Context

Context is everything.

If I say to my dad, “Oh boy. The ball is teetering on the fence again. Here comes the gust of wind…” well, he knows exactly what I mean. We share a story that makes that sentence make sense to him. You, on the other hand, don’t have a clue what it means.

Maybe a better example is this: if I’m talking to people at the retirement community in town about music, we’ll talk a lot more about “How Great Thou Art” and “All Creatures of Our God and King” and “O for a Thousand Tongues” than if I’m having a conversation about music with my daughters, where Switchfoot and tobyMac and Nicole Nordeman will dominate the discussion. All of those have meaning for me, are “true” to who I am…but the context brings different points to the surface at different times.

I’ve been apprehensive about posting my message from a week ago. Not because I don’t stand by what I said…but because those who read my blog are quite a different context than those with whom I share life together at Newberg Friends.

I spoke about living with sexual integrity. In doing so in the context of Newberg Friends, I touched very little on homosexuality, which was the clear result of praying and listening carefully to God’s Spirit. Putting it up here, in the context of my blog, I realize I would talk about different things if I were writing a blog post. It’s not that I don’t stand by what I said in the message, it’s just that my approach and the types of issues we’d dialogue about would be different.

I’m worried that my relative silence on this issue, when posted on the blog, will be perceived as ignorance or arrogance or somehow dismissive. So I seriously considered not posting it. But, that feels like avoidance or hypocrisy or even dishonesty. So, I am posting it, but I want to very clearly say I refuse to identify with the current “culture wars” in which those in the Evangelical camp see themselves as in a war against the so-called “homosexual agenda.”

I’ve been so honored by the respect and friendship that has been given as a gift by many of you who comment and read my blog. I know that several of you integrate your deep belief in God with your identity as a lesbian or a gay man. I’m fearful that my perspective on sexual integrity will be a wound in our growing online friendship. For my part, I want to continue in conversation and in relationship even with our differences. This particular aspect of sexuality has become so difficult to talk about together, but I have a desire to listen, not just speak my perspective.

The day after I spoke these words at NFC, I heard Terry Gross on Fresh Air on NPR focus on Christianity and homosexuality. You can listen to it here. What captivated me was the last guest, who articulated so clearly the wounds he had received as he had tried and failed to live as a Christian straight man. We in Evangelical circles are doing great damage in how we are addressing this issue…hence my struggle to figure out how to contextualize what I’m putting out there on sexual integrity.

One of the profoundly shaping experiences of my adult life was the opportunity to participate for a year and a half in an informal group discussion we called “Bridge Builders.” In the mid ’90’s, three of us from NFC met 5 or 6 times with several men and women who were homosexual in orientation and practice, as well as having a living and vibrant faith in Jesus Christ. We got to know one another, overcame fears, pushed past stereotypes, and talked about experiences and theology and scripture in regard to sexuality. I am a richer person because of it. I learned there is absolutely zero need to communicate what Evangelicals believe about homosexuality…that is known beyond a shadow of a doubt. I learned there is an almost infinite need to do what we did: sit down over coffee and rolls together and get to know each other as flesh and blood people, not straw-person stereotypes. There is a strong need to demonstrate respect and yes, love.

Blogging has been a surprisingly great relationship builder, but it doesn’t do hugs and coffee so well. So please, try to hear my heart, and grab your favorite beverage before you click the link. I’m not sure we can have a good conversation via blog posts and comments, but I’m willing to try if you are. I’m willing to listen, and respect differences, and regardless of your view or practice in regard to sexuality, I consider us together as people seeking the heart of God. Here’s what I shared about “Jesus People…Practice Sexual Integrity.”

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4 thoughts on “Context

  1. I’d like to start by acknowledging some of the things we do agree on:

    Sexual integrity matters.

    Sexuality is an area where both God and our effort are needed. It’s a powerful human drive, and if we just “let life come to us”, then we will find ourselves struggling to live with sexual integrity. We need to challenge the assumptions our culture makes about sex, and we need God’s love and power.

    Honesty and vulnerability with ourselves and with others becomes a key part of practicing sexual integrity.

    Sex is a good gift from God that can deepen intimacy and give pleasure to those in a marriage commitment. But it doesn’t come easily; it takes work and open communication between spouses, not just when we are first married, but through each life change.

    Emotional intimacy can’t be separated out.

    There’s more of your words I could affirm, but then this comment would be even longer.

    It was important to me, early on in reading your blog, to find evidence of your respect for people who might not always agree with you. It still matters, I feel honored that you were concerned enough to try to give some context, and I hope that other people will be able to respond with respect and honesty and integrity. But you’re also right that sex is not easy to talk about for most of us, including via blog.

    Here is the link to my Yearly Meeting’s advices and queries on Personal Relationships. I am proud to be a member of a faith community that affirms the full rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people among us. I’d like to think this frees us to see beyond these categories and to affirm the responsibility of sexual integrity for all of us.

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  2. I’m grateful that you too, Robin, look for the common ground and respect those who think differently. I appreciate the link to your meeting’s advice and queries, and think this might be a helpful way forward for us: to read each others’ queries and reflect on them ourselves in the Light of Christ.

    Thank you for your friendship and your willingness to share what the Spirit speaks to you.

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  3. Gregg – I appreciate your message in church and also your written words here in your blog. I wish I could profoundly and effectively express my thoughts on this subject. I have lots of thoughts in my head that don’t seem to want to come out. This is such an important issue for the future of the church, but so hard to grasp. So divisive but so important to address. Thank you for being you and for sharing your heart with us. 🙂

    Robin – thanks for the link. I am always very interested in learning how other churches deal with the subject.

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