Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You Is Kind. You Is Smart. You Is Important. --Aibileen Clark

Nine days ago, I posted something a lot of people found worth reading.  (If you need to get caught up to speed, grab your glasses and a bowl of ice cream, and settle in for a long read HERE.)  Within the first few hours of posting it, I knew I was going to need to write a follow-up.
First, THANK YOU to everyone who read the piece.  There is always a certain amount of trepidation involved in posting something on the world wide interwebs--what if the wrong someone reads this?  Or worse, what if no one reads this?  The fact that ANYONE reads my blog is a miracle in my eyes.  We are all so busy, so involved, so scattered.  If you take the time to read my blog, that tells me that you care enough about what I have to say to spend your very limited time on me instead of something else.  It’s gut-wrenchingly humbling.
So, for those of you not in the blogging world, there is a way of tracking how many people are reading each post, the hit sources (i. e. link from FB, googled terms, etc.), and even what part of the world in which each reader resides.  To bring some perspective to last week’s piece, my average audience for each blog post is probably somewhere around 150-250.  How many hits I get is affected by the subject matter (re: not everyone cares to read the ones about being a mom), and especially by the timing of when I post.  People are much more likely to click and read on a Monday night than a Friday night for obvious reasons.
So, that said, about a year ago, I posted the first piece of a series of posts titled “It’s in the Bible.”  I commented on another blogger’s blog with a link to my own, and because this blogger has an astronomically large readership, I had some major traffic.  Over the last year, that post has had (as of today) 843 hits.  That number is inflated, though, because of the link to the other blog.  For someone who started a blog as a creative outlet and to make people laugh, that’s a pretty big deal.  I mean, when it comes down to it, I’m really just a mommy blogger in a world of professionals.
This post, “I Am a Christian, and I Do Not Tolerate Gay People,” had 839 hits in one week.  One week.  It’s the second highest read post out of all the pieces I’ve posted in a year and a half, and it got there in one week.
What this says to me is that there are a lot of people out there wanting to have this conversation.  Sure, the title is provocative, which I am positive brought some people to my blog, but the reality is that once people opened the link, they stayed for the read.  You know how I know they didn’t just see where I was going and dismiss it?  Because of the OVERWHELMING response.
People commented here.  People commented on my original post on FB.  People wrote on my wall when the post was buried by other things later in the week.  People sent me private messages and emails and texts.  People called me on my phone.  I tried my best to respond to everyone as best as I could.  My family, my closest friends, people I haven’t talked to in years but am friends with on FB.  Then, there are the strangers--so many strangers who have contacted me with responses.  I am most thankful for them because they are without bias in reference to me as a person and writer.  If a stranger tells me that I made him think, it means something different than when my dad says, “I love my daughter!”
The variety of responders was astounding.  People who identify themselves as followers of the "big five" (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism) were all represented, along with many people who identify themselves as secular humanists, agnostics, or atheists.  The age range, socioeconomic background, and racial make-up was all over the place, too.  And obviously, both gay and straight people responded.

One of my friends said it must be such a self-esteem booster to know that so many people are reading my blog, and I know what she means, but I am well-aware that less than a 1,000 hits on a blog does not a famous blogger make.

You know what makes me feel the best?  Without exception, the people who entered the dialogue kept the peace.  I worried one time when someone made some snide remarks on my FB post, but it didn’t elevate.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen ridiculous arguments on FB or on blogs or on internet news stories because people can hide behind a cloak of anonymity and shoot verbal daggers in an adult I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I match.  But that didn’t happen here.  People were kind.
People were kind.  And smart.  And everything that was communicated is important.
People were kind and smart in an arena where we could have very easily been brutal to one another.  It felt like a genuine conversation that I was happy to facilitate.  People had really intelligent, thoughtful, provocative (in a good way) things to say.  And they were kind.
I’ve said about as much as I want to say about this for now, but I want to share some of the responses I’ve received, so you can get an idea of what was happening on my end.  If there is a name in the response, it’s because it comes from a public response or the people gave me permission to use their names.  If it’s anonymous, I’m protecting the person or respecting his or her wish to remain anonymous.  I can’t post everything, so these are just a few of my favorites in the order in which I received them.
If you just can’t get enough of this conversation, take a look at the responses on the original blog post, too--especially the posts from the three women who disagree completely with what I had to say.  Even in their disagreeing, they were kind.  If you are tired of reading about this, then please just accept my deepest gratitude for taking a part in the conversation!

Update: the day after I posted this, the original post became the most read post of all time on my blog.  Hooray!

"You've got my support. Tho I'm chicken shit and I keep my opinions on this topic to myself. Glad there are some vocal people out there that aren't so quiet.” --Anonymous

“Thank you SO much for posting this. I feel like you said things that I've been thinking for a very long time and didn't quite know how to say it. I have no doubt that it took a lot of guts to put your true thoughts out there. I, along with many others I'm sure very much appreciate it.” --Danielle

“This was really great and made me think, Leia! It was very bold for you to share your thoughts on this in such a public medium, and I have much respect for that. I don't like how the church avoids discussing this and other "elephant sized" topics, and I'm a pastor! I don't often discuss the issue, but I think it mainly because I'm still working on it, ya know? Anyways, thanks for sharing your heart, Leia!” --Jacob

“I love your ability to be bold! And your conviction to share with others. We've talked at length about the downfalls of the church as well as some of the benefits. I still hope and pray everyday (yes, literally everyday) for a less judgmental world. And my true wish is that it would start in the church because I really believe that we as Christians should be an example of not only how to live but how to love. To love unconditionally is not only what I strive for daily but also what I strive to teach the children I work with. I grew up hearing a phrase repeated weekly, "If you love the Lord with all your heart say Amen. If you love one another say Amen. You can't do one without the other!". I desperately want to pass on this legacy.  Have you seen the movie For The Bible Tells Me So? If not, you should. I talked about love but the movie deals more directly with homosexuality.” --Janie

“Amen. Is that appropriate? ;) Didn't lose me as a friend...but you already knew that.” --Dan

“Thanks for sharing Leia! This is an issue close to my heart and I am always looking for Christian perspective on it. I am open to allowing the Holy Spirit to re-shape my ideas and opinions on things and I am eager to squash out any misconceptions that I may have picked up over the years in traditional Christian circles and though Christian education. I support you in your search for truth and I am proud of you for being open and honest about your thoughts!  As a fellow Christ-follower, my heart, at this point, does not resound with what you posted. How can it be that two people who love the Lord, respect scriptural authority and who desire to give the Holy Spirit full access to their mind and soul come to two different conclusions? That right there would be a fantastic blog post if you are ever up to it :)  In the mean time, I will join you in your quest to love. In your quest to know God and to have a heart that beats in unison with His.” --Jenna

“‎’and especially your choir benches!’ ... love it” --John

“...I used to have the same questions, and received vague answers. But then, as I was reading a Ted Dekker book, (he's awesome, BTW) I realized that as Christians we need to love more and scorn less. We need to love everyone the way Jesus loves us. Which, is hard, especially for the terrorists responsible for 9/11. But the pastor at church once said, "Jesus died for those terrorists just as much as He did for you or me." there's a perspective. So, I try to love everybody, who cares what their sexual preference is, as long as it isn't kids because then I'd have to shoot them, Jesus loves us all.” --Amanda

“‎‘I think the reason this issue is so divisive is that many people feel conflicted when they are told one thing, but their spirit tells them something different.’  When I read this my heart sighed because you put into words what I've felt for a long time. Great post Leia- I hope you don't mind if I pass it along to others that are struggling with this issue.” --Kristen

“Well, Leia, it's your old grad-school dyke friend, and I've read your post and all the comments. I, too, am amazed at the fascination you breeders seem to have about gay sex! Here's a question: I'm currently single, not engaging in lesbian sex, but I'm still a lesbian, so am I sinning? As you know, I'm a Secular Humanist, so the struggle Christians have with accepting homosexuality doesn't make sense to me. I grew up in a Christian church and have studied religion extensively, including evidence that Ruth and Naomi were a couple, as well as Daniel and ... oh shit, I forgot his name. There is also strong evidence to suggest that many anti-gay scriptures were mistranslated by King James's biblical authors for political reasons; he was bisexual, and since they hated him, they decided to attack his sexual behavior by inserting a couple of not-so-supportive lines in Leviticus. I don't know or care if any of this is true. What I do care about is finding the rare Christian who "gets it" -- and that is you, Leia. I knew that 7 years ago, which is why we became friends. Jesus is credited with saying, "Above all, let love guide you." And I do like I Corinthians, Chapter 13. I don't exactly understand why this post was so emotional for you, or so difficult, but since it was, I thank you for doing it. I don't solicit, need, want, expect, or care about gaining acceptance for my identity from closed-minded, ignorant, uneducated people. But when I witness someone of any faith or lack thereof attempting to spread tolerance and love, it touches me. So may the universe bless you. And btw, 30% of all seagulls are gay.” --Kerri

“I just finished your post. And I'm pretty much in agreement with you, only I got there with lot less research. Seems to me that there is no point-system for sin. So being gay, if it is sinful, is on par with all the ones I'm guilty of on a daily basis. Not to mention that being the type of hateful anti-gay that appears too often from misguided Christians is counter to what I think is Jesus' main point - to love God and love your neighbor.  The contradiction is so irritating to me. From the people I know that are like this (my dad) it seems to come from fear and ignorance. Fear of the unknown and those that are different. And an ignorance to keep them from having an open mind.  Now if you want to turn this semi-political, I also find it hypocritical that these seem to be the same people who are radical right wingers. So, they don't want the gov't telling them anything, controlling anything, or forcing anything on them. But they can't wait to get prayer back into public schools, forced doctor's visits before abortions, etc. Insanity.” --Anonymous

“I don't know if everyone has one of those moments where the questions that had been dwindling in the back of their minds are finally allowed to break free and cause a frantic rush to consult one's bible, but I remember mine. It was in sixth grade and I had just fallen deeply, madly in love with geology. I GOT geology. It made sense to me. It was concrete, real, and in the sixth grade at least didn't involve a great deal of math, even then my archnemesis. Our teacher was discussing the age of Earth and one of my Evangelical friends stood up and announced that Earth couldn't possibly be over 4 billion years old because the bible says it's only about 6000 years old. I wanted so much to agree with her, because I was of course a good little Catholic, and we Catholics are nothing if not set in tradition, but something about it just refused to sit right with me. I got out my bible later and tried to figure out where this 6000 years thing came from, but neither my patience nor my understanding would allow me to do so. I decided then and there to believe that Earth was over 4 billion years old, because science could explain it to me in ways that the bible could not...[This response was 4,000+ words, so I edited it down, not because it wasn't all great, but because it would have been three times longer than my post!]... I'm certain the town of just over 300 people I grew up in has gay people. I know about my dad's best friend's sister. And possibly our Church's organist. And maybe that one kid. And my friend's dad. There are others, certainly. People I don't know about it because they're not ready to let it be known or because they're ashamed to admit it or because it's none of my damn business in the first place. But in towns of just over 300 people, it's NOT something you talk about. Brian knew this about me. And he chose to tell me anyway. I felt closer to him at that moment than I had ever felt before during all our discussions of life and the universe and whatever other deep things teenagers feel the need to discuss. And not once, not ever, did I think that Brian had chosen to be that way. And if it wasn't a choice, then he was made that way, and who was I to argue with the way God had made him...I didn't get the title of your post until I read through t the end. Then I understood and appreciated it. Thank you for being brave enough to say it.” --Marly

“One of the reasons I left my church was because of this issue. I can see your points better then the theologians who where trying to "teach" me. I am asked by God to question my leaders, I guess most churches forget that. Thank you for being an inspiration to everyone who reads your blog, even if they don't want to admit it.” --Anonymous

“I know we barely know each other, other than mutual friends, but I wanted to thank you for that blog post. What a powerful and bold statement you are making.  I serve on the **** GLBT Anti-Harassment **** (we counselor and provide resources to students who have been attacked, been discriminated against, or have been targeted because of their orientation), and we recently talked about the idea of allies. One point that I feel is so incredibly important, is that I, as a gay man, can defend GLBT people all day - it makes sense, I care about my community. Consequently, when straight individuals do the same gesture, it means so much more.. you're fighting a battle, pioneering in some aspects, that is outside of your zone.. and it means all the world to me. Thank you again. I mean it. Thank you.” --Anonymous

“So I'm still recovering from years of spiritual oppression and evangelical abuse...so I still "hide." But I'm with you on your latest blog.  And I also don't think anyone is going to hell. And Mark Driscoll is pretty much Satan. Now you know. Don't tell anyone.” --Anonymous 

“The Bible is an amazingly complex book that has been gifted to us as a guide to knowing and understanding God. However, it is just that. We have elevated the Bible so that it is now a part of what I refer to as the Quadrinity, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and the Book. We have cast off the right of the Holy Spirit to guide the conviction of what is, or is not, sin and placed all our hope in something static and textual. The sacred scriptures were not intended for static reading. They were not intended as a replacement for that which was breathed upon mankind during Pentecost. When we find ourselves at odds, in the grand scheme of socio-evolution, with things the bible says, I say it is because God is bigger than the pages of a book, and that which is written within its pages. God made man in His image, with a heart and a brain, and a kindred spirit in the humanity of Christ, and a guiding force in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The bible is a rich and glorious text that tells us how others have found and seen God, and is a workbook for how we can, also. It gives us accounts of others who have encountered similar hardships, similar victories. It gives us a written account of the life of Christ. But lest we become strayed into making the Bible a deity, might I remind that before the first written Gospel (Mark), some 40 years after Christ's resurrection, there was the kerygma, the oral testimony of Christ's work. It was no less profound and no less true than that which was written. Paul, I believe, in his ultimate humility at the end of his life, is rolling in his grave to see the letters he wrote to assist the burgeoning body of the church be elevated to a status higher than the Holy Spirit. And that is what we have done. We have taken the written words of the Bible and made them God. Every living person on this earth was created with the ability to be led by the Holy Spirit. Using the Bible as a condemnatory force is counterproductive to the greater message of Christ. As was mentioned above, we are to Love God and Love Others. Beating a drum against homosexuality because the Bible told you it was wrong, is wrong. God cannot be contained in text. His commandments cannot be written. The Holy Spirit cannot be contained to the presupposition of your judgments. Live the life that Christ commanded, led by the Holy Spirit. Do justice. Love Kindness. Walk Humbly with your God. And let others do so, as well.” --Sarah

1 comment:

  1. I am so proud of you, Leia! You had the courage to tackle an extremely sensitive subject with both truth and grace. (I'm sorry that I didn't comment on the original post - I think someone around here needed something right as I finished reading.)