Friday, July 16, 2010

Atheist's Challenge: Christians, Show Your Support for LGBTQ Rights!


This is a post I prepared for Reconciling Ministries Blog. I wanted to get it up today since Rachel Held Evans posted a link to my Evolving in Monkey Town review.

If you're new- Hi! Leave a comment & share your thoughts.

"The Friendly Atheist" has some words for Christians who support LGBTQ equality- DO something, or you're part of the problem. Popular blogger & author, Hemant Mehta, issued his challenge in response to the internet buzz surrounding Christians who attended a Gay Pride Parade with the message: I'm Sorry!

Last month The Marin Foundation went to Chicago Pride to apologize for the harm done to LGBTQs by Christians. Their signs and shirts made an impact. One beautiful story describing the reconciliation unfolding between a marcher & an "apologist" made the rounds on facebook & the blogs, often soliciting the comment,"brought tears to my eyes."

While many saw this as an encouraging step, some people weren't buying it.

Mehta, in particular, was skeptical. His impression is that Christians are not supportive of The Gays; words are cheap, let's see action. Reactions in his comment section were all over the board. Some challenged his take on this, others agreed with him, & many added their unique perspective.

Last week, when Hawaii's Governor vetoed Civil Unions at the last minute, he used it as a springboard for this challenge:

"I want to see any Christian who finds this despicable to say so. Blog about it. Tell your Facebook friends. Tell your church members. Call out anyone who disagrees. If you don’t, you’re part of the problem."

He has a point.

Christians who are for The Gays but hide their support under a bushel, aren't really helping. They're maintaining the status quo. Which is harming people.

The crazy thing is, there is a lot of support out there for LGBTQs among Christians. We just (mostly) don't hear about it. Many speak up, but not enough.

If you are Christian and you are LGBTQ-affirming, I believe God has a plan for you. There are people who would like to be more supportive, but don't know how to square that desire with what they've been taught. There are hurting individuals who feel hated & abandoned by the "Church Family" that raised them. They need to hear from you. They WANT to hear from you.

Are they hearing from you?

(If not, your silence is speaking volumes.)

Take this opportunity. Accept The Friendly Atheist's Challenge!

Make your voice heard. Start a conversation. Involve your friends. Talk with your fellow church-goers & clergy. Reach out to your "virtual village" online. Repost support. Leave a comment here, there, everywhere.

Don't let your silence speak for you.

Tina Ciampa is a life-long UMCer who believes The Church will be one step closer to living out "on Earth as it is in Heaven" when it fully realizes the dignity and worth of all people. She relishes the irony that we will get there even faster thanks to the prodding of an atheist.
She blogs at & would love to hear from you on facebook.

So, what are you doing? Is it hard to speak up on this issue in particular? What other issues come to mind? Do they share commonalities? If so, what? What can you do today? (feel free to post a link or share this!)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Evolving in Monkey Town: The (real) Book Review



This is Rachel Held Evans' spiritual memoir. At the ripe old age of ...27.

But, as Indiana Jones put it, "Its not the years, Honey, it's the mileage."

And Rachel has covered some ground.

"Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All The Answers Learned to Ask The Questions" is the sweeping account of Rachel's self-professed evolution from Apologetic All-Star to She Who Sees Value In The Questions.

Doubt has given legs to her journey.

Summingly it up succinctly: "...doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves." (p 219)

Psst.... We kind of need it.


Generally, amongst most of us church-goers, there's been a tacit understanding that when it comes to troubling questions, to doubt, we just don't talk about it. Not publicly, anyway.

However, when we fail to take seriously our questions & doubts, our journey is stunted. Instead of growing, we become ingrown. (which can express itself in some ugly ways)

The following quote is a veritable passport for exploring the uncharted territory that lies between a taught faith and one that's been road-tested; one that really belongs to you (or is it the other way around?) ~

If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that serious doubt-
the kind that leads to despair- begins not when we start asking
God questions but when, out of fear, we stop. (p 226)

Fortunately, Rachel does forge ahead. She confronts her questions with courage & integrity, and strikes out on a spiritual adventure towards a more authentic faith.

Along the way, encounters with various people & places cause Rachel to question what she's been taught. It's not matching up with what she's experiencing. So like Jacob, who grabbed hold of that heavenly shade..... she wrestles. She doesn't let go. Something's gotta give, and when it does, it's that which she cleverly identifies as the "false fundamentals" of her faith.
Here's a gem:
...I sometimes wonder if I might have spent fewer nights in angry, resentful prayer if only I'd known that my little systems-
my theology, my presuppositions, my beliefs, even my fundamentals- were but broken lights of a holy, transcendent God. I wish I'd have known to question them, not him. (p 220)

And with that, she provides an important piece of framework for integrating faith & earnest questioning. With that, hers seems to become more of a living faith. A wild faith.

She traverses a lot of territory, covering curiosity, community, outsiders' perspectives on Christianity (the times when she found herself on the "outside" were especially poignant), the mindset of defending vs embodying faith, the multitude of worldviews, and more...
A lot more.
She asks if getting THE answer in a world of worldviews is possible, or even the point? Maybe there is more to it than that. It's a theme she touches on throughout the book, and she hits on some really. good. stuff.
As evidenced by my copious notes in the pic, this book is bulging with fodder for conversation! (perfect for book clubs & small groups)
Though her story is not unique, it is well told. Refreshingly honest & well put together, Evolving takes us along for the journey.

Knowing the answers is safe. Being willing to experiment outside of the lines is risky, but it seems to be part of the deal if you want to embody your faith in the real world. She does this. And, it's encouraging for others who are tentatively confronting their own boundary lines.
Evolving is a map of her journey. No doubt everyone's will look different, but it's helpful to know that others have passed this way. Its reassuring to happen across a blaze on the trail less travelled.
At the end of the day, this is why I felt less crazy. It's disconcerting to sit in a pew, surrounded by 100s of seemingly content people, and wonder, Is it just me who has a few questions here?
Seeing those questions in print, hearing her story brought a measure of courage and excellent company for the road!
Wonder what it might do for you?
PS: if you are looking for company, i recommend her blog. you'll find community in the comment section
PPS: as a reminder & full disclosure, i got a free copy for review as part of Rachel Held Evans' "Blog Tour."

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Evolving in Monkey Town: The (interim) Book Report

So, my Book Review is late. Overdue. Yikes.

Over the 4th of July Weekend, I thought I'd get it done. I figured- Free time. No problem. Done and dusted.

And then I got a taste of what most of you people deal with- the noise & attention of children.

Holy cow. If it isn't Wii Mario craziness, it's "Tina.......... Are you done with your Book Report YET?!"

I kindly explain to Cousin #2 that it's actually only been 7 minutes since I told her I needed an hour, and for 4 of those minutes she's been hanging on my chair and playing with my phone and leaning WAY in when she talks to me and its really all a bit much for someone who prefers communicating over vast distances via the telephone that she just dropped. Again.

Meanwhile, Cousin #1 is taking matters into her own hands. She's gathered up a pencil and paper. She starts shooting questions. And, before I know it, she announces that my "Book Report" is finished. Now let's go do other stuff.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our Book Report~

Interview by Haleigh (12 yrs). Interjections by Lindsey-The-Close-Talker (9 yrs). Transcribed by me. At the suggestion of Alise.

Haleigh: What's the book about?

Me: -girl who's faith is changing.
-she thinks she knows the answers to everything.
-suddenly, she's not so sure.
-she starts asking ?s to people and herself
-it makes her change

Haleigh: Describe the Main Character.

Me: smart, tried to be like good [Christian].... (she ran off the page here)

Lindsey: Did you ever try smoking?

Me: yes. twice. it was gross. don't ever take up smok-

Lindsey & Haleigh: YOU SMOKED?! IT'S POISONOUS!

Me: yeah, i know! i only tried it. it's smelly and hot and disgusting. don't bother.

Lindsey: Have you ever gotten drunk?

Me: Book Report!

Haleigh: Did you like the book?

Me: yes

Haleigh: Do you recommend the book?

Me: yes

Haleigh: Did it change you?

Me: reinforced my perspective

Lindsey: Will you help me find Abbey(the cat)? I think she's hiding in the bathroom. OH, and we need a flashlight. She's behind the tub, I think.

Haleigh: Okay, book report's done. Thawuzeasy.

(book REVIEW to follow. stay tuned.)