The South Is My Home, Too

Anti-LGBT Laws From One Gay Southern Man's Perspective

southern jesus

We went to Seasons 52 off of Sand Lake Road in Orlando. Every time I looked at him, I felt an incredible connection of love flowing between us. I will never forget the evening light coming in through the windows illuminating his joyful countenance, lighting up those gorgeous blue eyes. I felt at home in his eyes. I was safe. We held hands across the table; we seemed always to be holding hands. We told jokes, talked about life stuff, and said I love you more than a few times.

We had wine and an incredibly delicious meal. After, we held hands out the door of the restaurant to the car. I stole a quick kiss just… you know… because… Then we went to the Orlando Eye, and did the cheesy tourist couple photo even though I live here. It was late, so it was easy to get our own carriage on this huge Ferris wheel. I forget what we were teasing each other about; teasing is another one of our love languages. I remember laughing and laughing. We took plenty of photos with our phones, too. When our carriage reached the very top, we shared a long romantic kiss and a heartfelt “I love you…”.

And like any couple in love, we just enjoyed the evening and each other. We enjoyed an excellent meal and the life-giving mutuality of discovering each other and enjoying a night together.

Not once during that splendid evening, or several others we had, did I spend time worrying about being a man in love with another man. I was simply in love. I wasn’t self-conscious about being on a  “gay” date or that we were a “gay” couple. We were simply a couple, in love, enjoying the evening like millions of other couples that same night.

I grew up in the south. I LOVE the south! There are many good, wonderful things about the south!! We have great food, culture, stories and more stories! There are many endearing qualities to embrace and celebrate. We have art, education, beautiful environment and many good-hearted amazing people.

Yes, we have had a horrible and bloody history. We still have huge problems, like the rest of the country, including situations in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee. These states recently passed legislation that willfully disenfranchises LGBT people from equal protections and benefits within those states. Last year, on my memorable date, we didn’t have to hide our affection and pretend to be just friends. We didn’t have to avert our eyes to avoid sending non-verbal cues to the other tables that we were romantically interested in each other. We didn’t have to worry about possibly be physically assaulted or thrown out of the establishment. We didn’t have to worry about being refused entrance to the Orlando Eye because we held hands or took a photo together as a couple.

As men who are many things including gay, we need to be careful, even today, even here. What I experienced that night is the way any couple should be able to be free to enjoy each other in safety and with the same access to services and opportunities in our community.

I have dated both men and women. I should not have to be hiding, guarded and reserved with an amazing man just because some in the community would be more comfortable with me doing the same things with an amazing woman.

The first time I came out was in Nashville Tennessee. For me, it was a much scarier time to be gay back then. When I came out, I got thrown out. I suffered being homeless then transient as a 19-year-old. I was physically assaulted many times growing up there. One severe time happened when I was around 20 years old. When the cops came, they laughed at me. They took my attackers word for it and didn’t even ask me for my version of events. As they walked back to the police car, they were laughing at me. They said I deserved being beaten for “flirting” with those guys.

Y’all, I would never have flirted with those guys … trust me.

Later when I had moved back to Texas, a group of guys and I were leaving a gay nightclub called “Britches and Bloomers.” Not kidding! That was its name! But as we were leaving, a truckload full of guys in a beat-up truck pulled up. They were brandishing rifles, cursing us in Spanish and English, and threatening to kill all of us “fags.” We all dove under cars or ran. I fell on top of my date that night shoving him under the car we were next too. All these years later, remembering that moment still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I could go on and on, but the point is, my experience dating this wonderful man last year was so different from what I experienced 25-30+ years ago. It is such a relief to be free and who we are without fear in our local community. It’s a no-brainer that sharing a kiss at the top of the world (in Orlando) is MUCH more preferable than being targeted, beaten, and diving underneath cars to escape the line of sight coming off the end of a rifle.

When I see legislation being passed that in effect equates trans people to predators (NC), allowing licensed professional counselors to refuse professional help for LGBT clients (TN), and saying that somehow my fellow Christians deserve a right to discriminate in any and every way they see fits within their religious beliefs (MS and everywhere)… Well, that’s not acceptable.

These terrible policies harken back to a time when cops laughed at me as I bled into the snow after being beaten by homophobic bigots. It does so by enlivening a state willing to stigmatize innocent people in the name of protecting the rights of a particular group that were never in any danger to begin with. The policies are a mask. They aren’t protecting anyone from any real threat and instead empowering an unaccountable climate of fear and discrimination against the LGBT community.

Plus, I know the folks who are behind these bills, Liberty Counsel (LC). I worked with and met with them on some projects during my conservative years. Their animus toward LGBT people and false persecution complex is well documented. I know from personal experience that they are not simply interested in protected religious freedom. They want to shut down and silence the LGBT communities voice and influence. During my time as a conservative activist, I heard LC representatives, Matt Barber specifically (he was with them at that time), say that stigmatizing the gay community had to be a top priority. They had to “expose” us in unfavorable ways to advance “pro-family policy,” win back the culture, and deter people from entering into or condoning a destructive “lifestyle.”

Even back then I didn’t agree with Mr. Barber’s demeanor or focus and opposed stigmatization.

From my experience, I believe they are legalists so they will do whatever they can to craft the language in manipulative ways to appear righteous yet set up legal precedent to silence and disenfranchise LGBT people.

We have, can, and will do better than succumb to fear and manipulation. Repeal anti-LGBT laws and defeat proposed new ones.

When I read of Jesus feeding the 5,000. He didn’t say, “Now, before we get started, all the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people need to leave quietly and go to some other luncheon. There are plenty of options over yonder where they have their ‘Samarian values.’  Unless you are with the catering crew, y’all just need to take your gay pride on down the road. Go ahead; we are going to wait till you are gone. Peter! Do NOT pass out that bread or the LGBT’s might think we condone their lifestyle!”

Nope, Jesus never said anything like that.

The Savior I know would give not just food but Living Water to LGBT people. He would lift the chin of the scared Trans person, look them in the eyes and say, “I see you. I know and love you. You do not have to fear Me.” I see Him shielding the group of gay guys outside of Britches and Bloomers from the rifle-wielding bullies. I see Him, with an understanding look, wiping the tears and blood from my face after my assault…

And you know what else? I see Him smiling as I steal a kiss from my date… just cause…  I can easily imagine His delight as I allowed myself to love another soul, truly and honestly, maybe for the first time in my life.

The South is my home, too.

randy_sig

Note: The photo in this photograph was taken at a local favorite restaurant that specializes in southern comfort food. I didn’t get thrown out of it :). I think the photo represents this topic, symbolically, perfectly.

For a variety of reasons, I have turned off the comments section on my blog. I *love* discussion, but I have found that those discussions work best on social networks. So please join me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I would enjoy connecting with you there.

A Joyful Response To “Making Sense Of The Bible” by Adam Hamilton

Making_Sense_of_the_Bible__Rediscovering_the_Power_of_Scripture_Today__Adam_Hamilton__9780062234964__Amazon_com__Books

Friday night I finished reading the book “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton. It feels like this has been a pivotal book in my faith journey. I posted the following on Facebook after reading chapter 29 which covered the topic of homosexuality.

I know it is late but just wanted to share something really cool. About an hour ago I finished reading the chapter on…

Posted by Randy Thomas on Thursday, March 3, 2016

Now, two days later, I have finished and meditated on the book a bit. In this post I will try to share more about how it impacted me.

I believe the Spirit has been teaching me a few things over the years regarding the scriptures that are affirmed and very eloquently stated in Hamilton’s book. Hamilton basically says that the scriptures can be categorized and placed into three different “buckets” (I will be paraphrasing):

  • Bucket #1 are the scriptures that accurately reflect the “timeless heart and will of God” – some examples would be the scriptures like the Beatitudes and the command of Jesus to “Love God with your whole being and others as yourself.” As well as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • Bucket #2 are the scriptures that are the heart and will of God for a particular time. I think some examples would be the temple rituals and symbolism, and the specific miracles.
  • Bucket #3 are scriptures that reflect the subjective/biased opinions of the human authors trying to apply what they thought they knew of God, their community, and their environment at the time of their writing. Examples would be of the acceptance of slavery and misogynistic views women which is obviously not and has never been the will of God, but was often the norm in biblical times.

I had quietly and privately come to the same conclusions as the above three points before reading the book but hadn’t put them into a clear framework. After reading Hamilton’s reasoning and explanation through the whole book, it felt like a gift. The weight that fell off my soul was the heap of cursing that I have received over the years from those who claim to know the scriptures, and the legalistic standard they believe the scriptures represent, better than me.

Another thing that I hadn’t ever heard from a Christian leader/author before was that the Apostle Paul would probably have balked at the thought that his personal letters to various churches would have ever become the “holy word of God.” When Paul was inspired to write those letters, there is no doubt that the Spirit had urged him to write to those churches. There is no doubt in my mind the Spirit inspired the readers of the letters on certain points. I have been inspired by quite a few of Paul’s insights in very significant ways. But Paul wrote it just like any normal person would write a spiritual message to other people they love. We know that during the process of writing we would feel the Spirit guiding us but we would always be mindful that we make mistakes.

When I read that Paul probably wouldn’t have thought that his letters would ever be considered “divine dictation,” my jaw literally dropped as I read that. It was so clear, easy, and obvious. Of course, the authors of the various books of the bible were human and doing their best. Of course, God inspired some of what they wrote, inspire us through what they wrote, and would give them/us timeless nuggets of genuine revelation. And, of course, I now believe they injected personal bias in there along with everything else. I also believe that each generation injects personal bias into how to interpret the bible.

The biblical authors are just like us. You know, human’s trying to understand and write about God. They are spirit-inspired, and quite capable of knowingly or unknowingly injecting personal bias. It’s not one or the other; it’s both.

For the remainder of last Thursday night and since the Spirit has been reminding me of the specific epiphanies and spiritually intimate moments He and I have had in our journey together over the years. He has affirmed my experiences with Him are real but in some cases I had taken His “I”nspiration and added my own narrative/bias/agenda to contextualize it. Then all of a sudden, and this is where a flood of emotions come in, I could accept the humanity of the bible. I not only see the glory of God revealed, the Divine song within the bible, I can actually relate to the biblical authors in a much deeper and powerful way. I know what it is like to have my life completely upended by experiencing God and yet still only communicate and “see through the glass darkly.”

What I also love is that Hamilton affirms that when it comes to Jesus, He is as the Gospel of John says right at the start, Jesus is the Word Of God. Jesus is the only inerrant infallible word of God and all scriptures should pass through the “colander” of Christ to determine which “bucket” they belong in. That’s exactly where the Spirit had me on this issue and to see it explained so clearly and easily was beautifully stunning.

Since finishing this book, a joy and hope I didn’t even realize had been missing for a while has been restored in a powerful way. I highly recommend “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton… to everyone :).

randy_sig

For a variety of reasons, I have turned off the comments section on my blog. I *love* discussion, but I have found that those discussions work best on social networks. So please join me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I would enjoy connecting with you there.

Making Sense of The Bible, As A Gay Man

47410099_s

One concern I have for those who hold to inerrancy is that they seem to indicate that their entire faith would collapse if the Bible were found to have one real error. As I noted in a previous chapter, this seems a very weak foundation for one’s faith. The early Christians did not see an inerrant Bible as the foundation for their faith. For them, it was Jesus Christ, God’s Word enfleshed, that was the foundation of their faith.” – Excerpt From: Hamilton, Adam. Making Sense of the Bible. Harpercollins Publishers. iBooks.

Jesus has used the Bible to inspire and transform my life in many ways. The Spirit has revealed, counseled, and taught me many valuable insights from the 66 books that make up the Bible. That said, I have been silent about the scriptures for a few years now; very rarely mentioning or quoting them. There has been good reason for the silence.

The single question I am most often asked over the past 13 months is, “How do you reconcile being gay, and looking forward to your future husband, with the scriptures?” Most of the time when I get that question via a private message or email I simply don’t answer. I am wary of that question being a trojan horse for someone revving up for some verbal stone-throwing. I have seen that discussion unfold hundreds and hundreds of times over my life. I can almost script the potential conversations verbatim.

Today I am going to break the silence and speak to this quickly. The following is not comprehensive, and I certainly do not want to imply others should agree with me. Here goes…

I see it this way, given that Jesus summarized whole of scripture to love God with your whole being and your neighbor as yourself, to do unto others as you would want done unto you … my faith in Christ compels and empowers me to do that.

Plus, seeing the damaging and deadly fruit of stigmatizing legalistic theology, I could no longer ignore or deny that I was living in idealization, talking points, and behavioral modification. I was not living in the reality of what is, but instead, I was living in the fantasy of what I thought “should be.” I could no longer explain away the life-giving love of gay people and couples all around me. I slowly accepted that Christ was not condemning me for who I was as a gay man and that I wasn’t “going back” but was truly becoming free and whole. I realized that I had done everything, believed everything, and taught all things ex-gay and still had a pure love and yearning for my future husband … and that the persistence of this desire isn’t a manifestation of brokenness, it is a beautiful expression of who I am.

I now believe that desire for relational/emotional intimacy with another man didn’t change or leave me because it didn’t need to. I looked and saw the fruit of the Spirit manifesting in gay lives and relationships, not in ex-gay 501(c)3 parachurch organizations. It was the difference between grapes on a vine and grape jelly in a jar.

I am gay, and it’s not only ok but it also a life-giving gift. Being gay is not the whole of who I am, but it is a wonderful part of the gift of life our Creator has given me. I am grateful to Him for that.

Quietly I have been meditating on scripture and seeking God for knowledge and wisdom. Many conservatives have and will scoff at that thought. A few call me all manner of evil and say I have abandoned the scripture to embrace “darkness” and “brokenness.” It’s as if they believe that the scriptures are the high priest of my faith. The Bible is not my high priest and Jesus never declared it would be.

Jesus is my high priest. He is the only inerrant, infallible word of God. He is, truly, enough. And yet, some will negatively judge me as ignorant or rebellious because I have yet, and won’t, quote a scripture in this post.

Over the past few years I have come to some different conclusions about the Bible; changed my mind on quite a few things. I believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding me in all of that. Lately, I have been yearning for more spiritual readings and further study. A friend told me about a book rocking her world called “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton. I am halfway through it, and it is rocking my world too! Particularly in that, almost all of what Mr. Hamilton is saying are conclusions I had come to (in a more basic form) over the past couple of years. I am enthralled with this book and haven’t even gotten to the more controversial modern parts yet! The chapter on homosexuality is almost at the very end of the book! But I have been good and reading the book in order. I don’t want to limit the whole of Mr. Hamilton’s message to one part of it.

I will admit to weeping a few times during my reading of the book so far. It has been so relieving to see what I thought the Spirit was telling me echoed in this Pastor’s wisdom about the scripture and his experience with our living Christ.

So, how do I fully reconcile my beliefs about being gay with the scriptures? I don’t have a full theological answer that will satisfy most people who might care to know what I think. What I do know is that I am reconciled to Christ, and He is more than enough.

I have a feeling I might be writing more about this in the future…maybe. 🙂

randy_sig

For a variety of reasons, I have turned off the comments section on my blog. I *love* discussion, but I have found that those discussions work best on social networks. So please join me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. I would enjoy connecting with you there.