Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Unregenerate and Gospel Art - Redux

Yes, the title is intentionally "Redux." Why? Because I want to play devil's advocate with my brother, Evan. This post will also be personal, because this affords me some time to tell folks something of who I am.

First I want to tell you, Evan I highly respect your opinion and insight, but I'm going to offer a different perspective on this. That's fair, since Steve has let us know we don't all have to agree around here.

A. In my profile here, you'll find I'm HIV positive. How did I get it? Well, how is HIV transmitted? If you know that, you know how I got it. The reason I don't disclose that is simple. We HIV positive folk don't generally differentiate between modes of exposure. We have HIV; we're living with it, some better than others. I may be a repentant gay man. I may be repentant drug user. I may have gotten it from both. I may have gotten it from heterosexual sex. I may have gotten it from using drugs and having sex with lots of women. I may have gotten it through surgery or medical exposure.

I don't answer questions online about sexual orientation when this question arises simply because, to be frank I've learned folks either see me as worse that group x or better than group y. Besides if I said "I'm straight" somebody out there would say, "He's trying to hide the truth, he's really an 'ex-gay.'" On the other hand if I said, "I'm an ex-gay "somebody would say, "He's saying that to make a point." At least one more, probably if I was "worst case scenario," an ex-gay IV drug user, that would contact me to come give my testimony at their church for a round of top the testimony. I've seen this played out before in the lives of others, so I know the terrain. It's best not to go there.

I don't play that game. It's enough for me that God knows; God redeems; God grows, and I personally try to keep a low key after the news comes out, just to avoid the way people react. I think they stumble in their walk more than I in that respect, and I will not put a stumbling block in front of my brothers and sisters. Top the testimony is just so tiresome.

Plus, being HIV positive, I can't have kids the old fashioned way at least, so it's not like I'm planning on marrying. How many HIV positive Calvinist Christian women do you know in NC who want to marry and, Lord willing, go off to seminay with me in about 2 more years when I've finished saving money? Get the picture?

B. Apropos A, my HIV status gives me "street cred" in certain places most evangelicals aren't welcome, so my life has intersected with the gay community for one reason or another for a long time, although not in over a year or two at least. For the most part I don't associate with the AIDS community or the gay community or those serving those communities. My priorities lie elsehwere for the moment. God is dong other things with me.

C. I've abused drugs (meth). I've had lots of sex. I've worked for the National AIDS Hotline (great job, great people). I've worked for an AIDS Service Organization. I've helped established an AIDS Service Organization. I've run with the party crowd in the gay and straight communities at after-hours clubs on Friday and Saturday nights, and walked home while folks drove by on the way to their churches on Sunday mornings and laughed about it. I've lobbied for reform of certain state laws in order to help those with terminal and chronic illnesses and their families.

I've done a lot, good and bad, sometimes I wonder how much. God's grace covers a multitude of sins, it breeds repentance; it breeds faith, Christ and Christ alone has gotten me out of the muck. God's Word and the fellowship of His people sustain me and grow me. It is my privilege to serve the Lord's Church and to know my Lord. The more I know him, the more I learn I have so much longer to go and more to learn. In His grace, He has blessed me with pretty stable health, and, in large part its due to my HIV status and few other providential workings that I won't detail here, I have time to study and write and occasionally teach a lesson. For the record, I've learned the truth of Jesus' words that some folks are given to be eunuchs, some by choice others by birth. I'm with Paul on this. Apropos A above, I can commit myself to undivided work, and, yes, I can truthfully say it doesn't bother me. Also, HIV doesn't control my life. My God is bigger than my virus.

D. If the Pedantic Protestant is the libertarian and Steve here is the conservative, I 'm tend to be a bit more moderating on my treatment of certain issues, largely because of some things I've seen. This influences the way I react to certain events. Sometimes I'm too liberal for conservatives, too conservative for liberals.

For example, when I lived in a certain large city in the US South that, until a few years ago, housed a large, very prominent SBC church in Midtown, I learned that the gay community has a very long memory. I've been told this by more than one source, and the story is always very consistent, so I dont' think this one of those urban legends that morphs into something other than what happened.

It seems that on Gay Pride Sunday in the 90's, the parade route passed in front of this church. Now, literally across the street, from this church is a church of a different denomination, one I would consider nominally evangelical at best, more than likely just plain apostate.

Regardless, some Persons with AIDS who were not healthy and rather frail were moved under the shade of a large tree that sat on the SBC chruch's property to watch the parade. Some gentlemen from that church, which had been lettting out anyway, went and asked those men to leave the grounds. The folks from the other church came and got them, gave them water, and began handing water out to the crowd. A few years later, the SBC church left that part of town altogether. To my knowledge, at least at the time I moved away, there was no evangelical church in that part of town. The gay men, in part because of the other church's actions, began attending the other church...a church that probably doesn't preach the gospel anyway. So, that day, the apostates were handed the gay community in this city, while the evangelical community asked them to get out from the shade tree.

Gay men, folks, have long memories. That is still remembered today. On the one hand this church will help circulate petitions to stop gay marriage from becoming law; on the other it will ask PWA's who are gay men to leave the premises. To my knowledge the closest evangelism and recovery ministry for gay men down there is outside the beltway. Now, in fairness, it was their property, and it was a gay pride parade and they were letting out service, and they had a right to ask, but it still seems to me that was a time to share the gospel, not shut the kingdom, and they would have gone on their way when the parade passed by anyway.

Now where were we, oh, yes, Chad Allen. As I was saying my life has intersected at different points with the lives of gay men and I've been exposed to the workings of their subculture, proabably in ways very few in the communities of this readership have been exposed, so I'd like to offer some insight here:

1. Now, Chad Allen is openly gay and an "activist." Although one wonders how many gay men and lesbians realize that, since it's not like he's on the front of that many of their newspapers and magazines, at least not to my knowledge. Gay celebrities are in vogue anyway, so even if he is, so what? How high profile is he? Is he a voice to which gay men listen? Does he raise lots of money for the Human Rights Campaign or whatever causes he advocates, or is he a B-list voice at the best gay fundraisers, the one they call when the scheduled speaker cancels? Or does he party hard on the circuit? Is Southern Voice covering this story? Would any ordinary church member know this about him if the Christian media didn't say something or get bent of out shape about this?

2. This is a movie. As such, it is a collaborative effort. There's a writer, a producer, a director, and a script, as well as whole cast. Does the script come off as promoting a moral or political agenda that is contrary to evangelicalism, broadly speaking?

3. I would be more concerned about the director. Is he gay? Is he an activist? Will he send Chad Allen around to promote the film and his sexual orientation at the same time? For that matter, what about the writer?

4. Apropos 2, if the answer to the script question is "No," then does Chad do his job well in the film? Did the director control his set in such a way that does justice to the script and to the life and message of the man Chad Allen is portraying? In short, does he come off as a gay man playing a Christian straight man or is he believable? Would you view his performance differently if you knew he was heterosexual?

5. "What you intended for evil, God intended for good." Does that sound familiar? The gay press will probably, if they haven't already, pick up on this story. I dont' know. I don't read SoVo or other gay rags. However, you can bet your bottom dollar that gay men and lesbians will go watch the film. Christians used Narnia as a vehicle for evangelism. Why not this film? Why not use it as a point of contact with the gay community to bring some light into the darkness to discuss the gospel with them? They'll be going to see Chad Allen in a film with a Christian message. Use it to teach them what that message is really about.

6. How comfortable are you, the readers of Triablogue, sharing the gospel with gay men and lesbians; I mean really getting to know them and work with them, not just pressing them about their sexuality? If you say "very" dare I say you're the exception not the rule. I'm not bold enough to say I am, even though I have an entree I doubt many of you have, if any.

You have to realize that for a gay man to be asked to leave that community, he is often being asked to give up his family, friends, even his livlihood, as well as what he has been conditioned to believe is his identity. "Count the cost" takes on a vivid meaning when applied to evangelizing gays. The concept of abandoning your mother, father, wife, children, and worldly goods to follow Jesus is extremely real for them when they are invited to Christ and commanded to repent and believe. On that count, here's an article linked below I'd encourage you to read and ponder.

It's strikingly similar to witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. I'm often amazed by all the books written about how to evangelize them, but the paucity of material about the gay population. We're comfortable calling them to repent, but we wouldn't just preach at a Mormon. We'd talk with them, not at them. We'd get at least some feel for what it will cost that person to leave Mormonism or Islam or Buddhism in their indigenous lands. There are entire ministries dedicated to helping Christians converted from these cultural religions cope with the loss and support them.

With gay men it's not just about sin and sexuality; its about a way of thinking and living, with its own language, religion, and economic system. Look for a gay newspaper if you live in a town with one and look at the business ads alone. For that matter read one from time to time and find out how their community and group-think operates. Evangelizing gay men and lesbians is rather like asking a Gentile to become a Jew, not just religiously, but culturally. That's a very first century idea, you know. As such, it makes you appreciate the way God opened hearts in that century and drew large numbers to Christ. I hear He does that now too, you know. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the gays in Atlanta went and saw this at the Tara on Cheshire Bridge Road and then began coming to Christ because the churches in Atlanta decided not to picket the film but instead use it as an outreach tool? This is something we should get down on our knees and pray God would do.

7. I'll close with two items: (Hattip to David Hewitt)

Phi 1:15 Some, to be sure, preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. Phi 1:16 These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; Phi 1:17 the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me trouble in my imprisonment. Phi 1:18 What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice

and

www.harvestusa.org . Esp. here: http://www.harvestusa.org/articles/reaching%20gays.htm

Finally, I don't want any comments in the meta here or emails telling me how brave or inspiring or encouraging I am or how you really respect discussing my HIV status in public. or anything of the sort. Give God the glory in your prayers. I'll find out on the Last Day, and then we'll thank the Lord Jesus together.

Christians living with HIV experience four attitudes within the church. Sometimes we’re shunned by others out of ignorance regarding HIV transmisstion itself. Others pity us, as "AIDS victims." I am a person living with HIV. I don’t need special concern about my health not similarly accorded to others. Others care more about how I got HIV than the fact that I have it. Others will put us on pedestals as case studies. If you want to do something constructive with my testimony, then here's what you should do: Get down on your knees and thank God for the life you have, make your calling and election sure, thank Him for what health you have and find a sick person or a gay person to minister to this week, and pray for all the disabled persons with AIDS who can't afford their meds in this country even with Medicare Part D, and if you want to do anything for me personally pray the Lord continue providing my needs. I have an ear infection right now that is taking forever to heal, and I have lost the upper 1/3 of my outer ear because of it. The Lord has finally sent me to a new doctor and I've had my first good report in 3 years about that ear (yes I have had this that long). Still, I surmise He has been extremly good to me. He gives and He takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

I pray He'll move you to read this post and reach out to those in need around you in the name of Christ, especially to share the gospel with them. If we oppose the social agenda and the activism of the gay community, that's great, but we need to do something about the root cause. Use this film to do that.

6 comments:

  1. Great Post, Gene! You've really inspir...oh wait. :-)

    Not that it really matters, but my personal theory is that the producers have done this because they know that it will cause controversy which leads to more receipts (i.e. money). That's just a theory.

    I like what you've said about how there will be many homosexuals that will see this film. It is an opportunity for them to perhaps see and hear the gospel. Hopefully, we as Christians can be there for the questions to answer.

    I really wish the evangelical world would just have a "conspiracy of silence" on this one. Don't support it, don't see it, if you disagree with the casting but also don't help promote it by falling into the trap of controversy.

    I think we all know "The Last Temptation of Christ" was boring and would have failed completely if the evangelicals hadn't made such a big deal out of it.

    I myself probably won't see it. From what I've read elsewhere the whole things seems contrived from the producers (as I've mentioned) and I don't want to support that. But, let me tell you I hope every gay person in America does see it and I pray that there may be just a few I get to talk to about it.
    f

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  2. Gene:

    You big meanie!

    I enjoyed reading your perspective. Amidst what I view to be an unwise decision, the Church can take this opportunity to further the kingdom. It is as Spurgeon said, "The moment of thine exremity was just the moment of God's opportunity."

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  3. Thanks, Gene. I'll respond with just a couple of verses; the Word is always better than what I have to say anyway. :)

    Luke 17:10 In the same way, when you have done all that you were commanded, you should say, 'We are good-for-nothing slaves; we've only done our duty.

    May God always give me the grace to say that; yes LORD, PLEASE give me the grace to say that!

    ...and...

    Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

    While we are alive, we always have the opportunity. Yes, we do the most good for the household of faith, but I would like to think (though honestly, I'm not sure I) would have given them water as well and talked with them. It not like we're needing to prove that its sin; God took care of that already. Now we simply need to obey the command of Scripture above, and speak its truth to see what God will do.

    SDG
    DH

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  4. Thanks, guys.

    You know, as I thought more on this today, it just occurred to me that this movie is about missionaries who were killed reaching a hard to reach place. It would be tragic, and a disservice to their memories for Christians to go see this movie and not then go to the hard to reach places, starting with the communities of people very likely joining them in the theater seats when the go.

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  5. Thank you ... just thank you.

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  6. It had seemed to me that the casting decision was either a naive or cynical attempt at manufacturing a controversy for opening weekend that would intrigue a larger audience. It seemed like an attempt to market to gay men a sort of murder in the jungle movie, like an ill-advised outreach.

    But the movie was so well done and sensitive, neither PC nor heavy handed, that it's hard to hold it against it, whatever the truth is.

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