Tag Archives: theology

Why God Why? Faith in Coming Out (A Series)

When someone comes out, it’s world-changing moment for them, their family, and their friends. No matter what level of support there is in the coming-out process, it requires everyone involved to reflect on their role and relationship to the person coming out. For families coming from faith perspectives, this includes reflecting on their relationship with their communities of faith, to the teaching and values they’ve held, and to the God or gods in which they believe.

I recently led a conversation at PFLAG Twin Cities about the role of faith and religion in the coming our process. Here’s a little bit about PFLAG:

pflag_4c_nsFounded in 1972 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ people through its threefold mission of support, education, and advocacy.[1]

While the Twin Cities chapter of PFLAG is not affiliated with any religious organization they do believe that people can make a difference and that treating others with kindness and patience are great virtues.

It was an open and respectful discussion about how religious beliefs change, adapt, or disappear in the face of coming out. To kick off the talk, I wanted to give the audience a different framework on how to look at religion. This was necessary to do before we delved into the way faith impacts the coming out process. I talked about three paths that the role of faith can take in the coming out process:

  1. Atheism – It was important for the people attending this talk to know that leaving faith is a natural, expected, and valid option of coming out. With this, we talked about the reasons why people leave faith and how to view it with the new framework I provided.
  2. Open, Affirming, Accepting, Embracing Faith – While some leave faith after coming out, others find it as a new source of transformation. These folks have reconciled various beliefs with their sexual/gender identity and found ways of integration.
  3. Queering Religion – I assumed that this would be new to my audience, so I took time to explain what I was offering. Basically, queering religion means that the fact of being queer means something for religion; it means a uniquely new way of looking at religion that comes ‘straight’ from the experience of queer folk. I offered questions to be considered if queering religion is really showing up in congregations, communities, and families.

So, I invite you along in this series of exploring the impact of faith in the coming out process!!!


[1] http://home.pflag.org/pagee8a0.html?pid=191

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The Courage to Come Out (And Other Queer Correlations)

Why do queer persons come out?


‘Coming out of the closet’; a colloquialism typically used to describe the event(s) constituting a person’s self-disclosure to themselves, to others, and to their worlds, concerning their sexual and/or gender identity. The idiom uses the metaphor of a closet to represent the hiddenness of a secret (or at least, shrouded) identity, a place where things are placed out of sight.

The irony, however, is that this place can be readily accessed at any time.  It is opened and closed at will. Also, the contents serve different purposes for different people. For some, it stores the clothes that we select to wear on a daily basis; for others it stores the surplus of linens for anticipated guests. For some, it hides holiday presents from curious children; for others it hides boxes of memories to be forgotten, to be veiled away.

Decaying_100_Yr__Old_ClosetsWithin the closet, one’s company is both the comforting securities of its contents as well as haunting torment of their self-exclusion from the world. The comfort of the closet is a misnomer in that its security only exacerbates the anguish of the secret. It can debilitate and destroy its inhabitants through its coddling repudiation of the self. Eddies of distress devolve into maelstroms of dyphoria; the closet is torn apart from within. Clothes and linens eaten by moths, presents soiled and ruined, memories coalesce within the pounding darkness.

And yet, within in the climax of the tempest and the quiet of the storm, an invitation is made aware: the invitation to remove oneself from their closet and to emerge into the world as their whole self. The contents of the closet are made bare, with all of its terror and desolation made manifest; but them who emerge are not destroyed. They have persevered, and they shine because of it.

What brought this person to this moment?  What necessitates the person to come out? Is coming out a necessary process? What is it about the act and process that would deem it to be necessary in the first place? These are not questions about whether or not the coming-out process is necessary in this ‘day and age’ because of greater acceptance of queer persons (let’s be honest, the magnitude of acceptance is good, but not great). Nor are these questions about the value of the coming-out process, as if we are undertaking a quantitative study of whether it actually ‘gets better’. Rather, these are questions about why it happens at all, and what it is about queer persons that makes a coming-out process what it is.

‘Who are these queer persons who come out’ and ‘what brings them to a place of coming-out’—when combined—are questions about the being of queer persons (an potentially ironic statement for those keeping score at home). However, the coming-out process illustrates a unique integration of the being and ethic of a person. Through an act of deep personal significance, authentic participation is realized through self-affirmation. It is also an integration of self and world that triumphs among acts of humanity. To come out is a holy act. To come out is a courageous act. 

Extravagant-Style-Walk-in-Closet-Supported-by-Accent-and-Decorative-Lamps-with-Gold-Lighting-to-Work-with-Sleek-Modern-Wardrobe-and-Shelving-936x625I will explore the dynamics of courage within the phenomenon of the coming-out process experienced by queer persons, particularly within Christian contexts. I seek to accomplish this by correlating the work of Paul Tillich, specifically his concept of the courage to be , with the experience of queer persons, culminating with the development of a Tillich-inspired queer theology.

My argument is that the coming-out process—as experienced by queer Christians—develops a queer faith that is reminiscent of and potentially directly inspired by the work of Paul Tillich. This is so because the deconstructive work queer Christians must undertake in order to come out within their faith requires the passage through doubt of the heteronormativity of their pre-coming-out faith and emerges within a faith that blends the motif of ambiguity experienced in queer identities as well as in Tillich’s radical theology.

Through this process, the faith of queer Christians (queer as in an all-encompassing inclusive term for LGBT folk) actually becomes queer Christianity (queer as in inspired by the insights of queer theory). In another sense, the faith that queer Christians come out into is not and cannot and will not be the same faith as prior to the coming out experience. The endeavor queer Christians undertake in coming out of the closet and into queer faith is dangerous, but such experience of dread in spite of hope only illustrates the ultimate nature of this act as a holy and courageous act. Studying it will bring insight to the experience of queer Christians, as well as provide all with an inspiring look into the promises life has for those who embrace the courage to come out.

Stay tuned for further discussion.


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Are there any errors and/or contradictions in the Bible?

One part of my answer to this is the question “What kind of errors?” However, my first gut reaction to this question is: “Sure there are, but what’s the point?”

Lettuce answer the first question: “What kind of errors?” Because we live in an age of information, I decided to look up these errors and contradictions.

The first site, which you can find here, lists all sorts of contradictions and errors. Among my favorite contradictions are those that follow:

God’s Achilles’ heel

Matthew 19:26 – “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.’”

Judges 1:19 – “And the LORD was with Judah; and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.”

Another one:

2 Samuel 6:23 – “Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.”

2 Samuel 21:8 – “But the king took..the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul.”

Now, let’s give Michal some credit; she could have had all five sons on the day of her death.

How about some errors?

Leviticus 11:20-21: “All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you.” I certainly hope so, because I know of no fowl that walks on four legs.

And speaking of abominations, how about the camel and the hare:

We are abominations.

Deuteronomy 14:7 – “…as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for they chew the cud, but divide not the hoof.”  Hares don’t chew cud, and camels “do divide the “hoof.”

Now, these are silly examples.  This site goes through some 143 contradictions in the Bible and provides explanations for why they may seem like contradictions. Take a look through them; they are thorough.

This brings me to my second point: “Sure there are errors and contradictions in the Bible, but what is the point?”

Why does it matter that there may be errors in the Bible?  It matters (and doesn’t matter) depending on how we see the Bible.  If we see the Bible as a book of facts, if we believe everything in the Bible is a claim to truth, fact, and reality,then yes, I suppose it does matter if there are errors.

Girls! Girls! The Facts of Life.

And yet, we must dispute the very notion of “facts,” whether anything can indeed be verifiable or falsifiable. Sorry readers, but this is where it gets heady.

Some say there are things that are verifiable, some say there are not, and some say there are some that are and some that are not.  But let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that there are things that are verfiable and these things are necessary for developing claims to truth(s), and that these things we know as “facts.”

Now, we seek these “facts” to develop “truth claims,” which we use to construct/develop/emerge descriptions of verifiable realities, philosophies, ethics, politics, and faiths.

Whither we find or identify these “facts?” All sorts of venues of discovery have been argued as sources of these facts. Among them are nature itself, science and its method, human reason, personal experience, powers and authorities, and sacred writings.

Thus, we have come to the issue of the Bible, wherein many/some claim that the Bible is a source of these facts which are used in developing truth claims to reality and all it constitutes.

Is this so?  Is the Bible claiming to describe all of reality through presenting facts as truth claims to this reality?  I don’t think so.  I think the Bible is less than this, but paradoxically more than this.  It is not a fact book, it is so much more.  The truth that we encounter in the Bible is a truth that goes beyond facts and figures.

Then, what becomes of the Bible?  Tune in Wednesday as I answer “What is the Bible and what does it mean to you?”

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Theological Explanations

What does one title their first “official” blog post, the one where they will set out to explain what their blog is all about?  As the title came to me, I turned around in my chair to look at my bookcase, and there, near the bottom, was a book titled “Philosophical Explanations” by Robert Nozick. I have only managed to skim through this tome, but the title inspired me.

In this blog, do I want to set out an explanation of everything theology?  Do I want to this to be the beginning of a who-knows-how-long systematic theology?  To be honest, that would be “fairly neat.” Imagine if the great systematic theologians like Pannenberg, Tillich, and Barth had blogs where they wrote notes to themselves about what they intended to write in their massive anthologies?  Well, I’m sure they did something of the sort, whether in stacks upon piles of notes in their offices or in letters to loved ones, all due to the fact of the nonexistence of the world-wide-int(er/ra)(web/net).

Now wait a minute, that idea of stacks of notes and letters to loved ones is compelling, along with the idea of developing a systematic theology.  So, what is the purpose of this blog?  I have a couple of purposes, actually.

One, I do want this to be a place where I can work on my craft of theologizing.  I want this place to be such where I can write out my thoughts and beliefs on issues in theology and have people respond to them (or remain isolated in the confines of digital space). I want to develop my theology in the contexts of the seminary student, the church leader, the community participant, the son, the brother, the friend, the stranger, and the guy sitting behind his desk in his room.

Two, I want my theologizing to not just be about presenting “explanations” of what I think and believe, but I want this to be more, oh, qu’est-ce que c’est…for lack of better and less mainstream words: relational, organic, storied, and the like.  I want to crush the ivoried embankments between the theologian and the rest of humanity.  I want what I think and believe to be shared, experienced, lived out in my interactions with you, my beloved readers, through this vehicle of WordPress.  I want my life of theologizing to be more life as theology than theology as life.

So, instead of an “explanation,” this blog is an “exploration.”  It is an “enterprise” in that I seek to accomplish something, namely that I develop my own theology.  It is a “meditation” or a “contemplation” in that it is a deep and personal reflection on what I think and believe in my own language, style, and spirituality.  Finally, it is a “communication” in that it involves all with ears to hear (and even those who don’t).

So, I hope you come along with me on this enterprise. Here’s a sneak peek of what I have planned:

I recently taught a class at my church, the Salvage Yard, on theology (in fact, the title of the class is shared with the title of this blog).  In it, we went through all the main areas of systematic theology (prolegomena, theology proper, bibliology, anthropology, hamartiology, Christology, soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, and eschatology).  In my humble opinion, it was an incredible experience for me and the students.  So, here I want to make available my notes and discussions from that class.

I will also be posting selections of scholarly work that I have written for seminary.

Finally, I will be writing as topics as they emerge from wherever.

Thank you for your attention.  I greatly appreciate and anticipate your interactions.

Hmm, this post would make a fine “about” description.  Looks like I’m about to commit my first recycling job from this blog!  The system works after all…

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