"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
"I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can.
Doctor, my eyes
Tell me what is wrong
Was I unwise to leave them open for so long."
Doctor My Eyes, Jackson Browne
WHAT HAPPENS IN THE DARK?
An arm reaches out, but finds emptiness. Or encounters an object, but can only guess its identity by its shape, size and texture. If it's even touchable. If it's friendly, and doesn't rip the hand off in one ferocious bite.
Only timid steps are taken, making sure one doesn't clunk into some unknown object. Or fall headlong off a precipice.
Every other sense may be working, but that fifth sense is useless without light. Or, there may be light, but we remain essentially blind. Absent the truth that embodies Jesus Christ, we humans may have every other sense working perfectly, yet our journey unfolds in darkness. And like the fish that doesn't know it's wet, we may have no perception that other, bigger worlds exist beyond our self-imposed boundary of endless night.
Once, I believed I had 20/20 vision. Then my eyes were forced open, and in profound shock, I discovered I had never known light before. And at first it hurt -- the stinging, burning pain of self-exposure. There was just no way to avoid it.
It was 1992. I had spent months reading the Bible seriously for the first time in my life, and I was trembling on the brink of a stunning decision: to become a Christian, but not just another pew-warmer. I was increasingly tempted beyond all conventional wisdom -- to accept the Bible as true, which would make me one of "those" Christians.
Every time I really thought about it, I broke out in a sweat. It might mean the scorn of family members. Certain friendships would definitely cool, and what about my children? The workable joint parenting with my agnostic ex-husband would certainly be challenged. He would go ballistic, possibly even attempt to gain custody. As a successful trial attorney, there was some chance he could succeed, if determined enough.
And my new husband the handsome, warm-hearted man who had given new meaning to my life after my unwanted, heartbreaking divorce ‹what would he do? Would he understand? Would he begin a complementary spiritual quest, or let me walk this road alone? Despite substantial misgivings, one clear motive pulled me forward. I saw a light ahead and needed to follow it.
I remembered how, as an undergraduate with little religious background, I nevertheless stopped in my tracks before the stone archway of the ivy-covered central classroom building on campus. Apparently as yet unenlightened by the ACLU or other church-state-separation evangelists, the university trustees had allowed in their foolishness the permanent engraving on that building of John 8:32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." I had stared up at the verse in awe, knowing there was something here terribly important, something still out of my grasp.
My schedule took me through the arch several times a day, which surely wasn't an accident. God wanted to storm my senses with the His Word, dividing my soul and spirit. His intention extended I'm sure to whomever else had "eyes to see and ears to hear." It was still but a hazy glimpse behind the veil of what was to come.
So in 1992, I had come to that place in the Bible where one of my biggest questions was answered, in simple, uncompromising terms. It was after I had already navigated Genesis and Exodus, discovering that creation in six days, the Garden of Eden, and an evil serpent were treated as authentic history, not myth. There was also the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was only one of many stories, and at this point I was still just collecting data. Like Scarlett O'Hara, I had decided I'd think about all of it tomorrow.
And then for the first time, I'd actually read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.In and around contemplating the implications of having "no other gods" but the God of Scripture, I also mulled over the zero tolerance policy for adultery. It might mean a change in how I viewed some of my friends and co-workers, but having just entered a terrific marriage, it was easy for me personally to accept this boundary as just and right.
So I continued on, hopeful in the joy of discovery. Plodding through the morality code passages in Leviticus lambs being sacrificed, how to deal with boils and leprosy -- I concluded some of the messages were symbolic, some were particular to that specific ancient time, while other messages were timeless. It was one of those timeless verses that stopped me cold.
"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination."
Whoa. If ever there was a definitive statement, this was it. I read it again, then continued on a little farther, looking for the escape clause. Not finding any, I read the passage again. Then I did some cross-referencing to find relevant verses about homosexuality in both the Old and New Testaments. This led me to Leviticus 20, Romans 1, and 1 Corinthians 6, passages conveying a consistent platform, strong and uncompromising. I mulled it over for a while, recognizing that it was probably a sub-category of the commandment against adultery. And for a woman thoroughly grounded in heterosexual desires, I had a very interesting reaction. I closed the Bible and stopped reading it for several weeks.
THE TRUTH BEHIND THE TRUTH
Even though the scriptural position didn't come as a huge surprise, I was still keenly disappointed. I had been hoping for something "better," something more culturally palatable.
A troubling internal debate threatened my new faith. Even back then in 1992 ancient history in the "gay rights" movement I had absorbed the notion that only obtuse bigots opposed homosexuality. Every enlightened person knew that the freedom to practice homosexuality -- responsibly, of course -- would surely not threaten the mainstream, but would simply meet the needs of a small, harmless and kind of pitiful minority.
Early in my twenties I had briefly dated a fellow who it turned out was a kind of neo-Nazi. We went to parties where his friends, their wives, children and even the grandmas spewed an anti-Semitic, white supremacist party line. I had some familiarity with racism, having lived as a child in rural Florida, but it had never been this proudly displayed. I fled from the relationship in no time flat, anxious to be de-contaminated from the emotional poison.
Was being a Christian going to be like that? I didn't know many Bible-believing Christians. What kind of people were they? Would I have only Klan members for friends? Would I become another Anita Bryant? She was the former Miss America who, because of her outspoken opposition to a Dade County "gay" rights ordinance, was discarded as America's sweetheart and became instead reviled, as only the mainstream media can do, as a shallow Southern bigot.
For several weeks I stewed about this, strongly tempted to return to the comfort of my familiar plastic beliefs. Opposing forces wrestled for authority in my mind and heart as I considered first one, then an alternative view of "truth." What was the reality behind this issue? It was the first time, but not the last, where I would encounter a Joshua 24 moment. I needed to "choose this day whom I would serve." I didn't recognize the moving of the Holy Spirit yet, how He presents evidence before each of us in unique ways to drive us toward understanding. In deciding what to believe, or even how to sort it all out, I would be starting a journey toward either one or the other kingdom of two completely different masters.
THE GOOD WITCH
As I have come to understand, the issue is one of worldview. People either look at reality through the lens of Christ, or they look at it through some other ultimately deficient model of truth. The secular American model asks us to believe in a wholly different set of assumptions than the Bible does. These assumptions take us in a very different direction.
Before I could even get to the evaluation of the essence of that verse -- whether homosexuality was an "abomination" or not-- it seemed that something else was blocking my path. What was it?
I had to decide, it seemed, whether I wanted to figure this out. Assuming that solid reasons could be put before me to change my opinion, first I had to decide if I wanted to be convinced. It was like peeling back layers of resistance.
There seemed to be a huge obstacle of identity. Who was I going to be? I had been deluding myself, perhaps, that this was going to be an easy transition. Was I going to buy the portrayal of Christians that a hostile, uncomprehending culture had created? Like osmosis, I had absorbed the negative impressions without being able to identify the source. As I understood the choice before me, I had to either go back to my old way of thinking, or accept the Bible's version of truth. And with that came an entire package of "other stuff."
I had been without realizing it a postmodernist. It was perfectly plausible, as the postmodernist thinks, to operate in a mindset where I had a reality different from Susan's, which could be different from Bill's, which could be different from Maria's. And yet all of us would somehow be able to peacefully coexist in Mr. Rogers' neighborhood. The first thing I had to realize was that this condemnation of homosexuality -- for which I still felt no clear reason was provided -- meant I would have to have a very strong viewpoint about someone else's life and behavior. It didn't fit my worldview to be my brother's keeper in any way, but on the contrary, it was important in the worldview of Oz to be infinitely tolerant and accepting -- or to seem to be.
How tolerant was I really? Hadn't I had opinions all along, but just didn't express them? Was part of this minding my own business in reality more love for myself and a need to please others--regardless of the cost? Wasn't I actually deficient in genuine concern for others?
I didn't like the revelations coming at me here. Maybe I wasn't a very nice person after all. It had been so much more pleasant to be able to believe--to delude myself, actually -- that I was functioning with benevolent motives. What if I wasn't? Like Glenda along the yellow brick road, was I a nice person, or a witch? Or-- some creature in between, a "good" witch? Is the land where I had been dwelling a fantasy of what might be if we could arrange things as they really weren't? What if there was really no such thing as a "good witch" at all --but it was an either-or deal?
What kept cropping up again and again, was the essential question: what did I want? Did I want a life of fantasy, or did I want truth?
MOVING OUT OF OZ
Many people prefer fantasy. I'd always believed the dreamer in us brings out our best, but as I probed this assumption I wondered if most of our human dreams are in reality futile "vain imaginations," like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Could it be that we spend more time trying to see things in a nice way, even if disaster is only an iceberg away, than pursuing goals that are beneficial in God's eyes?
I had to get real with myself, and the result was a struggle of will. It was only the first of many.
If I got back to the issue at hand--homosexuality -- this might mean that a person would have to speak out in warning even if people didn't understand at the time, in order to keep some from disaster. What about doing the unpopular thing? Could I be a Christian like that? And, could I tell people about Christ when they weren't ready to hear?
Maybe there was a way to explain this so people would understand. Yet I still didn't comprehend why homosexual behavior was an "abomination." Why didn't God provide us with clear talking points? I searched Scripture for a list of reasons. Yes, there was the Sodom story, but I wasn't yet ready to accept this as literal. Something--was blocking that understanding.
I continued to cling to the idea, also drilled into me from unidentified sources, that homosexuality is a victimless "sin". Why would God be so harsh as to condemn people to a life without sex, if this was what these poor people felt? Isn't sex necessary to happiness? Weren't they born this way? How else could one explain doing things that were so -- so -- disgusting?
Ahh, yes. So I did know the truth. So I didn't really totally accept it. Here's where I began to really sit down with myself. Now, why didn't I know that I believed this all along? As I thought about sex between people of the same sex, I was, yes, repulsed. Yet as I probed my beliefs further, I did not discover --as I'm sure the homosexual activists would claim --some secret "hatred" for homosexuals. I found great pity and compassion --but, yes, still disgust for the activities. So, that's why it's an "abomination". I really didn't need for God to explain it further, at least at one level. Life itself has revealed this to every person, once they learn the sordid details. I mean, anal sex between two guys? A woman--wanting to do that to another woman? No way.
Now I was baffled. I had thought I understood my belief system and values. I had "prided myself" (that looming thing again) on having very decided opinions and "self-awareness". Now, I only felt confusion.
By now, I had become accustomed to praying every day, but that diminished as my doubts swelled. Why couldn't people arrange these sexuality issues themselves? If homosexuality didn't hurt someone -- as in adultery -- except the person himself, why couldn't a person make this decision? Of course God might have a problem with it, because a loving God wouldn't want to see people be self-destructive, but if it could be managed more safely-- wouldn't that work? .
But a voice of reason was telling me something else: it would never be able to be as safe as it would need to be. And both participants are hurt, both by what they do, and what they choose not to do. They will never conceive and raise children with the person they love. They will not leave grandchildren as a heritage. It will be a dead- end passion. It will change the way they see themselves as male or female. And most of the people I knew who were homosexuals seemed to be, once the veneer was stripped away, very troubled.
DOUBLE DEALING WITH GOD
But I had never put any of this together until confronted by verses of Scripture. How quaint. How suddenly unenlightened I felt. How blind I had been. And, most embarrassing, I really hadn't understood myself at all.
I had both believed homosexuality was okay, and that it was disgusting. I had believed it was something to nod tolerantly about, and yet obviously involved very damaging behaviors. I had believed it was probably genetic, and also that it arose from a background of hurtful experiences.
How can a sane person believe such contradictory things simultaneously?
Okay, okay-- I thought, as if I was in a debate with God --it's probably wrong. Still, I felt ill- equipped to debate this with others. I kept feeling my mind being pulled toward a "Who cares?" sentiment, the default position of non-interference. At the same time, I really wanted to trust God, to believe the Bible in all the other ways, to continue on with my spiritual journey. I really wanted to want to believe.
I had the sense that God was using the issue of homosexuality to make me confront my pride about needing the approval of "everyone." In needing this approval, I had been willing to swallow an operative worldview of -- lies. Not just contradictory beliefs that could not both simultaneously be true, but the lie of comforting myself that I had even really cared about such people. In my heart, I hadn't cared enough to sort all this out. And I hadn't cared to really notice the troubling characteristics of these people, and to really think about the acts involved, and how damaging they were to people. Even more smugly, I had topped off all of these nonsensical attitudes by assuring myself all the time that I was well-informed on this issue, and that I was really knew my own mind!
Somewhere amidst all this, I also felt the Holy Spirit convicting me that there were other issues where I would also discover that my "love had grown cold". Was I really such a completely self-focused person? After all, I was a wife and mother. Didn't I really care about these people? Of course I did, butŠ. I was only beginning to understand the limited nature of "love" devoid of Christ.
Sobered and humbled, I began to understand that the journey to becoming a Christian was going to be one where the biggest obstacle I would have to overcome would be myself.
I was still only getting the picture to a point. Part of me held something in reserve, my human heart was still drawn toward being "deceitful above all". When I finally sat down to pray, I tried to make a deal with God.
I told God that I wasn't totally sure of all the dimensions of this issue, but that essentially, I was willing to buy the Bible's disapproval of homosexuality. I prayed that He would show me more reasons that would support this position. And I told Him I wanted to believe the Bible in other ways, too, beyond this test of trust.
"Lord," I continued, "I know that the Bible must be right about homosexuality being a sin. And I'm glad now that I have that private understanding. I'm sure it will help me to understand many more issues to come. But, Lord, could I maybe not have to talk about it with anyone? Can I keep this just between You and me?"
Have you ever said something and knew immediately that it was totally the wrong thing to say? As soon as this request took form in my mind and was sent out of my spirit to God's, I knew it was a big clunker. I have often imagined what the Lord thought. Certainly He was disappointed, though not surprised, at one more evidence of my sinfulness, my pride morphing itself into yet another ugly creature. Part of me also imagines, though, Him drumming his fingers on a celestial desk, shaking His mighty head, and slowly smiling an ironic smile. "Aha. So you don't want to talk about this, eh? Well, we'll just see about that."
My cowardice and pride became offerings at the foot of the cross, and I believe crafted my future service to God. A divine hand has showed me why and how to speak out precisely on this issue, which I so wanted to avoid. That's how God works -- to get us to the point where we even want to do that which was once so undesirable. And in the process, the Potter molds a changed vessel, a new creation in Christ.
Little by little, I began to be an apologist for the Bible's position on homosexuality. It's totally weird --and totally God. Even in the midst of people sometimes writing me awful e-mails, I am now grateful for this ministry and how it has helped me grow as a Christian. I also hope it's made a tiny difference to the American culture and to some individuals along the way.