a call from my sister-in-law that my 20 year old nephew had been killed in a car accident and my brother desperately needed me.  I rushed to be at his side, and was with him until about 11pm that night.  Being strong for him while also dealing with my own loss and emotions, I drove home and felt sorry for myself.  I knew my husband would not be very productive in comforting me (even before our problems arose), and I resented that as the “strong person” for my family, I had no one to turn to where I could be the weak one.  In that moment I decided Deana would and could be that person for me, and she was very empathetic as we’d become very good friends at this point.  In the weeks leading up to this moment, I had also been struggling with the fact that I was a liar to her as well, pretending to be this friend of hers while hiding my true feelings.

That night, as I broke down over the loss of my nephew, I realized that life was fleeting and maybe the truth really CAN set you free.  And there was a strong need for me to be authentic with at least those who cared enough about me – Deana, of all, should at least know the truth.  If I lost her friendship, at least I knew I had some integrity left.  While I didn’t plan on it, I ended up telling her that I loved her.  The weird thing was, she didn’t freak out.  Well, she eventually did ha, but not enough to stop her from telling me that she had feelings for me, too.  That moment was so freeing and so scary and was the beginning of a road that was very difficult, but it felt very good to get it off my chest.