Sunday, January 26, 2014

God is above culture


I've been doing some pretty intense Bible study this past week, and I've learned a lot.

One of my favorite things about the Bible is how it gives us a glimpse of what society looked like thousands of years ago. The historical aspect of it is so cool. 

One thing we can infer from reading is that it was very clearly a patriarchal world. Women were seen as lesser beings, and gender roles were VERY important. Here are some examples:

1 Timothy 2:11
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

1 Corinthians 11:9
Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man.  

Ephesians 5:22-24
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 
 
1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.

Believe it or not, these verses are still used to silence women today. (If you don't believe me, read Pastrix  by Nadia Bolz-Weber).

This all seems a little silly, right? I think it probably made sense at the time.

Let’s talk about the author of these verses: Paul. He wrote most of the New Testament and was a self-identified “servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ.” 

Paul was an expert on Judaism. I think God knew what He was doing when He chose Paul to be a sort of "middle man." What do I mean by middle man? I’ll explain: On the one hand, it's important for Christians to be separate from the rest of the world (IN the world, not of it, right?) But on the other hand, we are still in the world of man and we are expected to behave in a respectful and honorable way.

Of course Paul would say women must cover their heads (1 Corinthians 11:6), because in that time period a woman whose head was uncovered was seen as someone who is sexually promiscuous and unfaithful to her husband. Is that how Christians should be perceived? Paul didn't want God's people breaking cultural laws or being offensive.

He says in Titus 3:1
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work. 

That makes sense to me, but how do we know the passages about women were cultural, not God's holy commandment that we should follow for the rest of time?

One thing that helps me interpret confusing Bible passages is to do a little investigating and see what Jesus himself thinks. Isn't that the only thing we should be worried about in the first place?

Here's what I found: 

Even though, according to Paul, women should act and be treated in a certain way based on societal norms, Jesus didn't seem to care about that at all. He never treated women any differently from men. In fact, some of God's best workers were women. In the New Testament you see women hosting churches, prophesying, and serving Jesus. In the beginning of Acts you see women alongside men speaking in tongues. That seems pretty important right? It's almost like men and women are equal in God's eyes.


In Leviticus (the same book where people find verses to condemn gay relationships) it says many things about women on their periods. It talks about their unclean discharge, how you shouldn't touch them when they're menstruating, and lots of other gross words. It goes so far as to say that when you touch something a menstruating woman sits on, you are unclean until evening (even if you wash yourself). (Leviticus 15:19-24)

So that seems like a pretty big deal. But wait:

Luke 8:43-46
And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 

If you go on to read, you see that Jesus is very pleased about her being healed. He couldn’t even HELP healing this woman. It happened before he even knew she was unclean, or ostracized, or even that she was a woman at all! Because she believed and reached out to him, he healed her.

So it seems like God is less concerned with the present culture of the day, and  more concerned with matters of the heart. I guess that’s why He gives us people like Paul.

Because this blog is about being gay and a Christian, let's see how we can relate these topics.

Here’s an interesting fact: Paul, the man who wrote all of the passages regarding women, also wrote all of the New Testament verses that are used by Christians to condemn modern day gay relationships. 

Personally I don't think the Bible condemns homosexuality. I think it's much more complicated than people think once you  start digging in and getting into context. And remember, we are ALL reading translations and we are ALL influenced by our culture.

But lets say, hypothetically, the Bible DOES condemn homosexuality. How can someone be sure that Paul is not just speaking to the present culture? And if he was, does that even matter to Jesus?

I would love to hear your opinions.

I'll leave you all with MY main take away from all of this Bible study I've been doing:

God is above culture.  

Wait. Did you get that?

God is above culture.

God is above every category, sub category, denomination and box that we try to squeeze ourselves (and each other) into. God is not that limited. He loves all people, regardless of color, size, gender, and sexual orientation. When you aren't sure how to interpret something, I challenge you to err on the side of love and be the kind, welcoming Christian that God created you to be. 

Galatians 3:27-28
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with the Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female. For all of you are one in Christ.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Don't give up on us

As you all know, I wear two very different hats: The Christian hat and the gay hat.

God is in the process of teaching me how to wear both at the same time.

This is very important to me because I want to bridge the gap between my two families. I love you all and I'm tired of having to choose.

Ephesians 4:32
And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

So let me put on my Christian hat and say to my gay brothers and sisters:

Please don't give up on us (Christians). We are all doing our best to follow God and be open minded about things we've never had to think about. It's scary and we are only human. How Christians treat you does not reflect how God feels about you.

Now let me put on my gay hat and say to my Christian brothers and sisters:

Please don't give up on us (The gay community). Our hunger and need for God is no different from yours. Oftentimes we feel like you are slamming the door of God's grace on us. Whether you agree with us or not we, as humans, are all just a bunch of lousy sinners who want to know God and have God know us.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why you shouldn't listen to me

First of all, thank you so much for your wonderful encouragement so far. Starting this blog is something I've been wanting to do for a very long time but haven't felt brave enough until now.

The reason why I've been so hesitant is because I want to do right by all of you. Fitting into the Christian world as a gay person is like fitting a square object into an oval shaped hole. The same goes for being a Christian in the gay world.

So here is my disclaimer:

Just because I have a fancy blog (that my mom helped me design) does not mean I have all the right answers.

And it definitely doesn't mean I want you to blindly agree with me.

Critical thinking is a practice that is slowly but surely going extinct.

What happened to good old fashioned doubt? Since when do our pastors and our leaders suddenly know all of the answers? Are they not also sinful human beings created by God just trying to do their best?

Before I go any further, I want to say this is not to discredit church or fellowship. Learning from each other is a beautiful and Biblical thing. I'm suggesting that it has gone too far. If I had any artistic talent whatsoever, I would draw the following sketch:

An entire congregation of Christian people bowing and praying to their pastor on stage. And God would be above with his arms raised saying, "WHAT THE HECK, YOU GUYS?"

Coming back to Christian culture after having been gone for awhile has really opened my eyes to some things that I think make God very sad. For example, we all have the Holy Spirit, right? And he's our teacher, right? So maybe we put too much stock in what other people say and don't listen to him ourselves like we should.

Hebrews 8:10-11

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

Why is it so hard for us to challenge ourselves and ask questions? I encourage you to take everything I say and assume I'm wrong. Do your own Bible study and prayer and ask God if he agrees with the things people are telling you.

God is big enough. God can handle it.

The most I can do is promise to be as brutally honest as I can be throughout this blog. I'll share every thing that God has laid on my heart to share with you all, but please please don't take my word for it.

I'm sure Paul was happy when people double-checked his teachings and went straight to God instead:
 
Acts 17:11

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

I guarantee every answer you and God come up with together will be far more comforting and convincing than anything I, or anyone else, could ever have to say.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Who I am

Hello friends,

Thank you for reading my blog! I hope that through my posts you find yourself challenged and comforted in all the right ways. I also hope you find my story as weird and interesting as I do:

For starters, my name is Missa Borah. I'm a 21 year old senior at Eastern Illinois University where I'm studying Political Science and minoring in journalism (because you can't minor in Netflix).

I've been gay my entire life, but only out for about six years. I'm also a Christian.

WHAT???

Yes, you heard that right. I'm a huge, walking oxymoron. But I've learned to be okay with that. I hope after reading my blog you'll see why and learn to be okay with it too.

Let's start at the beginning.

Growing up I tried to be exactly who God wanted me to be. I grew up listening to Adventures in Odyssey, going to VBS, and reading all of my Bible story books. As a young kid I always felt God's presence in my life, and a strong a sense of purpose. I couldn't wait to see how God was going to use me, and I was ready for anything! I feel like it's also relevant to note here that my mom home schooled me and my two siblings, so we were a very close family.

So what went wrong?

When I was 13 years old I remember a specific time (in the shower) when I thought to myself,  "It's so unfair that I have to marry a boy. I wish there was a thing where girls could marry each other..."

DING DING DING! I was gay. At first I was almost excited about it. Finally God was giving me my first real mission. I would battle this demon and I would win. I would be the perfect ex-gay child, and my story would reach millions! I remember telling God that I would do whatever it took to "fix" this.

The next few years were a blur of hiding in the closet while trying to stay as active in my faith as I possibly could. I found ex-gay websites, I read articles, I read my Bible, I prayed every day, I even got a boyfriend. But I was seeing absolutely no progress.

HELLO GOD? YOU STILL THERE? I'M STILL PRETTY GAY DOWN HERE!

I had done too much without even a sliver of hope. Even the ex-gay people I had read about or talked to said that every day was a constant struggle. So I was never going to be fixed?

Is this some kind of sick joke?

Suddenly all of those great things I envisioned myself doing for God were over. I was broken. Something had gone wrong, or I was too weak for God to ever use me. I was never going to be okay in God's eyes, and people, let alone Christians, were never going to listen to me or take me seriously.

So around my junior year of high school, after about three years of trying to "pray the gay away," I had the realization that I couldn't be both gay AND a Christian. I had to pick one. Because I obviously was never going to stop being gay, my choice was pretty clear. I immediately stopped going to church, stopped reading my Bible, stopped hanging out with my christian friends, and started living as an openly gay person. An openly gay, non-religious person. I was out to everyone but my parents.

This transition was hard, but I felt too betrayed by God to feel any remorse. Little did I know, this was the best thing that I could have done.

It took me stepping far, far away from the church, and the Christians, and the books, to really hear what God was trying to say to me the entire time. I was so focused on fixing my "problem" that I never even took the time to ask God if it was a problem in the first place.

After about a year of living my life as a gay ex-Christian, I started reading my bible and praying again. This time I did it without all of the distractions I had before. I'll share more about what God revealed to me in later posts, but basically I learned during that time that God had never intended for me to hate myself, he never intended for me to feel broken, or wrong, or gross. I was His child and He made me exactly the way I was, and He loved me even more for it.

Ok God, that's gonna go over GREAT with the church. I guess I had a lot of work to do.

I came out to my parents when I was 18, and while they were still stuck in their conservative Christian ideas, they were willing to work with me and learn more about this. We found the book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate by Justin Lee which was a huge game changer for my family. It was everything God had shown to me, but written out in an organized, beautiful way by an actual writer.

This book was a godsend. Through it my parents and I discovered an organization called The Gay Christian Network. Apparently there were more people out there like me! More people who were a living, breathing oxymoron. The organization holds a conference every year, so we immediately signed up to go.

It's hard for me to put into words the experience I had at the conference, but I am positive it was God's way of confirming all the things I thought He was saying:

"You still have a very important purpose. I'm not going to use you in spite of you being gay, I'm going to use you because you're gay."

I think sometimes the church does a great job of muffling God. We are all so convinced that we know exactly what the Bible is saying and what God wants that we forget to stop listening to each other and start listening to Him.

Thanks again for reading my blog. I pray that God can use me to be a voice for the hundreds of people who may be too scared to be the perfect, fabulous people God created them to be.