Cynthia Nixon and Her Choice


Cynthia Nixon and her fiance, Christine Marinoni.

Actress Cynthia Nixon says she’s gay by choice. And a lot of gay people are mad at her for it. (Actually, Nixon now says she’s bisexual be genetics, but chooses to be in a committed same-sex relationship.)

Now, take a deep breath: this is not a post to bash homosexuals, nor is it going to be a diatribe about morals (though I will explain my frame of reference). It’s a plea for someone to help me with my understanding of the trials homosexuals face. I’ve tried to avoid writing a post about this, but I just can’t. It boggles my mind, and I’m being sincere.

As a Christian, I believe that homosexuality isn’t the norm for sexual relationships. But neither is multiple divorce, premarital sex, adultery, porn or any of the other stuff that some “Christians” do. God made us male and female to be committed to one another for a lifetime, and any violation of that falls outside of His plan. Our current cultural acceptance of some of those violations as acceptible is just our own attempts to mask our sinful preferences rather than deal honestly with a powerful subject.

And while I’m at it, you know what else is sin? Lying, cheating, lusting, envying, and just about every other disagreeable human behavior you can think of. So long story short, we’re all broken and no one is any better than anyone else.

But back to Cynthia Nixon: why should it matter if she chooses to be gay? Or bisexual? Why the uproar over her choice?

I just don’t get it.

I mean, as hard as the homosexual community has worked to gain mainstream acceptance for their members, why suddenly turn on one of their own so viciously? I get that there is a lot of hatred wrongly directed at the GLBT community, and I know that they want to protect themselves. Such mistreatment is wrong. But the way that first story reads, it’s as if anyone who chooses to be gay is somehow outside the walls of acceptable gayness.

I’m drowning here, I realize it. I’ve probably enflamed a million different groups with what I’ve typed, but I just can’t fathom why a group who works so tirelessly to gain fair treatment for all of its members is publicly slamming one of said members. As Nixon herself said, “It doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.”

If our goal as a society is truly equality for all members, then what is genetics for some and choice for others shouldn’t matter, should it?

What am I missing?

Please help me understand. I am truly struggling with this story and what it says about our society in general.

Don’t Be A Dirtbag

One of my favorite movie franchises is Pixar’s Toy Story. I absolutely love all three of those movies and could watch/quote them ad infinitum. In fact, one of the lines from the original film gets quoted all the time by either my wife or myself; it’s delivered by Sarge, an Army soldier voiced by the incomparable R. Lee Ermey:

“Where is your honor, dirtbag?”

If you clicked on the link, you recognize, of course, that this line comes just after Woody has accidentally knocked Buzz out of Andy’s bedroom window and the other toys are discovering Woody’s villainy. I don’t know why this line resonated with us so much–perhaps it’s the idea of a tiny green toy with more moxie than size taking on “the man” atop the toy heirarchy–but we find it hysterical.

And lately, I find I’ve been saying it to myself an awful lot.

I could go all theological on you, but the plain fact of the matter is that sometimes I’m just a dirtbag. A snarky, cynically little cuss who doesn’t much care about other people and their situations, only what’s going on in my own little world. Much like Woody, I’ve knocked some people out of some windows because they encroached on my corner of the universe.

And every time I did it, I could hear the words: “Where is your honor, dirtbag?”

That’s been changing lately, thanks to places like The Hope Center and the CLC class at Grayson High School where I’ve been able to sit in on occasion. Meeting other people and hearing their stories, listening to their thoughts, has been enlightening for my own life. In taking the time to acknowledge others, I’ve found that my professional and personal life has been much more satisfying. I’m hearing Sarge less and less.

There are still moments when I’m challenged, but I’m learning to slow down, take some time to think and pray, and in the end see people differently.

Even when watching things like political debates and/or speeches.

In the end, I’m learning that I can’t boil people down to simple things like platforms or beliefs, because sometimes folks defy those things. Human beings are complex and challenging and ever-changing, and so I can’t simply stick a person into a convenient category and go about my happy way. Well, I can, but it’s not healthy–for me, for my relationships, or my faith.

Almost fifteen years into a career as a minister, and I’m suddenly and radically learning one of Jesus’ most insistent and repeated commandments: love others.

Such simple words. And the secret to not being a dirtbag.

The Struggle With Why

A child struggles to find enough to eat in an under-developed African village.

A mother stands over the graves of children lost to disease.

A devout religious person is arrested, beaten and jailed by a hostile government.

A teenager is insulted, assaulted and made to feel like trash as she heads into the clinic.

A man wrestles with whether or not to take his beloved wife off of life support.

The scenarios could go on and on. But the same question reverberates through each: why?

Why evil? Why suffering? Why pain?

Why me?

Last night, hundreds of people gathered at Grayson High School to try and make sense of the deaths of Hope McKenzie and Austin Rogers. Braving crappy weather, the weight of grief, and the crushing presense of confusion, those people banded together to find common strength.

Perhaps it was unspoken, but they gathered together to ask: why?

The philosophically flip (and one might argue, hugely insensitive) amongst us might counter, why not? And indeed, regardless of your particular worldview, there’s some weight to that retort. If the universe is blind and indifferent, then we shouldn’t be suprised to find it indifferent towards us. If there’s a wrathful, demanding god disgusted by our failures, then we shouldn’t be taken aback when that god deigns to punish us for said failures. If this world is merely and illusion of suffering to be overcome through denial of self, then we shouldn’t even ask the question, but instead choose to look beyond it.

The struggle with why only comes into play if there is believed to be a good, benevolent god who is supposed to love humanity and want what’s best for us.

This will probably stir things up, but why is really only an issue for Christians.

We’re the ones who are supposed to have the eternal, perfect, holy, good God. We’re the ones who run around telling people that God loves and wants what’s best for them. We’re the ones telling folks that if they’ll just believe and accept Jesus, God’s one and only Son (whom God sent to die for our sins because He loved us so much) that, in the words of Bob Marley, “everything’s gonna be alright.”

Are we wrong about God?

Or are we wrong with what we believe about Him?

And maybe most damaging of all: are we wrong to believe we can ever really understand why?

My question is: what if the why? is bigger than us? What if there is a good answer, only it doesn’t involve us, involve me, at all?

What if why? is something beyond personal and speaks to a larger, much fuller truth about life than I am capable of understanding?

I know for me, the struggle with why? has been the struggle with the universe not being built around me. Heck, my own life isn’t built around me. This is my personal conviction, and I welcome your comments and perspectives, but the world doesn’t start and end at my nose. It contains more than just what’s inside my personal bubble. And so when events come along that shatter that conceit – when my child dies before she’s born or my neighbor’s child dies in a car accident – why? becomes a question about much more than just the events at hand. It becomes an exploration into our very understanding of life, of the universe, of things that are far beyond ourselves.

Why? takes us into spaces that we usually avoid, because it shows us our own seeming insignificance.

Which is why the question is uniquely problematic for the Christian, who’s spent years believing in his or her significance in the sight of God: after all, He sent His Son to die for me, right?

Maybe not.

This post is going to frustrate a lot of people, some because of the questions I’ve raised and some because I’m not going to pose a neat and tidy answer to the questions I’ve raised. I expect (though I may not get) a flame war in the comments on this post, and that’s okay. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.

But for all of you struggling today, with death, with health, with money or relationships or theology or fear or adoption, for those who are grappling with the why?, take comfort in the knowledge that you do not do so alone.

And maybe that’s the point.

Forever Daddy

My two munchkins.

When I was in my college years, and really even up until I met my wife, I never actively thought about being a father. I figured it would happen at some point (after all, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?) but I never spent time contemplating what that would mean to my life. I was me-focused, what can I say? The world was only as large as my dreams and aspirations.

But when Ruthanne came along, then Ella, and then Jon, that all changed.

Actually, it all changed when I met Rachel, because she was the only force in the world that could make me think about certain things/realities (like emptying the trash on a regular basis or the financial benefits of washing underwear you already own instead of throwing away used drawers and buying new ones – but I digress). And when she agreed to be with me forever, for better or worse, in June of 2001, I knew then that my mind would have to expand to account for a world of shared dreams.

It was easy with Rachel – we were both adults, we shared things in common, we were both capable of speech and using the toilet on our own as well as being able to feed ourselves – so the transition wasn’t too tough. Plus, I loved her with my entire heart.

With kids? I wasn’t too sure.

Even when we began discussing the idea of having kids I was a bit nervous. Gone would be the advantages that Rachel and I shared – age, perspective, language, autonomy – and instead I would have to face an utterly new person experiencing everything for the first time, a person whose life would be inexorably shaped by my choices and perspective and philosophy. The reality of parenting hit me full force: as a parent, you are responsible for shaping a human being who will live in the world, and as you shape them, so you shape the world.

It sounds trite, but it’s true. And it’s a staggering responsibility. Mind-bending, actually, as well as bowel-loosening.

With Ruthanne, the journey ended before it could begin. With Ella, we’re almost into year six of the experiment, and the early returns are positive. She’s bright, energetic, incredibly smart and polite, and despite her myriad minor health issues (which seem, to us, to be monumental), she’s as perfect as any kid can be. Sure, there are days that I don’t enjoy sitting down and having to help her with homework (she occasionally has lapses in her attention span – wonder where she gets that from?), but there’s never a day that I don’t love her with all of my soul. There’s never a day that I regret being her dad.

The same holds true with Jonathan. We’re discovering that the terrible twos were late blooming in him, and as we speed towards his third birthday the boy is making remarkable progress in catching up on his various tirades, tantrums and mood swings. It’s kind of like living with a glue-sniffing drifter.

But through it all, I love my son in a way that I didn’t know existed. While his morning routine is a bit tiresome (wake up, scream, whine, scream some more, make relentless demands about how he would like his milk served) there’s never a day that I don’t relish the inevitable moment when he will walk up to me, his eyes sparkling, and crawl into my lap and rest his head against my chest. Or grab my face and pull my head forward to kiss me ever-so-gently on the lips. Or wrap his arms around my leg in a bear hug and annouce, “I pooped!”

The fact is that I love all of my kids and would give anything, try to be anything, for them. And I look back on the time in my life when I didn’t think about anything other than myself and say, “Idiot.”

Lewis Grizzard once wrote that he had a subconscious fear about kids that probably kept him from having any. Lewis, as he well noted, was a bit challenged in the commitment department, and kids – in his mind – were the ultimate commitment.

Or, to paraphrase one of his columns: “Marriages come and go, but kids are forever.”

He’s right.

My friend Brad and his wife Meredith welcomed their first child, Braden, into the world almost 10 days ago, and Brad summed it up best during my visit with them in the hospital:

“I realize that we’re a family now. We’ll always be. I am forever daddy.”

Forever daddy. Sounds better than anything.

Celebrating Joseph

Happy sixteenth birthday, Joseph!

Sometimes, you have to go and find the story. Other times, the story comes to you. This is one of those times.

I work with teenagers as a youth pastor, and one of the young people in my youth group is named Joseph. Joseph is a high-energy, high-charisma kid who is almost always smiling and encouraging the people around him. He loves Georgia football almost as much as he loves Falcons football…or the Braves, Hawks, Thrashers (R.I.P.), or any other sport. He loves younger kids, loves to sing for the church, and is just a darn fine young man.

Joseph is special. In fact, he’s so special that I wanted to share his story, as told by his mother, Shannon, with you today.

Like I said – there are times when you have to look for stuff like this, but last night Shannon posted these words on Facebook and I dang near cried my eyes out because I didn’t know the whole story. And the wonder of it all is that it was right under my nose.

“It has been almost 16 years since I lay in a hospital bed waiting to see my sweet, perfect, new baby boy. I can still remember the shock and pain from hearing the doctors words ” I don’t know what is wrong with your son. I think he will live but he may be blind, deaf, and mentally retarded.” My PERFECT son might not be as perfect as I thought. That day I began a different journey than the one I thought I was starting when I entered the hospital. That day I received more than a perfect baby. I was blessed with my miracle baby and a son who touches lives.

The doctor told me that morning in his office that I didn’t know what I was talking about when I said the baby wasn’t kicking. I was told I was too young and too busy in my life to notice him kicking. I knew my baby wasn’t kicking and I was persistent. I had already been told everything was fine and that I could go home and wait the next three weeks for him to come. Since I was already in the office he decided to humor me and do a stress test. I was young, I was busy, and I had no idea that something was wrong. The doctors eyes began to get bigger and bigger with each test. He finally said “Well, we are going to have a baby today.”

I was put right into the hospital and they started to induce labor. They found that every time I had a contraction his heart rate would drop. They knew that if they waited he wouldn’t live. They decided to do an emergency c-section. It was done so quickly that when Joe sat down to say something to me he missed the delivery and didn’t realize the baby was in the corner being worked on.

Being our first child we didn’t know how things worked. We didn’t realize that they should have brought him over to show me or that we would hear him crying or that it is was odd that they wheeled me out before him. It seemed like forever waiting to see him and we still had no idea that something was wrong. I sent Joe to find out when we could see him.

Joe was brought into the ICU where they were working on our baby. There was another mom there who saw him. She grabbed him and said come see my baby. Her baby at that point was the smallest baby born in Georgia at 11 ounces. They were told that there baby probably wouldn’t live an hour but she was about two weeks old. I only saw her through a window and she was so tiny she could have fit into my palm. She did go home around mothers day although I did hear months later that she had passed away at around 5 or 6 months old. So young yet if you asked anyone at the hospital around that time she touched our lives. Her name was Mary. Mary King. Mary and Joseph. Could there have been two more perfect names for these two little miracles?

Joseph is not blind. He not only can see the world with his eyes but he see’s it with his heart. He isn’t deaf. If you ever watch him listen to the choir or his favorite group casting crowns it is like he is already hearing the sound of the trumpet calling and the angels rejoicing. Mentally retarded, I hate that word. Does my son have special needs? Yes, but who doesn’t. The day he rolled over, when he started to walk, when he gets up in front of a crowd at church to sing, these are all miracles and I praise God for each of them. It is so much sweeter to see my child do these things that any other child can do so easily.

Joseph is turning 16 this month. If he has ever touched your life I ask that you join me in celebrating his. He doesn’t want a car or things like a normal child would want. He is special and wants something special. He wants YOU. Please join me in a surprise party for Joseph. It is going to be January 14 from 4-6. If you would like to surprise him please come early. He will show up at 4. It will be at out church Chestnut Grove Baptist Church on Rosebud.”

Here’s hoping Joseph has the best birthday ever.