The Oh Hellos: Striving to create better art for the Christian Community
Ever since I was little, I don’t remember ever loving Christian music at any point in my life. Or, at least, not the music they commonly play in church. Hillsong Music, Bethel Music, Elevation Worship, or any of the other popular worship songs had never touched me the way some other songs could. I would always linger in the back of the room, dazing off, wishing we could skip ahead to the service. And now that I’m getting older, this strikes me as odd. Because I LOVE music. Each song created a new world for me visually. Each song had its appeal. Owl City with its fanciful technological sounds, Pentatonix with its distinct vocality, Twenty One Pilots with its almost depressing yet hopeful aesthetic. But there was something about the worship music that never “lit me on fire” like the songs said they would. Eventually, I learned to tune it out and ponder what I would do in the coming week.
Now, eventually, as I got older, I began finding Christian music that I enjoyed, like TobyMac, Jamie Grace and Hollyn. (None of whom usually play during worship service.) But it still struck me as strange I didn’t like any of the music at the worship service. Now, in part, it is a personal thing, since until now I had always struggled to make my relationship to Christ personal. This compounded with my overall different worship style makes traditional worship for me annoying, but that didn’t stop me from liking the music from the above artists. So what is it? Is it simply personal taste, or is there something about traditional worship music that needs changing?
Well, truthfully, a bit of both. I know people who love traditional worship music, and that’s fine. Sometimes it comes down to personal taste. As I mentioned before, my worship style is different and comprises listening to Christian podcasts while drawing, or taking in the sunny day or city-scape around me while enjoying some Owl City or TobyMac. Some people feel moved by traditional church songs. It gets them through tough times and helps them feel connected with God. But the sameness of our worship songs showed a seemingly small problem that goes unnoticed by most unless they have a keen eye for art.
As an artist, specifically a Christian one, I wanted to know why I didn’t like the worship music in church. Was there more to it than my differing worship style? So I looked into it—and discovered there were others like me. People who felt dissatisfied with the Christian content that was being presented. Not just the music, but the movies and the TV shows. It all felt—bland, samey, and uninspired. Most Christian movies even have the same plot. A family goes through tough times, and right when they least expect it, God shows up and fixes it. You may think, “Spirit, aren’t you being picky? It’s just a movie!” And, yeah, you’re right. I’m being picky. In fact, I’ve gotten into many an argument with my dad about being too picky regarding the newest “Star Wars” movies.
But being picky—criticizing the movies we love, are what push people to move forward. If fans hadn’t been picky, Paramount Pictures never would have redesigned the character for Sonic in the 2020 Sonic movie. And I’ll be the first one to say the original design was bad. If fans hadn’t been picky, Sony Animation would have never changed their movie lineup to movies that now exceed The Emoji Movie, which was also terrible.
I will point out—there is a big difference between politely criticizing and harassing someone because you didn’t like the film or song or animation. But I digress. The point is, most mass consumers aren’t thinking about the quality of the content they consume. They take their kid to see a colorful movie to distract them for a bit. They listen to songs because the beat is catchy. They watch a show because it’s cheesy. There isn’t a problem with just enjoying something because it’s bad and cheesy, or because it’s nostalgic rather than good. But this is producing a problem that is becoming more and more common. Media that is fueled off of being nostalgic and making you feel good, rather than making you think or even doing both.
Markets are becoming oversaturated with just mediocre content rather than movies and TV shows that are amazing and awe-inspiring. I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t that big of a deal in the long run. Subjectively bad movies can impact just as much as subjectively good ones, not to mention that everything is, after all, subjective. But it still is good for everyone to ask for objectively better movies.
Fiction, especially good fiction, is one way we digest the world and evaluate ourselves, our situation, others, and life. And having mediocre fiction that doesn’t accurately reflect our situation means we lose a critical lens we have in our world. Good fiction is good when it has diversity, relatable characters, and accurate portrayals of real issues in the world. Good fiction allows us to experience the world from the eyes of others. A major example of the inverse happening is when the movie Split released, which portrayed a person with schizophrenia/dissociative identity disorder as a mentally unstable murderer and kidnapper, leaving people like DissociaDID to combat the stigmas left behind by these films in YouTube videos.
This dilemma regarding mediocre media is something you can see throughout TV, film, music, and novels, throughout secular media (like Disney’s constant releasing of live-action remakes, and Illumination Animation’s unwillingness to take risks with their films anymore although their first blockbuster, Despicable Me, was a risk) and in Christian media, specifically movies and music. In fact, to showcase this point, a YouTube channel run by two Christian brothers put this to the test by teaching their viewers how to write a worship song in 5 minutes or less.
The constant evolution of media always grows stagnant eventually, running out of ideas until a younger generation grows into the old creative positions, sharing their own life stories, but it seems more common with Christian media. One of my favorite video essays by Josh Keefe on YouTube details it better than I can, saying, “I found it incredibly ironic that music made from a group of people who believe in a limitless and creative God only reflected what was being done in the pop industry.”
However, there are still people trying to push the boundaries of content creation, secular and Christian. Into the Spider-Verse set a new standard of animation and storytelling in 2018. Rian Johnson tested the limits of fandom and rewriting old stories with The Last Jedi in 2018. Rebecca Sugar began a shock-wave of queer inclusion with her groundbreaking show, Steven Universe as early as 2016.
Indie and Alternative bands have also begun making rounds in popularity, including AJR, and a newer and smaller band named The Oh Hellos. You may have heard one of their older songs around Tik Tok or YouTube called “Soldier, Poet, King”.
While they are still relatively small, only having around 52,000 subscribers and six albums, their music has impacted many so far and is leading a tiny revolution in changing the way we think of Christian music. Like the Dawn describes a poetic version of the creation story, intertwining scripture in a way that calls back to its original roots of being stories passed down from family to family in the Hebrew tradition. The album Dear Wormwood takes inspiration from C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, having characters, both real and fictitious, test past relationships and break them off in an almost letter format through the point of view of the main characters.
And yet, we still have to talk about their current series of EP’s, Notos and Eurus, music which is both beautiful, and causes one to stop and introspect regarding their own behavior towards others, reminding us to make sure we don’t “keep that old wheel turning.”
“How does this relate to Christian media?” you may ask, and the answer is complicated. Perhaps just as complicated as the themes presented in these two EP’s. The short answer is that this small band has been pushing the fronts of Christian music in a way that is both creative and thought-provoking. They intertwine relevant themes in their songs, themes that tie in with the state of modern content creation, and our current political climate in a world rampant with fear and pain.
Over these next four to five months, I would like to write a series of essays examining the themes of the work of Tyler and Maggie Heath as we look at the albums Notos and Eurus, tying the themes back to modern day violence, hatred & bigotry, and learning how to move past that as queers, Christians, and everyone in between. And while we’re at it, we’ll take a brief look at the current state of music and media across both secular and religious categories and see what we can do to move past it.
Disclaimer: I in no way claim to be an expert in any of these subjects regarding media and movies and am just a teenager sharing things I have noticed and observed. As for the meanings behind what Eurus and Notos mean, I can only speculate. I mostly am using the website Genius Lyrics. I will also link additional websites and articles as I use them. Regarding the people making the music and films, while I may talk about them in a negative light, I in no way mean to offend or bash the creators or anyone who may enjoy these media pieces. I want to encourage thoughtful conversation around the media we consume.
With that being said, I will aim to release 1 essay a month, with the first two being actual analysis, and then leaving space for the last three to be essays tying all the themes together.
A big thanks to Alex for allowing me to post this on his website since I don’t have one of my own, and I would like to thank you for reading this! I think fiction and art are very important to how humans interact with the world and each other, and I think this is something we should realize. Being okay with having only okay movies will give us okay results, and I’ve seen what people in the arts can produce. With that being said, in even the worst of movies, it’s possible to find even the smallest of things to enjoy! Split saw an excellent actor in James McAvoy, Disney has been pushing technological boundaries with their live action movies, and Christian movies and music are great to check out if you’re just needing an emotional pick-me-up! Remember to always see the bright side, especially in today’s cruel world. Criticise with caution and try not to hurt others or be aggressive. Even in genuine commentaries like this one hopefully was, it’s important to highlight the positive! So have a good day, and be the best human you can be!
The blast from Aira’s hand met a light blue shield that sprang up around three armed creatures. One looked human, rounded ears and no fangs showing in his bared teeth. She had made the shield and was clearly able to use Dayforce. The other two appeared to be werecats, both nearly a head shorter than the human with pointed ears and narrow fangs. They wielded short swords, and the human brandished a one-handed crossbow as she maintained her Dayforce shield.
Aira screamed and stumbled back into Tal. She had no weapons other than her Nightforce and, despite her accomplishment at the fire that morning, she was not very strong. What would she be able to do against steel?
Tal placed one hand on Aira’s shoulder and gently pushed her behind him, extending his other hand to the woman with the shield, “Good evening. May I ask what business you have here? With us?”
The woman snarled at his hand and pulled the trigger on her crossbow. The bolt shot at Tal’s face, and Aira opened her mouth to scream again when suddenly the bolt stopped inches from Tal. He flicked his fingers, and the bolt flew straight at a tree to his left. Then he motioned toward himself, and the crossbow shook in her hand for a moment before flying into Tal’s hand. He looked at it curiously.
“Is this one of the new automatic crossbows? It reloads after firing?” He turned it in his hands, “I do believe it is! Smart!” He set it down and placed one foot on it before crossing his arms. “Now. Shall we begin again? Good evening. What business do you have here?”
The woman’s mouth worked soundlessly, and she drew a long dagger from her belt before rushing at Tal and Aira. The werecats looked at each other and shrugged, dropping down onto their haunches, holding their swords loosely in their hands. Tal shook his head and glanced back at Aira, rolling his eyes.
“Madam,” he said as he shot his hand forward, freezing her in place, “This is an exercise in futility. I don’t know how you don’t seem to realize who you are dealing with, but I am no easy prey for you to ambush and steal from if that is your intention. I would like to have a proper conversation with you to ascertain what you want rather than stealing that information from your mind, which I could do very easily. I shall give you one last chance to speak with me, or I shall send you on your way. You shall not leave happy, I guarantee it.”
The woman growled under her breath and then finally sighed, “I don’t have business with you! I have business with that werewolf behind ya!”
Tal narrowed his eyes, “What business?”
“Bounty business! Her face is broadcasted from here, Naidow to Nefti to Lartnek even. Nefti guards’ll pay good money to get her back.”
“I see.” Tal’s eyes flicked to Aira, and she felt her heart flutter.
“You hand her over, and I’ll see you get paid, dragon,” the woman said.
“Will you now? And if I don’t? What will you do then?”
“I’ll sic Ban and Thad on you!” she seemed to struggle to move, but however Tal held her would not let her budge.
“Just as you shot me with a crossbow?” Tal tapped the weapon with his foot.
Her mouth opened to retort, and then she closed it, scowling.
“No, I shall not hand over Aira, to you or any guard of Nefti. She is an ambassador on a diplomatic mission with me and is too crucial to just let go. Instead, I shall give you a choice. You may try and take her from me, or you will run away and not bother us again. Choose wisely. If you choose poorly, you shall regret it.”
Aira looked up at his face in wonder. He looked patient, his mouth held in a small smile, but his eyes were slightly narrowed, and if she just looked at them, he looked angry. Was he angry on her behalf? She had worried he might have turned her over to the bounty hunters, but instead, he seemed willing to fight for her. She shook her head in amazement.
“Alright! I will let you go now and count to five. If you are not out of eyesight by then, I will assume you are going to fight, and I swear you will end up far worse for wear! Ready?” He lowered his hand, and she nearly fell to the ground, now unsupported by Tal’s telekinesis. “One, two…”
The two werecats fled as soon as his hand lowered, the woman bounding after them before Tal had counted to three. He laughed as they darted out of sight and bent to pick up the crossbow. “Wait,” he said softly, “You forgot this.”
Chuckling, he turned to Aira and handed her the crossbow, “Here, a souvenir for your first life-harrowing adventure with Tal!”
She took it and frowned, “What? Shouldn’t we leave it so she can get it?’
“I’m sure she can find a new one. Besides, she was going to kill me with it. Such a smart weapon should only be used in self-defense or in defense of someone’s life, I think. Why don’t you use it? It looks like it has ten bolts preloaded already, and I can show you how to make more later if necessary. Grab the one in the tree, and let’s go. We should camp soon.”
Aira grabbed the bolt he had sent into the tree and stared after the strange half-dragon. Every moment she spent with him made her more and more confused. For one thing, he was so cavalier in the face of dangerous situations, and for another, he just accepted her the way she was and had just risked his life for her. Perhaps this Nailan person had something to do with it. He had helped her across the river to escape the soldiers, and then this Tal person appeared. Maybe. She hung the crossbow on her belt and trotted after Tal. She was going to have to think very hard about all of this.
Meet the author
C.F. is a math teacher in the northeast Ohio area. She enjoys reading, writing and drawing when she isn't playing games (video or tabletop) with friends and family. She has two dogs (a lab and a husky mix) and a partner who accepted her bisexuality before she did herself!
You read the title right! I am getting surgery on March 17th! I am both relieved and nervous. I have so many emotions happening right now. I am ready to never have to bind again, but I'm also nervous about going under. I want it all to work out. I know God will get me through, but I can't help but have anxiety about it all.
Recently I have had several people donate to my fundraiser so that I don't have to worry about expenses as much post-op. I can't think you all enough! You have no idea how much this means to me. I hope that one day I am in a position to help people get surgery. If QCFV takes off, I'd love to start a surgery fund. I want to help as many people as we can.
I finally called pre-registration with the hospital that I'll be having my procedure at. The first time I called I just googled the number for the hospital and was transferred twice. Then I got in touch with a billing person who said they don't set up any payment plans since this is a plastic surgery appointment. I told the lady that Chris, my husband, had his surgery there through the same doctor and they set one up. She says well your doctor should know we don't do that. Rude. So I look at the email that my surgeon sent over and it had a different number to call. I spoke with a nice guy who took my information to get me into the system. He didn't ask for money but said a financial adviser would call later on and set up a payment arrangement. That, ladies and gents and non-binaries, is why reading all the instructions is important! I feel a bit relieved after I spoke to someone, and it's getting super real. I still need to call metLife, who will be covering my time off from work. I am a huge procrastinator. Ugh!
If you or anyone you know would like to talk about their surgery experience or just has questions, then comment below or shoot an email over to QueerChristianFamilyValues@Gmail.com and I'll get back to you ASAP.
I guess I should go get some work done. See ya in the next one!
-Alexander M. BUrchnell
Edited by Christopher J. Burchnell
The Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the core of the New Testament, which is the foundation of Christianity. We Christians believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament based on the covenant that God sent his son to spread the word, or "good news", and the promise of eternal life. Out of the four gospels, most claim Matthew is the oldest; however, that spot goes to Mark. It has been dated anywhere from the 70's to the mid 80's of the first century. The way Mark arranges the story of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection is the main reason I count it as my favorite. But who wrote Mark?
CrossExamined.org had a similar question in mind when they wrote a piece reviewing various theories, of which can be found here. The traditional view is that the gospel was written by John Mark who transcribed the teachings of Simon Peter. John Mark is said to be the son of a window named Mary, as seen in Acts 12:12-17). The Bible doesn't give much away as to the author's identity, but there are several traits to the gospel of Mark one could decipher from. Mark is fast paced, focuses on the humanity of Christ, writes with a Latin audience in mind, references Rome, focuses on Peter quite a bit, emphasizes the Messianic Secret, and tells of an unknown man. The unknown man mentioned in Mark 14:51-52 was a strange incident depicting the Garden of Gethsemane. The man is caught when Jesus was arrested and escaped Roman guards but lost his clothing in the scuffle. Many believe this man is the author of Mark!
Now, something I enjoyed about our sourced article mentioned above is that they also looked at the external evidence. They mentioned a quote from the early church who was unanimous in their belief that John Mark was the author stating,
“And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.” - Papias of Hierapolis (A.D. 60-130)
Papias was a Greek Apostolic Father and Bishop of Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale, Turkey) as noted from GotQuestions.org. He authored the Expostion of the Sayings of the Lord in five books. This piece's purpose was to present an accurate record of the teaching and works of the apostles as reported to him by "John the Elder" aka the Apostle John. Irenaeus (A.D. 130-200) also confers with Papias stating,
“After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.”
Irenaeus was a Greek Bishop who is best known for his role in guiding and expanding the Christian communities into the south of France, especially the theology.
If we are to take from Irenaeus' statement, "after their departure", to mean Peter's execution, then Mark was written in the mid to late 60's A.D, but possibly as early as 50 A.D. But what is clear, the gospel was written while the author was still in Rome, which was the audience of the time period. The sourced article by CrossExamined.org conclusion is something I agree with:
"From the evidences considered, John Mark is the only clear candidate for the Second Gospel. While John Mark was not a primary witness of the life of Jesus of Nazareth and while he does not necessarily record the events of Jesus’s life in chronological order, he does act as a scribe, or amanuensis, to Peter whom Jesus knew and selected to be an inner circle disciple. We have a great testimony preserved for us in the Second Gospel. I believe we truly have the eyewitness accounts of Simon Peter documented for us by his good friend John Mark."
I truly enjoyed researching this topic and would like to do something similar in the future. If you have any suggestions on my next subject, then let us know in the comments or send us an email at QueerChristianFamilyValues@Gmail.com.
See ya in the next one!
Written by Alexander M. Burchnell
Edited by Christopher J. Burchnell
Aira opened her eyes and groaned. The night had grown cold, and the ground was hard-packed. Was that a rock sticking into her side? She stuck her hand behind her and pulled out the sharpest, biggest rock that could have possibly found its way underneath her. What had she done, rolled around the whole camp in her sleep just to land on the worst rock possible? Aira shook her head and stretched. She had woken Tal up three hours after he had gone to sleep. He had grumbled at her sleepily, chastising her for not waking him sooner, but had sat up promptly, his sword held lightly in his hands.
That had been a slight surprise. Not, perhaps, that Tal had a sword, but that she hadn’t noticed it before. Where had he hidden it? Had he hidden it? Or was she being overly suspicious again? Ugh! She thought. Why can’t I trust him? Well, a quieter voice seemed to say, you did just meet him.
There was that. Speaking of… Where was the dragon? She looked around their campsite, craning her neck around the fire pit. There were their ashes, her cloak (she had used it as a pillow and, of course, had woken up five hundred feet away), and her water skin. No Tal. So he left her after all. Only to be expected. Well, she better pack up and figure out what she was going to do now. Can’t rely on--
“Good morning!” the sing-song voice floated over the trees toward her. Tal, a string full of rabbits held in one hand, his cloak thrown over his shoulder in the other, came striding out of the trees. “I thought we might need a good breakfast. I didn’t smell any food in your cloak, and I, frankly, was supposed to arrive with the werewolves last night, so I didn’t pack any food either. This should serve nicely. Why don’t you get the fire started, and I’ll skin these critters?”
And Tal, very matter of factly, sat down on a nearby rock (much bigger than the one that had jabbed Aira in her sleep) and began skinning the rabbits.
She blinked. What a strange Creature. Shaking her head, she began piling sticks and logs for fuel in the center of the stones she had found the night before. Then, she sat back on her heels and extended her hands toward the pile of wood. Closing her eyes, she reached inside for the flicker of Nightforce she had and sent it streaming through her fingers at the sticks, concentrating on fire. A dark green glow surrounded her hands, and suddenly fire sprang to life around the wood. Triumphant, she looked up at Tal, who had finished skewering two rabbits on a long, sharpened stick.
“Very good,” he said gently, “I usually use flint myself. Dark Power--uh, you Newlings call it Nightforce, now, I believe--takes too much out of me when I use it to justify lighting a fire with it.”
She frowned, “But it’s not that tiring for me.”
“You are a full werewolf, correct? You should have access to more Nightforce than I do. I prefer to use other tools,” he smiled, and suddenly the stick with the rabbits rose in the air and hovered above the fire, seemingly on their own. Aira didn’t see a glow of Night or Dayforce around Tal’s hands.
“How are you doing that?”
“I’m a dragon, remember? Telekinesis. Much easier for me than Nightforce!” Tal laughed at her expression and stretched his legs out. “Won’t be too much longer until the rabbits are ready. Then we better be on our way. I dare say it will take slightly more than a day to reach these werewolves on foot.”
“On foot!” Aira froze as she bent to pick up her cloak and gather her belongings, “Why aren’t we flying?”
“I haven’t had a rider for years. Very uncomfortable. No. We are walking.”
Aira protested loudly as she gathered her things and grudgingly took a rabbit on a smaller stick that Tal handed her. She complained as he kicked dirt over their fire and strode away, munching on his roasted rabbit. She protested as they walked until, finally, she merely grumbled under her breath, kicking up dirt as she trudged behind him.
The day wore on, and they headed deeper into the trees that had surrounded her clearing. The sun rose to its peak, and just as Aira began to feel hungry, Tal produced strips of dried fruit. They were tasty and rather tart. He said he had made it while she was complaining, citing some principal of water extraction she did not follow. Finally, she quieted and began thinking about her escape, and that led to worry. She had been very loud all morning. If they had been followed, someone could have heard her. Aira stole a glance over her shoulder and hurried closer to Tal, her heart beating. The shadows grew longer in the forest, and she imagined she could see soldiers with bows and swords sneaking along behind her and Tal. Had they been followed?
A bird fluttered out of the branches of a tree nearby, and Aira squeaked, latching onto Tal’s arm, then releasing it quickly, muttering an apology.
“It’s okay, Aira. You can hold my arm if it makes you feel safe from birds,” he said with a smile.
“I think we are being followed,” she whispered, hugging her arms close to her chest.
“I haven’t sensed another consciousness as we have been walking, but if you’re worried, I’ll keep a sharp lookout. Who would want to mess with a dragon and a dangerous werewolf, anyway?”
Aira smiled weakly, but still tried to watch every corner. Something felt off. Maybe it was her imagination, but she really didn’t think so. It had to be real. The sun drooped lower, the trees blocking out all but the smallest streaks of light. She heard footsteps echo behind her. Were those theirs? Or the soldiers? Crying out, she whirled around, summoning her Nightforce to her hands and sending it straight through the trees.
To be continued...
Written by Christine Fritzine
Edited by Christopher J. Burchnell
Meet the Author:
C.F. is a math teacher in the northeast Ohio area. She enjoys reading, writing and drawing when she isn't playing games (video or tabletop) with friends and family. She has two dogs (a lab and a husky mix) and a partner who accepted her bisexuality before she did herself!
I have always grown up in a Christian household with strong belief values, but for me, I never knew anything about the LGBTQ community until high school. In my sophomore year, there were people I knew who were gay and lesbian. I told my parents about it and they seemed ok with it. But in my junior year, I felt something that I never felt before, which was feeling attraction to a guy. Throughout my junior and senior years of high school, I was really working hard to figure out if I was bisexual or gay. I was also figuring out my gender because I was struggling to find myself. I thought I was agender in my junior year and so I told my parents, but they were like, “You're not agender; there’s no such thing. There are only two genders.” So for me, I can’t even talk about the LGBTQ with anyone in my family due to them being so harsh on the topic because of their strict beliefs and Christian values. When I reached community college I realized that I was not bisexual or gay, but I was actually asexual. I came out to my parents in January of 2019, and they did not accept my sexuality, which was very hard for me to take. All my friends are supportive of it, and in October of 2019, I finally figured my gender, which is a demigirl. For me, I have always had a feminine side since I liked the color pink and lavender from a young age. I knew I never wanted to change my body, but I felt like male was not a term I liked. I did some research and found out that demigirl fit me perfectly. I will not be able to share or come out to any family members since they wouldn’t approve or think it’s valid.
I have also struggled with going to a church for the past 10 years because I don’t like what the church I went to believed in. My mom tells me that being LGBTQ is a sin, and it has really hurt me for her to say that because I know that God loves me no matter what. Through a website, I have found an accepting church that is close to where I will be attending a Christian college. I finally figured out myself, my gender and sexual orientation, and I won’t let anyone get in my way of me being myself!
Meet the Author
Hello, my name is Justin. I am 20 years old, and I am from California. I identify as a demigirl and asexual. Some of my hobbies are playing video games, watching sports, and watching Star Wars movies along with playing Star Wars games. I am a very sweet and caring person. Here’s my story of how I found my identity and sexuality.
Click here to follow me on Instagram!
Author Matthew Vines combines a pastor’s heart and a scholar’s brain in his book God and the Gay Christian. He welds together his personal story of a budding gay sexuality with the Biblical understanding of the Christian God in two acts. In the first act, he weaves stories of his coming out with conversations between himself and well-meaning, yet unsupportive church family members. Matthew reveals a pastor’s heart as he recounts these conversations, loving yet useless. His church paints a picture of a sinful act and a judgmental God. Instead of hastily reacting, Matthew responds with great thought.
He senses a need to abandon the traditional Biblical interpretations and strike out on his own. He and his father sojourn through Biblical concordances, para-documents, the ancient Greek language and much more to discover that God’s grace was and is fully available to all gay and lesbian seekers. For Matthew, the key is an updated understanding of the Biblical text.
This understanding makes for the bones of the second act. In chapter two, Matthew tackles the complexity of Biblical interpretation by telling the story of the first telescope. The historical clash between Galileo and The Reverend Caccini set the stage. This conflict teaches the reader that the Bible has been misinterpreted throughout the ages and we are still in process.
To avoid the mistake of Caccini, we must immerse ourselves in the world of the text, the Biblical world, the language, history of the culture of Bible times. By placing the passages in their time (as opposed to our time) Matthew creates a path for the reader to explore what the passage originally meant to the premiere audience. From this diving board of Biblical language, history and culture, Matthew jumps and the reader with him. The result is a pool of logical possibilities that make room for the gay/lesbian Christian.
An example of Matthew’s jump can be found in male/female cultural expectations of the Bible times. Repeating throughout Matthew’s Biblical journey is the ongoing rub of overt and abusive sexism. The anti-gay argument is rooted in this Biblical cultural norm. Matthew teaches us to lay that aside by explaining the difference between culture and God’s coming kingdom. (Long story, short: even Bible people got it wrong!) With that obstacle removed, the reader is introduced to God’s coming kingdom and the love God has for the rainbow community.
Matthew addresses celibacy, the real sin of Sodom, the abominations of Leviticus, the unnatural acts of Romans 1, who inherits the kingdom, gay marriage and the image of God found in male/female creation story of Genesis. The reader leaves each chapter with a firm grasp on the passages as understood through multifarious disciplines.
This book is great for an introductory read into specific Biblical passages that have traditionally be understood as anti-gay. God and the Gay Christian is 10 chapters, 181 pages with Chapter notes that name other sources. It sells for approximately 12$ in a softcover, hardcover and kindle options.
Written by Amy Holmes
Edited by Christopher J. Burchnell
The Reverend Amy Holmes is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and currently holds a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological. She & her husband (Chaplain Kevin Holmes) reside in Johnson City TN and jointly oversee the busy social life of a 13 year old daughter (cue eye roll).
Written on January 10, 2020
I’m not sure if Alex has really made any posts or comments on any of the social media, but my grandfather died this past Tuesday. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. He had been having some health issues that left him going from the hospital to a rehab center. He had a stroke a few months back and just never fully recovered.
So when I got the call that he had gone, I was a little surprised, having expected another trip to the hospital. Naturally, my adrenalin kicked in and put me into focus mode to get to my family and take care of business. But today, the day before we bury him and say goodbye for good, I couldn’t help but cry some.
It’s not that I was completely fond of the man, no we had our differences, but he was my flesh and blood, for whom I wouldn’t be here. I wasn’t very close to him, but I still cared about him. But with him gone, it’s brought some mixed feelings in my heart. He was very conservative, and that’s still an understatement. My parents had to fight to get me and Alex together in his obituary. I get that we should respect those who have passed on, but it’s good to honor and remember those who have been left behind as well. My grandparents have been very outspoken about my relationship with Alex to my parents over the many years we have been together, and I am grateful for them sticking up for us.
And so tomorrow, he will be buried basically next to my brother. That was a huge influence on my emotions. These events have gotten me thinking about faith. All throughout my life, when someone is in pain or dies, I have seen people turn to faith, praying for the person’s health or that they will finally receive peace.
Heaven or hell. That has always been the verdict. Growing up in church I can recount at least a couple of times when the preacher would be standing up at the pulpit, preaching about whatever he deemed necessary that we needed to hear that week, going on and on about who knows what. I was young during some of these times, so I had limited attention. But one thing that has stayed with me through these years is the concept of heaven and hell.
After the preacher had finished part of his big reveal of God’s work, he would pause and look at the congregation. He would say, “Raise your hand if you know for a fact that you’re going to heaven when you die.”
And if I’m being honest, that question pisses me off to no end. It infuriates me beyond belief. As if we deserve to deem ourselves worthy to judge ourselves good enough for God. As if we are not all sinners who need to cling to Christ at all times. As if we are good enough to not need Christ.
I understand that was not the purpose of this question. But, like I’ve said, it’s all gotten me thinking. How dumb are we? How blind are we? That we sit there, content and happy, raising our hands deeming ourselves worthy of a free pass when there are people sitting on the street suffering. That the woman next to us is wondering how she’s going to be able to put food on the table tonight. Or that the teenager behind us is itching for his next hit.
We have missed the point of it all. Heaven and hell have always been the endgame. Pick your side. Choose who you are going to serve. I’m not saying this isn’t important; it’s the biggest choice we can make in our lives. But we miss the point. We aren’t here to just serve God. Jesus Christ came as a servant, not to himself, but to others. We focus so much on the self that we forget others. I know people will offer their thoughts and prayers, words of comfort during this hard time for my family. I truly do appreciate it, because God will hear those prayers and help us. His will shall always be done. I’m certain that there will be many people tomorrow who says he’s in a better place. I pray he is as well.
But I don’t want that to be the end of the story. It’s not about heaven or hell. That shouldn’t be the endgame. The endgame should be helping others. My grandfather was extremely opinionated. He wrote many opinion articles to the newspaper. He hurt many people, myself included, but I like to think he helped people too.
So by all means, if someone you know or love has found their rest, go ahead and offer your prayers. Show compassion and comfort to the family of the deceased. But think about how you can help the world they left behind. Invite that woman and her family to your table. Take that teenager out and try to show him that the world can be better. Don’t think of heaven and hell as the endgame, as merely a destination you want to reach. Be a light to heaven.
Don’t worry about where you’ll go after you’re gone, because if you do I feel you’re missing the point. Christ was humble. He didn’t brag. He never denied himself, but he didn’t hold it above others. He served the world. Don’t know you’re going to heaven. Show it.
Written by Christopher J. Burchnell