"When to Leave Your Church, White Discipleship, More on Queer Christianity — A Season Finale Mailbag" Transcript
Season 2, Episode 10
[An acoustic guitar softly plays six notes, the first three ascending and the last three descending — F#, B, F#, E, D#, B — with a keyboard pad playing the note B in the background. Both fade out as Jonathan Walton says “This is a KTF Press podcast.”]
Suzie Lahoud: Why is it more important to us to be able to tell someone that we think they're living in sin, than it is for us to be able to look someone in the eye and say, “You are seen and you are known and you are loved, come fellowship with us.” Because I think the latter is what we see lived out with Christ.
[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]
Suzie Lahoud: Welcome to Shake the Dust: Leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God. I'm Suzie Lahoud.
Sy Hoekstra: I'm Sy Hoekstra.
Jonathan Walton: And I'm Jonathan Walton. Welcome to our season finale episode! Today, we will be answering some really great questions submitted by listeners just like you, and talking a bit about what's ahead for Shake the Dust and KTF Press.
Sy Hoekstra: Speaking of KTF Press, please remember to go to ktfpress.com and consider subscribing. We have a monthly and an annual subscription, it gets you the bonus episodes of this show. It gets you our weekly newsletter, where all three of us give you highlights from media, things to listen to and read and watch, that will help you in your discipleship and your political education as you leave colonized faith. It also supports everything that we do at KTF Press. That is how we exist, because of the people who support us through that subscription, and we really appreciate it. So please go to ktfpress.com, consider subscribing. And you can always start off your subscription with a free month by going to ktfpress.com/freemonth.
Okay, let's get started. Suzie, give us our first question.
Suzie Lahoud: Our first question comes from a listener named Adam, in response to Jonathan's piece about Andy Stanley's book and the episode we did on political moderation in white churches. It sort of has two parts. The first part is, “As a spiritual director and someone interested in attempting to address white people with racial issues, I'm never sure how to prioritize/address how people are traumatized by coming to terms with the reality of the history of the country or their own family or their church.”
The second part of the question I'm just going to summarize, but basically Adam, in addition to that first part expresses feeling sort of betrayed by his church. And even though he felt like the church community came at issues like COVID and LGBTQ Christians from a healthy place, he feels like they're just going nowhere on issues of race. So he hasn't really been able to go back on Sunday mornings and is concerned about how this is affecting the spiritual life of his kids.
So, I'm interested to hear from you two, Jonathan and Sy. How would you address, I guess, both parts of this question? The first sort of more general and the second more kind of personal.
Jonathan Walton: So, all right, I'm going to go to the second one first, because that's actually I think easy. Is that me and Priscilla, whenever we had… and I actually did an Instagram video series about this. If you go to my Instagram @ehactivist, I talk about this. It's like, when is the time to leave your church? And I would say to Adam, it's beyond time for you to leave your church. At our church, one of the things that they asked when we first got there was, is this a place that you can grow, connect and serve? And I never heard those three things put together before, but I would love to be at a place where I can grow in my love of God, other people, his word, and all of creation, like with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in me. And I would love to be able to connect with other people as I do that, and I'd love to serve. And those things actually acting in concert with each other. And if I'm only doing one of those things for a sustained amount of time, then I'm actually not participating in, I think, like a healthy body. If I'm at a place where I can do those things. And so that was the first thing.
The second thing is, if I wouldn't want my child to grow up and be like the people that I'm around, why am I at that church?
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.
Suzie Lahoud: Oo, yeah.
Jonathan Walton: Why am I there? If I hesitate with inviting people there, I think it's okay for us to leave. And there are hard conversations that come with that, issues that come with that, but all of those things are emotional.
We need to do the work to interrogate, to figure out what those things are, but it sounds like that it's beyond time for Adam to leave, because he's not able to grow, connect and serve, and it's been that way for a while. If that's the case, what actually needs to happen is, I would recommend having the hard conversations to figure out what's at stake for you if you go, and then addressing those things. Because none of the things that I assume are going to come up are worth your relationship with God and your children's relationships with God over time.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. I think part of what you're saying, Jonathan, what I'm hearing from you, is that the simplest answer is often right and simultaneously the hardest thing to do.
Jonathan Walton: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. I think that's a great point Sy. I also think it's good… To your point, Jonathan, I think it's good if and when you feel like it's time to go, to have an exit strategy and a re-entry strategy. So an exit strategy for, and I would recommend to folks going back and listening to one of the first episodes we did with Pastor Sandra Maria Van Opstal and hearing her advice on this. That even when there are times when you feel like you want to burn it all down, resisting that urge and trying to extricate yourself in a way that you can try to prevent as much as you can burning bridges while also speaking truth in love.
So not silencing your truth telling, but also doing it in a way that is loving to the community of Christ, and is looking out for folks who will come after you. But then also I think a reentry strategy for how and where are you going to seek out that community that Jonathan was describing, where you can grow and connect and serve. So I think that's important too, because otherwise, especially when you have a family that's going to be leaving with you, otherwise it's possible that you could just end up in limbo and that's not a healthy place to be either.
So I think rather than just doing the easy thing in a way, put “easy” in quotation marks, of just sort of launching yourself and your family out into oblivion, out to outer space [laughter]. I think it's smart to go to mission control and talk through how you're going to exit the atmosphere [Sy laughs] and then land wherever it is you feel like you're called to land, having in mind the kind of place that you want to land, and why and how you're going to go about that.
Sy Hoekstra: So leaving your church in this metaphor is like launching yourself into the sort of cold, indifferent expanse of space.
Suzie Lahoud: I mean, I feel like it can feel that way when you're in the wilderness for a little bit.
Jonathan Walton: Yes, it can feel that way. I have had so many conversations with racially assigned white people in the United States about this very question. I have not had any conversations with Black folks about feeling homeless in a church and like a political outsider and “Where is my tribe?” Like none of those conversations with marginalized people. But I have consistently had those conversations with mostly white men, about “I don't know where I belong politically. I don't know where I belong in church. I don’t know where I belong socially.” And I think that's because we're used to… not we, because I'm not white, but you're used to belonging and used to having it all make sense.
And Jerry Falwell, when he designed the first church around these like, he created this behemoth where everything you quote-unquote “need” comes from this place, and we've bought into that. Where it's hard for us to have non-Christians and call them friends. It's hard for us to build relationships outside of our small group, outside of our family group, outside of the Saturday luncheon. So when you leave, quote-unquote “leave” or think about leaving…
Sy Hoekstra: You lose everything.
Jonathan Walton: you lose quote-unquote “everything”. Not to text jack a verse, but if you lose your life, you'll gain it. And if we give up some of these things that we think are our entire lives, we might just gain the kingdom.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.
Jonathan Walton: And so to go straight into the first part of that…
Sy Hoekstra: The first part of his question?
Jonathan Walton: The first part of his question about how do you address these things as a spiritual director? I think that is a great, honest pastoral question. And I think that some of the difficulty in answering that question might come from the fact that you haven't left yet. And so if you actually go first, you'll have to think through, what am I leaving? Why am I leaving? What am I giving up? Is it worth it? Yes. Why? How am I going to do this? Because I don't know if the person sitting in front of you, how to love that person other than saying I X, Y, and Z, if that's what they're asking for in this spiritual direction experience, if that's what they're looking for in this formation relationship.
Because most of the spiritual directors that I've had and the people I have, and I listen to and hold in the highest regard is, they tell me, “I did this. I felt this.” And I think there's something significant about Jesus, because Jesus, when he says, I know what it's like to be betrayed, or I know what it's like to have people turn their back on me, and I know what it's like, he's a man of sorrows. So we can go back and see stories of how he entered into those things and overcame, and I think as a spiritual director, if you have, that's the prior agreement and expectation in these spiritual direction relationships, we're able to do that. When those things come up and you pull from your own wealth of experience and not a secondhand spirituality, I think there'll be power that comes and discernment that come.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with all that. I would add, God meets people where they are. He's not going to… like if you left and you could articulate all those things with all the authority that Jonathan just kind of cast a vision for, there's still going to be some people who aren't ready to hear it, and you need to be conscious of those things. Like you can't just throw people into trauma and let them sink, if they're going to sink or reject it or whatever. But we also, like every white spiritual director needs to understand that getting white people to the place where they understand that that trauma that they're going through is so much less than the trauma that is inflicted on everybody else by the same issues…
Suzie Lahoud: Yes, yes.
Sy Hoekstra: … and that they are unable to handle emotionally and to even understand the extent of the trauma because of the fact that they are white and the things don't affect them directly. If spiritual directors can't get people there, can't get people to a place where they understand that, we can't go anywhere on race. We can never go anywhere on race, because that's the starting point. Like you can't get anywhere as a white person until you understand… you can't get anywhere significant anyways.
Jonathan Walton: Sy — I'm sorry.
Sy Hoekstra: Go ahead.
Jonathan Walton: Sorry, I was exploding because I want to write an essay about this [Sy laughs]. But it's the gospel. If we cannot bring our sin to Jesus, individual and collective, …
Suzie Lahoud: Yes.
Jonathan Walton: ...if we're not able to do that, then I don't think we get the gospel.
Sy Hoekstra: Right.
Suzie Lahoud: Yes, preach.
Jonathan Walton: We don't understand the good news of Jesus. So if I'm sitting here in a spiritual direction conversation, and God has revealed to me that I am directly connected to institutionalized violence against a marginalized group of people that I have benefited from, and I can't deal with that, what I'm effectively saying is the work of Christ is incomplete and too small.
Sy Hoekstra: Uh huh.
Jonathan Walton: Jesus must not, must not have risen from the grave for this. I'm just, this is just too much. So in that liminal space, I think there's unlimited access to the, all of the scriptures become true. How high, how low, how wide, how deep is the love of God for us. There's no shame or condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. All these things just burst forth, and if you are white or you are a man, or you are able-bodied, or you are any of these spaces that society has actually set up for us to flourish and then set up for other people to be crushed and we recognize that, and then Jesus loves us anyway and died for us anyway, then all of a sudden we might understand why Judas wasn't cast out, why Pontius Pilate wasn't put in his place. Why all of these people along the way that crapped on Jesus, like Peter still got to be the rock of the church. And he literally abandoned his best friend and his teacher. So, anyway, I just think it's a great space for people to meet Jesus and come to the King. That’s all.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.
Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] I completely agree with all that. You're also partially just talking about decentering yourself as a white person, because you won't… if all of your concerns are wrapped up in how do I get anybody in my white church to move an inch on race when you could be running miles with Jesus. You're just, you're going to lose out on so much, like Jonathan just said. And so a big part of the solution to that in a lot of cases is leave, which is back to the second question that Adam asked, I think, because leave and put yourself in a place where you are actually under the authority of somebody who's not white, if it's a racial question that you're asking about your church or whatever. Put yourself below the group that society subordinates. And you will be probably disoriented, but you're also going to not face as much of the trauma that you face in a white church, and you're going to see real life examples all around you, of the people who have not only dealt with the level of trauma you faced, but with levels of trauma far beyond what you faced, and you're going to be able to learn from them.
And there's nothing, absolutely nothing, that Jesus ever says that is stay in an institution that is refusing to change, when the spirit does not seem to be working in this area and try and do anything you can. Jesus says follow him, so go follow him wherever he is, which doesn't sound like he's necessarily in the church where you are [laughs], as harsh as that may sound.
Suzie, do you have anything to add?
Suzie Lahoud: I’ll just launch off, I love that picture that you paint, Sy, where it's once you're able to exit that space where the biggest question is, how do I help white people deal with their feelings, to put it in just really stark terms. And once you can launch yourself into that space where like you were saying, you are under the spiritual authority of those who have been oppressed by white people, and who are struggling with real life things. And the question shifts, having that paradigm shift, all of a sudden you can now be dealing with, as you were describing Sy, real life issues of like, okay, how do we help these people feed their families? How do we address this housing crisis? How do we deal with this police brutality that are robbing people of their lives?
All of a sudden, I mean, really, I think back to your point, Jonathan, it's being launched out into the kingdom of, can we get away from these piddling little questions and start to look at the big picture of how do we allow God to use us as a conduit for his grace in real, tangible, concrete ways? But then also, Jonathan, I love how it gets to the piece of, as white people, white evangelicals, we love to talk about the wages of sin. And we love to talk about original sin and all of those things, all of those theologies. But then we are just babies when it comes to actually dealing with sin. And I say babies, because the verse I'm thinking about is we are not mature enough to eat the solid food…
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.
Suzie Lahoud: … that needs to be fed to us in spiritual formation. If you're going to talk about spiritual formation, we need to move beyond the milk of like, oh, you poor white person, you can't handle knowing that you are actually a sinner and that your sin actually has real life consequences in the world that are still occurring. That still have repercussions, reverberations generationally, that you are still actively a part of. We can't move beyond that. We are still being bottle fed…
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah.
Suzie Lahoud: … and we need to move past it. Like not only is it a sin for us to not be able to repent of those things and acknowledge them, but we, how are we ever going to be able to eat the solid food that Jesus wants to feed us? And it is good food, friends. It is a banquet. And I want to be there, and I want to see all of us at the table. But if you're in the business of spiritual formation, I'm sorry. I don't mean business. Like it's to monetize, let's get capitalism out of the church. But I'm just saying, if that's what you feel called to, …
Jonathan Walton: [laughing] There you go.
Suzie Lahoud: … you bringing people to the table, I don't want to be spoon fed at the table of the Lord. I want that real food.
Jonathan Walton: Amen.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Amen. All three of us had a lot of feelings about the first question [laughter]. So Let's keep moving to the next one because we could talk about that all day. Thank you so much, Adam. I'm glad we have a, not as intense, but I think super practical and great question next from our occasional proofreader at ktfpress.com, the proofreader of our anthology, and my aunt, Margie. Hit it, Suzie.
Margie: Hi friends. Every time you ask for questions to be sent in by voice or email, I think of this question, so I don’t know why I never send it. Anyway, here's my question. If a person were going to pay actual cash money for a newspaper subscription, not the paper, but digital, what newspaper or papers would you guys recommend someone put their money in? Maybe give a top five or 10 in order of preference. I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions and referrals on this.
Sy Hoekstra: Thank you, Margie. Guys, you go first. I'll just tell you up front, I'm going to cheat a little bit on this question and not precisely follow Margie’s instructions in the, I think the classic tradition of the podcast host, but I'm going to get at the heart of her question [Suzie laughs]. But you guys feel free to answer as you choose.
Suzie Lahoud: The spirit, not the letter of the question [Sy laughs].
Jonathan Walton: Ah, man, as someone who pays for very few news sources.
Sy Hoekstra: [laughs].
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, I think that's the honest first part of the question.
Sy Hoekstra: Margie, you're asking millennials this question.
Jonathan Walton: So if I pay for news.
Sy Hoekstra: No, it's a hypothetical. If you have money for news.
Jonathan Walton: Hypothetical, okay. So one, I would pay for the New York Times. Let's be clear, New York Times is some of the best reporting that there is, I think just in the world. And so I think if I was going to pay money, and I do pay money for the New York Times, I would pay for the New York Times [Sy laughs]. The second thing that I would pay attention to, the Miami Herald has really great reporters.
Sy Hoekstra: Hey, Jacqueline Charles, if you want to learn about Haiti in a way that nobody else in America is going to let you learn, go read the Miami Herald.
Jonathan Walton: If you love her, you should definitely read Leonard Pitts. Really, really great commentary and a 2004 Pulitzer Prize Winner. The other things that I would say is, I would find voices on Substack.
Sy Hoekstra: You’re stealing mine. Okay, go ahead [Suzie laughs].
Jonathan Walton: Peter Beinart is amazing. Peter Beinart is great. I would also lean into… now this is where I think we can get into who you're going to support with your ad dollars and your eyes. I think Fareed Zakaria is really helpful.
Sy Hoekstra: Oo, I agree with that one.
Jonathan Walton: And then the most helpful conservative place that I lean into in the red, is The Bulwark. It's pretty new. It was created by some Never Trump people, but some, I think a helpful perspective I don't normally agree with, but the analysis is helpful. Oh, and if you have money also, you should definitely support The Guardian. They're great.
Suzie Lahoud: Yes, agreed.
Sy Hoekstra: Suzanne.
Suzie Lahoud: I guess I would, yeah, I would also affirm what Jonathan was saying about the New York Times. I also, I am a Bostonian, so I also subscribe to the Boston Globe. But would I say it's as good as the New York Times? Not going to answer that because I'm a Bostonian [Jonathan laughs]. But I think it's also really good reporting, and especially, I think it's good just in general to subscribe to your local papers. I think that's really important. I know the Boston Globe has done some incredible reporting on racial justice in the Boston area and social justice issues, and I think that's really important for me as a Bostonian when I go to the polls, to be well informed through those sources, and I am blessed to be in a city that has a resource like that.
So definitely look into your local papers. I would agree with The Atlantic, they also have a certain number of free articles you can read every month, so that's great. I am also one of those people, and I kind of feel like an old lady in this, but I have like a stack of New Yorkers that just piles up in my apartment.
Sy Hoekstra: [laughing] That's right, you do.
Jonathan Walton: They are really good.
Suzie Lahoud: But look, I actually get like the actual physical copy of The New Yorker and you will get incredible long-form journalism pieces that will come out, and those are worth the subscription, I would say. But if you're not sure you want to go all in on the subscription, I think a really smart thing to do is through social media, just following those journalists. Some of them are freelancing for The New Yorker, but following those journalists whose reporting you like and who report on topics that you want to stay up to date on. So like Ian Urbina is someone who I just think he does such a phenomenal job going in depth on his stories, and really covers important things that are important critiques, I think, of empire and capitalism and not so great stuff going on in our world.
So I think that's great. I was also surprised, I have to say as a side note, I took one course at the Harvard Kennedy School. I was really surprised that a lot of the curriculum for this one course I took, a lot of what we were assigned reading was actually just pieces from The New Yorker. And that was surprising to me because I realized that's what's informing a lot of the policymaking in DC, and so that’s another reason why…
Jonathan Walton: Yes. Articles, yes.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. And so that's another reason why I like to keep up to date with that particular publication, is because even if I don't agree with everything coming out of it, which honestly, most of the time I do agree with the angles that are being taken, but at the end of the day, that's what folks are having eyes on in Washington. And so I want to be aware of how they're being informed on certain issues and to be able to respond and critique those things. Also I'm going to steal one from Sy, but Al Jazeera has for a long time been something that I check daily. They put out great journalism, great reporting on the Middle East. Tends to avoid a lot of the sort of problematic reporting that you might get on things in the Middle East from other publications in the United States, and so I definitely recommend Al Jazeera.
Sy Hoekstra: My answer to this is a little bit different. I don't know, this is a personal decision. I'm not judging Jonathan or Suzie [laughs], but I typically don't give money to the big ones largely because there's enough problematic stuff that happens there, there's enough decisions that the New York Times makes that are real weird and questionable about the things that it decides to cover or the people it platforms, and I don't love the way The New Yorker’s treating it's workers right now, and that kind of thing. There's enough of that kind of thing that goes on that I'm happy to just give those people my ad revenue money.
Jonathan Walton: Advertising dollars.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, exactly, and kind of skip out on the actual cash. I a hundred percent agree — the Miami Herald has national reach, and a lot of the local papers do in various ways — but I would totally agree with that. Like your local paper that is especially doing the work of addressing the issues that your actual local communities are dealing with, holding your local government institutions accountable to whatever degree that's possible, a hundred percent agree with that. I would look at nonprofit journalism outfits too that are either from a perspective that you agree with or that you don't hear as often, or that you, they're on a specific subject that you're interested in. So I look at The Marshall Project and The Appeal all the time. Both great nonprofit journalism rooms talking about the criminal legal system and all of the incredible ways that it fails and how to change it. The Marshall Project also covers immigration. Mother Jones is an interesting one, they come from an obviously left perspective, but they write on just some stuff that's so interesting, that you're not going to find anywhere else. There's this one article about the child welfare system that I cite all the time, because nobody writes about it to the extent that they have. So things like that I think are interesting to look into.
And then specifically for the Substack voices, like Jonathan mentioned, we have a recommendations page of other Substacks that we recommend. Just one of the smaller ways that we try and center and elevate marginalized voices. But you can just go to ktfpress.com/recommendations, and you will see all of the other people on the Substack platform that we recommend. I would highly encourage people to give those people some money. Most of them are not… actually, I think all the ones that we recommend are not companies even. Like I mean, we're a very small company obviously, but those are individual people that you're giving money directly to for their work, which I think is a cool model and something that’s pretty much only allowed because of the internet.
Suzie Lahoud: One thing that I've been learning, is follow people, not publications. Social media is just a great way. Again, following journalists that you respect and just following people that you respect and seeing what they're reading, what they're putting out. And I think that that can be a helpful way to glean information and knowledge from a variety of sources, which I think is a smart thing to be doing.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. Jonathan, can you give us the next question?
Jonathan Walton: Yes, I can do that. This question comes from our episode about queerness and clarity. And if you haven't listened to that, please do go back to Spotify or wherever — your podcast listener — and check it out. But it goes, what about non-affirming LGBTQ+ voices? Why were they left out of our conversations about queerness and Christianity? Sy, what do you think about that?
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, I think we got a couple of questions to that effect. I think there might have been some times where we worded some things, where we maybe made it sound like queer people are all on one side of the question of, does the Bible affirm LGBTQ relationships or not? So I'll own that, there are probably sometimes where I was a little bit careless with my words, I won't speak for the others. I will say that the question, coming from straight people, I think is a little bit like white people asking why when you talk about race, you're not taking into account the perspectives of like Clarence Thomas or Thomas Sowell or Candace Owens, or any of the Black people who very publicly take the side that is most often associated with white people when it comes to debates about race. The content of the argument doesn't really change. It's just you typically want someone who is from the marginalized identity group agreeing with you because that's more palatable and it feels better.
But the thing about that dynamic in the LGBTQ conversation that I would highlight, is that the tokenizing is done by people in the majority culture. Like when you're talking about — what I just described is tokenizing. When you're just picking someone out who agrees with you because of their identity, whatever that identity is. That's done by people who are in the dominant group. So in this case, that's done by straight people. The non-affirming LGBTQ people themselves are not doing anything wrong. They just believe what they believe and they often believe it at enormous personal cost, because there are so many people on either side of the spectrum of belief who don't want them to be saying what they're saying. So I wanted to acknowledge that, but then also say, as far as who we're going to center and elevate, we're going to center and elevate the marginalized perspective, not the perspective that the majority already holds, just coming from a different voice, if that makes sense. I think that was just something I wanted to kind of make clear in response to that question.
Jonathan Walton: Yeah. I think that that's a really important thing to call out. Suzie, did you want to add something to that?
Suzie Lahoud: I'm trying to figure out how to address this without, because I don't want to come across as just being defensive. But going back to that episode, so I know, personally I did try to acknowledge the fact that, I mean, I have folks who come at this issue, LGBTQ Christians who are both affirming and non-affirming, and I certainly don't want to silence those who are non-affirming. And I even mentioned, I think, when I was speaking about wanting to support my queer Christian friends wherever they land on this issue, and wanting to support their wrestling, wherever they land on this issue. So, just to clarify that up front.
And I think that's important because I also don't, I think Sy’s point is so valid and so significant, and I just want to bring that home. That we feel called to center and elevate marginalized voices, and the marginalized perspective is to be affirming. And so that's why we gave it so much air time. Again, we feel like that other side of the story is out there is being told. But then having said that, I also don't want to make it sound like I think it's okay to silence or belittle non-affirming queer Christians.
I think one of the main… I was thinking about this recently, I think one of the major issues that I have with evangelicalism, particularly white American evangelicalism, is this idea of not only holding views, but using your personal views to kind of beat people over the head. And I just think that if you believe that what you believe is genuine and true and real, it should be so winsome to folks that you don't have to beat them over the head with it. And so I think if you land on the affirming or the non-affirming side, I don't think you should have to use that to belittle or persecute folks who don't hold those same views. I think you should be able to articulate that in a compelling way, that again is, that draws people in. That makes them want to hear more, that makes them want to know more and see more in your life and how you live that out. And so on both sides of this, that's how I think it would be helpful for the conversation to go, and how I hope I can enter into the conversation, but again, as a straight woman, so this isn't really my space I think to be offering my views either way as if they're so significant. But I think when that conversation is going on in the queer community, I don't want to see either side bashing the other. I want to see us be able to have that open and honest conversation. But again, to Sy’s point, I'm going to hammer this home again because I think it's so important, making sure that we are giving enough air time to the marginalized perspective.
Jonathan Walton: Yeah. And the only thing I want to add to what you all are saying, is that we had a lot of conversations about this conversation.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah we did.
Jonathan Walton: And one of the things about centering and elevating marginalized voices when we are three straight people, is like answering the questions that we are being asked. I was not asked to give a side A clear argument and a side B clear argument, and then make sure there was equal time so that everyone feels that they are equally represented when they listened to this podcast. That was not what I was asked to do. What I was told that the most loving thing I can do, is explain where I land what that looks like practically for this marginalized group of people.
And I think the person and the people that I am thinking about are my friends that are queer, when I think about that. And I'm thinking about how can I continue to be in loving, Christ-centered, pursuing relationship with these people who I love deeply and the center of our lives and conversations is not our sexuality. The center of our lives and conversations is Jesus. And so when I share about sexuality and where I quote-unquote “land” and where they land and there's conflict, what I appreciate about my friends that are queer and what they've said they appreciate about me, is that they are the center of my relationship with them. I am the center of their relationship with them.
We are not our ideas, our ideologies, our opinions. They are trumped by the number of times we've eaten dinner and how we've prayed for each other and had conversations and wrestled with things. And those are the things that we— we actually have friendships and relationships, not arguments to win and lose. And I think in that episode, my hope was that the people that are in my life, I honor them by being clear about where I stand. That's where the episode came from for me.
Suzie Lahoud: The next question, so a listener named Laura responded to Sy's point about idolatry in the fight against same sex marriage. To say that non-Christian marriages wouldn't be marriages without the Bible's way of seeing things. So Sy, you in particular, I think it'd be good to give you an opportunity to respond and maybe clarify, and then Jonathan, obviously, if you want to jump in, always love to hear your thoughts as well.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah. So this is a point… and Laura and I have gone back and forth a little bit, and I think we're actually kind of in the same place on this. But the fact that she didn't understand what I was saying and when I went back and looked at the transcript [laughs], made me think that this was worth clarifying because I said this kind of quickly. What I was talking about was the specific fight against government issued marriage licenses for same sex couples or for queer couples. The reason that's important is that like, I wasn't talking about like church marriages as it were. Like if an atheist got married, if two atheists get married, that's not a Christian marriage. But that's kind of like the point there. We don't have a problem with non-Christians getting married within the legal definition of marriage.
And so if we are in the public sphere arguing that we should not be giving marriage licenses to LGBTQ couples because they are sinful or unbiblical or un-Christian, then you're saying all the other marriages that happen are Christian. That's the implication, right? You don't need to come in and selectively argue for Christianity to be imposed, Christian moral standards to be imposed on the issuing of government marriage licenses. Unless you're doing it selectively because you idolize something in particular, in this case, straightness and your view of sexuality. I think that that's just the clarifying point that I wanted to make. I hope that makes sense.
Jonathan Walton: Yeah, and I'll just lean into very quickly, I think this is a function of a soft Christian nationalism, that we conflate religious institutions and state institutions consistently, and I think that needs to be resisted at every turn. And just because the United States says that you're married, it doesn't mean that God is for or against it. And I think we need to lean into the reality that some men and women that get married in the eyes of a church and in the state — God ain’t part of that either, you know what I'm saying? So I think there's a pridefulness that comes with that. Like inherently, if a man and woman are together, therefore God blesses it and we've moved on.
And we all know that's not true for the obvious reasons that many of us have encountered in our relational lives, talking with people about how and when and what conditions they became married. So I think that there's a resistance to pride that we need to press into. There's a resistance to Christian nationalism that we need to press into. And then there's the honesty about history that marriage in the United States has not ever been a Christian institution and that the church can own that and we can wrestle with that in the church and separate that from what happens in the state of New York or wherever you find yourself today.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, I think that's a good point about conflating church institutions and government institutions being soft Christian nationalism.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.
Sy Hoekstra: This is a point that I touched on in an article I wrote last year about the Catholic foster care agency in Philadelphia that was refusing to license same-sex foster couples. They were saying, “We can't condone this.” A big part of the point of my article was to say that's not what foster care agencies do. They don't morally condone couples. They evaluate whether or not their smoke detectors or their carbon monoxide detectors work [laughs] and whether or not they have food in the fridge to take care of a child. But that conflation that you were talking about, Jonathan, was happening there. There should be no difference between what we do in the church when we decide whether or not someone should, a couple is, their marriage is blessed by God, there's no difference between that and when I'm issuing them a foster care license. There's a melding of those two different scenarios.
Suzie, I don't know if you had any thoughts on that one. It was directed at me, but go ahead if you do.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, well, I mean, I just want to agree. I think that's such an important point that you're making, Jonathan, and actually that was similar to what sort of you put it in better words than what came to mind for me when I originally was thinking about this question. And thank you, Laura, for bringing it up and for further discussion, because I appreciate Sy, you having the opportunity to clarify and to talk about this, because I feel like it can feed into, perceptions like that, can feed into a broader narrative of sort of quote- unquote, “Christian civilization,” which as you said, Jonathan, feeds into, I loved how you put it, sort of soft Christian nationalism.
And there is kind of a homophobic narrative that talks about how the demise of civilization is when you start to see same sex couples who are then getting married and then they're not procreating, and then all of civilization falls apart. There's stories like that, that we've been told. There's this whole historiography around it.
Sy Hoekstra: It's also extremely common with the alt-right and conspiracy theorists and the QAnon forums, those kinds of places.
Suzie Lahoud: Exactly. And I just want to call it what it is, which is homophobia. It's a homophobic historical narrative. And so I'm not surprised that that… and by the way, I'm not saying that the person who posed the question is homophobic. I'm just saying we need to be aware of where these ideas come from. That sometimes we are repeating things that we've heard somewhere, and we need to go back to the source. And I think the source here is, as you were saying Sy, just now pointing out, it can feed into this alt-right extreme narrative that I think we don't want to be a part of.
Sy Hoekstra: You think?
Suzie Lahoud: I guess speaking for myself, I certainly don't want to be a part of [laughter]. And so there's that piece of it.
And just to show on the surface how ridiculous it actually is, to show that the emperor has no clothes. So the idea, and this goes to this idea of conflating something. Christian marriage as a sacrament is different from the idea of marriage in general. Civilizations have been getting married for, since the beginning of time. That idea of folks getting married is not just from the Bible. We as Christians believe what we believe about it, starting with Adam and Eve and then moving forward. But I was just at a museum this past weekend looking at different forms of art from ancient Egypt, and they have a man and a wife there.
Again, obviously there are different ways culturally, that the idea of marriage can manifest, but you can have marriage without having this idea of quote-unquote “Christian civilization.” And so it's just kind of a little bit, if you follow the argument, not only go back to the root of it, but follow it to its conclusion, it's actually a little bit ridiculous I think.
Sy Hoekstra: Laura also asked us, and again, I've been back and forth with her on this, and I think we're sort of in the same place on it. But again, it was a point of clarification. About the times, I think it was just Suzie and I that said this, but when we asked about why does somebody getting married to someone of their same sex or gender bother you so much, like what harm is it doing to you? And Laura said from the perspective of someone who's not affirming, it may not affect your personal life or doesn't affect your personal life. What it affects is the church at large, like people calling something not sin that is sin, or confusing God's standards for what we should and shouldn't be doing. Do you all have thoughts about that point?
Jonathan Walton: I'll process a little bit of this out loud. I think that we need to press in and ask ourselves, before I want to tell this person that they are sinful, we need to interrogate where that impulse is coming from. Is it coming from the Holy Spirit and relationship you have with them and they're asking you to engage with them on this deep, intimate, personal question that they have? Or have we imbibed a narrative that says, “If my child watches Buzz Lightyear, and two women come up on the screen and they are obviously in a romantic relationship, my child is going to be gay, I am scared of that.” If I introduce these concepts to my kid too young, it's just going to be this slippery slope of lesbianism that's just going to come up.
I think we need to wrestle with, these are real conversations that I've had with people, where they're like, but if they see that, that’s going to make my child gay. If they see two moms… I think going back to Suzie's thing about meat versus milk, we actually need to grow up to be able to have mature conversations about sexuality, and mature conversations about the choices that people make and how to live our lives. And then I think we can have a conversation about sin and the love of God.
I think we are missing an essential relational connective piece, where the person before me is not an abomination before they're made in the image of God, worthy of dignity, grace, love and respect. Before we say label this person as whatever we have decided that they are because of the theology that we have taken in and now desire to… I think we need to slow down, resist pride, resist narcissism, and resist hurry. Resist the idea that I am better than the person that's in front of me. Resist the idea that my ideas matter more than their perspective, and resist the idea that because I am better and because my ideas matter more, I can judge them before I know what their middle name is, or where they grew up, or I have never had a meal with them. I think we need to slow down.
God sent his son Jesus to get to know us. God was not judging Adam from far away. There's an intimate relationship that happens, and I think that's what qualifies him to judge, because he knows us and we are actually not the ones to judge other people.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, I should say or I should add, this was a long discussion where we went into our personal views on affirming versus non-affirming. We went into a lot of nuance on how these discussions should happen. So if you haven't listened to that episode and you're listening to us talk now, you might be missing some context, just in case somebody turned to this one before they turned to that last one.
Jonathan Walton: This is true
Suzie Lahoud: That’s a great point, Sy.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, we spent a long time thinking out how we would go about having that conversation, and this one is a little bit more free form. So, if you're thinking, if anything we're saying is raising some red flag for you wherever you are on the question or on these issues, I would go take a look at that past episode.
Suzie Lahoud: I think one thing I'll add as well to what you just shared, Jonathan, which is super, super helpful, thank you for that, was, I think it's good to try to clarify, are we talking about affirmation or are we talking about visibility? And trying to disentangle the two. Because I think that, and you brought this up so clearly, Jonathan, with your example of the Buzz Lightyear film. Because one of themes in that episode that this question is referring to, was just that a lot of times all the church is really doing is keeping people in hiding and in fear, and in a position of being persecuted by the community of faith.
And so is the fear just that those folks would be more visible to us, that they would be out in society? That they would be, we would know who they are when we're sitting next to them in church? And if that's the issue, then I think we need to ask ourselves why, because I think one of the beautiful things that Christ did is make invisible things visible and make invisible people visible to the community, and then bringing them deeper into community rather than casting them further out and casting them aside. And so I think that's where I just would love to reframe the question and the perspective that we're coming from with questions like this, of why is it more important to us to be able to tell someone that we think they're living in sin, than it is for us to be able to look someone in the eye and say, you are seen and you are known and you are loved, come fellowship with us. Because I think the latter is what we see lived out with Christ.
And that's not to say that Christ didn’t do his fair share of calling people to account and speaking truth. And I think that's where, one of the things we were welcoming in that episode was more honest conversation and candid conversation, but let's have the conversation. Let's stop shutting people out and keeping them in closets and behind closed doors and shushing, and let's really come together and have these conversations from a place of love, informed love.
Sy Hoekstra: And I think that point you made, Suzie, about how Jesus did sometimes call people out and sometimes didn't according to kind of different scenarios that he was in. One of the things we talked about in the episode was Jonathan said a lot of the issues that were determining how Jesus responded to any given person who he thought was sinning, and by the way, we’re all hypothetically right now coming from a non-affirming stance. That's not where we all are. But if you, like we were talking about that hypothetical because that's what the question called for. Jesus made decisions about how he responded to people based on power dynamics, power imbalances. Who has power and who doesn't.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.
Jonathan Walton: Right.
Sy Hoekstra: He responded differently to people in power versus people who are marginalized. That was the point that Jonathan made, I think it's a very important one. Because I think Laura's right. That there's like, if you're telling somebody that something isn't a sin when it is, you can be causing damage. You can also be causing damage when you tell somebody that something is a sin when it's not. And those two things, those two facts are true about any time we are having any discussion about whether or not any individual action is biblical or wise or sinful or whatever.
In this particular case though, the question that we asked, how does it hurt you if queer couples, if people are affirming, how does that harm you as an individual? Turn that question around. Try and ask a queer person, how does it harm you if people believe that the fact that you're queer is a sin? The answer isn't something, is what I said. Yeah, you're putting some burdens on me that don't need to be on me. But the answer to that question is also going to be so incredibly grounded and personal about their individual lives because of the power imbalances. Because the answer to that question is going to be, “My whole community hates me, hates who I am. Everybody I grew up with won't talk to me anymore. My parents don't talk to me anymore. There are people all over the internet and television calling for the death of me and everyone like me, saying that I am a pervert, that I'm a demonic force that's destroying America. That I'm grooming children for sexual abuse.”
Asking the question, “How does this harm you?” to a queer person who's affirming is just absurd because it's so obvious how it harms them, because of that power imbalance. So that's I think like a reality that we were dealing with when we were trying to talk about this. Is like, we know that when you're asking is something a sin or not, there are potential pitfalls if you get it wrong on either side. That's not like a point on which we're confused [laughs]. But I think what Suzie and I were trying to get at is, how does it harm you as an individual if somebody down the street is a man married to another man? The answer is it doesn't, but how does your antipathy, or how does the antipathy of the people in the pews of your church toward that couple affect their lives, is like a very obvious enormous problem for that couple.
Suzie Lahoud: And I think with the empathetic point that you made right before that Sy, which I think was so well made, I feel like we've almost brought the conversation in some ways, not to draw false equivalencies, but we've almost brought the conversation full circle back to Adam's original question, talking about the feelings of the people who are doing the marginalizing, rather than those who are marginalized, and us worrying more about, as you pointed out, how it impacts them as opposed to looking to the people to whom the thing does the most harm. And I think you're right to point out that the piece there is power dynamics. And again, I just want to repeat that concept of looking to those to whom this does the most harm, and making them the center of the conversation. And I think that again, you brought out that empathetic piece so well just now in doing that, Sy.
Sy Hoekstra: Thanks [laughs].
This has been a really great conversation. I really appreciate this one. I just wanted to end on, does anybody have any thoughts about this season before we talk about where we're going next?
Jonathan Walton: The only thing that I want to say is, I think that having conversations like this has probably been the most formative for me in my faith the last, I don't know how many months we've been doing this season. But getting to have these conversations, the things that sparks, the stuff that gets tossed around and engage with, I think is probably the most formative discipleship-wise, the most formative thing in my life. So I'm grateful for the listeners. I'm grateful for the people who write to us. I'm grateful for the little community that we have. And so I just feel challenged and I feel grateful to be able to be a part of what we're doing. So thanks to everybody, to subscribers. Thanks for readers and listeners, I'm really grateful.
Suzie Lahoud: Y’all can't see me right now, but I have a big old smile on my face because it means a lot [laughter] to me to hear the great Jonathan Walton say that, and I have to just agree that it's meant so much being able to have these conversations. I also want to thank specifically those who sent in questions, because I feel like we come down hard on you all [laughs]. We do not hold back. I can already think of some things that I'm like, “Should I put it that way?” But I just want to say thank you so much for engaging with the content, because it really, it's a gift to us and you are causing us to press in deeper, and hopefully we can all grow together as Jonathan put it, as a small community, that's come together around these things. And so it's a privilege. It's been a privilege and we look forward to having more conversations and discussions like this one.
Sy Hoekstra: I wouldn't say come down hard, Suzie. I would say we have very strong feelings about the subject.
Suzie Lahoud: There you go. Okay. We're passionate people.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, I'm not angry at anyone who asked a question. I'm not like trying to lay the smack down on them.
Suzie Lahoud: I'm just one of those people that has to say two things and apologize three times [laughter]. I generally hold back the apologies when I'm on mic, but yeah.
Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] I genuinely want to thank the two of you for being people in my life who are incredibly morally grounded and who love Jesus so much. It honestly keeps me hopeful and reassured in a way that is a little bit hard to articulate sometimes. There are other people like that in my life too like Gabrielle, who's been on this show and some others. But that's why I love these conversations. They just, they give me a lot of direction. They've been extremely formative as Jonathan said, and I really appreciate that. I also like that I think we have upped our game a little bit this season [laughs].
Suzie Lahoud: Ooh.
Sy Hoekstra: We've just… yeah, I just think we've gotten, I was talking to a listener recently who who'd said he thought we'd really gotten into a groove this season and I went back and listened to some of the stuff. And I agree. We've also gotten some better sound equipment [Suzie laughs] and other stuff like that and it's just been a lot of fun to put these together.
Jonathan Walton: I would agree, season two is better. And not to say that season one wasn't good, but I think the thoughtfulness, the quality of what is coming out of these things, I think is more refined.
Sy Hoekstra: I think we're getting better as we go.
Suzie Lahoud: Could we even say we knocked it out of the park? [Suzie plays a sound effect of a baseball organ playing the call for the audience to shout “charge!”]
Suzie Lahoud: Somebody decided to put me on sound for this final episode, so that's on that person who shall not be named.
Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] I’m never giving you this power again.
Jonathan Walton: That was awesome.
Sy Hoekstra: I did, yeah, that was entirely unexpected and I really appreciate it.
Jonathan Walton: I'm waiting for you to go like [makes the DJ airhorn sound]
Sy Hoekstra: That is not one of the options on the sound board that I have given her control of.
Jonathan Walton: Aw, man. Gotta pay for that one.
Sy Hoekstra: [laughs] Thank you all so much. Like I said, we really, really appreciate everyone who supports what we do at KTF Press by subscribing. We could not be here without you. Please do go to ktfpress.com to become a subscriber if you appreciate what we do. If you want a free month, ktfpress.com/freemonth. The free month to start your subscription. We are in the off season, going to be getting hard to work on Tamice Spencer's book, which will be coming out next year from us. We have the manuscript already, the first one, we're about to get a second draft. It's amazing. We are so excited to share this book with you come next year.
We want to be able to put out more books like that. We want to do more shows like this, more bonus episodes. We want to be able to do more writing. We talked about Jonathan's piece about Andy Stanley. He just put out another piece recently about the passing of Queen Elizabeth and how to mourn a colonizer. Suzie wrote a story this year about her experience giving birth to her second child and talking about white privilege and Black motherhood. And I wrote about an experience of being blind and how that kind of relates to solidarity and the incarnation, how people reacting to me in interesting ways when I'm just being blind in public relates to those issues.
If you want to read more things like that, we want more subscribers. We really do want more people on board supporting this so that we can do more of what we want to do. We want to be able to also pay other people to write for the blog and get just more incredible content to you. We do things to a very, I think exacting standard when we work [laughs]. I think Jonathan and Suzie would agree and they would point their fingers at me for being perhaps over-exacting sometimes. But I think we put out really, really good stuff, I'm so proud of what we've been able to do, and I want to do more of it. So please go to ktfpress.com and subscribe.
We will continue in the off season. You will get our newsletter. You will hear about everything that's coming up before anybody else does. You will have access to the whole archive of all of our newsletters, all of our articles, and all of our bonus episodes of which there are several hours at this point. So please go subscribe. It also supports everything we do, keeping the work accessible for disabled readers and listeners, and supporting new projects like the one that we did with Tamice, and the ones that we will be doing going forward.
As always, our theme song for which we are so thankful, is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra. Our incredible podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam. Guys, I said this on a thing that we didn't end up publishing. She teaches at Pratt now.
Suzie Lahoud: What!
Jonathan Walton: Nice
Sy Hoekstra: You can go and take a class on how to learn Adobe InDesign from the woman who made our podcast art. That's really cool. I just found that out recently when I was hanging out with her.
Okay, that is it from us. Thank you so much. Please go take a look at ktfpress.com and consider subscribing, and we will see you all for season three.
[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]
Sy Hoekstra: I don't understand why you would do this, because now you have to wash that blanket.
Jonathan Walton: Literally everything I have right now is going in the washer. I have been cleaning up dirt and grime and things since 8:30 this morning.
Suzie Lahoud: I now understand why you reached for that baby blanket to blow your nose.
Jonathan Walton: Everest uses all the tissues, because she uses the tissues to blow her nose, she also uses the tissues for blankets for all of her stuffed animals.
Suzie Lahoud: Oh really? I love that.
Jonathan Walton: I'll look around and I'm like, everybody's been put to bed. The white bear’s been put to bed. Dog number one's been put to bed. Cat number two's been put to bed. Maya literally has behind me cats set up with fake meals of paper in bowls.
Sy Hoekstra: Can I suggest something though, Jonathan?
Jonathan Walton: What’s up?
Sy Hoekstra: Is that once Everest has gone to bed, you can take all those stuffed animals’ blankets and use them.
Jonathan Walton: You don't understand, Sy.
Sy Hoekstra: Okay.
Jonathan Walton: you don't get it. They going to wake up tomorrow, come in to figure out how come they cats didn’t eat. [Sy laughs].
Suzie Lahoud: The irony is that Jonathan can't use the real tissues to blow his nose because they’re baby blankets for the dolls. So he has to use an actual baby blanket to blow his nose. That's the irony here, friends.
Jonathan Walton: I didn't make that connection. That's funny though.