I like to think I'm a fan of going to Christian related conferences to see what they are about, especially if they are about friendship or the Church dealing with homosexuality.
I like to think I am a fan of new ideas and new Christian perspectives of the Gospel and how to love God with all my existence and love others well too.
I'm a fan of Rob Bell. I'm a fan of C.S. Lewis (who isn't). I love Catholicism. I grew up Pentecostal. I love N.T. Wright. I am grateful for the work of Karl Barth as I'm learning I don’t like to call the Bible the Word of God for reasons Karl Barth addresses. I think I am an annihilationist right now, my views of hell are always changing as I learn more and more historical theology. I love hanging out with my non-christian friends. I love my friends. Sometimes I think I'm a deist or an atheist who loves the message of the gospel and the hope and love it brings to this chaotic world. I am a skeptic, but more of a believer. I sometimes feel like Christianity is a joke created by a bunch of straight Christians. I would defend Christianity till I die.
The heaviest inner conflict in my life is that I want to be in the same-sex relationship.
I like learning and hearing debates, and thought-provoking discussions, not boring ones.
But the Revoice Conference has made me question my own principles.
At first, I was excited to go and I think I bought my ticket the day tickets were available.
I was excited!
and I have never been to St Louis.
But some developments took place the past couple of months that has sort of scared me.
First I was accused by one of the speakers of this conference of being compared to EX-gay leaders who seduced younger underage men. There was questionnaire rhetoric going around that I can be taking advantage of people. Then, a story I shared with the Christian university I attended of my experience with falling out of friendships and how friendships helped me in my struggle was used out of context as a character flaw about me and how I didn’t know how to have friendships.
I was “dousing my clothes in gasoline and then playing with matches.”
“I was desperate to see my friends wangs.”
People need to “Run away from this kind of BS.”
Speakers for this conference are members of this online group related to the conference were being quite mean and uncharitable towards me and the work I do on the 4T’S and the Church.
They were also quite uncharitable to a writer that belonged to Your Other Brothers.
So should I still go to the conference?
Is this even a safe place for me?
Is it a safe place for this “sexual minority?”
Am I going to be watched to make sure I am not going to seduce younger under age men?
Then another issue started to take place that caught my attention.
It’s over the word GAY.
I never really cared about this because I know people identify themselves in many different ways. I just ask clarifying questions so I know what they mean.
Over the past month, there has been quite the debate about this word and the meaning of the word.
And I think those discussions are good because it brings about, hopefully, a healthy debate on how the Holy Spirit is redeeming all humanity’s sexuality.
But my main concern is the tribalism going on now. The supporters of the conference seem to now be taking on a interesting victimization. One I don’t know how to respond too.
Even when straight Christian men try their best to understand the complexities of the website Spiritual Friendship and the terms the Revoice Conference want to use, the supporters and speakers won’t even give them charity and will say very snarky comments and even bring up race in a sloppy way.
Here is a blog post which I think is the best one I have ever read critiquing Spiritual Friendship.
This post is a guest post on a website related to a writer of Spiritual Friendship.
Then a speaker of the conference replied with his critic of this critic.
Both blog post is bringing up great thoughtful ideas that need to be debated, discussed, etc.
But what drives me nuts about this is the second blog post ends with something I see that is the overall issue I have with the speakers or supporters of this conference, it's just straight up defensive accusations that anyone who critics this conference is just wrong and doesn't "get it."
He ends his critic saying this,
“Wedgeworth presents himself as an arbiter of the historic Christian tradition, but he manifests time and again the inability to inhabit any other perspective than that of a straight white man raised in the twentieth century.”
The funny thing about this is that the conference has 33 speakers. 28 seem white, there are 5 POC, and there is only one black man. You gotta love the lack of charity going on. It’s okay though, I’m used to white Christian speakers criticizing other white speakers uncharitably. I was raised in the theology of white evangelicals, gay or straight, they seem to all act the same. But I’m sure there are other circles that I am not in where this isn’t the case.
I can nit pick all the issues coming up with this conference, but that's not the point of this post.
I am concerned about the lack of teamwork going on between critics of this conference and critics of the speakers and supporters of the conference.
This writer from the first post wrote what seemed to be the best critic I have ever read about Spiritual Friendship, writing good and bad critics, and the second writer just went for the bad.
This is the tone of the dialogue. No teamwork, no let's meet and talk about this over coffee,
just twitter battles.
Teamwork, one of the most important parts of the 4T’S and the Church.
The 4T’S and the Church fails if teamwork isn’t involved. With the pursuit of loving God and others as the primary principle.
The 4T’S and the Church idea is my best effort to offer a practical idea on uniting the divide between Christians who have same-sex sexual desires (that can be explained in depth, but I won’t do that here) and Christians who don’t.
There is so much physiological research that demonstrates our brains work differently, even to the point that our smell for the same sex is quite interesting. The way a “gay” man reacts to the sweat of a male, is the same way a woman reacts to the sweat of a male. Google it.
For years I wondered why some of my friends smell good while we play soccer, ultimate frisbee, hiking, etc.
The way Christians who struggle with homosexuality, or however they like to identify now and days is different than the average Christians who don’t.
Within my own life, I had to deal with this divide.
I wanted to have very deep intimate friendships and my guy friends wanted that too!
But we experience that and have different ideas of what “Deep Friendship” means.
I fantasized about what my friendships can be with my straight buddies.
The best explanation for what I wanted was for all my friendships to be like that of a soccer team.
We train together every day. We battle together on the field. We get in fights defending our brother. We hit up the locker room together. We shower together. We travel together. We sleep in the same bed together in hotel rooms. We sit on the bus together and fall asleep on each other as we are on 6 hour bus rides to away games.
I can keep going on.
What my best friendship looked like was even more intimate.
We would go everywhere together. We would travel alone together. Adventure together. We would know each other’s thoughts. We would know how we would react to certain situations. He would know my joys in life. My pains in life. He wouldn’t be afraid to hug me a lot. Wake me up to hang out or grab food. We would room together. Watch movies together. Be Christians together. Talk about our sin issues together. Feel very comfortable together. Go skinny dipping together. Be each other’s best man. Be there for the first birth of our children. Live life together.
I was able to experience most of what I just wrote down in my overall friendships and in my friendship with my best friend.
Many straight men actually have this experience.
Then everything came crashing down!
I felt like I lost everything.
All my dreams, hopes, joys, adventures, blessings,
It was all gone.
I hated God, I hated Christians, and I hated MARRIAGE.
Really, I hated the idol of marriage among young Christians.
During this time I had to rediscover everything again.
I needed to learn what was the CHURCH, what was FRIENDSHIP, and what was MARRIAGE.
What are BOUNDARIES?
What is compassion?
What is charity?
How am I sinful?
What is beauty?
What is desire?
What is the kingdom of God?
How can I put the Kingdom of God first in my life?
How can I contribute to the church?
What I learned from all my brokenness was that the Church wants to love Christians that struggle with homosexuality,
they just don’t know how to.
So I told God I’ll try my best to explain what I have experienced.
The good and the bad.
The beauty and the ugly.
The complexity and the simplicity.
So I started the 4T’S and the Church.
Not directly for Christians who struggle with homosexuality, or however they want to identify themselves,
But For STRAIGHTS! The Heterosexuals!
The guys who don’t understand people like me.
How they can walk alongside someone like me
What are our needs and what are their needs?
How can we meet each other's needs in healthy ways?
Because the most ironic truth of the 4TS and the Church is that everything I learned was from straight Christians on how to have a deep friendship and how not to have a deep friendship.
I didn't make this up, it was shown to me through normal friendships.
The ways in which I was brought up in masculinity was the ways I was grown and hurt which lead to more growth.
My friends taught me what touch was when they hugged me, jumped in my bed, held my hand when I cried, let me fall asleep on their shoulder, let me share a bed with them.
My friends taught me what time was when we went traveling together, road trips, movies, dinners, weekend night out.
My friends taught me how to be emotional and spiritually connected to each other, how to talk about our deep sins, and how we feel or don't feel connected to God, we talked theology,
We talked Rob Bell
My friends encouraged me to be okay with my body and their body when we went skinny dipping, streaking, running in the ocean naked, changing in the locker room, using communal showers.
I found the ordinary beautiful and fulfilling.
They taught me I was just like them, a man, a sinner, a Christian who needs grace and truth and brotherhood.
They questioned me as I questioned them.
not just in risk, but argued about our life choices.
We teamed up.
We want to help the church.
I want to help the Church.
Teach them the truth I learned.
The beauty I see.
The sin I see.
The idols that lead the church.
I want the Church to be a team because that is what word we need today.
The family has become an idol.
The one on one covenant idea has become an idol.
So I thought Teamwork is the more appropriate word because it’s another word that starts with T, but it communicates a more corporate feel for a large group of people to accomplish tasks together which includes healthy communication, game plans, leadership, leadership change, timeouts, team bonding, etc.
But the thing that can stop all this is division,
Division within the team.
My heart is quite frustrated because I only see division right now.
I see tribalism within a team.
I see “This is who I am so deal with it” attitude.
I see a lack of communication and dinners with conversations happening.
I see a lack of compromise.
I see a tribal Side B community starting to act as if they are not a part of the Christian team.
They ask for Charity and yet deny others that same charity.
They ask for understanding but lack the effort to understand where others are coming from.
Especially the straight mindset.
And let me tell you, straight Christians really do think differently.
All my close guy friends are straight, and mostly all my friends are straight.
I don’t have any close Side B guy friends,
So that is why I understand the concerns many straight Christians have.
The conference is happening and that is great!
It’s good for the Church!
But I wonder, is it really good for Side B Christians?
Is it going to be good for the Christians that don’t understand this?
What happens after the conference?
If I’m not going to be properly represented by my own “people group” by speakers of this conference, why should I tell anyone this is good for the Church?
If I don't completely agree with their terms, identities, or find their terms dangerous, then I'm treated like an enemy or a predator.
If I have some issues with the conference, what does this mean, am I allowed to have some issues with the conference?
Or are they absolutely right in everything they are teaching?
Is there going to be another group of Side B Christians that split off from “Celibate Gay Christians?”
Is this it?
This is the Church?
This is Charity?
This is how it goes?
This is how people will know Christ?
This is our love for each other?
This is what the Revoice conference is creating?
Just more tribalism?
We haven’t even got into what Hispanic and Black Christians who are side B go through in their culture as they deal with this.
Teamwork, I hope that becomes the ideal word for this conference.
A word stronger than gay and stronger than the tribal spirit of this conference.
So should I go to the conference?
Am I even going to learn anything new?
Is this just a Side B prep rally?
I hope for more than this conference.
I should pray for more than this conference.
I feel sad right now.
I wish I didn’t care about this.
I wish we were all a team.
I wish I didn’t need to revoice.
because after this conference is done,
Now we have to deal with the leftover attitudes, accusations, hurt feelings, and tribalism.
My therapist once told me, as I was angry crying in pain because my friends sometimes didn't understand me,
"Richard, you have been dealing with this your whole life. Processing words, ideas, theology, same-sex attraction for 25 years, and you expect your friends to understand all this right now as they are trying to figure out themselves too?"
That is when I learned I needed to have compassion and charity for the bride of Christ.
Let's not make the Bride of Christ an enemy. She is for us, she just doesn't understand us though.
Let's have compassion for her.
Let's have Charity for her.
Let's love those that don't understand us the way Christ loves the Church.
Isn't this what it's all about?