Flags Lowered at Half Mast: A Christian Speaks Out

You’re supposed to be different and be a little weird. It’s not a bad thing, we’re not meant to be the same.

~ Christina Grimmie

Hi guys,

I know I had previously announced that I would stop writing for a while, but something very tragic that happened barely less than 72 hours ago broke my fragile heart and made me scream horrendously inside. During what had seemed like another Saturday morning soon turned into my weekend of perpetual darkness and grief as I had read that Christina Grimmie was shot and killed by a man who had purported to hate Christians.


An article in The Santa Monica Observer  displays the following headline:

“Crime may be investigated as a hate crime. The Voice singer was outspoken in her Christian faith” [1]

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If I Had Come Out Sooner…

Had the inspiration to write this while thinking of something catchy and jingly in my sleep this morning. Yes, I sleep-write and think too. A one-shot poem that I originally was thinking of turning into a rap. Enjoy! 😀


If I had come out sooner, four years ago, what would you have said?

Would you have embraced me, or shook your head in dismay?

Roll your eyes disgustingly, and yell, “Be gone filthy sinner! You are no longer welcome to stay!”

As I would have curled up into a minuscule ball and cry,

Sob and wail so loud from the depths of my heart

God, do You still love me?  😭

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That Beautiful Place in Between: Reborn as a Bi-Romantic Demisexual Christian

We can use our own pain to understand the pain of all living beings. Having learned to accept our own suffering patiently, if we then think of the suffering of all the other living beings trapped in samsara, compassion will arise naturally.

~ Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

ELEVEN MONTHS AGO, I HAD ENOUGH. Enough of suppressing a deeply hurtful part of my soul—equal to the pain of knowing I have and live with cerebral palsy, each and every single day. My mom first skimmed through my Aiming for Inclusion column last October, after receiving a copy in her e-mail. She was appalled to see the Phinerb artwork I had posted. It was then, on one Sunday afternoon, October 20, 2013, we finally sat down and talked things out for over an hour regarding my bi-romantic/bisexual attractions.

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Aiming for Inclusion: Loving Others as an Openly Bi Christian

 

IN HIGH SCHOOL, as many other young adolescent teens are during this time, I began to feel an emotional admiration for classmates and friends of both genders—males and females alike. My freshman year, I met a boy whom I only once briefly met in the 7th grade during a small group therapy counseling session with our guidance counselor. You can imagine the look on his face as I glanced over at him for the very first time—small beady eyes, a warm, gentle grin and sunny disposition. I was somehow entranced, but dared not say anything except for a simple “Hi” and a gentle wave of the hand. When we finally briefly re-connected in high school, I nearly fell in love with him—or so I naively thought. Fast forward ahead many years into the near future. After many long hiatuses of not communicating back and forth online ever since Tim and his mom moved out to Texas in February 2008, one May evening one year ago, I decided to muster up the strength to tell him the truth about how I really felt about him all this time, and how much I’ve missed him so. “Tim, I love you. I really do.”

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Coming Out of the Closet as a REAFFIRMED Progressive Christian Ally (Part 2)

When my first boyfriend broke up with me, I felt alone. I felt that I was unworthy of him, I was unworthy of my family and my church, and most depressingly, I felt unworthy of God. Because I felt as if I was an abomination to God, I attempted suicide multiple times.

One night after contemplating suicide heavily, I shouted out to God, “Why did you put this in me if you’re just going to hate me for it?”  The reply brought tears to my eyes – “I love you.”

~ Aaron Crowley, an excerpt from There is NOH8 in Jesus (November 21, 2012)

The first time I ever heard the words “gay” and “homo” in public was during my freshmen and sophomore years of high school. May 2008 was the first time I had heard of the term “gay marriage”, when a close upper classman of mine—now a soon-to-be first-year grad school student in the fall at UC Berkeley—addressed in an exclusive e-mail on behalf of Youth Alive, my high school’s Christian organization, on how he feels about the gay debate:

Are Christians against gays?

You’ve probably heard this question or you might’ve asked yourselves that also as you watch different protests on TV. We need to clarify the term “gays.” The concept of homosexuality vs. homosexuals. The Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27); it wasn’t God’s original intent from creation. That’s the basic definition of any sin, not part of God’s original plan.

Is God against homosexuality? Yes.

But is God against homosexuals? No.

~ Eric C., an excerpt from Memory Verse: Week 5/19/08—Homosexuality Part 1 (2008)

At the time, I strongly agreed with everything Eric wrote about in his e-mails on homosexuality and homosexual behavior being a dreadful sin, and something that Almighty God would send a person to a fiery Hell for.


JUNE 27th UPDATE: Quick note on my statements above over Eric’s views. After a brief misunderstanding, he wrote me not too long after I originally posted this column online, stating that he is NOT anti-homosexual orientation, and never will be. The views I have expressed are solely my initial thoughts upon first reading his e-mail on the subject over five years ago. I further apologize on both of our behalves if any misrepresentations and misconceptions seem to currently be directed towards the gay and lesbian crowd.

As a person continuously seeking to reform and re-evaluate his previous views on homosexuals and queer culture, I am now here to indiscriminately and unconditionally love homosexuals just as the people all of you are—regardless of whatever church minister or congregation inexplicably has been told and has held against you, and regardless of how they have distorted and misconstrued Christ’s authentic command to “love your enemies and pray for those who have persecuted you.”

A dancer hugs a man in the crowd during the gay-pride themed Capital Pride Parade in Washington

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

~ Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)


Now in retrospect, however, I realize how much of a blind fool I was when I was playing the hypocritical Christian card the entire time. On the outside, I was publicly active in taking a hostile anti-homosexual stance, calling out friends and classmates who wanted to vote No on Proposition 8, since I was—and still am—raised to literally believe in the sanctity of one man and one woman in holy, harmonious matrimony. Until I realized these so-called “conservative” Christian leaders were not leading very sacred and harmonious lives at all.

That idealism began to crack and shatter during my junior and senior years onwards.

After vowing to leave that high school club, and all my attachments and associations with it behind, I again was left feeling excluded and ostracized from both family and peers whom I thought were douches for not accepting me as a flawed person—with all these thoughts running through his head, let alone mention his poor work ethic.[1]

Back into my closet of emotional insecurity I went. A closet I psychologically built myself in, so that I didn’t have to face the experience of going through continuous rejection time and time again.

And then something happened…

Fast forward to May and June 2011, towards the end of my senior year. After initially attending one last Youth Alive meeting on a Monday around lunchtime, I eventually left again, shaking my head angrily and thinking, “No. I’ve had enough of this bullcrap.”

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Andrew Kang and I, August 2011

What I didn’t care to realize the moment I quietly stormed out was that a friend had caught me leaving, and within mere moments, he came to console me. “What’s the matter Josh? What’s going on?” I initially was too angry to say how I really felt on the inside, but I gradually released some steam. “I’ve had enough Andrew. I’ve had enough of this Youth Alive shindig! I want out! I’m done!” I wanted to further scream, “I’m through with God” as well, but did not plan to take the matter too far.

Fortunately, Andrew’s been more than sympathetic to hearing about my conflicting spiritual frustrations. He’s been UNDERSTANDING, and to this day, I cannot imagine not having a more sincere and caring friend than him, as a straight bro. 🙂


As for leaving behind this “conservative” brand of Christianity I grew up submissively obeying and adhering to through the end of my high school years, I now honestly view the nuances of meanings behind the Passion story and the significance of the Cross in a new Progressive kind of light. One where all are loved unconditionally by God, and where He only sees the broken sinner in need of healing and reconciliation, not the weight of unbearable sin crushing the sinner.

Progressive Christianity is an approach to the Christian faith that is influenced by post-liberalism and postmodernism and:

  • Proclaims Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, Savior, and Lord;
  • Emphasizes the Way and teachings of Jesus, not merely His person;
  • Emphasizes God’s immanence not merely God’s transcendence;
  • Leans toward pantheism rather than supernatural theism;
  • Emphasizes salvation here and now instead of primarily in heaven later;
  • Emphasizes being saved for robust, abundant/eternal life over being saved from hell;
  • Emphasizes the social/communal aspects of salvation instead of merely the personal;
  • Stresses social justice as integral to Christian discipleship;
  • Takes the Bible seriously but not necessarily literally, embracing a more interpretive, metaphorical understanding;
  • Emphasizes orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy (right actions over right beliefs);
  • Embraces reason as well as paradox and mystery — instead of blind allegiance to rigid doctrines and dogmas;
  • Does not consider homosexuality to be sinful;
  • Does not claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God (is non-exclusive).[2]

Upon a detailed and painstaking scholarly personal investigation of my own now in college, I largely agree with most of these points—except for perhaps the supernatural theism one.

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Moreover, to clarify my now redefining stance on the multi-layered “homosexuality is a sin” argument, I will only say this: He [God] may judge your sins, but He does not judge your sexual orientation, and we need to keep these two separate from now on, socially and theologically. Period.

And for all the conservatively-minded homophobes out there, while I can understand your reasons for hating gays—as I was once as well—in all serious honesty, you’re missing out on some great eye-opening opportunities to witness to and to get to know several of them as the awesome people they are BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE.  And yes, even their faults and sins.

Recently, I sat in my adult Sunday School class while my pastor spoke about grace within the United Methodist tradition. She described how, in the midst of the grace that is always present for all of us, we often find ourselves in profound moments of justifying grace—moments of affirmation when we recognize that we, too, are loved. We, too, are welcomed.  We, too, are forgiven.

For me, my coming out as an LGBT ally has been inextricably intertwined with my experience of justifying grace.  

The irony of my situation is not lost on me. While my coming out as an ally has been so very humbling and faith-affirming, I know that for many, the experience of coming out is anything but. Most of all, I know this has to change.

This is why I feel so passionately about continuing to push myself to speak up. Even when it is uncomfortable. Even when I have doubts. Even when I’m sharing not necessarily with like-minded members of the faith, but with that same Facebook community which initially brought me to tears.

Above all else, I believe that this message and this experience of grace is for all.

And I want to help proclaim this Christian message.

Even me? Yes. And even you as well.

~ Holli Long, an excerpt from Experiencing Grace: My Journey To Becoming An Ally  (June 17, 2013)

As an additional side note worthy of mentioning, I now also believe 17-year-old Graeme Taylor from Ann Arbor, Michigan is TRULY AN INSPIRATION, not only for standing up for a teacher who was suspended, but perhaps even more so for coming out of the closet (quite literally) and being honest, open and accepting of himself that he’s gay.

Breaking Down the Gay-Straight Duality: Taking a Moderate Stance on Gay Rights

Jesus calls us to have empathy, compassion and an open heart for all human beings. Not just people who follow Him. Not just Christians. Not just believers. Not just straight people. BUT EVERYONE. And this includes gay people. They are your neighbors, too. So if we are to follow what Jesus is asking of us, we MUST demand that gay people have the right to marry. Why? Because to NOT do so would not be loving them as we love ourselves. And that would make us hypocrites pretending to love Jesus.

~ Mastin Kapp, an excerpt from Why Jesus Loves LGBT People and Gay Marriage Doesn’t Exist (July 31, 2012)

IT ALL STARTED WITH A SIMPLE HI AND A HANDSHAKE.

“Hi I’m Josh.”

“Hey I’m Trevor. Nice to meet you.”

Somehow, in a matter of less than two minutes, I mustered up the courage to ask the dire question, “Hey, are you gay?”

A whirlpool of mixed emotions and sweat swirled inside my head and all over my body as I tried to find those four simple words. Intellectually, it’s one of the world’s most easiest questions to ask someone, but in a culture where gays are still being stigmatized and dehumanized as second-class citizens, Trevor was the first gay man I had ever met in person—and by sheer coincidence too.

The day was Monday, September 24, 2012, the time about 12:50 in the afternoon. While touring various booths at my community college’s Transfer Fair event last Fall and after talking to other admissions counselors about their programs, I approached one of the last booths I did not visit yet for the day.

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Alex Randolph and Trevor Nguyen © Rink Foto

Sporting a short, spiky haircut, big eyes, and awesome shiny teeth, and donning a UC Berkeley alumni T-shirt, Trevor reaches out a hand as I proceed to shake it and at first shakily state my name. Noticing the ring on his finger and his slightly falsetto voice, curiosity crept into my mind. Should I come out and ask if he’s gay? What if he’s offended? And what about all those people watching me, how will they react to my question? What if I send the wrong message here and other people start assuming I’m gay?

Unabashedly, Trevor just smiles with an enormous grin on his face and says, “Yeah I am! Are you LGBT too?” The question I expected popping out of the back of my head but dared not want to answer… “No, no, no I’m not,” I exclaim with the sweat already emerging from pores on the back of my neck and body. “I was just curious if you were, that was all.”

Initially, I was hoping to get a photo with Trevor but we ran out of time and he told me he had to go, but in the few short minutes that we did get the chance to chat, he warmly told me he went to this same community college as well and later transferred up to Berkeley, where, in the summer of 2005, met his boyfriend Alex Randolph.

I specialize in business development for local businesses and start-ups, with experiences in business law and real estate. I provide both strategic legal and financial analyses to corporate transactions, business projects, and working groups.

My proudest achievement thus far is to have worked with three successful start-ups in numerous capacities as counsel, manager, or consultant. In all projects, I paint a big picture with fine strokes of small details.

In my spare time, I greatly enjoy networking and being proactive in community organizations providing social services and promoting diversity. I have served and held leadership positions on various community non-profit groups, and continue looking for ways to contribute to my communities. I seek to open doors — and then hold them open for others as well.

Along with my partner Alex Randolph, we now call San Francisco home and seek to help build San Francisco as a beautiful and inclusive place for all.

~ An excerpt from Trevor Nguyen’s Summary on his LinkedIn profile

Since meeting Trevor back in September, I have been personally re-evaluating my views and stances on gay rights in the early 21st century and the LGBT community in general.

In the months that followed, as headlines featured personal scarring stories about gay teens facing constant bullying and death threats appeared, I initially had no comments on what to say or how to act regarding these accounts. Nevertheless, as I later found stories on the pro-gay side of this spectrum, let me be honest: my first reaction was of praise rather than of immediate disgust.

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On Tuesday, demonstrators gathered in 75 French cities to oppose the bill which would allow gay marriage and adoption. The picture was shot during the rally in the city of Marseille and as the two women are seen kissing in the forefront, faces of shocked protesters can be seen in the background.

Interviewed by French gay magazine Têtu the two young women explained they are both straight, but wanted to draw attention to the issue with a pure and simple gesture of solidarity.

The comments on the Facebook page of HuffPost France offer some insight into why the picture went viral.

“To respond to all those homophobes with a gesture of love. Nothing is more beautiful!” a reader wrote.

“Love is stronger than hate,” stated another user.

Romain Pigenel, responsible for the Internet division of the presidential palace, also analysed the success of the photos on his blog:

“This snapshot brings out a simple and efficient mechanism: the one of the opposition between reason and emotion, between the power of the image and the complexity of the slogan. The protesters are holding signs and screaming claims that cannot exist, to make sense, in the instantaneity of the photograph.”

Gérard Julien, the photographer, explains on the AFP blog, “This picture, it’s like the story of the biter bit, a reversal of symbolism without their knowing it. Everyone has been surprised by this shot. The protesters were in shock!”

~ An excerpt from Two Women Kiss In Front Of Anti-Gay Protests In Marseille, France (October 25, 2012)

And with each passing day, the number of stories seem to exponentially multiply.

Proclaiming the Gay Good News on Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2013)

Gay Man Confronts Homophobic Subway Preacher, Train Crowd Applauds (VIDEO) (February 21, 2013)

Former GOP state senator: No “evil force” is trying to destroy marriage (March 11, 2013)

Rob Portman Reverses Gay Marriage Stance After Son Comes Out (March 15, 2013)

Dad’s Note To Gay Son About Coming Out Might Make You Cry (PHOTO) (March 17, 2013)

Westboro Equality House: Aaron Jackson Paints Rainbow Home Across From Anti-Gay Church (March 19, 2013)

Amazingly, within a time frame of less than a month, I’ve read these six articles I will prominently feature here and provide links for each of them—and apparently, I have a big guilty pleasure I have to confess to all my readers and subscribers out there: I love articles by The Huffington Post and anything MSNBC related!

But in all seriousness, a while back, as I was surfing around Google, I read one story that I can now say marked a first tender emotional and spiritual milestone in my consideration to love and support gay people and the gay and lesbian community.

Some friends and I, with The Marin Foundation, spent the day at Chicago’s (Gay) Pride Parade. We wore shirts that said “I’m Sorry,” and carried signs that said, “I’m sorry that Christians judge you,” and “I’m sorry the way churches have treated you.” Amidst religious protesters screaming hateful rhetoric into megaphones at participants, we wanted to share a different message.

I loved watching people’s faces as they saw our shirts, read the signs, and looked back at us. Responses were incredible. Some people blew us kisses, some hugged us, some screamed thank you. A couple ladies walked up and said we were the best thing they had seen all day. I wish I had counted how many people hugged me. One guy in particular softly said, “Well, I forgive you.”

Watching people recognize our apology brought me to tears many times. It was reconciliation personified. My favorite though was a gentleman dancing on a float. He was dressed only in white underwear and had a pack of abs like no one else. As he was dancing he noticed us and jokingly yelled, “What are you sorry for? It’s pride!” I pointed to our signs and watched him read them. Then it clicked. Then he got it. He stopped dancing, became very serious, and jumped off of the float to run towards us. He and his beautiful sweat drenched abs hugged me and whispered, “thank you.”

IMG_0996_JPG_scaled980Before I had even let go, another guy ran up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and gave me a bear hug that nearly knocked the wind out of me. This is why I do what I do. This is why I will continue to do what I do.

I think a lot of people would stop at the whole “man in his underwear dancing” part. That seems to be the most controversial. It’s what makes the evening news. It’s the stereotype most people have in their minds about Pride. Sadly, a lot of religious groups want to run from such a sight rather than engage it. Most people won’t even learn if that person dancing in his underwear has a name. Well, he does. His name is Tristan.

However, I think Jesus would have hugged him too. There are churches that say they accept all. There are businesses that say they accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is. And when there isn’t reconciliation, there isn’t full acceptance. Reconciliation is more painful; it’s more difficult. Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness and unity….

I hugged a man in his underwear. I hugged him tightly. And I am proud.

~ An excerpt from I Hugged a Man in His Underwear – And I am Proud, originally written by Nathan Albert; Reblogged by Jonathan Williams (December 30, 2010)

That was only the first strike, but several months ago, it left a deep impression on me, and how I would gradually come to embrace a form of love and acceptance that my fellow gay and lesbian friends would want to expect from a non-gay person—and stop the bigoted faggotry. There would be multiple times where I would actually lie awake in bed at night, or have some quiet time to myself during the day, and sit there and actually ponder, “If I was gay, wouldn’t I want to be loved and accepted as a person by my closest friends and family, and a forgiven sinner by the grace of God?” with an almost immediate resounding “Yes!” in my head every single time that particular question would come to mind.

As I once wrote in Scared and Wounded…and Yet, Somehow Still Hoping back in December 2011, I grew up in a strictly anti-gay background and was raised to believe to oppose all homosexual intercourse—and therefore, homosexuality as an orientation in itself—because they’re “unnatural.” But, looking past the sex for a brief moment, I still realize gay people are not just GAY PEOPLE but PEOPLE too. If Christians and believers of other faiths were to blindly follow right-wing propaganda and only bash on gay people just because of their sex lives, from a liberal perspective, that does seem to be demeaning and superficial. From a conservative perspective, however, they only tend to do most of the gay bashing as a result of living in a constant state of fear that the sanctity of heterosexual relationships, and heterosexual love, in effect, will be permanently altered and damaged by the legalizing of this ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE.


I understand if viewing this Newsroom clip will anger many people, as it had angered me as well. Nevertheless, I still withheld that initial wave of anger as Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) accused Sutton Wall (Damon Gupton) of being a black and gay man, whom Mr. Rick Santorum would proudly find “disgusting” and immediately disapprove of. Sutton’s ending speech won me over this time, however, not McAvoy’s blatant accusations. At one point, McAvoy even acknowledges he pushed the argument too far but could not help it.

Still, I believe Will got the lecture he deserved to hear because his accusations seemed to certainly reach a tipping point where he sounds like he is literally demonizing Santorum and the entire Republican Party because they don’t fit Will’s political preferences or ideologies.

Then again, I am not here to demonize all right-wing belief as I still hold my views on abortion and on gay marriage/civil unions very personally.


Back to the topic at hand, I hope this documentary video will provide the perfect sense of closure for all my readers, no matter if you support gay rights and equality, leaning, neutral or not in favor.

Have a blessed Good Friday and Easter everyone! Jesus loves you ALL and God bless! 😀