Adventures in Missing the Point

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The paper back version of this book has discussion questions which is an added value. I’ve asked a local bookstore to bring it in. Hopefully soon 🙂

I read the chapters on “Homosexuality” and “Sin” again in preparation for the workshops I was conducting and found them most helpful. One key thing I appreciate about the conversations between Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren in this book is they never discuss the issues in abstract and brings the topics to a level that is practical and personal. There are points where both the authors would disagree or would prefer more emphasis on certain aspects. And yet, they do so with respect and civility. Good stuff.

Here’s a sample of how they keep the issues in check with stories and the focus on people. We start with Tony.

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“When critics of my beliefs about homosexuality do not understand is that I’m trying to make up for a horrendous failure during high school.

Roger was gay, we all knew it, and we all made his life miserable. When we passed him in the hall, we called out his name effeminately, we made crude gestures, we made him the brunt of cheap jokes. He never took showers in PE. Because he knew we’d whip him with our wet towels.

I wasn’t there, though, the day they dragged Roger into the shower room, and shoved him into the corner. Curled up there, he cried and begged for mercy as five guys urinated on him.

The reports said that roger went to bed that night as usual, and that sometime around two in the morning he got up, went down to the basement of his house, and hanged himself.

On that day I realized that I wasn’t a Christian. I was a theologically sound evangelical, believed all pints of the Apostle’s Creed, declared Jesus to be my Savior. But if the Holy Spirit had actually been in me, I would have stood up for Roger. When the guys came to make fun of him, I would have put one arm around Roger’s shoulders, waved the guys off with another and told them to leave him alone, to not mess wit him, because he was my friend.

But I was afraid to be Roger’s friend. I knew that if you stood up for a homosexual, people say cruel things about you, too. So I kept my distance. If I hadn’t, who knows if Roger might be alive today.

I am not asking that Christians gloss over biblical teachings, nor that we justify same-gender eroticism. I am simply reminding Christians that we are supposed to love people even those we have been socially conditioned to despise. I am calling Christians to reach out and show kindness and affection toward their homosexual neighbors who number at least fifteen million in the United States. If we Christians cannot love these neighbors as we love ourselves, then we are violating the command of Jesus (Matthew 19:19) and ought not call ourselves his followers.”– pp.177-178

Brian chips in after Tony’s extended chapter working through attitudes, misconceptions, key scriptural passages and possible ways forward, an interesting insight and story.

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“What if my child told me, “Dad I think I’m a homosexual”? What if the child of a church friend were homosexual? How would I want the church to respond to my child?

This isn’t a theoretical question. Tony’s chapter helps people translate this from an abstract question for theologians, or from a political question for the Religious Right, into a very practical and personal issue for all of us: How do we treat our neighbors, our colleagues, our sons and daughters? Before focusing on the morality of “their” sexual partners, Tony forces us to face the morality of our treatment of fellow human beings, neighbors, people Jesus loves and to whom Jesus sends us to express that love.

This issue ceased being theoretical for me a few years ago, when I made the very worst mistake of my pastoral career. Our church has a listserv where members dialogue about faith issues. For a few weeks homosexuality was the subject of a lively discussion. A man in our church who had struggled with homosexual orientation for his entire adult life, and who had confided his struggles to me, wanted to post a message so that others could know what a homosexual feels like when he hears statements like “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” But he couldn’t break his anonymity: that would be too risky and painful for him and his family. So to preserve his anonymity, he asked me to post his message under the pseudonym Pain.

He sent me the message to post, and I did. What I didn’t realize was that, when I copied his message, I also copied the return-path information at the bottom of his e-mail. Anyone who read his e-mail to the end could read his name. I had no idea what I had done until a friend called me and told me. Mortified, I called the man, who had already seen my mistake. I rushed to his house, where I found him weeping. His wife was weeping.

I died inside. But we talked, we prayed, I apologized, he forgave me.

Still, the fact remains that a homosexual man whom I had hurt so deeply (though accidentally) was far more merciful to me that most of our churches are to homosexuals.”-pp. 189-190

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