Here are some excerpts from my book Keepin' It Real, written in 2002...these words may seem somewhat ironic now...this was all I could say at the time (or ever intended to say) concerning the subject...
“The Times They Are A-Changin’”
The gospel of the Kingdom must be a counter-culture gospel. Jesus refused to simply accept the status quo. He was outspoken about what needed to be changed in the world and He did what was necessary to bring about that change. Today the word cult has a negative connotation, but the meaning of it is actually derived from the phrase counter-culture. And when there are things about the culture that are contrary to Kingdom principles, it becomes necessary for the gospel to take on an aspect of activism. The gospel should counter a culture where the divorce rate is higher than 50%, where there are more African-American men in jails and prisons than in colleges and universities, and where reports of child sexual abuse have become so common that they don’t even seem shocking anymore. That kind of culture definitely needs a makeover!
The gospel of the Kingdom must be a tolerant gospel. It seems to be the opinion of many in the mainstream religious Church that AIDS is God’s punishment for gay people. Instead of praying for the hurting, many extremist fundamentalists actually consider it their ministry to stand outside the edifices where the funerals of AIDS victims are conducted and hold up placards that read, “AIDS is God’s punishment to fags” or “All fags go to hell.” In Section 3 of this book I’ll discuss some of the challenges that gay people face when it comes to the Church, but I have no examples to site here from the life of Jesus Christ because He was completely silent on the subject of homosexuality. But, when it comes to tolerance in general, He did tell His disciples that those who are not against us are for us, when they wanted to call down fire from heaven on others of whose ministry they did not approve.
The gospel of the Kingdom must be a progressive gospel. In the last couple of decades it seems to have become the popular assumption among many in the mainstream Church in America that political conservatism is synonymous with Christianity. The so-called morality issues have sort of directed many Christians to that conclusion, even though morality is not Christianity. Many people from other religious groups are extremely moral. Parts of Jesus’ message actually do sound quite like the conservative agenda, while other parts of it sound equally as liberal. But Jesus implied that He was rather apolitical when He said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:1). The point is, the Kingdom mentality must transcend natural labels and stereotypes and, to maintain relevance in ministry, Kingdom seekers must strive to be progressive in all areas of life.
The gospel of the Kingdom makes EXPERIENCING THE REAL GOD possible for those outside the Church. The Church is the proving ground for the Kingdom and the Kingdom is the hope for the world. God has not given up on this planet. He loves it and is still waiting for those people who are in covenant with Him to take dominion over it and subdue it. Jesus is held in the heavens until the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21), and the restoration of this planet can only come through the reign of Christ (the Body), under the authority of King Jesus the Christ (the Head). The Kingdom is proactive. The Kingdom is eternal. The Kingdom is advancing. The Kingdom makes a difference. The Kingdom has the answers. The Kingdom has influence. The Kingdom provides God access into the affairs of the earth. Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father!
Tellin’ It Like It Is
Many years ago I worked with my father in his midtown Atlanta church where we experienced what we thought was a great “revival” among many of the gay and lesbian people of the inner city. Over the years I counseled with these people, took them through what we believed to be deliverance and inner healing, cast demons out of them (or so we thought), and pressured them into heterosexual relationships, including marriage, so that they could live normal lives. It bothers me now when I hear ministers say that being gay is just a decision. I have never met any straight person who just decided one day to be gay. Why would anyone just decide to make their life so difficult and complicated? When you have looked into the tortured faces of people as they tell you the tragic story of a life spent trying to become straight, or have listened to them sob in a fetal position on the floor of your office because they don’t want to be who they really are, you begin to see the real problem with the “gay is a decision” theory.
During that period I saw everything from grown men vomiting into trash cans, trying to exorcise the demon of homosexuality, to men who had been gay from their earliest memory trying to maintain a sham marriage so that they could fit the definition of being a Christian. To my knowledge, all these years later, every one of these men and women have gone back to living openly gay lives, and the ones who were married to the opposite sex are all divorced. As anyone who has ever really ministered to gay people knows, if they are not born that way, then their world view was developed thusly from such an early age that they may as well have been. It is all they have ever known or felt. Then, when you tell them that if they come to Jesus they will become a new creation, and they expect to change to the point of having their sexual and romantic orientation altered, they are devastated when they discover (only too soon) that it isn’t going to happen.
I know men and women, some even in the ministry, who claim to have been genuinely changed from gay to straight and, if that is their testimony, I choose to believe them. And I know there are ministries that claim to actually have a success rate in turning gay people straight and, if that is their calling, I choose to believe them, as well. As a matter of fact, I struggled with even bringing this subject up in this book because I honestly don’t know the right way to look at this situation anymore. I know everything that the Bible says about it, but in my heart I really don’t believe that people have any control over their sexual and romantic orientation, and that makes me feel hypocritical about some of the positions that I have to take as a minister. At this point, the best that I can offer a gay person who, as a Christian, feels convicted about same-sex union, is for them to believe for the gift of celibacy and live alone. It would really help if Jesus would have said something about this subject, but this is all He gave us to work with:
But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs my men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
There is a lot more that I could say here, but I’ve probably pushed the envelope enough as it is on this subject – I’ll save it for another book. In the meantime, I pray that these so-called evangelical Christians who can’t think of anything better to say than, “God didn’t make Adam and Steve, He made Adam and Eve!” will realize that Jesus said the sick ones need a doctor – not an antagonist! For people who are struggling with their sexual orientation and are desperately looking to the Church for answers, these kind of moronic statements just make them feel more hopeless. In the meantime, I want to love people as they are, and, with the help of Parakletos, the Holy Spirit, help them find the Kingdom solutions for their own lives. I want to show people the goodness of the Lord which leads to repentance, and I know that God is good because He has been so good to me. The path to peace in the REAL WORLD is to know that you aren’t required to have all the answers to be effective, and that you don’t have to change people to love and accept them as they really are. God is good, and His mercy endures forever!