HERETIC VOL. 1, ISSUE #2, APRIL 2011
JUSTIN LEE OF THE GAY CHRISTIAN NETWORK SPEAKS 40 DAYS OF WATER JESUS GOES TO COLLEGE REVIEWS OF: PAUL SIMON FOO FIGHTERS AND MORE
ANDREW MARIN TALKS ABOUT HIS IMMERSION INTO THE GAY COMMUNITY
2 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 3
Heretic Press, was born out of the need to help give a voice to a group of people. These are the people who ride the edge of the bubble of American sub-cultural Christianity, people without the rose-colored glass and who see both in and out of this bubble. Out of this need comes the inescapable desire to etch, jam, scuplt or more or less create something. Heresy is what deviates from the orthodox, in terms of out purposes it’s whatever is in the bubble. This publication is mostly for those who are disenfranchised or at least made uncomfortable by the contents of that bubble. It makes in natural for those on the edge of this bubble to branch outside and deviate from that “orthodoxy.” So this a vast collection of anything that deviates from that norm, that paradigm, that bubble or whatever we feel the need to push away from.
4 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
HERETIC PRESS CONTENTS EDITORIALS 10 SHELTER FROM THE STORM: A CONVERSATION WITH THE GAY CHRISTIAN NETWORK 15 JESUS GOES TO COLLEGE 22 40 DAYS OF WATER 27 ANDREW MARIN SPEAKS 32 photo credit (above): Ike Lacey
REVIEWS 40 www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 5
LETTER TO THE READER DEAR READER, Thanks for sticking in there. A lot has happened since the first issue in March. Heretic Press never intended to be what it is now and in fact it’s getting bigger all the time. It started as a COMS project. I then added it into the portfolio of my blog and all of you loved it so much, the only real thing I could do was to come up with this issue. That leads us to now and I’m glad you’ve all stuck with me. I have some very big thoughts and ideas to share with you folks and most of them will even find their way into this magazine. Maybe I should shed a little light as to what Heretic Press is all about. My hope is that this publication leads people into bigger conversations about faith, spirituality, art and truth and that those conversations lead to something bigger: reconciliation. There’s a lot of brokenness in the world, I have eyes that see a lot of that being restored and put back to together. One of those ways is art, creative expression. Music, storytelling, poetry, painting, sculpting, dance, writing, film and even the art of the sermon all seem to leave those who experience them in a deeply spiritual place. This
photo credit (above): Caitlin Elliott is a moment where everything in the world doesn’t seem so troubling that it is somehow coming together. Understanding and empathy are the byproducts of good art. Those are the things that will change the world. I’m a bit of an idealist but I keep clinging to that as truth. There are very few places for free expression and exploration. Graffiti is being rinsed off street corners, they’re tearing down statues in the city center and making budget cuts to art programs all over the country. Creativity is being ignored.
6 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
But there’s a spiritual realm to the creative process. There are no limits to the things that God created or the things to be explored, probed, tested, brought out into the open, studied and created. Art isn’t the means to escape reality; it’s a means to dive deeper into reality. Truth, sexuality, politics, romance, suffering and joy all belong to the creative process. But these are things most often being ignored in by the Church at large. Even Francis Schaeffer wrote once that “true lordship in Christ should include an interest in the arts.”
LETTER TO THE READER While the number of places is dwindling for free expression, there at least still needs to be one. The church should be a place where stories are told of real people, real suffering, real joy. The church needs to be a place where these things can be seen and understood. I am not convinced it was Jesus’ intention to take us out of this world. I’m putting all my chips on the idea that he came to take us deeper into this one. He prayed, “your kingdom come” not “let’s arrive at your kingdom.” Mixed into this whole conversation I’ve found I’ve swallowed a few too many ideas willingly about this Jesus that aren’t true. You know what I mean? It’s those thoughts that about faith that claim something is off-limits or doesn’t fit into someone else’s paradigm. I’ve swallowed enough of them and I’m ready to find some truth.
Heretic Press cares about God’s kingdom. I keep hearing stories about Jesus from tons of my friends that aren’t too crazy about him. In all of these stories he’s wrapped and cloaked in so much politics and division and conventionalism. He is so much more that. I would hope that this publication can help people see a Jesus who isn’t a white middle-classed Republican or a gay-basher.
hope you’re like that too. If you keep reading I’m willing to bet we have a lot in common. Thanks, Charles Peters Editor-In-Chief P.S. I apologize for the extreme lateness of this issue. Won’t happen again, I promise.
I care about culture. I care about the kingdom. I care about Jesus. I care about art. I care about the truth. But when and if you chase all of that far enough down the pipeline that leads to controversy and then you get targeted as a heretic. Beautiful isn’t it? I love wearing that banner. I would rather be called a heretic because I am chasing all of those things wersus being resigned to accept something I don’t trust because it comes from an agenda choked in politics and bigotry. I
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 7
8 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 9
EDITORIALS WOMEN HAVE BREASTS: ALTERNATIVE VIEWS ON LUST THE PR
BY CHARLES PETERS If you’re a Christian and you’re a guy, you inevitably will sit through a thousand lectures in your lifetime about lust, porn and masturbation. But let’s be honest with ourselves, they never come up with anything nuanced or clever and most of them have actually made me feel bad to be born with a sex nature. For starters, I’m just go ahead assume God knew exactly what he was getting into when he designed the human body and especially since he called it “good.” He knew we were going to impose ideals of modesty and shame upon ourselves on top a masses of guilt over the glorious, sacred thing he created for us to enjoy. god is the designer, he isn’t surprised about what arouses American heterosexual men. But I heard something in discussion that in fact blew my mind. In this small group discussion, their claim was that men should just pretend women don’t have breasts; that breasts should not be worth the notice of a good Christian man. You shouldn’t look at breasts ever (now for the purposes of this discussion I’m making the distinction between gawking and glancing, when I say looking I don’t mean gawking
and ogling, I mean taking notice) and if you some how manage to ignore them you won’t struggle with lust if you approach life with this outlook. There are quite a few lies in that idea. Firstly it’s suggesting that God didn’t design women to have breasts. Ask any woman (or 13-year old boy), they’re hard to ignore that they exist. Which in fact that God both a) made them and b) designed them for pleasure as much as he did for milk. Now believing that God didn’t do something, that he obviously did, is a pretty big lie you’re making on his behalf (which I’m doubting he’s actually cool with). Now assuming God only gave women boobs for the sake of milk doesn’t really rank women much higher than livestock, if we’re going to be serious. We aren’t animals; we aren’t angels. We were made with body parts that were meant to pleasure, gratify and supplement one another sexually. We can debate the proper context for sexual intimacy and relationships another time. God designed you and me and all the girls on the planet to be sexual creatures. He created sex and not just the reproductive kind. As Jonathan Acuff likes to
10 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
EDITORIALS WOMEN HAVE BREASTS: ALTERNATIVE VIEWS ON LUST put it “God also invented the ‘Oh-My-God-I-Can’tBelieve-I-Get-To-Do-That-And-Go-To-Heaven’ type of sex too.” Acting like God is absolutely furious with you every single time you get aroused is like get furious at your television for portraying sounds and videos at the same time; it’s what it was created to do. It’s the same as saying, “Music, you better knock off having melodies or else!”
(which Jesus is Lord over along with everything else) do we really have any place to discuss and instruct on its tenants? If we aren’t safe enough to understand that God is in control of breasts, penises, vaginas, bottoms, erections, nipples and the whole nine can we really stand firmly that in weak claims made about them?
Bottom line: women have breasts. Guys, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it or anything you should do about it. Now, there are few people I know who like being told what to think. Maybe it’s because we’re post-modern americans and we enjoy being “independent” or maybe it’s just we always resented being talked down to as children. Maybe it’s the fact that we’d like to think we’re all smarter than we really are but the truth remains no appreciates being lied too. Let’s go a step further. The term ‘lust’, what does it really mean? does it mean to be attracted to someone? Does it mean to think about having sex with that person? Does it mean to be clearly aroused? You get the picture. There’s so many different ways to manipulate and define that term. Now when you can control the definitions of terms however you like you obviously control the implications of those terms and ideas however you like. All i’m saying is that it’s easy to abuse this power simply from the basis of being uncomfortable with sexuality as a concept. When we aren’t free to understand that Jesus loves exactly as we are, we aren’t really free to understand the bodies and world he created us to have, enjoy and care for. All this to say if we can’t be honest about sexuality www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 11
EDITORIALS CULUTERED COUNTER-CULTURE BY ZACH BECKER Disclaimer: Since this is my first piece for Heretic Press, you should know that this isn’t what I’m always like. If I had to describe myself I’d say that most of the things I think and say are completely non-sequitur but sometimes there are gems in there, as I do like to think about life and other things, and I will try to capture them here but mostly you can just expect part philosophy, part comedy and part weird/off the wall thoughts and musings about life, current events, religion, politics and other shit. Thanks and enjoy. I’ve seen white neighborhood “gangstas” become gay strippers, I’ve seen dyed in the wool punk rockers become straight laced upstanding dads and I’ve also seen seemingly good people fall into drug induced personas. This half-assed idea came to me while driving through a very diverse or “cultured” part of town here in St. Louis known as the Loop. People think that this stuff is out of the ordinary or they look at the person who is different from them and call them “Counter-Culture” but you see it every day, a friend dies; people have trouble talking about it, a family member gets cancer; the only thing you know to do is to buy flowers, or your best friend is more comfortable in women’s clothing. This is not what is out of the Ordinary or counter-culture. In fact, it’s pretty normal. It’s just not often talked about openly. But there are loads of things that aren’t openly talked about that are normal… you don’t see a guy walking around with a shirt that says “I’m not
comfortable with the size of my penis” or a girl with a dress that reads “I’m currently on my period” but those, among others, are real thoughts. That doesn’t make it wrong, or even Counter-Culture… again that’s just Normal. I’ve heard countless people describe Counter-Culture as simply the opposite of the accepted culture, but I don’t think that’s right, cause there are lots of things that are against “accepted” culture that aren’t Counter-Cultural, such as some of the things I’ve listed, plus a lot more. It’s been said to me and probably many more that Counter-Culture is difficult because you hear the stories about people like Gandhi and Jesus; “Those people are Counter-Culture”, they say, so before you can even think about being or doing anything Counter-Culture the shoes are too big to fit and you quit before you start. I think Counter-Culture, like all good things before, has it’s roots in love. Counter-Culture is more ingrained in our culture, as we know it, than you might
12 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
EDITORIALS CULUTERED COUNTER-CULTURE think. When you hand someone in a line in front of you some money because you have it and they don’t, when you say “thank you” when something nice is done for you, of course it goes way before it, but I think these things have masqueraded as manners for far too long and it’s time for them to come out of the closet, per se. Counter-Culture, in short, is love. So just love somebody today and enjoy being Counter-Culture.
photo credit (above): Ike Lacey
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 13
“MORE THAN NINE OUT OF TEN OUT-
SIDERS (91 PERCENT) SAID THAT ‘ANTIHOMOSEXUAL’ ACCURATELY DESCRIBES PRESENT-DAY CHRISTIANITY....WHEN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF AS A CHRISTIAN TO A FRIEND, NEIGHBOR OR BUSINESS ASSOCIATE WHO IS AN OUTSIDER, YOU MIGHT AS WELL HAVE IT TATTOOED ON YOUR ARM: ANTIHOMOSEXUAL, GAY-HATER, HOMOPHOBIC. I DOUBT YOU THINK OF YOURSELF IN THOSE TERMS, BUT THAT’S WHAT OUTSIDERS THINK OF YOU.
DAVID KINNAMAN & GABE LYONS unCHRISTIAN
CHRISTIANITY has an image problem
Includes insights from respected Christian leaders, including:
Chuck COLSON Louie GIGLIO Brian McLAREN Andy STANLEY John STOTT Rick WARREN and others
“Every Christian should read this…” —Publisher’s Weekly, starred review
14 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
photo credit: Jonathan Gillette
photo source: Chris Keane for The New York Times
SHELT E R F ROM T H E ST ORM “Gay” and “Christian” are two words that don’t look right in the same sentence together. They really don’t. Justin Lee, the Executive Director of the Gay Christian Network, in Raleigh, NC however disagrees. Coming from an evangelical background it never occurred to Lee that he could be gay and a Christian. Justin talks with me about his struggle of coming out of the closet and his struggle with trying to reorient himself as a heterosexual; as well as how he came to start the GCN.
WHEN DID YOU BEING TO NOTICE YOU WERE ATTRACTED TO MEN? I grew up in a really conservative Southern Baptist home. My faith was really, really important to me. I mean was the kid with the Bible in his backpack ready to witness to anyone who would listen. So I was in many ways the epitome of committed, evangelical, conservative Christian kid. My view of homosexuality is what you would expect: I believed that being gay was a matter of choice, that it was a sinful choice and that it was not what God called people to.
At that point in my life it never occurred to me I could be gay. But when I hit puberty, as my male friends were starting to notice girls for the first time, I wasn’t. Instead, I was starting to notice other guys. At first I didn’t think anything of it; my initial thought was that this was a phase of some kind. I mean, when you first hit puberty, when start to develop sexual feelings a lot of it is just there and you’re trying to cope with being a sexual being in the first place. So because being gay wasn’t something wasn’t something I ever would have associated with myself, it never occurred to me that I was gay. I just thought this was part of the process of puberty.
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 15
When I would find myself being attracted to a guy, I would do my best to not think about it, to then focus on God or focus on my school work and focus on other things in my life. I just assumed as I grew older that those feelings would just go away and I would just start becoming attracted to girls instead. That seemed like the obvious thing to happen.
NOW YOU GREW UP IN THE EIGHTIES, AIDS WAS BECOMING A GLOBAL EPIDEMIC, MORE CELEBRITIES AND POLITICIANS, MUSIC, TELEVISION WERE BECOMING MORE OPEN WITH SEXUALITY SO WAS SEXUALITY SOMETHING THAT WAS TALKED ABOUT IN YOUR HOUSE?
women in a way I wasn’t looking. At first I thought, maybe I don’t look at women like that because I’m such a good Christian and because I don’t lust. But I began to realize that wasn’t the case and I didn’t have the temptations that they had. That all the time I had different temptations, that were for guys and didn’t understand it. Really there was a period of several years where I was crying myself to sleep night after night. I was begging God to just “change me and take away these feelings”.
Even then it wasn’t till my senior year of high school, that there was a word for what I felt and it was: gay. And a lot of people now ask “How is it possible that you could spend all these years struggling with being attracted to other guys and not make the connection that that’s what ‘gay’ means?” But all I can say is, I thought gay meant these people who decided to I think we had a really healthy approach to it, in my rebel against God and were having sex with members family. My parents were always very open to any quesof their same sex. In these Christian them dancing tions I had about anything, sex included. It was never half-naked in pride parades. I thought well that’s not a repressive sexual environment where you aren’t me and I have nothing to do with those people. So it allowed to ask or think about these kinds of things. wasn’t until my senior year I finally realized that I was But my view was the same as my parent’s view and gay. Then I didn’t know what to do with it. the same as my church’s view which was: sex is for marriage. I certainly new that there were people out I looked into “ex-gay” ministries that promised they there who had sex before marriage and I knew that could make help gay people become straight. I did there were these people called homosexuals who had a lot of research on the internet to try to find some sex people of the same-sex. But I didn’t think that any way to be healed. I went through all these questions of that had anything to do with me. My understand about what would my future be. In the midst of that was that as a Christian I was supposed to wait until I realized I was about ready to go to college; I want to I got married to the right girl, then we would have be able to talk about this because I can’t deal with it sex. Certainly I would have sexual feelings until then on my own. I needed to tell my parents before anybut was to treat those as a temptation and not act on one else found out and told them. Over that summer them. before college I talked to a pastor at my church and I told him what I was going through and if he could WHEN DID IT RING HOME THAT YOU WERE GAY AND WHEN help me tell my parents. So we setup a time where he invited my parents to a meeting at the church, that DID IT ALL COME OUT TO YOUR FAMILY? they didn’t know what it concerned. When they got there I was sitting in his office. They sat down and [It came out to them] after years and years of dealing the pastor said, “Justin has something he’d like to tell with this; I hit puberty probably at about fifth grade. you.” Then everyone looked at me and that was probLike I said, initially I had these feelings, I just thought ably the scariest moment of my entire life, knowing I they would go away. As I went through middle school needed to say I was gay. I did not want to disappoint and later through high school, the feelings just got my parents and their response was, of course they stronger and stronger. I began to realize more and loved me and of they would always love me but also more what I was feeling was different than my other that they wanted to help me fix it and become straight guy friends were feeling; that they were looking at because their view had been: this wasn’t God’s will. 16 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
The Gay Christian Network, in effect, exists to be a catch-all for all disenfranchised gay people on a spiritual journey. Through teaching conferences, message boards and other venues, they provide answers, encouragement and support for gay Christians.
In their tribe of followers and volunteers, there are two schools of thought on the morality of homosexuality. With their attempts to reconsile their faith to their sexuality, they’ve boiled these two schools of thought into Side A and Side B (details below). Lee says they don’t exist to be a cult, trying to tell other people what to think and believe. Rather they exist to be a support system for anyone who is gay.
SIDE A GOD ALLOWS AND BLESSES GAY RELATIONSHIPS, SAME RULES APPLY THE BIBLE HAS BEEN MISINTERPRETED, IN THEIR CONTEXT GOD ALLOWS HOMOSEXUALITY PASSAGES TRADITIONALLY REFERRING TO HOMOSEXUALITY DO NOT APPLY TO MODERN, MONOGAMOUS, LOVING, COMMITTED GAY RELATIONSHIPS THESE PASSAGES ACTUALLY CONDEMN CHILD ABUSE, RAPE, TEMPLE PROSTITUTION OR IDOLATRY
GOD DOES NOT ALLOW AND FORBIDS GAY RELATIONSHIPS GAYS SHOULD BE CELIBATE, THAT’S GOD’S CALL ON THEIR LIVES THOSE PASSAGES REFER TO ALL GAY RELATIONSHIPS THIS WOULD INCLUDE MODERN MONOGAMOUS SAMESEX RELATIONSHIPS
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 17
Later on as I became more convinced that it wasn’t going to change it really became the first time my parents and I had been at odds over anything. I believed that it was never going to change and they still wanted me to become straight.
After his nerve-racking confession Justin Lee sought ex-gay ministries to be healed of perceived sinful cravings. He told me of the depth of the types of failures he found, of the twofacedness represented by leaders and of beginning to understand what he was supposed to do with this knowledge.
ON EX-GAY MINISTRIES... The largest name in the ex-gay movement is Exodus International. Exodus serves as an umbrella organization for a lot of smaller ex-gay ministries across the country and in a few other countries as well. Another organization called, Homosexuals Anonymous, is a lot smaller than Exodus and has existed for a lot longer time. I turned to both of those groups at that point in my life wanting to become straight. I contacted local ministries that were affiliated with groups like that because at that time I just really wanted to become straight. I thought that’s what God wanted for me. There were these people sharing these stories where they said they had once been gay and had gone through these programs; through prayer and therapy and everything else had become straight. So I thought if they could do it, I could too.
I BEGAN TO REALIZE THERE WAS A LOT MORE TO THESE STORIES THAN THEY WERE SHARING PUBLICLY. THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO In 2001, Robert WOULD PUBLICLY TALK ABOUT, “I USED TO BE GAY Spitzer delivered his famously controverAND I WALKED OUT OF HOMOSEXUALITY, NOW sial paper at the 2001 annual American Psy- I’M MARRIED TO A WOMAN AND I HAVE THREE chological Association KIDS.” meeting arguing that highly motivated individuals could successfully change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. This paper had not been peer reviewed and declaring that “There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation.” Lee gives coherent demonstrations of how Spitzer’s theories fail miserably.
Ultimately when I began talking to the leaders of these ministries, I had some long conversations with the who’s who of the ex-gay movement at the time. I began to realize there was a lot more to these stories than they were sharing publicly. There were people who would publicly talk about, “I used to be gay and I walked out of homosexuality, now I’m married to a woman and I have three kids.” I would sit down with guys like this and ask him how this all played out and some personal questions. As it turned out what he would tell me one-on-one and not share publicly was that he stopped having gay sex and being promiscuous but that he was still
18 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
attracted to guys. In many cases he would still be struggling to perform sexually with his wife and wasn’t attracted to women. One guy even told me he had actually used a turkey-baster to help conceive with his wife because he had so much difficulty performing with her; which would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad and true. The more of these guy’s stories I heard, this wasn’t the change I wanted. I didn’t want help stopping having gay sex because I wasn’t having gay sex. I had never even held a boy’s hand much less had sex. I was still waiting on marriage regardless. But I just wanted to change my feelings and many of these apparent success stories, who were married to members of the opposite sex and had kids, still had the same feelings that I had and that really discouraged me. The other thing was that often focused on a particular theory for homosexual origins, what I’ve come to refer to as Moverly-Nicolosi theory because it was publicized by a woman named Elizabeth Moverly in the eighties and picked up on by a guy called Dr. Joseph Nicolosi in the nineties (who is still publicizing it today). Basically it’s a theory that states that if a man is gay it’s because had a distant father and an overbearing mother. That’s what many of these groups would teach.
of these ex-gay events this one guy had said you just need to admit you had a distant father and an overbearing mother and I said: “I didn’t! I have a really great relationship with my dad; I always have. He was never distant, he was never abusive or any of the other things. I have a good relationship with him.” Then he replied: “That’s what I thought too before I came here.” What I started to realize was that they were brainwashing these people and convincing them they had these horrible relationships with people that they didn’t have. That’s when I said I’m not doing this anymore because I don’t believe in being dishonest. I was really persona non-grata for awhile because my parents really wanted me to change, I had really wanted to change, but when I was meeting the people who said
change was possible, a lot of what they were saying simply wasn’t true or was an exaggeration of the truth. The more I did my own research, that this “re-orientation” thing was not all it was cracked up to be. A lot of the ideas they had about the causes of sexual orientation were based on some ideas of a psychologist in the 1960s named Irving Bieber who was a Freudian psychologist. Bieber’s work had been discredited because when people did actual studies, the pattern he claimed they would find, they didn’t find. He said that they would find that all gay men had distant fathers and they didn’t find that at all. So the psychological community abandoned that theory and these Christians picked up on it in the eighties, trying to be compassionate and have answers for why people were gay but it simply Lee sepaking at their annual conference in 2009.
But I didn’t! I had a really healthy relationship with both of my parents and no one would believe me what I told them that. At one
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 19
wasn’t true. I appreciated that they were trying to do the right thing but what they were doing was not helpful.
DO YOU THEN DISMISS ALL CASES OF THOSE WHO CLAIMED TO HAVE EXPERIENCED GAY ATTRACTION BUT REHABILITATED INTO HETEROSEXUALITY? I’ll put it this way, I have never heard a story of someone going from 100% gay to 100% straight that I found convincing. There people, a small number of people, who have claimed to have done it. The difficulty is I don’t see into their heads. So well if someone say they were exclusively attracted to men and now say they are exclusively attracted to women and I say I don’t believe that. I’m basically saying you’re a liar. My goal isn’t to go out and call people liars. I’m not going to say it’s impossible but I’ll say that I’ve never heard a story that honestly convinced me. If it is something that happens it’s certainly exceptionally rare, it’s certainly not the experience of people I know who have gone through these kinds of ministries.
FROM THOSE EXPERIENCE WITH EX-GAY MINISTRIES WHERE DID THE FOUNDING OF THE GAY CHRISTIAN NETWORK COME INTO PLAY? While I was in college I did a lot of work to try and find ways to build bridges between the gay community and the Christian community on campus. As a gay guy I felt really out of place in the Christian community, but I was still a Christian. As a committed Christian from a conservative background, I felt really out of place in the gay culture that existed. So I was really struggling to figure out where I fit in, so I began writing about my experiences on the internet. What was really fascinating was I started getting emails from people I never met, who somehow stumbled
upon my webpage and found my story of what I was going through. They would write me these long emails pouring out their hearts and saying they’ve been living in the closet all these years and they were also known as Christians and I don’t know how to tell anybody and I was the first person they’d come across who understands what it’s like. If I had just gotten that from a few people it would be one thing but I literally got hundreds and hundreds of these emails from all over the world, from people of all ages. From pastors and religious leaders, fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers, kids, suicidal teenagers; all these different people who were struggling so much and felt like they had no place to turn. Somebody needed to do something about that because there certainly resources out there to help people accept their sexuality but most of them are coming from a non-religious perspective. These people were all committed Christians and needed something from a Christian perspective. After I graduated I started this website gaychristian.net. In 2001, I added a message board to it, thinking we would put together this small little online support and we would get a dozen people that would kind of help each other out. That dozen or so quickly ballooned into dozens and hundreds and then thousands. As the group grew several of us decided it would make sense to incorporate to start doing more beyond having a little bubble on the internet. We thought we could get out into the real world and talk to churches and families to advocate on behalf of not only gay Christians but LGBT Christians, with straight Christians to help them understand LGBT issues better and try to make the world a better place. That’s brought us to where we are today, we have over 15,000 members. We are doing a lot different work around the world and it’s really exciting.
20 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 21
JESUS GOES TO COLLEGE
photo credit (above): Ike Lacey
There are over 250 disticintively Christian universities and colleges in the United States alone. Liberty, Regent, Gordon, Pensecola, Bob Jones, Cedarville, Pepperdine, Biola and the list goes does indeed go on. All private, all somewhat different all with very large recruitment offices and all of them have a very unique story behind them. Any of these colleges will enccourage you to learn to be Christ-like. But that begs one important question for a young a Christian: Where would Jesus go to college? Would he be accepted into Messiah College or Grace Covenant? If youâ€™re living like Jesus and carrying your cross everywhere, will it fit in your dorm room? In this series we take an in-depth look into just a few of those 250 schools so you can answer that question yourself. This month we take a look at Moody Bible College, Gordon College and Liberty University. 22 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
MOODY BIBLE COLLGE Chicago, Illnois JOSHUA HANSSEN
I arrived at Moody Bible Institute in the fall of 2005 as a hopeful, naïve freshman of 18. At the time of my graduation three years later, I was bitter, disillusioned, and ready to leave evangelicalism behind. Before enrolling, I knew of Moody Bible Institute as a conservative evangelical Bible school in the heart of Chicago. Moody is best known for its tuition-paid education, relatively strict rules, and strong emphasis on Bible and theology as tools for ministry training. My reason for going, however, was unrelated to any of these things; I was going for the linguistics. There were certainly some valuable elements in my Moody experience, one of which was the aforementioned linguistics program, which I found to be excellent—largely because of the school’s amazing linguistics professor. The other beneficial aspect of my college career was my involvement with a student-led homeless “ministry” called FrontLines. The positive impact of these experiences unfortunately did not come close to making up for the destructive effect of certain other aspects of my time at Moody. The biggest complaint I heard from students at Moody was that the rules were too strict: “We should be allowed to dance/drink alcohol/watch television in our rooms.” I always considered this to be a shallow critique, especially since we students knew what we were getting into when we signed the student agreement (and since compared to schools like Pensacola Christian College and Bob Jones University, Moody’s rules are rather lax).
What I found to be the single most disturbing thing about Moody was the way that critical thinking in regard to my faith was discouraged rather than promoted. Unfortunately, Moody took the evangelical tendency to place a taboo on doubt and to demonize every perspective but one’s own, and created a xenophobic bubble that was far more concentrated than anything I found in evangelical circles outside of the school. Professors at Moody are required to sign a theological statement that is even more narrowly defined than the one students must adhere to. This forced homogeneity of belief among the faculty made it extremely difficult for me to feel comfortable even considering any options outside of the Calvinist/Dispensational/ cessationist framework. Further, I knew of several professors who openly regarded doubting one’s faith as sin rather than as a essential tool for developing a reasonable belief system. This attempt to keep all students thinking and believing the same way encouraged arrogance and condescension among my fellow students rather than true unity. Instead of healthy dialogue about doubts and differing viewpoints, I experienced a suppression of honesty among students. I am certain that I wasn’t the only one at Moody who struggled with doubts, but these things were never discussed; so all of my own frustration about evangelicalism was forced below the surface. The suppression of diversity of thought effectively led me (and I’m sure others) to repress what I was really thinking. The busyness of college life exacerbated the problem by preventing me from processing the rhetoric that professors and students were bombarding me with day after day. As a result, when I finally did graduate, all of the confusion I had been repressing came surging into my consciousness in a matter of days, and I found myself buried under an avalanche of doubt and bitterness. This turned out to be a major factor (though certainly not the only one) in my walking away from evangelical Christianity within six months of graduation. Fortunately, I did have a few friends at Moody who, though they may have agreed theologically with much of what was taught, still did not give in to the
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 23
pressure to ignore doubts and demonize those who admitted their doubts. These friends have been vital in helping me to process my bitterness and reconsider some parts of the life I rejected—a work that is still in progress.
GORDON COLLEGE Wenham, Massachusetts JESSICA BELT HIPP
I applied to Gordon College to achieve a biblical basis for overseas mission work, the career I had chosen during an altar call at a church camp I attended during elementary school. By the time I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, I was no longer pursuing mission work and rarely attending church, yet I was forming the roots of what I now know to be deep, grounded faith. I would suggest that this outcome is one of the best possible at a Christian college. To consider my experience at Gordon College, I must rewind to the summer before I enrolled, when I spent two weeks in India. It was my first time outside of the United States, and I embarked upon the trip with eagerness, compassion, and a sense of gospel duty. On my trip, I was to research the gods of the Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hare Krishnas, so that Christians back in the United States could develop better strategies for evangelism. Another group member remarked that it was fortunate that these idols would someday be destroyed when Jesus returned, triumphant. At that moment, I began to disengage with the trip, with my assignment, and with Christianity itself, because why, after all, would a loving deity destroy icons of beauty and devotion? I spent the rest of college coming to grips with my change of heart and change of faith.
I latched on to the sociological idea that religion is a social construct. If I had been born in Egypt or Myanmar, chances are I would not have been raised in a Christian home. “What does that mean for your faith, if you didn’t really choose it?” a professor, whom I still call Dr. H, demanded that his students consider. Dr. H was an alumnus of Gordon College and a student of Tai Chi. He grew up as part of a large AfricanAmerican family that was one of the first to begin integrating in an all-white neighborhood in upstate New York. There was no one more prepared to teach about social constructs. My senior year, Dr. H led a meditation group for a few students who expressed interest in learning more about mysticism. We met in his office, a converted dorm room that bore stained carpets from years of student living. Dr. H taught us counting meditation, in which we counted (silently) from one to ten and then back to one over and over, in sync with our breath. We learned to ground our feet like a tree’s roots ground it to earth. I learned to breathe deeply and pay attention to each inhale and each exhale because, like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. Dr. H assigned writings from Christian and Buddhist mystics. When I shared a passage from a Buddhist writer with a fellow sociology student, she cautioned me against the slippery slope of religious syncretism. I was still trying to make sense of the idols back in India, idols I did not want to be destroyed by my god or any other—though I was beginning to believe my query was moot. If I learned anything at Gordon College, I learned that truth is worth pursuing even when it first appears unfamiliar and perhaps frightening. Gordon’s website professes that “all humanly discoverable truth is given by God,” a statement about which my 21 year old self, Dr. H’s sociology student, would have asked: What is truth? And who, really, is God? And through what means does this God give to humans? I held these questions when I graduated. I held them during the times I went to church, and during the times I quit going altogether. And when I finally found the Quakers—a faith community that held these questions alongside me, without judgment or
24 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
theological pretext—I employed the techniques of silent hopeful waiting that I learned from Dr. H: getting grounded, breathing deeply, and giving thanks for small gifts I could be tempted to overlook.
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY Lynchburg, Virginia CHARLES PETERS
Some days I don’t know how I got here, in this small city—in the midst of controversy, or between a rock and a hard place? Despite what many people would have you believe, Liberty University isn’t much of a breeding ground for zombies for the GOP, or a West Point-styled institution for equipping an army of soldiers to fight a rising liberal zeitgeist. Though Liberty isn’t without fault, neither is it anything close to what it’s painted as by those who haven’t been here. Liberty University does one thing well: it gathers together young Christians who fervently want to see the Kingdom come. There is no denying that. I have never found myself in a place where there are people who care so much about their faith as they do at Liberty. It’s fair to say the demographic breakdown of people at Liberty looks like this: for every ten people, two of them are extremely sheltered/homeschooled, and are essentially trying to figure how to make Westboro Baptist more socially acceptable; three are trying to answer questions about God in their own life; and four genuinely want to love people. And then there’s number ten. Number ten has a 50-50 shot at being your worst idea of a Christian or defying your expectations in the opposite direction. Once you get past the students, there’s the administration and staff. Trust me, an equally diverse group of people can be found here: some liberal, some wildly
conservative—and some more dangerously confused (for the sake of my own skin I won’t mention any names). But there is something that unifies that group of people: they all love the students, to no end. I’ve been to a few different schools in my life but never before have I encountered a group that not only will go the extra mile for a student, but will cross state lines for that student. I’ve had teachers stay in their office with me past their hours, take me to lunch because I happened to walk past them, pray with me, hand me cash, and work with me until a concept was drilled into my head. Most of my teachers at Liberty are worth their weight in gold. Students, faculty, I guess I’m missing the curriculum? Approaching its 40th anniversary, Liberty University has become the 8th largest four-year university in the nation. Liberty has been trying to be the equivalent of Brigham Young or Notre Dame for the evangelical market; for this reason, the school has gone out of its way to make sure that it offers every imaginable course of study to young Christians—its prospective students. Unfortunately, this is somewhat unhelpful when someone is trying to specialize in anything. This system tends to produce students who are a jack-ofall-trades but master of none. Another of Liberty’s faults is that its classes are often overcrowded. It becomes easy to fall through the cracks and not get the education one paid for initially. The third major fault is that the on-campus life is structured to constantly indoctrinate students with the idea that they are not adults. Curfews, restrictions, bans, limitations, sign-out sheets, room checks, mandatory chapel attendance—this list could go on and on. All of these strictures are enforced by two Resident Assistants per floor of every building. These two pair up and can quickly become power-hungry babysitters and cocky young camp counselors for the longest four years of a person’s life. Now, living off-campus while attending Liberty University is the best place for any professing Christian who wants to learn a field well and will not allow himor herself to drown in a sea of people. But as hard as it is to admit, going to Liberty University is honestly not the worst decision I’ve ever made.
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 25
26 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
40 DAYS OF WATER
CHARLES PETERS INDIVIDUALS BECOME PARTS OF COMMUNITIES. THAT’S GOD’S GRAND DESIGN, FROM TWO LOVERS IN A GARDEN TO CITIES OF NATIONS IN CAPTIVITY, OR TO PUT IT A LITTLE MORE SIMPLY, WE’RE ALL CONNECTED: BY OUR GREATER COLLECTIONS OF COMMUNITIES, BY OUR ONE CREATOR, BY OUR GREATER ESTRANGEMENT FROM THAT CREATOR AND BY THE OBLIGATION AND OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT. AS COMMUNITIES WE ARE ESTRANGED FROM THE GOD THAT CREATED US; IT IS ONE OF THE FEW REMAINING THINGS WE ALL HAVE IN COMMON. IT’S A BITTER PILL, AND IT MEANS WE HAVE TO DEPEND ON EACH OTHER AND PARTICIPATE AS A WHOLE.
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 27
So if we as a group are estranged from our creator, left in a mess by our systemic disobedience and transgressions, how can we bridge that gap? How do we make peace? We need an intercessor on our behalf, and if you look for one, the only one you will find is Jesus; I can at least promise you that. Luckily he did not die exclusively for individuals; he died for all the nations and communities of the earth. In his death we’re all bound together, broken individuals, wearied communities in a world that has been raked over the coals by our own transgressions and lack of compassion. These communities we’ve neglected however are still a mess. They haven’t been healed by a television special, a U2 concert or a government check; not by a long shot. They are trapped in a type of chaos and in need of the peace that can be found in intercession. 32 out of the 40 poorest countries in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. 70% of the world’s AIDS sufferers live in sub-Saharan Africa (28 million people). In 2007, a reported 800 million people lived in sub-Saharan Africa, which at the time was 12% of the world’s population. 546 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to facilities to clean drinking water, that’s 8% of the world’s population. 9,800 people die every day from diseases related to lack of clean drinking water. 9,800 people just like you and me, except they weren’t granted the privileges of being born in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet or access to clean water. 9,800 people, cut from the same cloth we are, now dead because of spread of illness. 9,800 of our friends and neighbors are gone. Communities like this have no economy or municipality or education systems that are structured to enable progress in a way we’re accustomed to seeing. Most people spend their days caring for the sick or walking about 15 miles a day to haul back water that is essentially poison for them because of the bacteria, animal feces and waste that’s allowed to fester in it. Coupled with a disease like AIDS, the drinks have no immune system to fight off other diseases and 9,800 will continue to die every day without clean drinking water. For some of us it’s hard to get a baseline with just a number. 9,800 is the average number of students 28 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
of a high school in a metropolitan area. And that number of people is being deleted from the world population every day. This is the world we live in and the brokenness we belong to. But this is another thing I will promise you: we cannot restore all that is broken without individual action working as a part of a greater whole. And if we claim to follow this intercessor Jesus, we are obligated to obey him, and two things he said were to love this creator and to love our neighbors (who are a part of his creation). It’s because of these commands and this tension and tragedy I have come across a group called Blood:Water Mission. They believe very much that people need water to drink, that they deserve to better their quality of life and that they should share the burden of our neighbors and love those neighbors who are cut from the same cloth. They are a grassroots organization based in Nashville, TN that runs campaigns to raise awareness and funds to build clean drinking wells in sub-Saharan Africa in a greater effort to combat HIV/ AIDS. Blood:Water Mission was founded in 2004 by the band Jars of Clay. They exist to promote clean blood and water in sub-Saharan Africa through social promotion and hands on activism. B:W runs nationwide campaigns to raise funds and awareness and enable grassroots action. From lemonade stands, water walks, cross country cycling trips, donations at concerts and public endorsements, B:WM has a wide array of campaigns to raise money to build clinics and wells in this troubled region of Africa. Their initial and central campaign was the 1000 Wells Project started in 2005. Their primary objective was simple: build a thousand clean water wells in individual communities in Africa. In late 2010, B:W succeeded in this goal, but do not consider this a reason to pause any other effort. Knowing this goal is attainable further compels them to reach greater heights. I joined in on this campaign and effort. A friend
gave me a Nalgene bottle around the beginning of it and water was all I really drank for 40 days. Through this experience I’ve learned a few things: that water isn’t a commodity, that this isn’t a trend we’re opting to participate in, and that this thing isn’t done without community.
NOT A TREND, NOT A COMMODITY We live ensconced in a Western entitlement way of thinking and sedentary lifestyles that demand we consume vast quantities of sugar, corn syrup, fructose and a lot of things my hipster Whole Foods friends are convinced will kill us and survive the nuclear holocaust. In any given cold case in America are stockpiled bottles of this junk, and on the same shelves of these nuclear-annihilation-surviving products is bottled water. It’s the strangest thing in the world to me now. I’ve had to kill the idea that water is a commodity. It’s not a good to be bought and sold. Water is a right. It’s the substance by which life is sustained. It has been a rather hard idea to kill. Part of this issue is that it’s so readily available: fountains, sinks and hosepipes, all with free water for our use. It’s hard to even consider that not being a fundamental reality for another human being. This whole thing has helped me grow a deeper sense of empathy toward people who don’t look or live like they do in the wealthiest country on the planet. So it’s easy to just adopt this practice as a “lifestyle,” but it is so much more. It’s not just switching from Coke to Dasani. It’s the domestic opportunity to bring peace into the chaos of a world we otherwise wouldn’t have any interaction with, through social action. We are participating in a story being told, not just amending the mere details of our lives for 40 days. We are now a part of the story of God putting what has been broken back together.
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 29
COMMUNITY Mostly through this unique experience, I’m reminded that we can work as a community to do something important. Further I am reminded that stories are made up of characters. Our Maker places them in stories so that they will not climax without rising action. What I mean is more that we live with each other when we unify over a common goal, and we rise in action toward a point of no return, where nothing can be the same again because what we are doing is so compelling and etched into our bones we can’t make it back to the beginning. We can only move toward the resolution. But these movements are not made alone. Look at Jesus’ story; he was followed by a rag-tag group of characters caught up in his teachings and practices, and they couldn’t return to their lives as fishermen or tax collectors or doctors. They could only move toward the resolution that had been planned for their collective stories. If you should decide that you need to be a part of the restoration and involved in composing the story of sub-Saharan Africa, you are a part of something bigger than our own individual desires, and you have the opportunity to be caught up in a movement that will bring restoration, life and water to places around the world where 9,800 die every day without them. If you’ve been a part of the 40 Days movement from the beginning and have stuck with it, firstly I need to offer some congratulations. We’ve entered into something bigger than we can imagine, and I don’t mean “we” as in me the writer and you the reader. By “we” I mean the community of people who are embracing the bigger story God is telling in and through us about bringing clean water to the Ugandan people and those in other countries in Africa.
30 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 31
photo credit (above): Darren Calhoun
ANDREW MARIN SPEAKS CHARLES PETERS
If you were to walk through Chicago, provided you had the nerve, and found yourself on N. Halstead Street you would’ve just entered a neighborhood called, Boystown. Lined with gay bars and buildings flying rainbow flags it becomes obvious that you’ve entered into a neighborhood that’s home to 290,000 LGBT people; making that neighborhood one the largest concentrations in the country of gay people. Now should a group of people walk past you it wouldn’t not be uncommon to see men openly effeminate and a tall woman who is likely a man. You might even see a Cubs fan lost from Wrigley Field, walking with his girlfriend hand-in-hand trying to reaffirm his masculinity here.
32 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
You would probably see, if you kept walking a mile or more, into a more up and coming section of Boystown, a place where twenty & thirty-somethings flock to start their adult lives. Eventually you would hit Clark Street, a sea of eceltic restaurants and resale stores, making it the hipster hub of this neighborhood. Around the corner is N. Ashland Street and the Marin Foundation. Within a three mile span around the Marin Foundation there sex shops, dildo stores and adult bookstores interwoven in the fabric of this established community. Founded in 2005, Andrew Marin began his work to build bridges between this distinctively gay community and the evangelical one he had been raised. Marin’s ultimate goal is to build this bridge because not years before he founded the Marin Foundation these two worlds collapsed in on each other and Marin found himself in the middle. He shared with me the quite a bit about how he got to where he is now and he’s responded to all the criticism.
WHERE DID THIS WHO THING START? THE JOURNEY, THE MARIN FOUNDATION, I MEAN. The Marin Foundation was never really a plan; it was just something that happened over time. The summer after my freshman year in college my three best friends all came out to me in three consecutive months. It became clearly apparent to me during this time that the Church is wonderful at telling their
people what to theologically think, feel and believe but horrible at providing any framework for follow-up and follow-through. When my best friends came out to me, I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do with what I had been taught my whole life in relation to those I love more than any other. So I took the easy way out. I cut ties with them and tried to move on. That didn’t work out so well because over the course of one decision on my part, there was a gapping hole in my heart and life where my best friends still occupied. I prayed. A lot. I read the Bible. I read every book on faith and homosexuality that I could get my hands on. I tried everything I could to get a grasp on what just happened. But nothing seemed to make anything more clear. The more I prayed the less I heard from God. The more books I read on faith and homosexuality the more I realized they were of no help. Each of them were trying to convince me that I should either be pro-gay or I should be anti-gay; and if I wasn’t either one of them I didn’t deserve to be involved in this cross-section of life. The difficult part for me was that I didn’t want to be convinced of anything. All I wanted was to, as naive as it sounds, learn to love my best friends. Instead all I got was a bunch of bitter people from both communities spewing their culture war baggage onto me. Months of frustrating confusion passed for me. And God forbid I even thought about what my best friends must have been going through during that time as well! Then one night while I was sitting alone in my dorm room about 2am I started to pray. I started to cry. I had about given up on trying to keep searching for anything else when I remember hearing in my spirit the Lord saying: “Andrew, instead of asking ‘why’, ask yourself what it must have been like for your best friends to grow up with you calling them fag and gay year after year?” That was the exact amount of truth-seeking, forceful convicting talk I had been looking for the whole time. That morning I called my best friends and asked them to get together. The subsequent meeting was one of the most eye-opening, apology filled, difficult conversations I ever had. I’ll still never forget what one of my best friends said to me after I had just apologetically
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 33
unleashed every last gay stereotype I possibly could. She said: “How are you [Andrew] supposed to know anything different when you’ve only been taught one thing your entire life?” No, no, no! At this moment she was heaping loads and loads of grace upon me in the exact moment that she should have been holding what I’ve said and done over my head. My best friends and I knew at that moment our lives were never going to be the same. Shortly after I started immersing myself into Boystown, the gay neighborhood of Chicago, with my best friends. My goal back then was to just shut my mouth, and listen and learn. Four, five, six nights a week I would go to everything gay I possible could. Gay bars and clubs, gay events, gay organizations and gay churches... For the first time in my life I was ever humbled. I was humbled because I realized that the majority of their pain was caused by people like me - people at the top of the cultural hierarchal food chain (straight, white, [alpha]male, evangelical) not looking past my own position of privilege and power. My heart broke over and over and over again. Without anyone in the neighborhood knowing it, they daily turned the mirror back upon myself by loving me more than I could ever have loved them. They didn’t care if I was fat or skinny or rich or poor or had pimples all over my face. They just wanted to show the love that they wanted to receive. After five years of trying to learn how to live and love as a straight, white, evangelical, pretty homophobic man in the middle of the only gay incorporated neighborhood in the United States of America, The Marin Foundation was birthed. It was time, with a foot in my old community and one in my new, to move forward to put tangible applications to a new medium of engagement between the LGBT and religious communities. Our goal was, and still is today, to provide that framework for follow-up and follow-through that I so longingly searched for those desperate, self-absorbed months in the wilderness of faith and sexuality in our culture today.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE IMMERSING YOURSELF INTO LGBT CULTURE FROM THAT TYPE OF BACKGROUND AND CONFUSION? Just imagine a legitimate Bible-banging homophobe who was on an athletic scholarship to play Division I baseball moving into the middle of a one square mile radius neighborhood on the North Side of the city of Chicago that has about 100,000 people; 89% of which are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Jammed in this one square mile radius are over 60 gay bars, clubs, sex shops, strip joints, LGBT themed stores, and the second largest bathhouse in the country that’s the second largest LGBT center in the country. Oh, and the main street in Boystown is lined with dozens of two story tall street poles that have rainbow flags (that light up at night) embedded in the middle of them. Let’s just say those beginning months were quite overwhelming and intense. These days, I’ve been there ten years and I see this as my neighborhood, and the neighborhood sees me as a part of theirs. It’s a special relationship we have, but it’s something that took a lot of work on both our parts; especially in those early years. It’s almost as though we looked at each other as some type of extraterrestrial species. But with each of us knowing that neither of us were going anywhere we individually and corporately committed to each other that we were going to learn what it means to live in the tension that inherently comes with being in close proximity. Looking back over these ten years it’s amazing to see what happens when opposite entities intentionally live in a place where reconciliation isn’t about believing the exact same things, but rather live in what it means to dignify each other’s stories and experiences as legitimate to them. I’ve come to realize that there is no better starting point.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN? DID YOU FIND ANYTHING DISTASTEFUL? There have been many lessons I’ve learned. You have to understand though, that Boystown is a very unique
34 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
place in that it is a large, very gay-specific in your spirit the principles of Jesus and your neighborhood. Much of the LGBT community understanding of faithful living become much across the country doesn’t live in Castro in San more real. Francisco or on Christopher Street in New York City or in Boystown in Chicago. Thus, many HOW DID THAT EXPERIENCE CHANGE THE WAY YOU of the experiences that I have in the neighborhood don’t usually happen in any random town LOOK AT THE TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH? SCRIPa LGBT person might live in. For instance, every TURE? Friday night a club in the neighborhood has a really well attended Lube WresThe more time I lived in Boystling night. Then every Saturday town the more I clearly realized night another club has an equalWHAT THE CHRISTIAN TALKING HEADS IN a very troubling reality. This ly well-attended Shower Contest THE MEDIA WERE COMMUNICATING ABOUT reality not only greatly bothered night. Every Tuesday night is a me but greatly bothered all of world-renown drag show that THE CHURCH AND THE LGBT COMMUNITY my LGBT friends as well: attracts visitors from all over the WAS A LIE. I MEAN, IT WASN’T EVEN CLOSE globe. Two blocks from where What the Christian talking I live is an S&M bondage club, TO REALITY. IN THE SAME VEIN, WHAT THE heads in the media were comdown the street is a not-soLGBT TALKING HEADS IN THE MEDIA WERE municating about the church secret underground ‘back room’ and the LGBT community was where people pay for orgies and COMMUNICATING ABOUT THEIR OWN LGBT a lie. I mean, it wasn’t even close the most “unique” of fetishes, COMMUNITY WAS A LIE AS WELL. ONCE to reality. In the same vein, what and around the corner is one of the LGBT talking heads in the the most well respected HIV/ AGAIN, NOT EVEN CLOSE TO REALITY. media were communicating AIDS clinics in the country. about their own LGBT community was a lie as well. Once Just as any major metropolitan city, I can sensaagain, not even close to reality. tionalize any part of the neighborhood to make it sound any way I want others to perceive it. But Let me explain. The Christian talking heads the soul of Boystown isn’t just scandalous-ness. continued to disseminate a message that LGBT There are a number of LGBT churches in our people weren’t raised in church: that they boarders; great restaurants, spas, grocery stores, weren’t related to any of our thought, doctrine gas stations, banks, salons and any number of or practice. That they decided one day to be normalized places that make up the culture of a gay and that because of that decision, can also local community. Though those things are hard decide to be straight again. And if they didn’t to grasp for visitors (which Boystown is one of decided to be straight again they were without a the most desirable LGBT destinations around doubt condemned to hell and a part of a people the world - with millions of visitors every year) group Christians should not even associate with. or for people who don’t actually live in the Moreover, that Christians should take a stand neighborhood but come to view it as a spectacle. and fight against anyone not like ourselves, fight Yet that’s the beauty of incarnational living and those we deem who are ‘undermining’ our faith, learning. What others view and generalize as life and policy, then fight some more because surface, those living in and committed to Boysat the end of the day, those LGBT people want town know, and see, so much more than anyone nothing to do with us. The LGBT talking heads, from the outside can wrap their minds around. then, disseminated a message that said as soon What breaks the heart of the community breaks as a person realized they had a same-sex attracmine - because at some small level, they have tion they automatically came-out and loved bebecome me. And once you get to that place ing gay. When they came-out they automatically www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 35
then joined the fight against Christians, conservatives and Republicans and loved every minute of their new out-and-proud-gay-activist-life. And they never, ever looked back. The irrevocable damage done by both is something that my, and your, generations are now trying to pick up the pieces of destruction. Those Christian talking heads modeled for a generation what it meant to claim the name of Jesus and live the exact opposite. They modeled what it meant to create, instill and sustain hierarchal cultural and church paradigms that made some of those created in God’s image better- or less-than; more deserving to be loved and less deserving to be loved. They created the mega-church, the rise of public denominational fighting and the monetization of our faith. What happened because of it? That people group after people group clearly knew they didn’t ever belong in the body of Christ. With the LGBT community more than any other. Because of their teachings, it left at least two generations of (straight) young Christians lost and confused on what to do. The church didn’t give us any framework for follow-up and follow-through with our ever-present LGBT friends, family members and co-workers. But believe me, the church was sure wonderful at telling us what we needed to think, feel and believe about
Marin is the author of the awarding book, Love is an Orientation.
homosexuality. And then the LGBT talking heads left at least two generations of young people first realizing their same-sex attraction without any hope to journey to full social, cultural and religious acculturation. Instead, LGBT person after person has told me over the years that they felt a clearly named pressure to tote the party line and fall in line with what was being demanded of them. So they did, and left behind an ability to seek their own fully acculturated self. Instead, their life, journey and identity had already been decided for them. And just as it has left a number of straight Christians angry by having their ability to seek God and others together, so has it left a number of LGBT people (Christian and not) angry in the same light. We were all robbed of something special, and today we’re left trying to work out a culture war that has been given to us, and is being continued on by those same older-generation conservatives and LGBTs who are trying their hardest to suck in newer generations of, again, unknowing young people. But when it comes to media and cultural engagement, perception is reality, isn’t it? It seemed (and still continues to seem) as though if each group of people continues to uniformly pronounce the same message over and over and over again, everyone in the mainstream (whether church or LGBT or those in the mainstream not necessarily associated with either group) would take their words, thoughts and commentary as truth. In this situation, ‘truth’ is being defined as ‘most commonly accepted’ as opposed to ‘actual fact.’ The worst part is that is the normal medium of engagement in our culture today, and it is something that The Marin Foundation is concentrating very heavily on to fix today, and irrevocably change from here on out. If there is one main lesson I’ve learned about Scripture over the last 10 years being in Boystown it’s the utter importance of focusing on Kingdom Principles - those principles throughout the breathe of Scripture that are transcultural, transgenerational and applicable to all people in all places in all times. Focusing on such Kingdom Principles allows us to take major, minor, poignant or broad themes from the days of the Bible and apply them with precision today in such a way that will, just as in Bible times, produce outcomes that establish heaven here on earth. A major underlying theme in my book is this issue, so I won’t rehash it
36 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
all here. A few thoughts though: The freeness people feel to proof text has got to stop. The freeness people feel to reference multiple versions, or their version, of a historical cultural context to prove their point right has got to stop. We can go on in that circular fashion forever and corporately for the church and broader culture, does nobody, in any time or place any good. Thus, the more we can focus on Kingdom Principles the more the Bible becomes a tool for living in the tension of a Jesus-centered reconciliation over an easily constructed paradigm of us/them.
ARE THERE ANY STORIES FROM THAT TIME THAT STILL DRIVE WHAT YOU’RE DOING WITH MARIN FOUNDATION? There are dozens of stories that I can never overestimate their eternal impact in my life and the course of The Marin Foundation, which I wrote about in my book. So many people from all of the different shades that compromise faith and sexuality in our culture have irrevocably changed not only my life, but continue to shape the work of The Marin Foundation.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU DOING IN THE MARIN FOUNDATION? IF YOU HAD TO BOIL IT DOWN TO ONE SENTENCE.
the Lord that I strive to emulate each day of my life. And more than any other, as cheesy and expected as it might sound, the unchanging God of heaven and earth, of all creation, through Jesus, the on-going work of the Holy Spirit and God’s holy Word has empowered me, compelled me and thrust me to live a faith actually worth living.
WHAT KIND OF BACKLASH HAVE YOU GOTTEN FROM EVERYTHING YOU DO THE FOUNDATION? The backlash has been unbearable at times. If I’m being honest, the backlash has been unbearable most of the time. The nastiness that I have received from all across the globe has been something I’ve never expected. From literal mailed death threats in my mail box outside my condo in Chicago to a 51-page critique written about me by a theologian to getting asked to not return to my own seminary to friends closest to me turn their back on me when I needed them the most to being lied about in the national media by liberal activists to an inbox full of insults from conservatives and LGBTs to random blogs dragging my wife into posts making fun of our infertility issues to a general session at a Christian conference overseas devoted to “exposing Andrew Marin”. I feel I’ve seen it all. It’s crazy. I mean it’s literally freaking crazy. But
The Marin Foundation builds bridges between the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and religious communities through biblical and social education, scientific research and diverse community gatherings.
IS THERE ARE FIGURE ALIVE TODAY WHO INFLUENCES YOU? ALBEIT AN ARTIST, SPEAKER, THEOLOGIAN, POLITICAL LEADER ETC. From as far back as I remember I’ve never been one to have any heroes, sports figures or otherwise. So it’s really been those closest to me that have influenced me the most throughout my life. My Grandma and Grandpa have modeled for me what faithfulness to the Lord throughout life’s twists and turns, ups and downs, looks like; and my Mom and Dad have modeled for me an unconditional love and depth for
Marin and his wife, Brenda at a book signing at NSU.
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 37
the most powerful part is that 9 out of every 10 bits of feedback I receive is life giving, life changing stuff that makes all the hate-filled crap worth it. The main lesson I’ve learned is that those who bring peace and reconciliation are the ones who are always met with the most violence. The prophets. John the Baptist. Jesus. Ghandi. Martin Luther King Jr. Benazir Bhutto. And a number of others whose names we’ll never know. That is good enough company for me.
HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT LEVEL OF CRITICISM? I cry a lot. For real, I have a quick water-works trigger behind closed doors. Beyond my tears I pick myself up every time and respond to my critics. It’s funny because every single one of my “famous” friends, whether in politics, international government, the CEO of a Fortune 100 company or well known speakers or authors, they all tell me the exact same thing: Don’t respond to your critics because if you do you’re just adding fuel and validity to their lies and waists your time because the critics won’t listen anyway. I tried that for a while, and my personality just couldn’t do it. I hit a period about a year and a half ago where I was really struggling with my critics. I was reading the Bible one day and I noticed a certain trend - Jesus responded to his critics every single time except for one brief moment to the high priest in Matthew 26:60-64. Think about that... Jesus knew his critics would never listen to him. He knew they would never be on his side. He knew they would never believe in him, his words, his miracles or the example he set. Yet, Jesus continued to respond anyway. This challenged me so much because it made me wonder why my “famous” friends all told me the exact same message? Now I know my famous friends love the Lord and I’m not making a judgment statement on them, but taking the easy way out doesn’t sit well for me. Thus, if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me. I’ll keep responding! Much love!
WHAT IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS HAS BEEN A SHIFT IN THE EVANGELICAL POSITION TOWARD HOMOSEXUALITY? BOTH POSITIVELY AND NEGATIVELY. I don’t see much theological shift within conservative
evangelicalism (Southern Baptist, Assembly of God, etc) but quite a lot of theological shift within more progressive evangelical denominations (ELCA, UCC, UMC, Emergent Church, etc). What The Marin Foundation is doing is not trying to convince churches and denominations to believe something they don’t believe, but rather work within their metric and the framework they present us, helping them become the most peaceful and productive bridge builders for the Kingdom that they can possibly be within their theological understanding. That ethos has allowed The Marin Foundation the ability to work one-on-one with hundreds of churches from the US to the UK to Europe from over two dozen different denominations from the far left to the far right. Beyond the theological aspect, I have seen a dramatic shift in the conservative world to start being open and honest about their mistakes, and willingness to start listening, learning and engaging the LGBT community. It might not be fast enough for some, but from my perspective, there is no better place to begin a new bridge building life and journey.
ARE YOU STILL COMMITTED TO THE ORIGINAL VISION MARIN FOUNDATION HAD OR HAS IT MORPHED AND LIKEWISE ARE YOU STILL MOTIVATED BY THE SAME THINGS? The core of our message, who we are and what we’re all about hasn’t changed at all. The Marin Foundation team and those connected with us are a people shaped by bold individuals of reconciliation; whose orientation is one of love; who live in the tension and refuse to allow hate, disagreements or past experiences cause division in any community.
If you want to find out more about Andrew Marin visit www.loveisanorientation.com and for more information about the Marin Foundation visit www.themarinfoundation.org
38 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 39
REVIEWS There’s not much diversity in the songs here. They’re all pretty much optimistic sounding lo-fi tunes that came from 1997. Aside from the closing song “Hosanna in the Forest” it’s hard to tell whether this was an exhibition of how long you could drunkenly rock out with an acoustic guitar; which isn’t all a bad thing. A lot of these songs I feel like wouldn’t have been to out of place if Neutral Milk Hotel ever made a third record (that’s old-fashioned indie rock blasphemy right there, take it all in). Highlights include: “Complimentary Dismemberment Insurance”, “Grow Up”, “But I Don’t Wanna Sing About Guitars” and “Hosanna in the Forest”
BEST OF GLOUCESTER COUNTY DANIELSON Sounds Familyre Records Release Date: 22 Feb 11
Confession time: before last month I had never heard a Danielson song. Now all the hipsters can prepare their shanks from Urban Outfitters can storm the streets and strangle me with a bandana. But this album came across my radar and I wasn’t passing it up. Now if you’ve ever wondered what would happen if John Darnielle (from the Mountain Goats) and Black Francis (from the Pixies) got into a battle rap or bar fight, here’s eleven songs that will fulfill that fantasy. Best of Gloucester County is the first album in five years from these indie-pop lo-fi scumbags from South Jersey.
From what I’ve been told their last record Ships was a lot more ambitious than this disc; and if it is you want a copy of it.
40 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
REVIEWS A few tunes (namely the first three tracks) are examples of Vig’s production style with vocal double tracking and heavily overdubbed guitars. He brings a focus to these songs that we haven’t had since the mid-90s. It’s pretty straight forward: rock, loud, ballsy, no ballads. The single “Rope” and “White Limo” are the best examples of this type of straight-forwardness. It’s like a variation on the title track from In Your Honor but slightly more lyrical and somewhat heavier. Now like other Foo records this record has a lot of guests that seem like the Make-A-Wish foundation people were involved somehow. Bob Mould from Hüsker Dü, Fee Waybill from the Tubes, Krist Novoselic from Nirvana. All these cameos make for some interesting songs. One thing I love about the Foo Fighters is that every time they find themselves in the company of rock royalty they setup their game and actually perform better. Albeit Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Roger Taylor, Brian May, Lemmy Kilmister or Roger Daultry the Foo Fighters couldn’t stand to disappoint their childhood heroes.
WASTING LIGHT FOO FIGHTERS
RCA Records Release Date: 12 April 11 Wasting Light is the Foo Fighters first proper studio RCA album in four long years. This record is a reunion of sorts, Dave Grohl working with Butch Vig (Vig is celebrated for his production of Nirvana’s Nevermind in 1991) on the production. It’s been twenty years and Grohl and Vig still work together well and manage to churn out something just as heavy and thick. Although this collaboration probably won’t be as iconic as Nevermind, it’s hard to deny that Wasting Light is fantastic. The songs at first are intense, critics have been trying to downplay this as borrowing the Queens of Stone Age. but they’re off by a mile. The song styling is tight, lyrically eyebrow-raising and furious with a gambit of collaborations with punk legends.
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 41
REVIEWS that, he doesn’t really want to make us one and he’s had to kill that idea completely. This travels through a documentary of that struggle of songwriter vs. beat and craftsman vs. crowd-pleasing. At the end, Simon comes out a winner. There’s a lot of tunes like “The Afterlife” and “Rewrite” where he’s just being a little more naked as a writer and addressing questions of success, reception from the view of the grave in very upbeat fashions that can only come from the heyday of mid-70s.
SO BEAUTIFUL SO WHAT PAUL SIMON Hear Music Release Date: 8 April 11
I’ve spent all weekend with So Beautiful or So What and it’s not full of stock tricks or half-assed lyrics and I’ve been following this man since I was a small child. In my room you can even find Paul Simon unopened on vinyl waiting for me to by a real record player that my father bought back in 1972. So Beautiful or So What is Paul Simon’s attempt to chase away some old ghosts of songwriting and to travel to find a new home to lay his sonic head on at night. The album opens with a roaring Christmas anthem “Getting Ready for Christmas Day” (which honestly doesn’t feel out of place to listen to in April) and opens the door to some existential and rhythmic ghosts that have been chasing simon since Graceland. I promise you friends we won’t get another album like
But the songwriting itself shakes hands with some old rhymes from the last Simon & Garfunkel record. But it’s a shake goodbye. Paul is sending out his old song-stylings with both a bitter struggle and a grand exhibition. On the song “Dazzling Blue” Simon shows he can write a pop song with an Afro-pop drum that isn’t like flat Diet Coke. It’s actually the most striking celebration of life and the universe he’s come out with since “Kodachrome’ in 1973. For me “Dazzling Blue” is a kiss on the cheek of the universe. I’m more than a little shaken by the Graceland sound on “Love is Eternal Sacred Light” but the context isn’t that same anymore, he isn’t middle-aged looking for redemption from a bitter divorce, he’s at the latter half of his life a conqueror of loss and heartache. In the closing track, which is also the title track, he sings about our ignorance through the death of MLK and he ushers a chorus of “like a pair of rolling dice so beautiful, so beautiful so what.” It’s thick, heavy sermon to his romance of people pleasing art. “Love and Blessings” is a more of a Rolling Stones riff that Paul Simon got his aging Newark hands on, took a prayer and started singing of prophets, science and song. It’s not a simple pop song like “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” even on par with “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, those songs stand in this song’s shadow. All that to say, he’s not just pulling out the same old
42 | HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net
REVIEWS tricks just to keep moving, this is a record of shakedowns, fits at a typewriter/piano, winding prayers and seas of deeper lyrics. It’s beautiful and perfect. It’s not Graceland. It’s not Songs from the Capeman. It feels like if his record Surprise got worlds more introspective; stunning and highly recommended.
RECOMMENDED: WE DO WHAT WE WANT EMERY Tooth & Nail/Solid State Release Date: 29 March 11
CREDITS and ACCOLADES Layout, Editting, Paginating, Design, Feature Pieces: Charles Peters Designs, Pictures, Fonts, Encouragement, Elbow’s Build a Rocket Boys! (the perfect soundtrack to learn inDesign with) and Support Provided by Ryan Byrd and his wife Christen Byrd and Eikon Church. Writing and Editting Staff: Jennifer Rose, Joshua Hanssen, Jessica Belt Hipp, Zach Becker Photography: Caitlin Elliott, Ike Lacey, Jonathan Gillette, Darren Calhoun Cover Photo: Darren Calhoun
HERETIC PRESS WOULD LIKE TO THANK, JUSTIN LEE, ANDREW MARIN & THE MARIN FOUNDATION, DARREN CALHOUN, JOSH HANSSEN, MEND MARK, THE PETERS FAMILY AND EVERYONE WHO HELPED AND SUPPORTED THIS PUBLICATION.
www.charlespeters.net | HERETIC PRESS | 43
CHARLES PETERS, 20, FROM HARRISBURG, PA, IS A FREELANCE RELIGION WRITER AND MUSIC CRITIC WHO HAS WORKED FOR PATROL MAGAZINE, THECHRISTIANMANIFESTO.COM AND OTHERS. CHARLES IS PART TIME FICTION WRITER WORKING ON HIS FORTHCOMING NOVEL ASBURY PARK REVISITED. HE IS ALSO AN ADVOCATE OF HIV/ AIDS AWARNESS, GAY RIGHTS AND CLEAN WATER MISSIONS. CHARLES IS CURRENTLY AND UNDERGRAD AT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY IN LYNCHBURG, VA.
HERETIC PRESS | www.charlespeters.net