Feb 272011

If you haven’t read the original post, please start here.

I’m not a smart man. But I know what Love Is. – Forrest Gump

Several years ago at church, Craig and I sat through a sermon condemning homosexuality. As I listened to the sermon, which was based upon two lines of scripture in the New Testament, every fiber in my body rejected the message. My palms sweated, my heart pounded, and I started to feel queasy. I left the church building that day on fire and didn’t get a good night’s sleep for a month.

Instead of sleeping, I spent my nights scouring scripture, researching the positions of different denominations, and praying and praying and praying some more. I wrote this to several ministers: “I am a Christian and a seeker and I’m trying desperately to reconcile God’s commandment to love my neighbor without judgment and the church’s stance on homosexuality. Would you discuss this with me?” Not one minister wrote back. Every morning when the sun finally came up, I’d call Sister at work. She’d answer her phone with: “We’re gonna talk about the gays again, aren’t we, Sister?” Yes, Sister. Yes, we are. Clear your schedule.

Figuring out my stance on homosexuality felt like a life and death decision. When I described the intensity of my concern to other Christians, most would say, “but, why? You don’t even have a gay family member.” This response was very confusing to me. Isn’t the whole point of Christianity that we are all family? That we should love our neighbors as ourselves? That if any of us is hungry, we are all hungry? That if any of us is oppressed, we are all oppressed? According to the Jesus I read about in the Gospels, these people who were being persecuted for their sexuality WERE my family. The children who were killing themselves because the world (and the church in particular) would not accept them WERE my children. And I thought that being a Christian required me to love them, to ache for them, to fight for them with the same urgency I would have if I were fighting for myself. The fact that I had never met them before was completely inconsequential, according to Jesus.

I have these new friends named Jaime and Laura…they’re gay and married. They love each other very much. I recently looked through their photos and noticed that their wedding looked a lot like mine. Actually, their lives look a lot like mine, except that their son, Simon, is very sick with a heart condition. So I’m not sure they really give a rat’s ass right now if Christians “accept” them or call their love for each other “sinful” or not because they are quite busy caring for each other and Simon and running between hospitals and home and having a brutiful life together. But I’m glad they slowed down enough to know me, because my life is better with them in it. I love them, and I love Simon.

The following exerpt is based on one of my favorite passages from Huckleberry Finn, and I think it sums up the decision I’ve made about Laura and Jaime’s family.

“Whenever I think of the word “empathy,” I think of a small boy named Huckleberry Finn contemplating his friend and runaway slave, Jim. Huck asks himself whether he should give Jim up or not.Huck was told in Sunday school that people who let slaves go free go to everlasting fire.” But then, Huck says he imagines he and Jim in “the day and nighttime, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing.” Huck remembers Jim and their friendship and warmth. He imagines Jim not as a slave but as a human being and he decided that, “alright, then, I’ll go to hell.” - This I Believe, 172

When I say things like this my Christian friends get very alarmed. They say to me:Aren’t you afraid of saying and writing these things? Aren’t you afraid of God?

Well, yes. But when I consider discussing all of these things over with Jesus one day, when I imagine telling Him what I thought I heard Him saying to me, when I explain how my heart understood His message, I realize that I’d be much more afraid to stand in front of Him if I didn’t write these things. I know my Jesus, I love Him, and I think if he needed me to believe that homosexuality was a sin, He would have mentioned it. He didn’t. When deciphering the message of Jesus, I weigh the Gospels heavier than any other part of the Bible.And when Jesus said that marriage was between a man and a woman, he was responding to a question about divorce, not sexuality.* And even the Gospels… well, even though they are gospel to me, I accept that they are also interpretations of what Jesus said and did and meant…we don’t have a single written word directly from Jesus. He could have left us something….he could have left another list of rights and wrongs when He came to Earth, but he chose not to. The only words he ever wrote were in the sand. . . words that He knew would disappear almost immediately. ** The answers, my friend… are blowing in the wind. Why? I don’t know. Maybe He wanted us to know him well enough to make our decisions about Him based on our relationship with Him. Maybe He wanted us to wrestle with Him, to work out our own faith with fear and trembling. That’s what I think, anyway. I think I’m starting to recognize His still, small voice. And I’m betting everything on my belief in our relationship, on my understanding of His character and love. Aren’t we all?And if I’m wrong, and I very well could be . . . I don’t really think He’ll send me to hell for it. I think He knows I’m doing the best I can down here. I know He knows that. I believe.

And while we’re at it . . . that still, small voice suggests to me often that He’d appreciate if Christians picked up a couple more issues other than homosexuality and abortion to address. You know, maybe a couple He actually mentioned…like care for the poor and sick and lonely and hungry and imprisoned and widowed and orphaned and recently immigrated.

Last week I was stuck at a stop light behind a Luxury SUV sporting a huge abortion bumper sticker with a picture of a baby that read, “It is a poverty that a child must die so that you can live how you wish.”- Mama T.

Well, okay. Fair enough. Mama T certainly removed the plank in her own eye before discussing the specks in others. She took a vow of poverty and dedicated her entire life to serving the least of these. She also announced at a Nobel Peace Dinner that any woman considering an abortion could instead give her baby to her Sisters of Charity, and they would find a way to care for it. Mama T earned the right to step in by constantly stepping up.

But for the rest of us, some of whom are most comfortable addressing pro-life issues vehicularly . . . might we also discuss how many starving children our car payments could feed every month? Isn’t it also a poverty that children must starve so that we can drive what we wish?

I just think that if we are going to call ourselves pro-life, we must also agree that starvation and poverty and disease and immigration and health care for all and war and peace and the environment are also pro-life issues. And that if we really care about making a difference and honoring God- given life, we might want to meet with the Man in the Mirror before calling anybody else out. And maybe in the meantime we could have a bumper sticker made that says: “We are all Confused Hypocrites. But God Loves Us anyway, which is Good News. So out of Gratitude, We are Trying to Remember That We Belong To Each Other.” I’d buy that one.

My point is that this gay ship has sailed, I think. We’re gonna have to sponsor another revolution because for the gays, the times, they are a’ changing already. Gay people wrote to me by the hundreds to tell me that they read the post again and again, pretending that the letter was from their own parents. Therapists requested my permission to use the letter with their gay and straight clients to teach them about unconditional love. Churches from all over the country asked to use the post in their weekly bulletins. A student at UC Berkley told me that her professor of religious studies distributed the letter to all of his students. I felt very humble about this, which is why I only wear my homemade “THE RELIGIOUS STUDIES PROFESSOR AT UC BERKLEY DISTRIBUTED MY POST TO ALL HIS STUDENTS” T-shirt to bed. And sometimes to the grocery store, when I’m having an insecure day.

But I also received challenging responses to my post. None were mean-spirited, none were offensive. People are better than we give them credit for.

Many people said that they agree that people are born gay, but that it is still a sin to act on it. These people suggested that homosexuals should remain celibate.

But my understanding is that celibacy is a sacred calling, not a hiding place or a consequence. Celibacy is like…it’s like we all have the same capacity to love inside of us, the same amount of light to shine……and most of use that light, that love, like a laser…it’s all concentrated and focused on one partner. But the celibate hears a call to use his light, his love, more like a flood light. He knows that if he’s not required to shine a laser on one person, that his light can be dispersed to many more….maybe not burning a hole into another heart, but lighting up entire rooms. He can reach more people with his love through celibacy because it’s not all focused on one person. Ghandi felt called to be a flood light instead of a laser…and heeded the call to celibacy while he was married. His wife accepted this as the way he was being called to serve his God and his people. And so celibacy…it’s a sacred calling to love. And I fear that when we suggest that homosexuals save themselves by choosing celibacy, that we insult both the gays and the celibates. Celibacy is not a Plan B.

Other Monkees have explained that they believe that homosexuality is a sin, but no more of a sin than pride and anger and selfishness. And since we are all sinners too, we shouldn’t judge the gays. Hate the sin, love the sinner type thing. I don’t know. I guess I have just always accepted the fact that we are put on this Earth to love. To Love God and love our neighbors. And those sins, pride, anger, and selfishness…those sins get in the way of loving God and loving our neighbors. So we should fight them tooth and nail. We should fight them to the death. But homosexuality…I can’t see how a woman sharing her God given light with another woman interferes with her Loving Her God and Loving Her Neighbor.

Unless we come back to: because it says so in the Bible. And we have faith that our understanding of the Bible is infallible. We believe that our human minds can grasp the meaning of all scripture perfectly and so we have faith that homosexuality is a sin.

But you know what the Bible also says? The Bible says “And these three remain. Hope, Faith, and Love. And the greatest of these is love.” ***

There will come a point when hope and faith cease to exist. When the next world is revealed, we will know . . . we won’t need hope or faith anymore. Those two are temporary. Hope and faith exist only to help us make it though this life.

But LOVE. Love is eternal. Love never ends. The love we offer and receive in this world we’ll carry with us into the next. The greatest of these is love. When in doubt, I choose love above any particular ideas offered to me about faith.

And that means that I love my gay friends, without agenda. And I love my friends who believe that homosexuality is a sin, without agenda. And I love my friends who are terrified for my soul when I write this way, without agenda.

Because listen – here’s the thing. After my wrestling match with God, I wasn’t really exhausted enough. I still came up swinging. For a little while, I felt angry. Angry at anyone who had a different understanding of scripture than I did. Angry at people who taught that God disapproved of homosexuality. Prideful about my position, really. And then one day God sat my butt down with the Bible again.

And he said something to me like, “Wait a minute, Lovie. Yes, I love those gays, but I love the ones picketing against them every bit as much. That’s the point.”

And There’s the rub. There’s Christianity. It’s not deciding that one group shouldn’t be judged and then turning around and judging the other group. That is not being a peacemaker. Peacemakers resist categorizing people. They find the light, the good, in each and every person. They don’t try to change people, except by example. They know everyone has something important to teach. They are humble about their ideas and their opinions. They try to find common ground, always.

I now have friends who are gay and friends who preach against homosexuality. I have friends who are ministers and friends who are atheists. Listen, I even have a new friend who is a Dallas Cowboys fan. With God, all things are possible.

The point is – if you’re hungry – you are all welcome at my table. None of you is less welcome than the other. This place is a banquet table for gays and straights and prudes and hoochies and cheerleaders and tuba players and pharisees and alpha moms and slacker moms and tax collectors and fishermen and choir girls and heathens. It’s a banquet table where people who are different can come together and share a meal and maybe not change each other’s minds, but possibly soften each other’s hearts.

Oh, yes…we can do that. We already have.

You do not have to agree with me to love me.

So at this table, this Momastery table . . . we talk to each other in soft voices, and we smile and we say, “pass the wine, please,” and we ask about each other’s children. Sometimes we even pass around some pictures. We share our families with each other. And we also share some of those magical laughs when we can’t speak and the tears are rolling and we’re gasping for breath and our stomachs hurt like we just did a hundred crunches. Maybe we even pee a little. And maybe in the middle of all that, we start knowing each other as people instead of categories. And we accept that we are different, and we understand that each person’s choices are her own, and so we don’t have to be angry with each other. We are free to love each other.

She told me that once she forgot herself and her heart opened up like a door with a loose latch and everything fell out and she tried for days to put it all back in the proper order, but she finally gave up and left if there in a pile and loved everything equally.- Brian Andreas


*Mark 10

**John 8

***1 Corinthians 13 

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Feb 192011

Monkees, meet the newest love of my life.

Theo Cutie-Pie Melton.

He’s so fluffy I’m gonna DIE! (Have you seen Despicable Me? If not, please do.)

When Craig and I started looking for a dog, I wrote on Facebook that I needed advice “for a friend” who was considering dog adoption. I couldn’t admit that the friend was actually me because I didn’t want anyone trying to talk some sense into me.

In response to my request, my old friend, Mandy, sent me a long email with lots of wonderful advice about rescue dogs. Mandy is a dog trainer and spends most of her time and heart taking care of homeless doggies. Mandy asked me specifics about what kind of dog we were looking for, and I told her that I wanted a near-comatose dog. I wanted a semi-stoned dog. I wanted a dog that likes the couch as much as I do. I told her that basically, I wanted an adult, hypo-allergenic love bug. She promised to keep her eyes open as she visited the local shelters.

Last week Mandy emailed me and said something like: “I may have found your dog. Just did a behavior evaluation on a stray Lhasa Apso that was the chillest, most gentle dog I’ve ever seen. He’s white, probably about five years old, and he’s got a Brando-like underbite that makes him so ugly he’s cute.”

When I read the ugly thing, I knew he was mine. With the exception of husbands, I always choose the ugly one. Craig won’t let me choose our Halloween pumpkins anymore because I always insist that we purchase the ugliest one in the patch. It is extremely upsetting to me to consider that if ignored, the deformed pumpkins might perish without ever having fulfilled their pumpkin potential. It’s just so unjust. Who decides what deformed or ugly mean, anyway? Tears me up, those different pumpkins. I can almost hear them whispering to me “Pick me! Please, Pick me! You are our only chance!” We’ve also had a number of extremely rough looking Christmas trees in our home for this very same reason. I love a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. So obviously I fell in love immediately with this Charlie Brown dog.

When I told Craig that Mandy found our dog, he said, “NO, Glennon. I am not feeling a dog right now. No. No way.”

And I looked at him for a minute and then said, “That’s cute, honey. Are you done now?”

And he paused and said, “Yeah. I’m done. When can we visit him?”

So the next day we told the kids we were going to visit some homeless doggies and love on them for awhile.

When we arrived, the shelter people led us through a huge room of kennels. Every single dog was barking like mad. It was a little chaotic and intimidating. Amma was scared.

But then we got to the very end of the row of kennels, and in the very last cage . . . this little fluffy guy quietly walked toward us, peeked his head out, wagged his tail and licked Chase’s hand. No barking, no jumping, just wagging and kisses.

Craig later said that Theo seemed to be saying, “Well . . . there you are. I knew you’d come. What took you so long?”

We walked him outside to the shelter’s courtyard and played and played and played together.

After an hour we decided to apply to adopt him. We knew we couldn’t get the kids’ hopes up, so I kept my poker face on.

The next day the shelter called us and said that our doggie was very close to becoming our doggie. And they also said that we could pick him up as soon as they sent him to be groomed and neutered. They explained that since Theo was a stray, we was quite matted and dirty and needed to be freshened up.

I called Craig and said:

Husband -We have a problem. No way are they grooming him before he comes home.

Craig: Why, honey? (A little too wearily, I thought.)

Me: Because! I don’t want him to think that he has to be all cleaned up and pretty in order for us to want him! No way. He comes home just as he is. We’ll clean him up. I love him all jacked up. He comes home all jacked up.

Craig: I can’t say I really understand that.

Me: Well, that’s fine because I understand it enough for the both of us.

Craig: Silence.

*Sister beeps in on call waiting*

Me: Gotta go, husband, sister is calling.

Husband: Sigh of relief.

Me: Sister! They want to groom Theo before he comes home and this is unacceptable!

Sister: Why, sister?

Me: Because I don’t want him to feel like we didn’t love him enough as he is to bring him home.

Sister: Oooooookay. Let me try to understand. You …..don’t …want….him…to…feel….like…you…didn’t…love….him…..enough.

Me: Why do people always repeat what I say verrrrrrrrrrry slowly and make it sound all crazy???

Sister: It doesn’t sound crazy because it’s being repeated slowly, Sister. That’s not the reason. The things you say sound crazy before they’re repeated. We are just hoping you’ll hear the crazy if we repeat it back to you.

Me: Whatever. Listen, Amma’s pretty now, but do you remember what she looked like when we got her? We didn’t insist on a make-over before she came home.

Sister: Silence. You are unreasonable, Sister.

Me: Silence back. Well. Hm. While we are on the subject of unreasonable, Sister, I feel obliged to tell you that I find it completely unreasonable that you continue to try to reason with me after having known me for THIRTY THREE YEARS.

Sister: Hm.You have a point, Sister. Yes, you do. Go get your dog. We’ll groom him later.

Me: Kay. Thank you. But I’m taking him back to the shelter next week so they can send him to get neutered. I don’t want Theo to think that part was my idea. That’s on them.

Sister: Silence. Fine, Sister.

So I went to pick him up at the shelter on Thursday night. I was extremely nervous for this final meeting. Let’s just say that I don’t always have the best luck with adoption interviews. So I called one of my bffs, Christy, because she fosters dogs and often facilitates interviews with potential families. When she answered I said, “Oh my god I’m on my way for my final interview and what if they ask if I take anti depressants and what if they read the blog and what if they ask me if I ever inhaled and just oh my god.”

And Christy said, “Glen. Breathe Deep.This is not like adopting a person. Just don’t mention Michael Vick and you’ll be fine.”

So I took a deep breath and walked into the shelter. And I began my interview with a lovely dog trainer named Feather. And as soon as she started talking, I knew I’d be okay. I mean, really – anyone who dedicates her life to helping animals or young children is okay in my book. It seems to me that these are two of the only vocations for which there can be no other motive than gentleness and love. Because when you are working with animals or children, there are usually no grown-ups around to give you kudos or respect or much money. It’s just you and the powerless ones and God.

So, as you would expect, Feather was good to me. And half-way through the interview, Sister showed up at the shelter. Because, well, because Sister always shows up. And now since she is John’s, he’s gotta show up, too. Which he doesn’t seem to mind too much because he is wonderful.

Sister was so excited she looked like she might pee. A new nephew, you know. The previous night she had arrived at my house with a doggie car seat and a zebra striped doggie bed and thirty dollar Bed Head strawberry banana doggie detangler spray. I know. But that’s sister. When they brought my doggie out, Sister held him first.

When Tish was born, Sister was the first one of us to touch her. She held Tish’s hand first. Before me, before Craig. It’s natural for us. My babies are her babies.

And then I left the shelter with my doggy. Just me and him. And he sat in my lap the entire ride home. He was a little shaky. But that was okay, because so was I. I cried a lot.

Because God finally let me adopt somebody. I am going to take such good care of my precious somebody.

When we got home, Craig was waiting on the floor in the foyer and Theo walked straight over to him and laid down in his lap – belly up, ready to soak up some love.

Then we gave him a bath. That was interesting. Moving right along.

The next morning we let Theo wake up each child, one at a time. The kids didn’t know he was coming home the previous night, so when they woke up to their very own doggie licking their cheeks – well . . . it was a good morning.

We decided to name him Theo because Mandy’s maiden name was Theobald…and since she found him for us, Theo seemed right.

Theo is so chill that yesterday I got worried that maybe he was sad, so I took him to the vet.

I have since learned that you don’t take your dog to the vet just because he looks sad.

Anyway, the vet assured me that Theo is perfectly healthy, just extremely calm.Theo doesn’t mind if you pull his tail a little or mess with his food or even if 15 children at the playground surround him and squeal and pet him all at once. He can’t be rattled. We hadn’t even heard him bark. Until . . .

. . . yesterday evening when we were sitting outside and one of my neighbors brought over her very large, very sweet Labradoodle. And this Labradoodle calmly walked over to sniff me. And Theo went nuts. He leaped out of my lap and all thirteen furry pounds of him started barking like mad at the dinosaur-sized Labradoodle and I had to pick Theo up to carry him inside. On the way in, Craig said: he was protecting you. And so I acted embarrassed and apologized to my neighbor and then scurried away and took Theo inside to the couch and cried and snuggled and kissed him for an hour.

My knight in white furry armor.

Look, I don’t know what this life is doing to me. But with every new love experiment, of which Theo is one, my heart just gets smooshier and smooshier until I worry I’m going to lose all form and turn into a blob of goo. It’s like one of these days I am just going to melt into this beautiful world.

I think I just really, really love my dog. Thank you, God.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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