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September 15, 2008


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There's a lot of nonsense about evangelicals on Bene's blog, and I haven't read the interviews that you've linked to, Fr. Joe, but I will say one thing; we are all sinners, and we are all tempted by various things. What shows our Christian character is how we handle those temptations.


I think that 'Teena', commenting at Bene's place, succinctly captured something worthwhile here:

"To struggle is not sin, but when we choose to give in to the struggle and walk our own way, that is when it becomes sin."


If I could take the long way around to get to my point...

I have really mixed feelings about the Contemporary Christian Music industry. There's a real slippery slope where worship quickly becomes self-worship if one gets too enchanted with one's own talents. And to sell, copyright and perform *worship* music...I don't know. On the one hand I see it has a role, on the other hand, there's a huge potential for distraction from The One who keeps us in The Way. I go both ways with it.

That said, over the years I've come to see the value, even the liberty, in self-denial. It's paradoxical in a sense...self benefits when said self is able to forget him or herself (hopes and desires) and focus on others.

Say that 5 times fast.

So then I read Ray Boltz say, "I’m just an artist and I’m just going to sing about what I feel and write about what I feel and see where it goes."

My thoughts then turn to all those evenings where a song like "The Anchor Holds" joined me as I wrestled with my own inner dichotomy as my aching body and its chronic illnesses have kept me from "being who I really am", whatever that means...the key to winning the wrestling match, for me, has always been found in self-denial.

Now, something tells me my coming out celebration very well might not be until I hit the pearly gates. And that is fine. I join the legions of others who face the same or worse.

Because here's the thing. It is not unique.
And so we dwell with it.
When I deny myself I find true purpose, fulfillment and glimpses of eternal splendor.

And when I dwell on it,
those are self-worship days.

I've never found those days to be much fun.
And my family suffers too.


Thanks for putting this up, Joe. This is a topic that, while not affecting me directly, does affect me personally in that it is a major challenge for me in how I deal with my faith and my fellow hu(man)ity.

I twigged to something different in Teena's comments:

"God loves us unconditionally but He loves us to much to let us continue on a path of distruction without putting some correction in our lives."

I look at Ray's situation, or similar ones among the people around me, and I wonder which is the true path of destruction, coming out or living a lie to the point of near-suicide? Maybe Teena is right, but not in the way she meant. If anything, I think Ray has taken on an even bigger struggle now. I guess the question we're all having to decide, or have already decided, is whether he's struggling against God or against society on the side of the truth.

Admitting in advance my vast inadequacy in church history and theology, my quasi-evangelical-mostly-secular upbringing and education taught me that the issue of divorce was at the root of the Catholic/Anglican schism. Does the Catholic church still see a divorced person who has remarried as being actively sinning, and on an ongoing basis? How does the Anglican church perceive such a situation? I know my old church has a number of divorced/remarried people who are welcomed, accepted and active in the church at all levels. Something changed?

I simply find myself horribly ill-equipped to evaluate the change that is happening now, though my gut reaction is to back Ray on his decision...


The RC church does, unless the first marriage has been annulled. The Anglican church recognizes some biblical qualifiers to the ban on divorce, although I think it is probably too lenient on the issue.


Having apparently passed each other in cyberspace, Leslie, I posted my comment only to then see both our comments appear, and was immediately thrown back into deep thought.

Not knowing you or your situation beyond what you've written, I am fearful of commenting in this venue (instead of over coffee, let's say!) as the lack of intonation and feedback can be complicating factors. So I preface this by saying I am genuinely curious and simply seeking after wisdom that is likely beyond me. But I think Joe would be willing to attest to my sincerity, if nothing else!

The issue of self-denial is also a challenge for me. On the one hand, absolutely, self-denial has value. In the face of our sinful natures -- our greed, selfishness, cowardice, jealousy, lusts -- it is essential. And as I think you are suggesting, it is important also for dealing with all the things that tie us to this earth instead of allowing us to reach for the heavens -- an "aching body and its chronic illnesses", for example, as opposed to the body God has set aside for each of us for the second time around.

But if I've read this right, you are not denying that you have a broken body. By that I mean that I don't think you are pretending that your body is whole, then going on about your life trying to do exactly the same as someone who has been "blessed" with a stronger body.

I read your comment as meaning that on the days that you accept that your body simply is what it is and move on from that point, then you can then get beyond your body to "find true purpose, fulfillment and glimpses of eternal splendor", which sounds to me like the proper way of "being who I really am". It is only on the days that you dwell on your body, fight what it is, wrestle with what you've been given, that you suffer.

Is it too much of a stretch, an unfair comparison, to suggest that Ray coming out is something similar? An acceptance of his body as it is, admittedly perhaps not seen as broken, although also clearly also not seen as ideal. Isn't he saying "this is who I am, I won't pretend to be otherwise, I won't dwell on trying to make myself how I wish I could be or how I 'ought' to be, and just get on with what God wants me to do with my life, the life I've been given." Assuming his coming out has such a foundation (as opposed to just being an excuse to give up on God and himself and give his baser self free reign), could he now actually be free, or at least more free, to find his true purpose also?

One thing I do know: God knows Ray's heart just as he knows mine, and I think ultimately only he can judge.

Thanks, Kate, for the clarification... though I think I've just set myself to be dropped on the "too lenient" side of things! Interesting, though, the philosophy of "annulled": it never happened (even though it did) so let's just never mention it again. So did the "activity" that took place within this marriage-that-never-happened also not happen?


Hey, I didn't say I agreed with the RC position. I think the Anglican church is too lenient because she seems to accept any excuse for divorce and remarriage as legitimate, whereas I think that a divorced person should have to go through some sort of discernment process before he or she is permitted to marry again in the church.

I don't think your comparison is fair, really, although I am struggling to explain why with charity. He could have gone on with what God wanted to do with his life without leaving his wife. He made promises before God to her when they married. He should keep them.


The reason I was struggling to explain why is the limitations of blog comments vs chatting over a coffee, not because I was mad or anything.... ;-)


Thanks for your comment Winston. I too find the internet a pain & finding context in the midst of a conversation is terribly difficult. Coffee is definitely a better conduit. Hopefully I don't end up speaking out of turn in the process!

Anyway, I guess I was seeing similarities to my own situation in Ray Boltz's, but somehow they were leading me to different conclusions, I think.

Is self-denial only intended to rid ourselves of the "bad" stuff? What about when it comes time to deny the "good" stuff? Noble aspirations or commendable wishes for one's life? There's that. But also, what about self-denial in terms of plain old not pursuing something that feels good. And we don't simply have to be talking about the quest for sex here...what about feeling good by ridding ourselves of pain through pain relievers or treatments? And there are more levels yet, what about the good feelings that come from some temporary escape from mental or emotional pain.

Unto everything there is a season and sometimes I wonder how our perspective would change if we didn't feel compelled to run to the good feelings and were willing to simply sit in whatever painful tension we face and just feel it.

My central nervous system is wired such that it tells my muscles to twist. The differences in my brain are even documented on MRI, ironically enough. Ideally, I need to constantly monitor every move I make to ensure I'm using the proper muscles for posture or walking otherwise I goof myself up. So for me, if I were to give my body what it wants, what it craves, by giving in to the pulling forces that go against what is typical...I will end up sparking off some type of neck or back injury. And I often do.

So I guess where I am at is this. I accept my body in that on this Earth it is an adversary. I accept that and the circumstances that come with it. But when it comes to my own flesh, and the twisting, contorted set of values it tries to impose on me with the help of God I reject it because I am acutely aware of what will become of me in short order if I give in to them.

So it is a life of resistance to self for me. I don't pretend to be very good at it at all. And as I go throughout life I start to see others facing the same life of resistance. The details may be different, but the adversary is the same, I think.

For whatever that is worth. :)


Thank you, Kate. Thank you, Leslie. Your comments are worth a lot to me. And I appreciate the sensitivity to the lack of typed nuance, and the willingness to pursue the conversation in the best spirit possible in spite of the challenges.

Kate, not to worry, I didn't think you were the one waving the flag for annulment! My comment there was a generalized "huh?", one that applies to many things I encounter from all different parts of The Church and humanity. And I agree with you utterly about promises kept and promises broken. I recently watched a marriage suddenly come to an end as the result of him basically just up and leaving. The fact that he and his new girlfriend are attending another church within our denomination, seemingly unchallenged, certainly sticks in my throat. Ray being honest with his wife and family, and as a result perhaps the two making a decision together to separate, perhaps with pastoral advice and guidance... I don't know, not being remotely in their shoes, but is that something different? Would this be a case that would pass a "proper" Anglican process of discernment, or qualify to be annulled as something that should never have been? That said, I agree that my comparison may in fact be far from fair. I am struggling to wrap my head around all this. And, of course, all this in regards to Ray is just conjecture based on a single internet article and some surrounding commentary!

Leslie, you give me much to think about. I think I see more clearly now the similarities as you perceived them, the idea of bodies that must be fought against because they do not work "as God intended"? Please correct me if I'm misreading! But I think therein lies the hot potato in discussions around homosexuality: is homosexuality "the way God intended" in a person or is it a flaw or illness or some falling short of what God intended? And either way, what to do about it? Acceptance? Self-denial? Exceptions on a case by case basis?

The invention of the cochlear implant continues to cause controversy in the deaf community for similar reasons. Is deafness a defect to be corrected with surgery and technology? Or is it "the way God intended" and therefore to be embraced? Some deaf persons see the implant as striking at the heart of deaf culture. But they also see being deaf and communicating via ASL as being perfectly functional, so what's to fix?

I have a friend who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident as a teen, but decided right then to never live his life as someone "disabled." I don't think God intended for him to lose his leg, so is he all that God intended him to be? Is he everything he was meant to be, despite his leg? Because of him missing his leg? Because of his replacement leg? Meaning, is he back to what God intended because we "fixed" his not having a leg? What if he'd been born without the leg?

What about people born with Down's Syndrome? Would God have made them any other way in a "perfect" world?

How about people diagnosed with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder? In this case I would argue strongly that God never intended anyone to be born with FASD, and that if we could figure out how to, we should do all we can to fix the damage caused. But since we can't, what do we do with their inability to learn cause and effect and consequences, their inability to police their own actions, their impulsivity?

The thing is none of us is exactly as God intended. We're each of us screwed up somehow. The trick is trying to figure out which are the screwed up parts, and I think those are the things we need to deny in ourselves. "Good" or "bad" depends.

Is coffee a "good" thing? To enjoy a coffee is, I think, a wonderful thing, a joy and a blessing even, especially when shared with good company. But I will deny myself a coffee when I start thinking that I can't function without one in the morning. I will deny myself the coffee (or at least three out of the four that I would otherwise have) if the dollar, or twenty, I would have spent could be better used by someone else. Okay, sometimes I will. Often I will just keep buying the coffees.

So is there a time to deny love? I think that's part of what clouds the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage. Is it just about sex and lust? That, arguably, should be denied. Is it about the same kind of love and commitment I pledged to my wife when we got married? If so, why deny that? Is it about denying even the possibility of similar feelings of love and/or attraction for others because of the commitment I made? Maybe, maybe not. Is it about denying myself from acting on such feelings if they ever did occur? Absolutely.

Hey wait, isn't that what Kate said in her first comment, but with something like a hundred times less wordiness? So why am I still going on about this? Oh right, Joe said there would be "disagreement over whether (Ray) has or has not chosen a wise or holy course of action"...

I think I'm more confused now...


Wow, it looks even longer when it's posted. Sorry!


A proper discernment process for remarriage after divorce would try to discover whether or not the divorce can be justified biblically. As to what that would look like, that's for wiser heads than mine to puzzle out (for ANiC, anyway). Again and again, we have to go back to the bible.

Is it about the same kind of love and commitment I pledged to my wife when we got married? If so, why deny that?

Because the bible tells us that we should. As Christians, that is what we have to go back to. Now, I'm not arguing for a legalistic attitude here - for instance, when I had long hair, I braided it! Paul was talking about inner beauty vs outer beauty in that passage, literally braiding hair. However, when the plain meaning of scripture forbids something, as Christians, we shouldn't do it.


*sigh* The above should read "not literally braiding hair". Fr. Joe, how about adding an editing feature to the blog, so that we can edit our own comments (not other people's!) after we post them, for fumble fingered folk like me?


As my three year old would say, "pweeeeeeeeeeeeeeese"?



I hadn't been thinking about rejecting the body in terms of embracing an illness or life of disability. I guess I've been thinking about it in terms of a separation between self and body and wondering how much ranking the body should receive. And also a rejection of the need or even obligation to honor or pursue a person's feelings or desires -- good or bad. I have found a certain liberty whenever I am able to acknowledge that my feelings and desires are simply thoughts and that there's a whole other plane of existence to tap into without being trapped by the need to pursue them. I suppose that sounds a little Buddhist. And I snap out of that plane of existence more often than I snap into it...resulting in my own frustrations.

Regardless of whether or not homosexuality is all God intended or right or wrong, my only thought here is that there is a lack of liberty if you have no other choice but to pursue "it", whatever "it" may happen to be for any given person. And I'm wondering if that is the case. As humans, are we trapped that way?

So from that point, and to link up to the angle you and Kate have been discussing, if I make a marriage commitment to another person, is it unavoidable for me to develop some kind of commitment to the needs of my body if and when the volume of its wishes amplifies later on? And if it happens that my body has a different plan for my life than would be supported by my prior commitments, what does it say about who is most important in the marriage relationship if I cut ties in order to support my own desires?

If in fact it is even possible to reject the body and its desires.
Because if it isn't, we are all simply living a life trapped.

Bene D

This is a respectful discussion, and one I didn't think would happen at BDBO, but hoped for.

I'm not for the most part a binary thinker, and I've been saddened by a vitrolic response I've seen on many evangelical blogs.
Boltz didn't elaborate on his divorce, which I think at this time is wise.

I've found that US reparative groups twisted the language and intent of his story and dismissed the complexities of his decision, his families pain the cost of going public etc. Many groups wouldn't link to The Blade as if there was a contagion involved.

I'd hoped the naturalistic fallacies we fall into would not be just spiritualization.

I don't have anything to add except a thank you.


I'd hoped the naturalistic fallacies we fall into would not be just spiritualization.

?? Could you please elaborate on this? I don't understand, and am curious...


Bene - thanks for dropping by. It's hard to know how to talk about a number things with this story, or at least, to talk about them in a way that points in a Godward direction for all who are reading.

Bene D

Agreed Joseph it is difficult, lives are complex. While Boltz is certainly not the first high profile Christian performer to come out, the story of his process and his pain is a difficult read.

Kate: I'm not sure what to say, I'm finding the usual US fundamentalist evangelical responses at BDBO, and I'm torn between letting commenters vent and responding. This discussion isn't about 'winning.'

"..The naturalistic fallacy is related to, and often confused with, the is-ought problem (which comes from Hume's Treatise). As a result, the term is sometimes used loosely to describe arguments that claim to draw ethical conclusions from natural facts.

Alternatively, the phrase "naturalistic fallacy" is used to refer to the claim that what is natural is inherently good or right, and that what is unnatural is bad or wrong..."(wiki)

The spiritualizing: homosexuality is a disorder,a choice, an unnatural choice and a sin, therefore a homosexual or lesbian must be engaging in sinful behavior and rebellion against God, (without thought to other choices such as none sexual behavior or celibacy or a legal committed relationship etc)

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blank stare...

  • Copyright Rev. Joseph Walker, St Timothy's Anglican Church

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