WHY?

March 28, 2013

In junior high and high school, my friend Jessica and I talked to each other in little kid-like voices that we borrowed from the way her mom would talk to us. We all did it on purpose, just a silly way to have our own little way of communicating.

With that tone and silliness, Jess would ask me WHY after every single thing I said. (Preparation for motherhood?)

But WHY? she’d ask, over and over after every answer I gave. It always came to an abrupt end when she was satisfied–with always the same exact last response I could possibly come up with–because He’s God.

Then we’d move on. What else can you say?

There are no answers after that.

:::::

I want the marriage equality debate to be simple, but nothing with this much emotion behind it is simple. This is a many-layered issue from all viewpoints. Seeing some of my Christians friends “lectured” by other Christians for changing their profile pictures to equal signs led me to writing this today. This is what I do, I work through things with words.

I’m fully aware that Christians against the legalizing of gay marriage want me to see this is a very simple issue. They want me to see how very clear it is to think it wrong.  But because of me, we start talking about original Greek language and translation and historical context and how the Bible says a lot of things that we don’t hold to be True anymore and then they say, But this one is so obvious. And then I say, nothing is obvious and then they say that it has to be because we could make it all really complicated and it’s not complicated–it’s black and white truth. Then I say, Okay but then we can’t think very hard about parables or Love or Hope or Peace either. Let’s just stop thinking. Then we both roll our eyes and stop liking each other. See, it goes on and on like this and I start to see that They don’t get it and I don’t get it and I wish we could admit that more often. There are so many ways of seeing something and why are we even focused on this? WHY? The Christian church is not in charge of this country. We cannot decide how everyone should live and call it love.

It’s hard to love someone you don’t like at all.

This Rick Warren quote is a big deal on facebook right now.

RickWarren2

(photo credit)

 

It says you don’t have to agree with people to love them. (True, but just a second…)

When he speaks of love there, that is exactly where it gets complicated for me because I want to know what love really is. What exactly does that look like? (and no, I do not want Foreigner to show me.)

Here’s the thing (don’t you just love “here’s the thing”–especially if someone starts a comment on facebook with it?),

if I am claiming that I’m loving people no matter what, why do I even need to concern myself with their convictions?

Someone recently answered that, when I asked it out loud, with, We are called to correct each other’s behavior. It’s not right. That doesn’t mean we don’t LOVE them, we do. But that’s HOW we love them, by showing them it’s not right. 

I said, I think they’ve probably heard that before and don’t agree. I think it might hurt to hear it again and again from people who don’t respect or accept them at all for who they are. 

This seems like a good time to mention something else, I hope we’re on the same page about it because it’s really important–I am a whore and a drunk and way too often a totally selfish and entitled child. So are you. You might not drink at all, or much, and maybe you have never had sex outside of marriage, or not that much anyway, since college,

but this is just my way of saying we’re all the same dirty seekers of contentment and a feeling like we’re wanted more than we’re not. Like maybe we’re even okay and accepted in our messes, whatever they are, and that we are all trying to find our way home. So if you are very focused on your belief that being gay is wrong and therefore adamant that gay marriage be outlawed, why? 

We are just a bunch of kids trying to figure it out. We want to sit together and have it be safe to tell our stories, no matter our differences. I think about that and I think about how Jesus responded to Pharisees and other religious leaders who started stomping their feet and puffing their chests when people tried to talk, to be heard.

Do you see it? Him holding a hand in the air, irritated, SHHHH.

Let her finish. 

And no matter what she’s saying she is or what she says she has done, she’s got His attention like she’s the best book ever. A page-turner with every page in black and white a testament to how it all woks together for good, how we are made in all of our glorious complicated ways and we’re the same–deserving of the same freedoms no matter how we are seen in the eyes of Christians or anyone else.

Like Heather the drunk whore who loves to tell stories and sees God in trees and feeds the chickens and her human babies and is so very tired. Heather who believes you are lovely and you and you and tell me every last word, I love your story so much, just as it is.

So you best believe I want you next to your partner at the end of her life. I want you to be able to say if she can go on because you know her best and we need a signature for that and so many other things that hurt too much or grow us so much with the joy-pain they bring.

Maybe there is an acceptance that is nothing short of holy, something we can’t even recognize unless it hits us outside of our judgments and opinions. Maybe it’s a way of sitting with anyone and everyone that believes this or that or that or this, and does or does not do this or that or that or this. Maybe there’s a God so loving that all of our differences, big or small are simply trumped by a breeze

a buzzing in the ears
the far off crow of a rooster
a puff of white dandelion
on the wind
so soft and gentle
it can’t be
that it should
move this heavy
wall
or fill this chasm
instantly

but there it goes,

it’s the softest BOOM you’ve ever heard
love walking gently around hearts

oh hello there
fellow traveler
woman
man
child
gay
straight

that is all you are,
everything
you are
everything.

Maybe some of us are scared of this, this thinking.

Why?

Because no matter how you slice it, no matter if you think being gay is a sin or not, or whether you’d like legal marriage to stay only for a man and a woman or not, we are STILL all the same ALL the time.

Why?

Because we are.

Why?

Oh we are so small minded and can I hope we’re all trying to learn? We are full of open spaces for changing with a filling of our hearts if only we allow it. We don’t know anything and we know everything in small moments that are glimpses of what we’ll all one day know–it’s exquisite–a fullness so rich it will blind us and we will be astonished at some of the things God has to say about what we thought we knew about love and loving and being here together.

Why?

Because He’s God.

:::::

More food for thought:
The Equals Sign and Christian Cognitive Dissonance 

But I sense that not everyone does see America this way. Let’s remind ourselves that the issue before the Supreme Court is not whether or not the church should count same sex unions as a Christian marriage. The issue is what America has to say about same sex partner unions, benefits and what individual states can say about that. The church is not being challenged, Christians aren’t being challenged, the state is being challenged. I suppose that only problematic if you have trouble pulling apart America and your church.

 

Choosing People Over Beliefs

This of course doesn’t take into account the fact that this might not be sin. When we read the Bible in isolation, in a ‘plain’ way, without context and research and cultural awareness and ancient language knowledge, then of course, the Bible says.  Of course we can cherry-pick verses that apply to 2013, without considering how verses have been cherry-picked throughout history to support all sorts of things.

 

The Basement Manifesto

Not every Christian who believes in “traditional marriage” is full of hate. Not every Christian who supports the civil rights of gay folks is a Bible-rejecting defector. Not every gay man wears glitter and drag in Pride Parades. We are not caricatures. We are people, and life is nuanced. Until we stop assigning stereotypes to each other and do the hard work of actually getting to know one another as friends, or at least human beings, we are going to sabotage every good, productive possibility in front of us.

 

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”

As we embraced, I knew in a way that I cannot put into words that sharing communion with this man was the right thing to do, that it was an act of bravery and grace for both of us—together unworthy, together worthy, brother and sister, in the mystery of the Eucharist. 

So when the thought of my Sunday school teachers’ disapproval crossed my mind, the only words to surface to my lips were, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” 

 

Marriage Equality: I Can’t Be Switzerland Anymore

I don’t WANT to be controversial, but here is the thing: I have gay friends. Good friends. People I love.  And if I was sitting at a table eating lunch with one of them and you walked up to them and started saying things like, “You are disgusting. God is disgusted by you. You shouldn’t be able to be next of kin for your partner. You don’t deserve to be a parent. A child would be better off in foster care than being raised by you.”

If you were saying these things, to one of my friends? To their face?? I daresay that I would STAND up from the table, take my earrings off and tell you where to step off.

 

Love Without Agenda via Rage Against the Minivan

We have to move beyond our petty bickering over theological minutia if we hope to pattern our lives after Jesus. Jesus took no part in this type of Truth War. This practice of policing people’s thought and beliefs may be the most damaging and unloving thing that we do in our lives. It’s unloving to both Christians and non-Christians. Smashing other Christians because they only believe 85/100 things that you believe is simply not in the pattern you were designed to imitate.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura June March 28, 2013 at 9:36 am

Love this post Heather! We all fall short. We as humans really need to extend more of God’s love and grace to each other as freely as we do ourselves.
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Vikki March 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

I was just fine until this…”Maybe there is an acceptance that is nothing short of holy…” And then I started crying. That right there is magic. Now I need to go find Kleenex and pull myself together.

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Momo Fali March 28, 2013 at 9:47 am

Thank you. This is perfect.
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Cassandra Beverly March 28, 2013 at 9:53 am

Love! Well done!

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NatalieJanette March 28, 2013 at 9:53 am

Heather, I RARELY pull out this old, clunky laptop to comment (I read posts on my phone), but this post deserves one. I’m not quite sure what to say other than YES. And yes again.

“I think they’ve probably heard that before and don’t agree. I think it might hurt to hear it again and again from people who don’t respect or accept them for at all for who they are.” I just – yes. This struck me at my core.

I had a bible study leader in college who always used to say “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care”. And I try to live by that. Caring about people goes such a long way.

I love this. And I’m gonna share it. xo

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Eliza March 28, 2013 at 10:28 am

YES. THIS.

To say that *my* particular reading of the Bible, *my* particular understanding of what it is to be Christian, as studied and well-thought-out as it might be, is the only one that God will accept is to say, inherently, “I am God.” or, at least, “I’m on God’s level.” And that, quite simply, is idolatry.

We are all human. We are, none of us, able to say with certainty what exactly God thinks about anything. All that I can say with anything even approaching certainty is that we are all made in God’s image. We are all holy creations. We are all beloved. Why? Because God is God. (yes.)

What if, after every sentence we spoke – to anyone, anywhere, at any time, we could say/whisper/think/pray “beloved child, made in God’s image”? What if we could say that, as though we were saying the person’s name? Would it change how we speak to one another, how we are in relationship? After all, our relationships with one another are mirrors of our relationships to God, who is present within every conversation, if we could just remember that. Might be the start of the love to which we are continually called…?

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gigi March 28, 2013 at 1:11 pm

beautiful idea.
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Don April 5, 2013 at 9:40 am

I find myself going between offense and agreement here, Eliza. You end this comment poetically, profoundly and in a way that would transform what we do. Yes. That.

But that first paragraph…it just gets my goat. Yes, I do know people (and movements) that act just like that, they have THE truth and all else are wrong and probably damned. BUT, I personally HAVE to come to conclusions about what I believe and why I believe those things. I do want to study, ponder, meditate, consider all options (even ones that may currently seem unworthy of consideration) and believe firmly that I understand what God is revealing to us in His Word. What I hear as subtext here, and maybe you don’t actually hold this, in fact, I believe that you probably do NOT hold this, is that my reading, because it still holds that gay sexual activity is sinful is therefore automatically wrong and idolatrous. Take a look around Eliza, most Protestants understand that their particular interpretation is NOT the ONLY acceptable one. Even Catholics have differing emphases in their theologies, else why all the orders? Franciscans, Jesuits, Oblate Fathers, Benedictines, etc, etc. I hope people are studying; I hope people are open to the fact that their ‘theologies’ should be held firmly, but still with the possibility that they may change as new evidence comes up…while their faith in Jesus grows stronger and stronger…even though it may get shaken from time to time.
Please, please, please…Is that really how YOU think of those who disagree with you? Maybe it is just me. Maybe I am oversensitive. I sure hope so.

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karen March 28, 2013 at 10:35 am

Really so beautiful. And hard. And true. (And love how you seamlessly weave poetry and essay.) Thank you.
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Alice March 28, 2013 at 10:48 am

Brilliant! I love it! :)
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Kelly @ Love Well March 28, 2013 at 11:01 am

This is so well worked out. Well done, friend-with-words.

I think showing love is really the crux of it. And I don’t know that anyone can feel love when they are being yelled at.
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thekitchwitch March 28, 2013 at 11:46 am

Dude! You made a Foreigner reference! Yaaaarrrggg! *fist pump*

Seriously, though, I loved this post. I love that you are willing to see beyond doctrine, to see that these are human beings we’re talking about. And every human has a right to love and be loved in return.

I love that you have the courage to put it in words.
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Reilley March 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Simply amazing…Such humanity.

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gigi March 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Heather, I’m proud to know you. You take controversial topics like tiny, brittle glass Easter eggs in your hand, and you turn them over and over so delicately, and you warm them, and you make them simple and pure and something people are no longer afraid to touch.

My brother is a very religious person. He’s a deacon in the Catholic church. He posted an inflammatory statement on Facebook about not obeying God’s laws. I responded sort of snarkily, saying, “I thought God taught us, first and foremost, to love one another?” You said it so much better than I did. I wish I could delete my comment and give him this.

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Jami March 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Beautiful Heather, thank you. You were with me a-way-back-when I was struggling with my church’s stance on Prop 8. And I played Switzerland and wished for the election to come and go so that it would be OVER. And now I’m years older and I’ve been listening and thinking for all that time. It’s still not over. And I’ve finally come to the point where I’m in the love camp. Love them all. Let the state do what the state is going to do, but for me, daughter of God, I am required to try to love people like Jesus does. I don’t chose what movies other people see, what kind of drapes they put up or who they love. I chose how I treat people. I want God’s mercy. I need to give my inadequate, imperfect mercy to all of God’s other sons and daughters. Thank you for putting so many of my thoughts into words.

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Shannon March 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Your words are full of such grace and love and wisdom. The deep thought behind them shows through. Perfection!
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Playful Karen March 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm

And once again, the love and compassion that is in YOUR heart, Heather just blows me away – like the softest BOOM I ever heard –
How I wish all people, Christian or not, could stand so strongly in a space of love and acceptance as you do.
Hugs and Heartfelt Gratitude,
karen
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Danielle Smith March 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Always so full of grace and beauty and truth. I’m proud to know you.
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lisa March 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm

This is so beautifully written . My favorite line in “The Christian Church is not in charge of this country.” I hate how that has become blurry. Individual churches can make any rules they want regarding marriage and everything else, an individual can agree or disagree with any type of behavior they want but you can’t legislate against it, you can’t deny people benefits and rights because of it. truly don’t understand why people feel so threatened by gay marriage.t

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Andrea @ Bubblewrapp'd March 28, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Long time reader, never a commenter (sorry about that….)

I love love love your words in this post.

LOVE.
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HopefulLeigh March 29, 2013 at 9:36 am

“The Christian church is not in charge of this country. We cannot decide how everyone should live and call it love.”

YES. So much good stuff here, Heather, but that line struck me especially. Since I am not gay, I’ve decided to trust my LGBT brothers and sisters to figure out what’s best for them. If they are Christian, they can choose whether to pursue a relationship or practice celibacy. And the same goes for non-Christians, as well. They are the ones living their lives. I cannot impose my beliefs on them, just as I wouldn’t want someone to tell me how to live out my singleness. Most people, regardless of sexual orientation, do not come by their beliefs casually. We are not their Holy Spirit.
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Katie March 29, 2013 at 11:07 am

This is EXACTLY the right response to everything that is going on right now. Exactly right.

Beautiful writing, Heather.
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Nichole March 29, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Stunning.

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Mitch March 29, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Thank-you.

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Karla Archer March 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I’ve been trying desperately to find words to explain my own change of heart on this, and I think maybe you just gave them to me.

Thank you.
xo
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Lala March 29, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Funny how you hear things when you want, see things when you need and grow when you have to. I’m thankful for twitter tonight and followers that share great content like this one.

This could be one of the best ways I’ve read on what is meant by the simple statement: Love one another. Love!
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Jennifer March 30, 2013 at 5:21 am

This is a very controversial topic. However, there are people (like myself) who believe that the marriage definition should not change for historical and Biblical reasons. There are so many hearts at hand here. God is writing each of our stories individually. However, if you read THE Story, the Bible it is very clear from Genesis on into the new testament that God wanted man to be with woman and make the world fruitful. How will you explain gay marriage to your children?
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Heather March 30, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Hi Jennifer,

Thank you for your thoughts.

I think we get stuck on the word itself. Marriage. Instead we should be talking specifically about rights and freedoms. If we look at people simply as human, and we really get that we are all the same, we should all have equal rights. In this case, the supreme court is deciding if PEOPLE, who happen to be gay, should have the same rights as those that are not gay.

When I talk about what the Bible says, it’s difficult for me to see that we skip focusing on so much more than we have a tendency to get stuck on. What exactly does the new covenant mean? What exactly does the crucifixion mean? For us, now, today. ALL of us.

This is when people talk about how the Bible is clear that homosexuality is wrong. And if you believe that without questions (even though the original Greek word used meant promiscuity, not homosexuality, in more references), then you struggle with this issue being on the table more than those of us who are saying we can’t know–that God only knows because He’s the only God. To me, this Christian belief doesn’t make the marriage equality debate a Christian debate. The reality is that Christians have the right to what they believe personally, but they don’t have the right to govern.

As for what you asked about my kids, I will treat this as I do any other discussion. I will let them ask any question they want to ask. We do our best to teach them it’s not a person’s job to decide if other people are doing life right. We are open and honest with them but we keep it short, when they ask questions about anyone who is different from our family. Some families speak Spanish, some families are bi-racial, some are practicing alcoholics, some live in poverty and don’t work, some live in poverty and do work, some have biological kids and some adopt…..the point I’m making is that all we really do, when our kids take notice of a difference from our family, is simply acknowledge it and add something like “yeah, that’s true about their family.” This is all we feel we need to say, when our kids are young.

As they get older and have opinions and assumptions that are formed by the people around them, we hope and pray they continue to accept differences without judgment, because it will still not be their job to judge how other people live. If our country accepts gay marriage, it will not change this.

We will continue to answer questions in the best way we can and sometimes that means saying, “there are a lot of clashing Christian opinions on that and we want to leave it up to God and not ourselves. All we know is that so and so is gay and we love so and so because she/he is our friend (with mentions of a few of our favorite parts of that person because they are so much more than just one thing).

This post is titled WHY because that’s what I want to ask, to people who make this issue about themselves. If I keep asking WHY, after every answer, sooner or later the person is met with having to say that they think we should be focusing on this because it’s wrong “in God’s eyes” then I want to say “even if you believe that, why does it matter to your life?” Because I think when it comes down to it, it’s only a “threat” to a Christian if they believe their faith is totally wrapped up in their country and its laws. This is not something I believe. Gay marriage is not a threat to me or my family or my marriage or my Christian faith. I feel secure in that. I don’t understand why it would be…

I can’t imagine being the focus of these discussions, people debating over my life and what they think of me. People said the same things about ending segregation, they quoted the Bible and made the argument that this is a Christian nation. It could have been me. I mean, there are people who believe all addicts should be “sterilized”, even we sober ones. I imagine it would hurt a lot if this were made a legal issue. There are some things we just cannot decide for each other. Well, actually, most things can’t be decided for each other, governed. We are free.

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Don April 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

Thank you for this reply, Jennifer. Although most people were very supportive of the original post, I found this reply spoke to me more profoundly. I don’t agree with all of it, but does that (should that?) matter?
2 things: one is your comment that the word homosexuality meant promiscuity. I haven’t seen that yet. Which word(s) do you mean? And second, I remember that Rick Warren began ministering to people stricken with AIDS long, long ago…I’m thinking it was at least 15 to 20 years ago. He also preached that this was something that the church as a whole had to take up en masse. It surprises me that his latest statement is making the rounds by the Christian pro-gay side, while Warren’s actions are not noted. Love is a verb, not just a word. And Warren has a right to speak, I believe he has earned it.

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Susan @learndhappiness March 30, 2013 at 6:25 am

This is what region can bring into society and into people’s lives if they would let it. Compassion, understanding, a sense of obligation to love your fellow man. I wrote about marriage equality from my secular point of view, and I’m glad to have read yours as well.

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Tiffany Romero March 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm

If you had a church, I’d go to it.

This is so beautiful and so perfect and such a gift.

The love you have inside you and the way you are able to share it with the world through these impeccable words is simple astounding to me.
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LW April 3, 2013 at 5:16 am

Thanks Heather.

My challenge is that there are a lot of white, middle class, hetero Christians who will say that ‘the act of gay sex is sinful’ but who seem to have almost nothing to say on remarriage after divorce – explicitly banned in the bible.

Bizarre hey?

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rebecca @ altared spaces April 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Heather, big, big thoughts here!

Although I haven’t been able to attend church for several decades, I have a lot of respect for Rick Warren. As Don mentioned he has been out front on the AIDs issue in Africa. Because I grew up in a protestant church, I understand that he will continue to preach what he preaches, but I so appreciate his actions.

These words of yours speak to me, “All we know is that so and so is gay and we love so and so because she/he is our friend (with mentions of a few of our favorite parts of that person because they are so much more than just one thing).” We are so much more than one thing.

I left church partly because I felt that the focus was on sexuality. Gay issues as well as chastity. In my youth group, when hormones were raging, we talked about sex and all the strategies to NOT DO IT more than any other topic. Meanwhile there were hungry people in need just outside our door (literally). Basically, we ignored these people.

My guess, as an adult, is because those hungry people had complicated issues – like booze, drugs and poverty. Easier to focus on sex – something the teen brain would find fascinating. So I was captivated by guilt in the end.

When I reflect on Jesus’ life, He hung out with tax collectors and whores. If the New Testament was recording Gay Pride parades, I have a feeling Jesus would be there as well. Call me a fool. Jesus was with the marginal folks. That’s what makes me skeptical of squeaky clean church life. It doesn’t jive with my experience of Jesus.

I am more comfortable with your “Why” question and my answer, “I don’t know.”

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