If you’re wondering what Pint and a Pipe Thursdays are all about, check out this post – and join in the conversation!
First of all, I wrestled with what to title this week’s Pint and a Pipe topic. I couldn’t boil it down to a single question. It earned its own separate post because it’s such a complicated issue. And when it finally came time to title this post, I was torn.
It’s not just about Jennifer Knapp. And it’s not just about homosexuality. It’s about both things. But what pains me about the title as it is now is that Jennifer Knapp is about so much more than her sexuality. She’s not just a lesbian. She’s a human being. She’s a musician. She’s an artist. She has hopes, fears, dreams, faults, talents, and beauty. And God uses her.
I want to start this post by pointing that out because that is what we so often lose sight of in this whole mess of a debate about homosexuality and the Bible and following Jesus. It becomes cold and impersonal – parsing verses, arguing about ancient Greek words, finding proof texts… and anytime something becomes impersonal I have to believe it absolutely breaks God’s heart. Because God is the God of relationship. Because he will do anything, to the point of allowing his own Son to die on a cruel torture device, to restore our relationships with him, with his creation, and with one another to what they were meant to be.
I don’t believe Jesus died and was resurrected so that we could sit here and argue about literally just half a dozen verses out of a narrative story with such great richness and depth (a story that encompasses over 31,000 verses in its entirety).
The story of how the Church has completely and utterly botched this issue is well known and can be found in a few short seconds anywhere on the internet or on the lips of the people it has affected. So let’s skip that part and talk about where we go from here.
I’ll be honest with you: I wish the Bible didn’t say anything about homosexuality. I really do. I’d love for that to be the case. But the Bible does say things about it and we’ve gotta deal with that.
What I do know is that the six or so verses that people in the Church use to hate on gays and lesbians are not nearly as clear-cut as they’re made out to be. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about a lack of hospitality and lack of concern for the poor way more than it is about sex (check out Ezekiel 16). The couple verses out of Leviticus are rightly thrown in with other “detestable abominations” such as eating shellfish and fortune telling. The verses in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and to Timothy use words that are pretty ambiguous in the Greek.
But I also know that some of the explanations offered to explain away those verses don’t make much sense, either. Like crying “shellfish!” every time someone brings up the verses in Leviticus. Something doesn’t become any less wrong just because you argue that we ignore other rules, too. The better conversation to have is whether or not we’re under the Law any longer, and what role the Old Covenant plays in our current relationships. And that still leaves the New Testament to deal with, and it seems to me a fairly humongous stretch to say Paul was talking solely about pagan temple prostitution towards the beginning of his letter to the Romans.
So I don’t find the arguments on either side entirely persuasive. Go figure. Maybe that’s the way God intended it to be, though. Maybe we’re supposed to wrestle with this issue. And maybe people like Jennifer Knapp help us to rethink where we stand on these sorts of things.
Because Jennifer Knapp loves God, and she makes incredible music. When I say God uses her, I’m not talking in some broad, generic feel-good sense like you tell high school graduates (“God’s going to use you! He’s got great plans for you!). I’m talking specifics. He uses Jennifer Knapp in my life to draw me closer to himself. Even the music she wrote after she came out as a lesbian.
What Jennifer does is put a face to the debate for many people. This issue is fun for conservative evangelical preachers to rail against from the pulpit when it’s faceless. But when your best friend or beloved teacher or son or daughter reveal that they are gay, well, that complicates things.
I don’t know many gays or lesbians. I don’t know any of them well. So maybe Jennifer Knapp is doing for me what a dearly loved friend or family member has already done for you: personalize the issue.
It reminds us that life in the Kingdom is all about relationships, not some faceless set of doctrine and rules. It reminds us that life following God is messy. It reminds us that we might not have everything figured out and that we still have a long way to go on this journey and a lot to learn. And, I dare say, it reminds us that the world doesn’t end when someone is gay.
What would I tell Jennifer if I could tell her one thing? Easy: God loves you. The infinite God of the universe is bursting with pure and passionate love for you. That, and I would tell her that she makes amazing music that draws me deep into the heart of God. I think since she’s human, she’d appreciate the encouragement.
Anything beyond that can come from people she’s actually in relationship and community with, because it’s not about who’s right and wrong and who has the better doctrine. It’s not about convincing a human being that has wrestled and struggled with this issue on an intensely personal level for a decade that everything she’s come to believe is wrong.
It’s about relationship.
The better we do at remembering that, the better and more God-glorifying our responses to this issue (and many others) are going to be.
Now it’s your turn! Put your post up on your blog (including a link back to The Welcome Matt), and then add your voice to the conversation by filling out the Linky below. (Include your blog name in the title of your post so people will know where they’re going when they click on it!) Read everyone else’s and leave some comment love for folks.
Thanks for participating in Pint and a Pipe Thursday, and enjoy the dialog.