Friday, December 14, 2007

Valuing Books More Than Numbers

Dear Friends,

Long time without writing. Been doing some living, and some reflecting. Some wonderful things to share.

Straight Into Gay America:
I remember writing this book in the winter of 2005 and coming to the point of not caring if a single person bought the book – I was putting down the words I needed to get out.

That throw-it-to-the wind feeling about sales lasted until publication when I dropped back down to valuing my work based on how many books I was selling. Even the national publishing awards didn’t take me out of this non-productive numbers game.

I’ve been settling up with this feeling – “why do I internalize my value of this book by the sales numbers???” On and off, I’m letting go of this, moving towards choosing and honoring the whole incredible experience, of writing, riding, and sharing Straight Into Gay America.

One of the greatest blessings of the book has been the pushing and pulling it worked for my dad and me. Way back the first time Ronald Reagan ran for president I voted him in, same as my dad. Ever since then I’ve been diverging more and more from his political views. I thought that was just going to be the cost of my Straight Into Gay America advocacy. Attending a Landmark Forum ( weekend I realized how I’d put my dad in an ideological box and there was so much more to him I wanted to enjoy, and I wanted my family to enjoy of him. What a breakthrough. For his 75th birthday I made a list of 75 things that inspire me about my dad and which I love about my dad. Felt so good to send that to him for his birthday. Our visit this fall felt the best in many, many years.

One Wheel – Many Spokes:
I’m letting go of that numbers thing with One Wheel, too. With two publishers weekly reviews of my book, a professional publicist, and big dreams, I printed 10,000 copies of that book. (Books are way way cheaper when you print big numbers…but you have to sell the books.) I sold 3,000 of the books and still have some 5,000 at a distribution center.

These days I work with hundreds of authors, helping them create websites to share their writing dreams with the world. I tell them that the first book is often “learner fees.” Finally I’m willing to listen to my own words. What a great learning One Wheel – Many Spokes has been for me:

o Making a difference in readers lives
o Learning to publish a book
o Learning the publishing industry
o 3 national publishing awards
o Getting my job working with authors.
o Making a home in Chelan, WA.
o A Guinness Record for fun.
o A surfeit of books for a reality check.

Book Sale: I’m cleaning out the distribution center. If you’re interested in buying the remaining copies of One Wheel – Many Spokes, make me an offer. You can market the books, sell the books, or use them any way you wish in your organization. Highest offer wins (buyer pays shipping.)

Wow it feels good to clear up these books and move on to the next adventure.

Life in Chelan:
Kids are 11 and 13 this year. Teenage fun. That first cross-country unicycle ride they were 5 and 7 years old – a whole different life back then for them. Now its sports and school and music and friends for them. Every day I’m amazed I get to be their dad.

Anne is working again. The middle school called up and asked for Anne’s special ed skills this year. She’s working with some great students and we’re all loving the stories she brings home from the day. Both Anne and I attended Landmark Forum this summer and found it opening so much insight and possibility for our lives. 17 years of marriage. Love gets better and better and better.

We’re doing some skiing with friends this Christmas break, and looking forward to the blessings of the coming year. May it be a year filled with gifts for each of you. Thank you for sharing in the journey of life.

Thank you for the emails and letters that let me know about your living.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Å Surprise Award for Straight Into Gay America

Thank you for the many emailed congratulations. Each letter brings a good memory. Here's a surprise.

Judging committees send notices to authors who reach the finalist category. Then those who are able show up at the ceremony to discover the final rankings. Yes, I'd submitted Straight Into Gay America for Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year awards. But having received no communication from Foreword I showed up at the ceremony just to enjoy the show.

The publisher sitting next to me was biting her nails. She was a finalist. When the Gay/Lesbian category came up the presenters projected the covers of the books for the bronze and the silver awards, two books I had not known before. Then the gold medal winner was announced, a complete surprise, my book was on the screen, Straight Into Gay America.

There's a spam filter somewhere in cyber space that knows I got a finalist notice from Foreword. Thanks to showing up at the awards, now I know it too.

A few hours later I was at the IPPY awards, a packed basement lounge in Manhattan's theater district. Loud and raucous, I received a bronze medal, the third award for Straight Into Gay America. As far as I know, that's all.

This morning I head back to Book Expo for another day of swimming in books. It's a staggering showing, filling all the space in the Javits exhibition hall. Lots of thoughts are stirring. I'll get back to you with more when I return home on Monday.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Book Awards for Straight Into Gay America

The biggest compliments I get for writing Straight Into Gay America sound like this,"You write as if you were a gay man. It's as if you've told my own story."

Last night Publishers Marketing Association awarded Straight Into Gay America the Benjamin Franklin Award for best book in the Gay/Lesbian category. This recognition from the writing community moved me more deeply than I had expected (yes, there were three finalists and then an announcement, so it was a surprise.).

Tonight Straight Into Gay America receives a second award, this one an IPPY from Independent Publishers Association- no suspense this time, it will be a bronze in the Gay/Lesbian category.

Writers. Authors. Publishers. These have always seemed liked other people, people who are not me. Last night, in New York City, riding the subway with the heavy glass award resting in my lap, I felt author identity come a step closer to my life. It was a beautiful night, savoring the feeling, recalling all the blessings of the ride, the people, and the creating of Straight Into Gay America.

Thank you,


Monday, May 21, 2007

Laramie Project Gets a Life

My Little Town – Laramie Project to live on.

This is a fun note to share…

Last time I wrote I shared that The Laramie Project was playing here in our little town of Chelan, Washington. In this town with no history of LGBT equality work, The Laramie Project sold out most of its performances.

One attendee, a high school student, saw the play three times. The high school student emailed the principal about the play. The principal emailed the director of the play, “Can you perform at our high school?” Tomorrow morning The Laramie Project will perform for the entire 11th grade class at Chelan high school.

Another of the attendees was from Idaho. She asked, “Can you perform The Laramie Project in my home town?”

I was talking to the director a few days ago. Looks like all of the Laramie Project actors are willing to keep the play alive, and to make it a resource when other schools and towns request a performance.

I’m thankful to share this good news.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Laramie Project

Our town of Chelan is putting on The Laramie Project Play for three weeks. Eight actors play 80 different characters from Laramie Wyoming. The entire script was created from two years of interviewing town members after young gay Matthew Shepherd was tied to a fence-post, beaten, left stranded for eighteen hours, and then died in the hospital from injuries and exposure.

Big Event for a Small Town
After a year-and-a-half of living in town I know a couple more LGBT residents, but still very few. As I've written before, living in Chelan is very different from the time spent on my Straight Into Gay America Tour. Watching The Laramie Project right here in Chelan has a special feeling. An attendee from last week calls it one of the most significant events for out little town in a long, long time. If you're close to this area either of the next two weekends, perhaps you'll want to attend. (Info at

See a Video Clip
If you're not close to this area, the cast YouTubed a couple of video clips from the play.

Straight Into Gay America Documentary
In conjunction with The Laramie Project, I'll be showing my Straight Into Gay America Documentary next Tuesday Evening at 7:00 p.m. It will show in the 1914 vintage Ruby Theater. It's a free showing, but donations will be accepted in hopes of starting a Chelan PFLAG organization.

Good wishes for the day,

Friday, April 20, 2007

NYC and US Congress Honor Equality Riders

Here's good news from

Soulforce Equality Ride Honored in U.S. House of Representatives

The 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride has been honored by the House of Representatives and written into the congressional record. On Monday, April 16, Rep. Jerrold L. Nadler of New York addressed a tribute to the Equality Ride and its Riders to the Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

"Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an extraordinary group of young adults -- The Equality Riders -- who have dedicated 2 months of their lives, traveling thousands of miles, visiting 32 colleges and universities around the country and talking to countless students, faculty members and staff in pursuit of social justice.

The spirit of The Equality Ride was born out of the recognition that homophobia is globally pervasive and that no country, state, city, community or school escapes its reach. The Equality Ride offers a unique opportunity for student activists to dedicate their time and energy in the pursuit of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered equality through the practice of nonviolent resistance and educational campaigns.

I embrace the spirit of The Equality Ride and these leaders in the fight for social justice. The participants of the Equality Ride as well as its supporters have changed numerous lives, raised awareness and challenged notions regarding homosexuality through both on and off campus activities.
While conducting their work on the various campuses, riders confront some of their harshest critics and engage in structured dialogue with the academic community through classroom presentations, panel discussions, school-wide forums and film screenings as well as informal interactions. Outside of the college and university campuses, communities have welcomed the riders to share in worship, potlucks, fundraisers and meetings.

I applaud these riders and their supporters who have tirelessly waged a campaign of truth based on the nonviolent practices of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi to end the cycle of fear and misunderstanding that causes this vicious form of prejudice. As the Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, it is my great honor to pay tribute to these visionary young people and congratulate them on their courage, determination and dedication."

New York City Issues Proclamation Recognizing the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride

The City Council of New York honored the Equality Riders on Saturday, April 14, with an official proclamation.

Whereas: The Council of the City of New York is pleased and proud to honor Soulforce on the occasion of its 2nd Annual Equality Ride; and

Whereas: It is the tradition and custom of the New York City Council to honor those individuals and organizations that have enriched us with their contributions, and today we are delighted to recognize the brave participants of the Soulforce Equality Ride for their tireless devotion to the fight against homophobia; and

Whereas: The purpose of the Soulforce Equality Ride is to travel to various religious colleges and engage the students, faculty and administrators in a conversation about the damaging effects of homophobic doctrine; and
Whereas: We proudly celebrate the 50 young adults who have dedicated two months of their lives, traveled thousands of miles, and visited a total of 32 colleges and universities around the country in the pursuit of social justice as it pertains to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from religious and political oppression; and

Whereas: The participants of the Soulforce Equality Ride will pursue their goal through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance; and

Whereas: Homophobia is globally pervasive and no country state, city, community or school escapes its reach. We recognize the damaging effects of homophobic doctrine - the false notions that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities are sick and sinful - and we applaud these participants and their supporters who have waged a campaign of truth in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi; and

Whereas: We embrace the spirit of the Soulforce Equality Ride and its empowered participants, who have changed countless lives, created an environment of understanding, and liberated the oppressed; and

Whereas: It is with profound gratitude that we recognize the participants of the Soulforce Equality Ride for all they have done on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people throughout our nation. Their passionate advocacy is instructive and they are worthy of the esteem of all New Yorkers; now, therefore

Be it known: That the Council of the City of New York honors Soulforce and recognizes the exceptional service of the 2007 Equality Ride participants.
Signed this 14th day of April in the year Two Thousand and Seven

Christine C. Quinn, Speaker - For the Entire Council
Rosie Mendez, Council Member 2nd District, Manhattan

Help the Riders reach their sponsorship goals during this final week of their journey

From the news above and the inspiring stories over the past six weeks, the 2007 Equality Ride has been a huge success. Yet as we know, the road to LGBT equality is not an easy one. Activist work on this scale comes with real expenses.
To help pull together the necessary funds to cover the Equality Ride, each of the 52 Riders set a goal of raising $3,500. The Riders have been out there on the front lines since early March and they continue to work hard, with seven more schools to visit before coming home. During this final week, can you help those who are still working to reach their sponsorship goal?

To view the Riders who need additional supporters to reach their goal click here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Seattle Declares Equality Ride Day


I've been following the two bus tours of the 50 young people who are travelling our nation and asking for audiences at schools that discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. At times there has been good conversation. Far too often there have been arrests.
And then this... Seattle declares April 11 as Equality Ride Day. And our state legislature just approved domestic partner benefits. What a feeling of sunshine!!! Here's the Soulforce announcement and the text of the proclamation for all of us to celebrate. Go riders, go!

Seattle Proclaims April 11 as Equality Ride 2007 Day
City Abhors Discrimination, Prejudice and Oppression Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

After successful stops at three West coast Christian colleges, Equality Riders arrived in Seattle this week to visit two local schools that discriminate against LGBT students. Yesterday, Equality Riders teamed up with Equal Rights Washington, statewide advocacy organizations, and Q Center at the University of Washington, to address marriage equality with community members in Gasworks Park. Today the Equality Ride will engage with both Northwest University and Seattle Pacific University in a full day of programming, which includes discussion panels, classroom visits, presentations, communal meals and worship.

In honor of the Equality Riders' visit to Seattle, the City Council has proclaimed Wednesday, April 11, 2007, to be "Equality Ride Day" in the City of Seattle.

A PROCLAMATION recognizing Equality Ride 2007 in Seattle

WHEREAS, the City of Seattle is a welcoming city to diversity, including those who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender;

WHEREAS, the City of Seattle abhors discrimination, prejudice and oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other protected classes under city, state and federal statutes;

WHEREAS, fifty young adults on two buses traveling across the nation are using nonviolent means to raise awareness about the discrimination, prejudice and oppression Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people may face;

WHEREAS, the City of Seattle recognizes the historical significance of bus tours and their ability to create conversation about difficult issues and create reflection within a community;

WHEREAS, the West Coast bus tour of the Soulforce Equality Ride 2007 will share their message of inclusion and tolerance within the boundaries of the City of Seattle;

WHEREAS, some of our city's most respected organizations and businesses, such as Multifaith Works, Equal Rights Washington and the Seattle Gay News are hosting the West Coast bus tour here in Seattle;

WHEREAS, Soulforce, the sponsor of Equality Ride 2007, is a non-profit social justice organization made up of many faith traditions, including those with no belief in a deity; NOW,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 shall be "Equality Ride 2007 Day" in the City of Seattle.
Adopted by the City Council the 11th day of April, 2007, and signed by us in authentication of its adoption this 11th day of April, 2007.

Council President Nick Licata
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Sponsor
Councilmember Sally J. Clark, Sponsor
Councilmember Richard Conlin
Councilmember David J. Della
Councilmember Jan Drago
Councilmember Jean Godden
Councilmember Richard J. McIver
Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck

To view a copy of the official proclaimation go to

To help fund the final two weeks of the 2007 Soulforce Equality Ride click here.

The goal of Soulforce is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.
Thank you for your continued interest in the important work that Soulforce is doing. You received this email at because you are subscribed to the Soulforce Email List.

To read past Soulforce email alerts go to

If you received this email from a friend, you can sign up for the Soulforce email list by going to

To donate to the ongoing work of Soulforce please go to
Soulforce, Inc., P.O. Box 3195, Lynchburg, VA 24503

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Grandfathers and Grandmothers

With the blogalogue finished with Dave Glesne, I'm back to collecting and sharing stories. Three weeks ago I met some great grandmas in Minnesota. The week before that a couple of amazing grandfathers in Washington. If you'd like to sign up for regular newsletters, you can do so at NEWS on the website. Both of these articles are posted there, too.

BTW, I've started compiling the recent blogalogue. Word count is almost 120,000 words between Dave, myself, and our commenters. 120,000 words is the size of a book. No wonder there was much to read


Regrets for the long delay in writing. Three weeks ago I was in Minnesota. Since returning home my days have been busy with work and I’ve been missing putting these words together. I’ve been wanting to tell about two grandmothers I met.
She spoke up at the luncheon at church. The congregation had started a “Reconciling in Christ” study to see if the church wanted to make a formal declaration of welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. I’d already preached earlier in the morning and talked about how this kind of welcome literally saves lives. Too many LGBT people are receiving messages from churches that God hates them. After the worship service a dad came up to me with tears in his eyes, “Our family drove an hour-and-a-half to be here this morning. At our Lutheran church at home the pastor tells me I’ve done something wrong to cause my son’s homosexuality, and that my son can be, should be, cured of his homosexuality.”
Now Grandma was speaking up at the luncheon, “Reconciling in Christ doesn’t just save gays and lesbians,” she began. “Reconciling in Christ saved me, too. My husband divorced me five years ago, against my wishes. After that I believed that God hated me. Not until we began the Reconciling in Christ work here did I really understand that God loves us all, including me.”
Maybe hearing Grandma speak these words meant so much to me because of the questions I get about advocating for LGBT equality. Yes, it’s for LGBT people, but, it’s for all of us, about creating the kind of world where there’s a place for everyone.
After the luncheon another Grandma came up to me. “My husband he asks why I come to these meetings. He’s not going to attend.”
“Why not?” I ask.
“I think the difference is that I was raised as a missionary child, around all sorts of different people. My husband was raised in a very strict church. I think that makes us see things differently.” And then she smiles. “Nothing’s keeping me away from these meetings. I’m making my own decisions.”
More stories. Always more stories. Blessings for the telling and the hearing.

Grandpas in Darrington

Two retired men attended my book talk this week in Darrington, Washington. Both had been in the military. One remembered a soldier getting 20 years in the brig for getting caught in a homosexual act. The other remembered warnings to watch out for gay men. In their retirement one of them has a gay grandson, “a wonderful young man.” Still, this grandpa struggles with acceptance, “the only way to accept homosexuality is to throw out the Good Book.”
The other retired man is a counselor. He’d seen an article in the paper about the presentation and driven over from Granite for the evening. “I’ve counseled dozens of gay and lesbian people. It’s remarkable to see a pastor speaking up for gay and lesbian equality.” A wonderful evening ensued — speaking into respectful differences and common understandings. Lots of laughter, too. New connections. Thanks to George and Bridget and the Darrington Library for arranging the evening.

This weekend I preach at First Lutheran Church in St. Peter, Minnesota. They’re in the process of discerning whether to proclaim themselves a “Reconciling in Christ” congregation- a publicly welcoming place for LGBT people. Monday and Tuesday I have talks at Gustavus College and then a presentation at Augsburg College in Minnesota on Tuesday evening (6:30 p.m. in the Science Building, room 123).

I’m thinking this week of the difference between coming in as “the invited one,” as opposed to the recent experience of “intruding” and sueing our city to enforce its building size cap. More to the point, the Equality Bus riders are underway. Already one of the buses has been defaced as they motor their equality message onto campuses that discriminate against gay and lesbian students. ( More to the point, Indiana either has or is close to adopting a ban on same-sex marriage. Seven states have recently done so. And to the point again, my Washington state is expanding its domestic partnership rights. Individuals, each working from their own place, weave these tapestries of more good and less good.

Dad keeps encouraging me to the center. Others prompt me toward biblical literalism. Still others invite me to a deeper activism. I’ll keep working on my place. Blessings in the work of living in your place.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Concluding Words from Dave Glesne

Post from Dave Glesne:
Author of "Understanding Homosexuality."

Dear Lars,
I can only imagine how time-consuming and energy draining the last weeks have been as you embraced the cause there in your own community. I’m glad for your sake that there finally appears to be some breathing room for you.

As you mentioned in your recent post, I suggested that we are perhaps at a natural ending point in our conversation. As we were going back and forth over those many weeks, I asked myself what would be indications as to when we would reach that point. My thought was that when we (and maybe even more so our readers) began repeating ourselves it may be an indication that this particular aspect of the conversation has run its course. I was sensing that we were beginning to go over the same ground. I say that fully believing that such conversations should never really end.

I too want to thank you for the respectful conversation we have had. I choose the word “respectful” very carefully and with gratitude. I hope we have modeled for others the kind of dialogue that is needed in discussions such as these. In such a conversation iron sharpens iron and I am grateful for that process we have been through together.

I agree with you that at the end of the day the conversation comes down to one of worldviews, presuppositions, and following through logically and consistently from those starting points. You summarized in your post where you are at currently. Permit me to do the same by way of summary.

The presupposition that I start with is that God exists. I believe that this God is a Personal God who has a moral character and that he has communicated to human beings made in his image, truth about himself and his character and about us human beings. I believe this God is love and holy at the same time, and that is why love and Law can never finally be separated from one another. I understand God’s 10 commandments (moral law) to flow out of his moral character not only to show us we are sinners (negative use) so that we can turn to Christ for forgiveness, but also to reveal his will for our lives (positive use) in what makes for the fullness of life. They are the way of freedom which God deeply desires for all his children. I believe God sets me free in Christ from the curse of the law to love Christ above all else. Then in any given situation I walk into, I can ask, “What do I do with regard to my neighbor to demonstrate my love for Christ?” I believe my love for Christ is demonstrated by being obedient to his commandments. I believe that is what Jesus meant when he said, “If you love me you will obey my commandments”. God’s law then becomes the law of liberty. No wonder the Apostle Paul could say, “I delight in the law of the Lord.”

With regard to the sexual behavior of my same-sex neighbor, (as with the pre-marital and extra marital sexual behavior of my heterosexual neighbor), love for my same-sex neighbor - both inside and outside the church - does not allow me to say “yes” to what God has said “no”. For both my homosexual and heterosexual neighbor the call is rather to deny self, take up one’s cross, and follow Christ. The cross, death to self and things, is not the easy road, but it is the road to life.

I would take issue with “Theologians such as Spong, Wink, and many others have made the biblical case for full equality.” I would argue that the revisionist scholars have not made the case biblically. The claim that the Bible is opposed only to particularly exploitative forms of homosexual practice – such as pederasty, coercive sex with slaves, or solicitation of prostitutes – is generally made in ignorance of the arguments that suggest Scripture’s opposition - without exception - to homosexual practice. Even Walter Wink who is supportive of homosexual unions, acknowledges, for example, that Paul’s indictment is not limited to particularly exploitative instances of same-sex intercourse. He says the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and “there is no getting around it.” He simply believes the Bible is wrong on this issue.

Our conversation for good or ill has revolved primarily around 4 pages (in chapter 3) of my 185 page book, Understanding Homosexuality. The great majority of the book deals with the biblical argument and then a call for pastoral care of the church with same-sex persons. For those within the church who hold to at least some semblance of the authority of Scripture, the bulk of the discussion will center on the arguments from Scripture. The moral question can only be answered from God’s Word – not science. However, when communicating with those outside the church who do not believe the Scriptures, the discussion will be in the arena of creation and science. In these differing communications, we are simply following Paul’s example in the Book of Acts where when speaking to the Jews, he always argued out of the Scriptures because it was a common authority, but when he spoke to the Gentiles he never argued from out of the Scriptures, but always started rather with creation – something common to both. It does no good to argue out of the Scriptures with one who does not believe the Scriptures. But the things of creation and science, the structures of the human body, diseases, etc. is a common experience for all human beings – believer as well as unbeliever.

Thank you, Lars, for providing the forum to exchange ideas and inviting me into this discussion. My respect for you as a person has grown throughout the conversation while at the same time I have found myself not agreeing with certain views and ideas. That is a positive for which I am thankful.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is This It?

Dear Dave,

I hope this finds you well. Sorry for the long delay in writing. Spending time trying to keep the world’s most powerful corporation from becoming the dominant player in our community has taken a lot of energy. But now a public amendment process is underway in our city and Wal-Mart has permission to remain open in the meantime, so I can return to other interests.

During this past month you wrote and suggested we may have reached a natural ending point for our conversation. Perhaps you are right. Although I could easily be enticed back into this conversation, it may be a better use of time to compile our blogs and reader comments and create an e-book or maybe even a few printed books of our conversation. Maybe after I compile all the words we’d find that we each have some more to say in concluding remarks.

One of the pieces I’ve grown to appreciate about our conversation is that we’ve actually had a conversation. During this past Wal-Mart month our community went on the kind of high-energy emotional rampage that reminded me too much of the diatribes that fly around in the debate over whether men can love men and women can love women. I have a better appreciation now for those who stand up for causes. I ended up being called a development terrorist, and despite our winning the case in court, our city officials asserted that we’d “fabricated” our case. And then, to bring everything full circle, one of the Wal-Mart advocates read our blog conversation and has been trying to save my soul from damnation ever since. He keeps asking me, “Who is Jesus?” My answers do not satisfy him.

Funny to have been the brunt of so much emotion this past month, especially when I’m generally an advocate of emotion. Funny to have taken recourse in the law against Wal-Mart when I’m generally an advocate of experience first, then law.

I do think our conversation has come down to which tent we choose to live in (experience first or law first) or which side of the river we choose to live upon, and whatever other metaphors we’ve tried to share our stories to each other with. I used to be more frustrated that I couldn’t figure out ways to entice people from one side of the river to the other. In more recent years I’ve come to appreciate that our world probably benefits from a spectrum of worldviews. I even imagine that the evolution of our species has benefited from this spectrum. After all, what is a center without an edge, or an edge without a center?

I continue to lament, though, the damage that is caused by the center’s slow adaptation to new realities. Despite your statements separating LGBT questions from women’s rights and civil rights, I continue to believe that the march toward LGBT equality is in line with the march of women, of civil rights, and the other movement in the long historical tide of justice for all. I continue to believe that Christianity and society are best served by full inclusion rather than by labeling sexually active same sex relationships as sinful.

I do not know the length of the journey toward full justice, but many strides have been made. States such as Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have led the way. Churches such as the UCC and the Episcopal church have stepped up to full equality. Theologians such as Spong, Wink, and many others have made the biblical case for full equality. Leaders such as Nobel Prize Winning Bishop Desmond Tutu are outspoken advocates for full equality. Even our slow and deliberative Evangelical Lutheran Church in America made strides last week when the trial of gay pastor Bradley Schmeling resulted in a call for the church to change its rules and allow him to serve as a pastor and to continue in his committed relationship with his partner.

I’m encouraged by all these things, and I’m encouraged by our conversation. I noted in the beginning of our dialogue that the words of your book concerned me greatly, that a book titled Understanding Homosexuality, and subtitled Perspectives for the Local Church came across to me more as a caricature of gay people than an accurate description of the many church-going and secular gay people I have come to know. I appreciate you writing that such labeling was not your intent. I remain concerned that many people who read your book will perceive it in the same stereotyping way that I and others have. I believe that the way forward is for all of us to keep talking. After our Wal-Mart month I realize anew how much energy it takes to keep adding words to a conversation, and trusting the mysterious process of living in the communities we are part of. To all who keep speaking into our communities, year after year after year, my respect continues to grow.

David, thank you. I know you have been busy during these writings, yet you’ve found time for sharing much with us. I’ll put this up as a post. We’ll see if any are still checking in to read and offer remarks. Maybe you’ll have a response to this. Maybe we’ll have a few more back and forths. I’ll try and compile our blog posts and see what evolves from that process.

Blessings to you and to all,

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Try at a Post

Dear Dave,
On December 29th, I was part of a winning petition to prevent Wal-Mart from opening the 162,000 sq. ft. building that they put in a development where the maximum allowable building size is 50,000 sq. ft. Since then there’s been high emotion and a lot of explaining to do here in Chelan ( I don’t know how you and others react, but when overload situations like this come for me I find it hard to keep track of time, events, and commitments. I have to keep looking at a calendar to try and avoid missing even the simple things. I know that the lawyers are back in court next Tuesday. Which is to confess, this note may make less sense than it might otherwise.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to our readers. There are more comments again. I’ll note two areas.

….. In fact, Dave, I’m sitting here trying to put this post together and I’m realizing I can’t give it sufficient attention right now. The words and the thoughts are not meeting this morning. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Hopefully within a few days.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Dave Glesne responds to readers

Post #22: A continuing discussion between pastor/author Dave Glesne (Understanding Homosexuality) and pastor/author Lars Clausen (Straight Into Gay America)

Dear Lars,

A Happy New Year to you! We enjoyed Christmas with two of our children home with us and a trip to northern Minnesota to visit family there. Between Christmas and New Years I took a week of vacation. However, when one does not leave town for vacation, one runs the risk of being called on for deaths and funerals and that week we had four deaths and three funeral!. So I’m really not feeling as though I had much of a vacation.

But life goes on and I need to respond to your latest post. You invite me to respond to some of our readers and their concerns. What I will do is respond first with some thoughts from your most recent post and then look at some of the comments by our readers to my Tuesday, December 19 post.

Robert Spitzer’s Data & Reparative therapy
You commented on reparative therapy and Spitzer’s data in your latest post. Perhaps you and our readers will note that in our conversation, I have neither used the term reparative therapy nor have I advocated for it. One reason is, I don’t like the term. Repair a person? In my mind, that is not good or helpful language. A few years ago, I was present in a conversation which included Dr. Warren Throckmorton and another Christian psychologist in Minneapolis and remember both of them saying that they did not like nor use that term.

Is there evidence that same-sex persons can and have indeed changed? I believe the answer to that question is “yes.” On pages 28-33 of Understanding Homosexuality I address this matter and give evidence from biblical teaching, from scientific studies, and from human experience that homosexual persons can and have changed. It is within this section that I speak of Robert Spitzer’s testimony that some same-sex persons can and do change. As to Spitzer’s added comments that the “likelihood of altering sexual orientation is probably rare” I am not at all surprised. Those who carefully read the book and this section of the book in particular will note that I am very careful to be a realist here. I acknowledge “the limits and problems” (page 30) of change, that change is not easy and there are varying degrees of change (page 30), that it is very unlikely that one for whom same-sex impulses run deep within their being and who are in any way pressured into treatment will benefit (page 30). I say that for the one who wants to move away from the orientation “change may and probably will be a long, difficult and painful challenge.” (pages 31-32)

Outside the Christian context, I would suspect that Spitzer is right – that change is probably rare. Within the Christian context, it is undoubtedly just as difficult. I cite that ministries which find that individuals who are being successful in their attempts at sexual reorientation, or at least sexual control, seem to hold three values in common: 1) a strong, unswerving commitment to Jesus Christ, 2) the establishment of a long-term relationship with a professional therapist, and 3) an accepting environment in which progress and healing toward sexual wholeness can be made.

A conversation over lunch a few weeks back with a friend who lived as a lesbian for 14 years but who is no longer living as such, confirmed again for me the difficulty such a one has in moving out of the lifestyle. There is a lot of pain involved. A woman in the congregation I serve, with the help of a loving Christian community and a ministry of inner healing, has struggled but has successfully left her lesbian life of 10 years and is now experiencing a different reality. The testimony of an ex-gay man who now is married to a good friend of my daughter bears witness also to the difficulty but success in moving away from the homosexual life.

For those interested, a documentary by Dr. Warren Throckmorton entitled “I Do Exist” might be helpful. From this website: “This documentary looks into the lives of five people who struggle with being attracted to those of the same sex and addresses many contemporary questions surrounding the issue of change. I Do Exist describes individual perspectives regarding the development of same sex attractions. Participants describe their journey thus far in living in accord with their personal values and beliefs. Those who tell their experiences on I Do Exist describe changing perspectives on their sexual identity and personal beliefs.”

Change is difficult, painful, and in Spitzer’s words probably rare, but the testimony of an increasing number of persons who are exiting the same-sex life are telling us it is not impossible.

Trivializing the experience of same-sex persons
Dan asks me how the Law causes me huge damage and rather believes that if I am honest, would acknowledge that it “rather provides me with a great deal of comfort and direction, that it provides me with self-discipline and fulfillment.” I would respond by saying that the Law has both effects on me.

When I state that the Law causes me and all people huge damage, I am speaking – in classical Lutheran usage – of the first use of the Law. The Law’s first and primary use by God in my life is to show me that I am a sinner. I am guilty before a holy God. In this way the Law kills me and shows me that I am spiritually dead apart from Christ. It kills my pride. It is in this sense that I say it causes me huge damage. Since we all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God, as sinners we are all equally damaged or killed by the Law. Why does the Law does this work on us? So that I find no hope in myself and am then open to help from outside myself. As Luther says, the Law is my schoolmaster that drives me to Christ. And it is a relentless task master as it whips me mercilessly as it drives me to Christ. If the Law did not do this work in me, I would not see my need for Christ and if I did not see my need for Christ, I would not turn to him for salvation and if I don’t have salvation I am lost. So even in this strange work of the Law it is good, for it points me to the need for a Savior. Heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, Trans gendered, etc. – all of us without exception stand in the same place under the Law – condemned and guilty and in need of a Savior.

The second use of the Law has to do with ordering society. And the third use of the Law (disputed by some) has to do with the living of the Christian life. It is this sense that I believe Dan speaks of, that once one is in Christ, obedience to the Law is the road to remaining free and not falling back into bondage to sin. What Dan says about the Law giving me comfort and direction, etc. would be quite true when understood in this third use of the Law. I speak of this use of the Law on pages 161-162 when I say that after rescuing His people Israel from bondage in Egypt, God gave them the 10 Commandments. Why? Because God wanted his children to remain free. So too we have been rescued by Christ from bondage to Sin and he gives us the Law of love, the moral law so that by living a life of obedience to that law, we might remain free and not return to slavery to sin. Disobedience to God’s Law returns us to bondage and slavery, and eventual death. Obedience to the Law brings us freedom. No wonder Paul could say, “I delight in the law of the Lord!” for it is the law of freedom.

Dan also asserts (as well as other readers) that my entire approach trivializes the experiences of same-sex people. I do not believe that anyone who reads my book carefully can honestly come to that conclusion (and I realize that perhaps Dan has not read the book). As my book indicates time and again, I am well aware of the tremendous pain and hurt and confusion etc. experienced by same-sex persons and I do not underestimate the depth of the pain. I am going to take the liberty to quote sections of my book that speak to the issues Dan raises in his comment:

“These questions bring us face to face again with the very difficult question, ‘Can a homosexual change?’ There are extremes of view on this matter. Even within the church you have some who maintain that asking a homosexual to change is like asking a leopard to change his spots. They can’t do it. It is impossible. The orientation is too innate and fixed for there to be change. They come close to using deterministic language to describe the homosexual orientation. Therefore, it is argued, there are only two options for the homosexual person. Either, he has to accept the innateness of his condition, adjust, live with it and enjoy it, or not enjoy it but take a vow of celibacy and accept celibacy as a way of life.

There is great danger in defining homosexuality as unchangeable and fixed. The minute one does so, it almost precludes the possibility of change. The reality is that we don’t really know how much change is possible for each individual. And when we come to look at how we can help people change, there is increasingly strong evidence that homosexuals can change, that homosexual orientation may not be as fixed as we once might have thought. (page 164)

The objection is raised that the bible’s sex ethic is unfair to homosexuals. God is charged with being cruel in prohibiting homosexual acts to those whose orientation is not of their own choosing. The Christian faith is unthinkable for many in that it allows for no morally legitimate way to express homoerotic identity. How do we respond to these objections and charges?

If in fact God is cruel and unfair to homosexuals, then it must be said that he is equally cruel and unfair to all of us. Beginning with the fall into sin, every person has been born with a predisposition or orientation to sin which is not consciously or freely chosen. The Apostle Paul puts it very strongly when he says we are born slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17). Heterosexuals and homosexuals alike are born with fallen natures, a disposition to sin that we did not choose. God allows us to be born in bondage to sin and yet holds us morally accountable for our actions. It is a bondage
from which we cannot set ourselves free. That is why we need Christ’s redemption, that is, emancipation from slavery. The heterosexual and homosexual are in precisely the same place with regard to God’s prohibiting immoral sexual acts as those whose orientation is not of their own choosing.

There is in the Christian’s life this ongoing [Romans 7:15] battle with sin. It goes on
throughout the duration of the Christian’s life for both heterosexual and homosexual Christians. There is no basis in Scripture for treating the process of growing in Christian maturity for a homosexual Christian differently than for all Christians, as if homosexual Christians are in a totally unique category. All of us are fallen people, living in a fallen world and therefore predisposed to sin in different ways.

Is the Christian faith uncharitable because it does not allow for homoerotic expression? The argument is put forth that whereas heterosexuals who are single (unmarried, widowed, divorcees) are under the same admonitions as homosexuals to honor God with their bodies by remaining chaste, there is at least the hope and possibility of one day enjoying sex within legitimate marriage. But such a hope is not a possibility for the homosexual person. It needs to be acknowledged that this may be true for some homosexually orientated persons whose orientation runs deep within their being. But it must be pointed out that the unmarried woman who has strong sexual desires, whom no one asks to marry, is in the same place. She too is denied sexual expression. Both situations are a part of the abnormality of the fallen world. What is needed in both cases is compassionate understanding which moves the church to help the individual in every way possible.” (Pages 180-181)

Loving God? and Data
Nadine asks a question regarding Jesus’ words, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments?” She wonders if I am implying that GLBTIQA people do not love God if they do not follow my views of God’s commands. First, it needs to be said, that my views are not at issue here. What one is faced with are Jesus’ words about obeying his commandments. If we take Jesus straightforwardly here and in the normal meaning of words, it seems to me Jesus is saying that when we obey his commandments, we are expressing love for him and if we are not obeying his commandments, we are not expressing love for him. In other words, when I am disobedient to Jesus’ commands (which is far too often in my case) in those instances I am not loving Christ. That is why I confessed to Ronald (in the Prologue of my book) individually and why I confess corporately on Sundays with other believers that I do not love God as I ought – and I ask for forgiveness. Yes, as with myself, I do believe that GLBTIQA people who are disobedient to Jesus’ commandments likewise are in those instances not loving Christ. I see no biblical grounds to say something different with regard to GLBTIQA people than all other persons.

Nadine also comments on my use of data: “Rev. Glesne is saying give us better data or he’ll use what he has. BAD DATA IS NOT WORTH USING.” Then I appreciate her next comment – question: “If data is collected to find out about risky behavior to try to address that risky behavior, how can you then use that data to describe the entire group?” I feel as thought I have been heard here. Thank you, Nadine. There is only one purpose for bringing to light the risky nature of same-sex behavior, and it is not to demean people, or to make them feel bad, or to cause them hurt or pain, or to degrade people. I find no delight in directing attention to these behaviors. The purpose for doing so is to point out the health risks of such behavior in the hope that people will make different choices in their behavior. In my mind, that is expressing love for my neighbor, for love desires the good of the neighbor and there is same-sex behavior that is not good for one’s health.

Let me use anal intercourse of gay men as an example. The rectum was not built for intercourse. When that occurs, the rectal mucosa is torn and, in many cases, the sphincter muscles are stretched with can lead to fecal incontinence. It is not a healthy activity because tears in the rectal mucosa result in such a high incidence of disease. Now I suppose one can simply deny that this takes place. To me that is turning a blind eye. I am rather persuaded that this is what can happen. It is a risk of the activity. I would go on to say that it is a risk of the entire group of gay men who engage in such activity. (Yes, yes, heterosexuals who engage in such behavior run the same risk.) But while I can describe this activity as risky for the entire group, do all individuals within that group end up with some disease? I don’t know, but I would guess not – happily. All people who smoke cigarettes engage is risky behavior health-wise. Does that mean they all die of lung cancer? Again, happily not! I think, however, it is legitimate to speak of the risky behavior and activity of an entire group while acknowledging that not all individuals within the group will experience the results of the risky activity.

Regarding bad data is not worth using. I don’t think it is going to move the discussion forward by going over this ground yet one more time. At face value, who could really disagree with that statement? But unfortunately it is not quite that easy in my mind. Is it indeed bad data? How does one know it is in fact bad? How bad is it? If we are back to talking about Cameron and Jay & Young’s studies, I have responded to the concerns. If newer studies have been done on the kinds of behaviors and frequency of those behaviors in the gay subculture (so we are comparing apples with apples), then they can be brought forth and we can all look at these studies and evaluate them. If they are deemed better and more accurate than Cameron and Jay & Young’s, then we have improved statistics that we all welcome and are looking for.

Discredited Sources, Data, and Studies
Tim Fisher strongly criticizes the data put forward by Dr. Stanley Monteith (Paul Cameron) and the Gay Report by Jay & Young as junk science. We have gone over this ground before so I’ll only reiterate some central points. If the criticism is that these two studies are not representative of the overall population, it is a misrepresentation of what I am saying because I am making no such claim. These are studies done in what I refer to as the gay subculture and are not meant to be representative of the gay population as a whole. As such I doubt that the kinds of behavior are being denied (I may be wrong) and the percentages are always open to better data. What I have been missing from Tim and others is the bringing forth of scientific studies of the gay subculture that can then be brought along side the studies by Cameron and Jay & Young to challenge or confirm their reliability. I have always said we are open to better and improved data if further studies so warrant.

To answer Tim’s question of whether I have read all that he has written, the answer is “yes.” To refresh my thoughts, I just went back and quickly read over all the correspondence I have had with Tim (I hope I did not miss any, but that is a possibility). What I find is an impressive litany by Tim and many people of criticism of Cameron’s work and the conclusion that his work has been totally discredited. The line of thinking then follows that because Cameron’s work has been so totally discredited, therefore, the specific study I refer to in my book (the only reference made in the book to any of Cameron’s work – through Monteith) and which is in line with Jay & Young’s work is equally discredited – which may not be the case. What I do not find are studies of the gay subculture being brought to the table. Not to belabor the point, but let’s bring forth other studies of the gay subculture to see if these conclusions are confirmed or need to be modified.

NARTH Reference – Discrediting Science – Sexual Orientation – Holiness Code
Dr. Chapman is surprised that I once again use a Narth reference - and I am assuming he is speaking of referencing the Cummings article on the NARTH website on the Tuesday, December 19 post. I don’t believe you can be saying this but is the article by Dr. Cummings less credible if referenced and read on the NARTH website over against another website where it could be located – like Throckmorton’s for example? You undoubtedly realize the article is not a Narth writing, but a writing by Cummings that is made available for reading on their website. You have been respectful of me and I in turn want to be respectful of you. So please read this in the spirit in which it is written: dumb me for pointing eyes to the NARTH website rather than another one.

Dr. Chapman speaks of evangelical Christianity spending a lot of time discrediting science. My response is that when evangelical Christianity does so it needs to be criticized. There is no reason why evangelical Christianity should be criticizing science. Modern science grew up within a Christian context, it was birthed within that context, for Christianity provided the view of God creating an orderly cause and effect world outside of Himself which gave confidence that if one started an experiment today it could be continued tomorrow. Modern science arose in the West and not in the East for very good reasons. Speaking for myself, then, I am on the side of science. There is an objective world out there and we have the adventure of exploring that world through science. Now naturalistic science is a different issue, that is, science that is done within a view of the uniformity of causes in a closed system. But … that would be a different discussion which we cannot have here.

I am glad to know that you have not read my book (that didn’t quite sound right, but you know what I mean) because if you had done so, you would not have misrepresented what I am saying when you say that I do not believe homosexual orientation exists. I acknowledge the reality of homosexual orientation throughout the entire book. I make it very clear that I do not believe the great majority of same-sex persons choose their sexual orientation. Individuals choose their sexual behavior, but they do not choose their sexual orientation.

Dr. Chapman asks of me two specific questions: First, why is lesbianism never mentioned in the Old Testament? I am not sure. Robert Gagnon has much deeper study than myself and so I’ll share here what he says in this regard. He too is not sure but offers these possibilities (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pages 144-145): “The primacy of penetration for defining sexual intercourse may partly explain why the Holiness Code leaves out lesbian relationships….It may have been thought of as a transgression of the covenant but one meriting a punishment less severe than death….Possibly lesbianism was unknown to the Israelites and/or Canaanites (it goes unmentioned in other legal materials from the ancient Near East) so there was no need to legislate it out of existence. We hear of male homosexual cult prostitutes in ancient Israel but not female homosexual cult prostitutes. In a society dominated by men and with a high view of chastity it might have been impossible for a sustained lesbian relationship to develop….In the end one cannot know what the precise reason for its exclusion from Lev. 18:22; 20:13 was.”

Second, why are the only two Old Testament references to male-male sex found in the Purity Code? Perhaps the primacy of the Holiness Code in the life of Israel gives us a hint at why it is found here and not elsewhere. God’s people in the land of Canaan were to be distinctively holy with respect to other peoples. The Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26) was a law code which urged all Israelites to keep the land unpolluted through holy obedience to the commands. It was to govern and regulate the behavior of God’s people. So in addition to the 10 Commandments and specifically Commandment 6 which speaks directly and indirectly to all the issues and behaviors of human sexuality, the Holiness Code reiterates God’s moral code as well as speaking of civil and ceremonial laws of Israel.

Thank you to all the readers that have been with Lars and me on this journey.