It is still a bit early to talk about my novel Angel, which (publicly) doesn’t exist yet. It is due to be released in Fall. Talking about it too early means you’ll probably lose interest by the time it comes out and no one will buy it and I’ll starve to death, broken and bitter. What the heck, I’ll risk it.
The novel, among other things, deals with the spiritual lives of gay characters— the specifically Christian spiritual life of these characters. I had a hard time finding a home for it. In part because there were too few car chases and so on, but also because of its theme. Not edgy and sexy enough for the gay publishers, I was told. Too gay for the Christian publishers.
“The Christians will not touch it,” was the conventional wisdom.
My strong belief is that conventional wisdom is wrong.
Our points of view are shaped largely these days, not by our actual friends and neighbors, but by the media. Even if you do not get your news primarily from television, those outlets control what stories will be discussed elsewhere by their sheer reach, power and repetitiveness. (I never watched a news story about Charlie Sheen, and yet through the news sources in my Twitter feed, I couldn’t escape knowing that whatever was happening with him was the obsessive story of the moment.)
Television news is competing for ratings against reality tv and entertainment programs like American Idol. The bias of the media, therefore, is not a liberal or conservative bias, but an entertainment bias. If it’s entertaining it leads.
One result of this is that the most vocal and extreme get more airtime than the moderate voices. Christianity, and Evangelical Christianity in particular, are represented in the public mind by haters like Terry Jones and the Westboro Baptist Church. (No wonder young people are turned off.)
Because we self-select our news and information options, people outside the Christian faith know more about what their peers say about those churches than what average people from those churches have to say.
I am not so out of touch as to say that the vast majority of Christian churches are perfectly groovy about gays and lesbians and that these questions are not contentious in 21st century religious institutions. Discrimination exists as do loud voices preaching hate. Yet welcoming and diversity-curious churches (those that are wrestling with the question in a clumsy but well-intentioned way) are much more common than the media might have you believe. My sense is that they are actually becoming the norm.
Take for example this sign:
The above message was displayed on an electronic billboard in Toledo, Ohio. The church issued the below statement in support of their campaign:
This simple statement is intended to be a gift to those who have experienced hurt and discrimination because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. The Church seeks nothing less than the healing of the world, and Central UMC wants to offer words and acts of healing to those hurt and marginalized. Also, declaring that being gay is a gift from God is a prophetic call to the Church to get out of the business of marginalizing gay and lesbian persons from the Church, and to welcome them as full members.
I previously posted a blurb about Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Day, June 25-26.
Far from being an issue Christians “won’t touch” it is an issue that is touching Christian communities every day.
I have posted the video above to show how at least some modern Evangelicals are discussing these questions. The clip is from a panel on the “Speaking of Faith” radio program, Chuck Colson, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne discuss evangelical attitudes towards and dealings with homosexuality. You will hear familiar “hate the sin love the sinner” rhetoric but the tone may surprise you if your views of Evangelicals are shaped by clips of fallen hypocritical preachers (railing against the sin of homosexuality before being caught in a hotel with a boy— great television, that!) and the Westboro Baptist Hatemongers. No red faces proclaiming that the Bible says gays should be stoned to death in this clip.
My hope is that we can spend more time talking to each other instead of about each other. Oh yeah, and that you’ll buy my book when it comes out in fall. It’s going to be called Angel, and I hope you’ll like it.