Hi John Piper. I’m not evil, I’m just a girl.

This week I spent a bit of time on John Piper’s website. It wasn’t a decision I consciously made–I found my way there via the twitter page of my former pastor.

I remember studying John Piper in Sunday school and in sermons. The church I grew up in held him in the same respect that they hold the apostle John: In addition to believing that the Bible is the direct Word-From-God, we were also supposed to believe that John Piper had it all right. 100%. Anything he published was as good as gold. And yeah, he’s a smart dude. He’s a great writer and a compelling speaker.

But after years and years of attending church, I got a little fed up with John Piper. Not so much Mr. Piper himself, but rather the way my church (and others in the evangelical world) held his work in much the same light that they hold the Bible.

I’m sorry, but I don’t worship John Piper.

Since breaking with my former congregation, I haven’t sought out the works of John Piper. But this week, I decided to click around the website.

There’s a Q&A section where “Pastor John” as he’s called takes questions from people (who I am assuming are his readers) and answers them in a much more casual setting than a sermon or a book. As is typical, the questions deal with the hot button issues; homosexuality, abortion, homosexuality, the sanctity of marriage, homose…. you get my point.

A nice little thing I read was commending a state official for her “brave” decision to refuse to marry a gay couple. I’m personally of the opinion that if you are hired to do a job that conflicts with your morals that strongly? you probably should not have that job. Mr. Piper is not of that opinion. In a particularly excellent section, he calls gay marriage an “evil” of the world, by association then, calling LGBTQ individuals who seek to get marriage evil as well.

Below are some passages from the specific article I was reading. Notice the language used to describe LGBTQ individuals, particularly “Evil” & “Destruction”.

lg2

lg1

That made me quite sad,  so I want to do something here:

Hi, Mr. Piper (I hope you don’t mind being called Mr. Piper). My name is Lily. I’m 25 years old. I’m a Christian. I was saved at the age of 8. I play in the worship band at my church. I volunteer with the youth group. I believe all life to be sacred. I like learning and listening to other people’s viewpoints. I have a heart for teenagers; I just want to make sure that they’re okay in this crazy world. I’m not evil. I swear to you, I am not evil. I really try so hard to show the love of Jesus to everyone around me. And my witness only improved in the midst of inner and external adversity: I am a lesbian.

There’s no argument I can make or revelation I can give to make you change your mind; I don’t actually care about changing your mind. I will however, encourage you to think of the young people especially when you use words like “evil” and “destruction”, and other common words like perverse, unnatural, or abomination. Whether or not you believe that people can be “cured” of their gayness is beyond the point. This is a human issue.

Due in part to the rhetoric listed above (and in your writings and the writings of other evangelical leaders), I have a very poor image of self. I’ve struggled with eating disorders, cutting, alcoholism, and suicide attempts. I’ve been told that who I am at my very core is despicable not only to people here on this earth, but to my Creator. At times when I was at my most vulnerable, it was the words of my brothers and sisters in Christ that came to me and convinced me that I was indeed a mistake, broken, worthless, an abomination, and irreparable. On top of that, where others are encouraged to love, I am required to reject the romantic love I yearn for. I want to give my love away, and I am told that I cannot.

It sucks. Hi Mr. John Piper. I’m Lily. I promise you I’m not evil. I want to build up God’s Church. That Church to me includes the trans-boy at my youth group. It includes the lesbian couple down the street. It includes room to listen to these stories and make sure that everyone’s needs are met. This is a fragile demographic, and I encourage you to consider especially the LGBTQ youth when writing about this topic.

Hi Mr. John Piper. I’m Lily. I love God. I’m gay. I’m not evil. I’m just a girl.

 

 

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Hi John Piper. I’m not evil, I’m just a girl.

@ Nashville Statement Signers: What’s your plan here?

I’m not the first person to write on the Nashville Statement and I won’t be the last. However, as someone who has been directly affected by the language and the mentality behind the language of this letter, I know it will be helpful to me personally to write down some thoughts.

The beliefs behind this letter are what I have been taught my entire life. Not only that homosexuality was a grievous sin, but that those who hold affirming views are lost and cannot be true Christians. I’ve seen families torn apart because of this. I’ve seen friends leave the church and reject God. These type of beliefs, in my experience, do more harm than good.

Hearing this rhetoric growing up has not done wonders for my mental health. If I can go to hell for even questioning if marriage can include same-sex partnerships, how much deeper into hell will I go because I fell in love with a woman? Is it irredeemable? Can I be changed? If not, will I be alone forever? Is it better to kill myself than to be gay?

Your religion should not drive you to question the value of your life. Your religion should not drive you to self-harm and suicidal intentions.

Instead of hearing this from my church, the people who vowed to love and support me as I grew up, I had to hear it from a stranger on the internet in my time of need. Therefore I ask you, signers of the Nashville Statement:

What do you plan to do with people like me? Where do you plan on going with this?

Attempts to make people change are largely unsuccessful and have been shown to do more harm than good. In the interest of not harming  your brothers and sisters in Christ, what is your plan?

If you damn us to hell, what then? Do you just say “We tried, it’s no longer our problem.” You cannot behave this way and then wonder why American Evangelical Christianity is shrinking.

This is a larger problem that extends well beyond the LGBTQA community. Many people have been excluded, shunned, and wronged in the name of Evangelical Christianity. What’s your plan for dealing with this? Instead of closing doors to the ones you hurt, why don’t you do what your name says and evangelize? Tell people the good news: That they are God’s Wonderful Creation and they are beloved.

In Sunday school I learned that people like me were an abomination, perverted, and irredeemable. My first girlfriend was the first one to tell me the truth; I am made in the Image of God.

To slightly shift gears, not only do you, white evangelical community, ignore those who have been hurt, you defend the abusers.

I think that’s truly the reason behind much of the outrage against the Nashville Statement. Let’s be honest, this isn’t anything that hasn’t been said before. But what makes it news is that this letter comes in the midst of so much turmoil in this country. Signers, where is your lengthy manifesto condemning white supremacy? Why do you publish something like this in the midst of a natural disaster in Houston? Where is your letter condemning your dear President on his crude words and sexual actions towards women? Send your energies elsewhere. 

Where is your aid to the synagogues? The mosques? Your compassion to the victims of hate crimes and speech? The condemnation of fucking Nazis?! Why does Trump get a free pass for his abhorrent actions? You guys, sexual assault is not a joke. It’s hugely damaging to victims–when you refuse to hold the predators accountable, you tell every girl, woman, boy, man who has been sexually assaulted that you don’t stand by them either.

Maybe it was my fault. It’s probably because I’m gay. Just like it’s the gay’s fault for Hurricane Harvey.

Evangelicals, Signers, what is your problem? Have you lost this much of your humanity? This manifesto doesn’t just speak for your “traditional views on marriage”– it speaks volumes about your priorities when it comes to the world. If the oppressed are not your priority, then who’s call are you abiding by? Because I believe Jesus was pretty clear.

@ Nashville Statement Signers: What’s your plan here?

It’s a good thing we don’t worship Rob Bell

My former pastor unfollowed me on twitter. I’m not sure when exactly he unfollowed me, but I noticed it last week. I’ve been slowly dipping my toes in the political world and slowly venting my frustrations with the evangelical community on twitter, which really is probably not the best platform, but it’s my home for it.

Anyway I know we don’t see eye to eye, this pastor and me. I suspect due to the nature of my departure, he does not have the highest opinion of me. But I didn’t think we were at the opposite ends of the spectrum, politically and spiritually, yet here we stand.

I started listening to Rob Bell again.

He was once highly respected in the evangelical church in which I grew up, but now is *obviously* a heretic. We even held an entire Sunday school class which was devoted to explaining all of the reasons why Rob Bell was a heretic.

Well, I like Rob Bell. Sorry not sorry. I enjoy his commentary on scripture and his insights on how to become more human, in the best way possible. I also enjoy that he allows for grey in a world that I had always been told was black and white.

The black and white way of life is not working for me anymore. Where my former congregation would have panicked, Bell encourages us to be at peace with uncertainty; to learn and grow from it.

And I am learning. I am growing. Perhaps it’s taking a different route than my former congregation expected, but today I am a more loving, more peaceful person than I was a year ago. That has to count for something.

Most importantly, at a time I most need to hear it, I am learning to break free of a lie that I have been taught:  That modern evangelicals have learned the proper way of understanding God and scripture, and that because I have left the church, I am lost. The evangelical church was an exclusive club–with acceptable reading material from only certain commentators, certain acceptable political parties or ways of dressing and speaking.

I’m learning a lot from Rob Bell, and not just him. Rachel Held Evans, Johnathan Merrit, Julie Rodgers, Vicky Beeching, Matthew Vines and others. A mixed bag of people who are wrestling in the gray world, just like me. They’re published authors, people with their own convictions and ways of seeing the world. I’m not sure I agree with all of them and that’s okay.

Some (my former pastor, I believe) will accuse me of trading one batch of commentators for another (who are, by the way, heretics). The difference is that people I choose to follow never claim to have it all right. Their statements and writings may be based on personal convictions, life experience, a word from God, who knows. But they accept that everyone is bringing something slightly different to the table and act accordingly.

The commentators I grew up reading had no sense of humility. Their statements and writings contain a matter-of-fact tone. ‘I know this, based on the Bible.’ This has never sat well with me. By that model, we should see the commentators as gods, or at very least, prophets. What makes their brain better than mine? What makes their interpretation of scripture any better than Julie Rodgers’? What makes them so special that we’ve chosen to elevate their words alongside the Bible?

Here’s the thing– we don’t worship the commentators.

Since when are the writings of John Piper given the same weight as the words of the Apostle? Since when did we stop admitting that Piper is not perfect? Even John Calvin was just a human.

With commentators, you can pick and choose what you believe. If we’re accepting of shortcomings, accepting of humanity, then we should be comfortable sifting through what thoughts we do and do not subscribe to. To pretend that any one human on this earth has it completely correct is delusional. If God wasn’t somewhat of a mystery, he wouldn’t be God.

It’s a good thing I worship God, and not the commentators. And the last time I checked, that was all that was required of me.

It’s a good thing we don’t worship Rob Bell

I have a fear of intimacy and “sloppy wet kiss” sounds horrifying.

And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest.
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way…

That He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us….

You don’t know this song? What were you doing in 2009, living under a rock??

How He Loves was a praise song that rose to popularity very quickly in the contemporary praise and worship circles. My church was not contemporary, so by the time I heard it, it was probably already at maximum popularity. Once I heard it once, I heard it everywhere.

I assumed it was a David Crowder song, with the lyrics shown above. Unforseen kiss always seemed fairly poetic, although a kiss metaphor wasn’t something that would be used in my church setting. We were a “leave room for Jesus” type. Like, majorly.

I was attending a contemporary service put on by some young people in my community that summer when I heard the other version

And Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss…

Excuse me, what?? Sloppy, wet kiss? If a kiss metaphor was out of my world, this sent it into the stratosphere. Where did this come from? Did these young people change the words themselves?

No, I learned. That’s the original lyrics, penned by John Mark McMillan, changed by David Crowder to make them more approachable, more more worship-friendly, more safe.

That’s crap, these young people had decided, and performed the original version. But at the time, sloppy wet kiss didn’t sit well with me. At all.

Why? As I sought the answer to my disproportionate discomfort, I came to a few conclusions:

  • The adjectives sloppy and wet are both negative. Kiss is typically a positive word. Unforeseen on the other hand, could be positive. The two words hold less dissonance.
  • Sloppy and Wet is not how I wish a kiss to be. That sounds gross and makes me uncomfortable.
  • Unforeseen, in a positive sense, is a surprise–something you do not expect to receive. This was in line with what I had been taught on grace, and God’s relationship to man.
  • But lastly, I have never been kissed, so I don’t understand the metaphor at its core.

In 2009, I was 17 years old, nearly an adult. Sitting there in that auditorium, listening to my peers sing this song on the stage, I realized that I was very out of sorts. An ugly jealousy sprung up inside me. I had never been kissed. The rest of all of these kids had. I knew. I saw them in the hallways. I was 17 and no one had ever tried to kiss me. No one had reached out to hold my hand. No one had even embraced me tightly.

Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting to ever be kissed, therefore unforeseen was the perfect word for the metaphor.

I don’t know where exactly my fear of intimacy arose. Perhaps it was the constant preaching I had been subject to (young people were not even allowed to hug in my church). Perhaps it was getting yelled at (literally yelled) when a female friend of mine snuggled into my shoulder on a couch at youth group, and I rested my head on hers. Perhaps it was the fact that I never saw my parents (or any of my relatives) hug or kiss. Perhaps I was simply afraid of failure; at 17… 19…21… most people had already done this stuff. What if I was bad at it? What if my hand was too sweaty or too cold? What if I was a dreadful kisser? What if my kiss was sloppy and wet?

It wasn’t until I was 23 that I finally experienced intimacy. At 23 I had my first kiss. I held hands with my significant other when we walked down the street, while I drove my car, while we sat on the porch. I was greeted with a smile and a kiss. I was allowed to get close, in fact, my closeness was wanted.

I still have a fear of intimacy, but it’s a different kind. It’s not a fear of failure, and it’s not a negative fear. It’s butterflies. It’s electric in my veins. It’s the excitement and fear of asking “can I kiss you?” and the calmness of the moments following.

Somewhat guiltily, I think I still prefer unforeseen, but I get it now. I understand sloppy wet kiss, because things aren’t perfect, but when you love someone, it doesn’t matter.

I have a fear of intimacy and “sloppy wet kiss” sounds horrifying.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

“Just come hang out!” she said. “You don’t really have to do much.

“I would 100-percent support that.”

I love Eva. I love Eva and Joey and Porcha and Alex and the rest. I want to make sure that Eva knows she has a family– that Porcha knows God loves her just the way she is. I want to help Alex along a journey, towards a destination I have no particular answer to, but I want them to know that they are made in the image of God.

I want them to know that when the world abandons them, God will not. And I wont either.

Growing up I had people try to do that for me. They helped me so much. They were my confidants when I had nowhere else to turn. They were my therapist, hearing the records of my anxieties and grievances. But they all fell short. Humans do that.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

They see me in the praise band on Sunday. I make sure to ask them about their weeks and listen. I make the tough conversations easy to voice. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have the answers. I just want to make sure they’re all doing okay.

I want them to know that I’ve been there. I see you. I know how you got those scars. You can show me or tell me and I will understand because I have them too. You don’t have to explain. I know how many questions you have, how complicated identity seems. You can skip the explanations, which often are not easy. I get it. I see you. You’re my younger sibling, my little bird.

My God. If I had someone, even one person, tell me that I was beautiful, that “same sex attraction” wasn’t an abomination, that I was made in the image of God–No exceptions!–it would have saved me countless moments of hating myself. If one person took the time to listen, to hold me tight, to tell me that my feelings were valid, I maybe would have less scars. Maybe I would stand a little taller.

I just want to make sure the kids are alright. I don’t want to leave them. I want to be the person I never had.

I’m not sure anyone else wants me to become a youth leader.

Me? Who refuses to dress up, despite playing in the band every week. Who comes, frail and pale, with dark circles and makeup clearly from last night. Who jokes during the church service. Who can’t pray out loud anymore. Who is perhaps too open about her drinking habits.

No. They don’t want that.

Even if they do, I can’t become a youth leader with a clean conscious because I am gay. I am gay. What if the parents decide that I am unfit to lead their kids? What if I bare my soul, my identity, to the church leaders and they decide I am unfit for everything? Could I still play in the band? Could I still hang out with the youth?

I don’t want to be a problem to be solved. I don’t want to be an issue to be fixed. I just don’t want to leave them–the kids. I just want to make sure they’re doing okay. Because God, life is hard.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader. I do too.

Eva wants me to become a youth leader.

Slowburn Evangelicalism: I don’t know whats going on, but it’s something.

Saturday night I sat in a local up-scale bar with friends. We discussed politics and religion over Moscow Mules in glinting brass mugs.

It’s no secret to any of my friends that I am a Christian. It’s no secret that I have many frustrations with the church, but in the end, I am convicted to believe in the saving God. However, conversations about faith or religion are not avoided with me or anyone in the group; they know where I stand and there’s no attempt to convince me otherwise. There’s also no attempt on my part to convert them to Christianity. We reach a mutual understanding of each other’s positions, and part ways feeling (if nothing else) intellectually stimulated.

Growing up in the evangelical church, this might feel… wrong. It sounds wrong, to some. In fact, it was this very notion, this behavior, that caused me to lose my VIP status in my church.

If your faith isn’t compelling you to testify to others, you should take a closer look at your faith.

How much do you have to hate the other person to not share the Gospel with them?

These were two things that I was taught over and over again growing up, and they still fill me with anxiety. I’m not particularly compelled, but the suggestion that I’m damning others by my inaction is incredibly stressful.

The thing is though… I have no power to save anyone.

Read it again. I have no power to save anyone. I cannot offer anyone heavenly grace. I cannot rescue anyone from the grips of sin. I cannot save anyone.

Well, yes, my evangelicals would say, yes I know that. But I can plant the seeds. That’s our job.

You are so right. That’s why I practice a slowburn evangelicalism.

In the world that I grew up in, many people already know the basic points of the Gospel. They know the points on the Bible tracts. There’s very little sense in talking at people about this.

In college, my roommate was a self-proclaimed staunch atheist. She came from a Catholic background and had become disillusioned by the intolerance and hypocrisy shown in the church.

So have I, I said. We have that in common. 

Over the next 4 years of close friendship, we have talked about frustrations with the church, our own beliefs, our doubts, our hangups. I tell her what I love about Church and she encourages me. We talk about the universe, science, how vast and crazy and specific this world is and how can it be an accident? She agrees.

Four years, this takes. Six years of friendship, and four years of discussions. Leading up to Moscow Mules, in a bar at my city.

I’m an agnostic, she says. I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s something.

This is what it means, my friends. This is what I yearned for in every conversation I had with her on faith. I saw her heart, which had been so hardened, so bitter, open to me. I tried to show her every kindness that I believed in, instill upon her every ounce of grace I had been given. And I passed along all of the unconditional love I could muster. And I praised my God for giving me this human, this friendship, the universe, and the cool night air.

I don’t know what’s going on, but it’s something.

Slowburn Evangelicalism: I don’t know whats going on, but it’s something.

Dear everyone: I don’t know.

 

“To say ‘I don’t know’ is the beginning of faith, for me.”  – Kent Dobson


Dear parents,

Dear pastors,

Dear youth leaders,

Dear teachers,

Dear friends,

I don’t know.

I’m sorry if this makes you feel like you’ve failed in some way. I know for 23 years I was a faithful consumer of valuable teachings from all of you. I know I was sort of the golden girl; someone your children could look up to and you could trust that I wouldn’t lead them astray.

And you were right. For all accounts, I was the image of a Godly woman. I tried to follow all the rules.

And in a way, you’re still right. I do try to keep up the image of a Godly woman, no matter how much that feels like lying.

But here, let me tell you I’m sorry, because I don’t know.

There’s a lot that was taught in my evangelical church, my tribe, that I do not subscribe to. (like, a LOT). But I don’t know exactly what I do subscribe to either.

Please don’t mistake this for an abandonment of faith. In fact, I feel as though it’s the exact opposite. I am finally leaning not on my own human understanding. I’m no longer leaning on anyone’s understanding, really. I’m just accepting the fact that I have. no. clue. 

The stuff that theologians have tried to explain, that teachers have tried to sort through, the tough questions about God and the world and our own souls…. I don’t know about any of that stuff. I can’t even describe God in my limited human vocabulary. I can’t even comprehend God in my limited human brain.

To pretend otherwise anymore is lying to myself.

So, I’m sorry to say, I don’t know. If that sounds like nihilism or agnosticism or what have you, I’m sorry. But I’m using my God-given brain, my God-given experiences and my God-given soul to arrive at these “conclusions”. Sorry if that sounds like I’m a lost cause.

I don’t think I am. In fact, I feel more connected to faith, to spirituality than I have ever been. It is pure faith. I can’t explain any of this stuff, I can’t show it to you. I’ve never seen God or heard Him. This is faith; to say I don’t know.

But I do believe in God, even if I can’t explain Him or understand Him. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the resurrection. I believe in Love. And I’m trying to channel God’s love through me unto others.

I’m okay with leaving questions unanswered. Maybe I’ll arrive at more concrete conclusions as I go through my life. Maybe I won’t.

Parents, friends, teachers, I’m sorry that I no longer subscribe to the black and white world in which I was raised. God painted the world in all hues and shades. To confine him to a binary system does nothing for me any longer.

Dear everyone: I don’t know.