It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Colby Martin – Pastor//Author//Artist. I love the way he describes his journey in his upcoming book, Unclobber. He stated, “UnClobber is about how the Church has misused a handful of Bible verses to prevent the LGBTQ community from being fully welcomed at the Table.” I think this is imperative, because it goes beyond political and theological belief. HIs statement challenges pastors and leaders to reveal the hope of Christ to all humanity and to engage in conversation with all people. It invites the LGBTQ individual to come to the table – with their questions, doubts and perspectives. It dares the church to listen and hear the person – not the label – but the person.
A friend of mine once told me that he wished that the church would see him as a person – he wanted to be seen as more than just gay – he wanted to be seen as someone who was valued and loved. He wanted to be seen through the eyes of Christ.
What compelled you to write the book, Unclobber? What caused you to question your theological perspective?
When I came out of the theological closet in 2011 I found myself engaging in rather unproductive back-and-forths on Facebook (I know, big surprise!). That led me to want to flesh out my thoughts in more totality on my blog, so I came up with the term “UnClobber” as a way to articulate that I stand in opposition to the traditional perspective of the “Clobber Passages.” I never completed the blog series because I turned it in to a lecture series instead, dreaming that one day I could put it all together in a book. Why? Because I think how we think about the Clobber Passages matters. And I hope to show people that you can, through honest Biblical interpretation, arrive at alternative understandings of what these six verses say.
What three authors have been the most influential in your life as a pastor and your life as a husband/dad?
How do we go beyond politics? How do we encourage pastors and leaders to love others regardless of their stance on marriage?
I don’t know that it’s realistic (or even helpful) to try and “go beyond politics.” At least as far as Jesus was concerned, in his day there was no clear distinction for the category of “religion” and the category of “politics.” In other words, to engage with one was, by default, to engage the other. Politics, at its base level, is about organizing humans in a community and distributing power and resources accordingly. The LGBTQ community are humans, within our community, and deserve to seen as such. Click To Tweet So if pastors and leaders are going to move towards truly loving their gay brothers and sisters, then they should, at the same time, be prepared to advocate for resources and power in their rightful place in the community.
How did fellow ministers react to your journey? Were you ostracized from certain circles?
My pool of friends, fellow pastors, and churches that welcomed me dried up fairly quick. Once I stood fully as a straight-ally I was pretty much ostracized from my Alma Mater and my previous two churches. Not immediately, though. First there came the season of “concerned” people who reached out to me, I don’t know, try and save me from my path of heresy. But once they saw that was a fruitless endeavor, then they just left me alone. It is still sad for me to think, “I would really love to call so-and-so and ask them this question about pastoring people, but they wouldn’t talk to me.”
How did you react when you were fired for your perspective? Did it make you question your stance?
At first I was angry. I couldn’t believe that my five years of fruitful ministry was being outweighed by one theological perspective that I held and kept to myself in some corner of my brain. Then I was hurt. Devastated that my “friends” chose to get rid of me rather than engage difficult conversations. But eventually I moved to a place of understanding and empathy. We were all trying to do the best we could, and trying to live out our convictions the best way we knew how. For them, their convictions demanded that they protect their version of the Gospel. So any anger or hurt I feel now is directed at the theology that creates a culture like that, not at the people who live and move within it.
Did I question my stance as a result? No, not really. As Thelma told Louise, “something has crossed over in me and I can’t go back.” Click To Tweet
Why do you think that many Christians are fearful of the LGBTQ community?
I think the LGBTQ community presses against some deep fears and insecurities for a lot of Christians. I’m not entirely sure why, but one guess is that the conservative Christian culture has worked overtime to crack down on sexuality. From the purity culture of True Love Waits and I Kissed Dating Goodbye, to shame and fear around masturbation, to making divorced people feel like second class citizens, it all contributes to anxiety and shame around sex. So when there are people who are defined by “something having to do with sex” (sidenote: not because they define themselves as such. Like you mentioned above, gay people would much rather just be known as people.) then it creates this constant pressure point on the surface that is a real trigger for conservative Christians. In other words, if I’m a conservative question, I might have an internal (but subconscious) dialogue like this, “I’m really uncomfortable with sex, and have a lot of shame around it and my own body, and yet you seem to not only be comfortable with it, but you’re actually able and willing to step out of society’s mold. That freaks me out.” But rather than deal with our stuff, and do the hard work of demystifying sex and finding security in our bodies, we dump our fear and shame on others. And the LGBTQ community become perfect scapegoats for that.
Are there only two options? Can a pastor have a more conservative perspective on marriage and still love their gay neighbor/son/friend? What are some tangible ways that they can do this?
I think they can try to love their gay neighbor/son/friend while still maintaining a belief that homosexuality in all its forms is sinful, but I would tell them to not be surprised if ultimately that gay neighbor/son/friend does not feel loved. And even if they do (“feel” loved), there is a good chance it will always feel slightly one-degree shy of real love. Most straight people simply don’t have a way to empathize with this sort of dynamic. There is not a great equivalent where I could say, “imagine if you were ________ and your mom said to you, ‘I think _________ is an abomination, but please believe me that I love you anyway!’” Whatever we might put in that blank space is always going to be like, “yeah, but that’s not exactly the same as being gay.” So just realize, if you are a Christian who holds a non-affirming viewpoint, that your efforts to actually communicate love to an LGBTQ person has to be exponentially greater because you’re really starting from a pretty disadvantaged place, because you fundamentally oppose a core component of the humanity of that person. Again, just don’t be surprised if there is a disconnect between “how much you think you love person X,” and “how much person X feels truly loved by you.”
Why are so many churches afraid to question the validity of their own doctrine/theology?
We have been trained to think that the most important thing to God is “what we think about God.” In other words, “right belief” has been elevated as the single most important component of what it means to be human. There is Truth, and in order for the Creator of the Cosmos to be okay with you, you must discover that Truth and believe it.
What a terrifying, terrifying notion! And what a strange god, right? When I think about my four sons, I am much more concerned that they know what I believe about THEM, rather than they what they believe about me. Meaning, my entire goal as a dad is to ensure that my boys know they are loved and cherished. That is my fundamental posture towards them. That is what I want them to know; how I feel towards them. What they think or believe towards me seems irrelevant.
Churches, pastors, and Christians are afraid to question their own theology because what if they are wrong about something? Or what if they die while they are in still in process? If God’s posture towards us is contingent upon us getting some key points of doctrine correct, then of course people will be obsessed with getting the right answer!
How can pastors/leaders remain influential with the millennial generation? Do you believe that we need to do church differently? Why? Why not?
My sense is that the Millennial Generation is only going to be interested in connecting with pastors and leaders who stand with them, not above them. Our generation has felt burned by top-down hierarchies, and we seriously question the notion that one person is simultaneously the smartest, wisest, most qualified person to do all the leading. Not only that, but we know that everyone struggles. Life is hard for everybody. So pastors and leaders that name that, that are honest with their humanity, they have a more likely chance of being the types of people that Millennials would think, “huh… that resonates with me… I respect that.”
Do we need to church differently? Absolutely. Not that I know “how,” necessarily. But I’m convinced that the age of “One Person (usually a man) stands above the rest and tell us all what to do and not do” is going by the wayside—hallelujah. Churches need to be a place where people feel safe enough to explore their own spiritual journey, not a place where they are told there is only one journey to take.
If you could stand in front of a room full of new seminary students, what would you tell them? How can they prepare to reach today’s generation?
I would tell them that they won’t be any good to anybody if they don’t put themselves on a path towards healing and wholeheartedness. Theology, sermons, programs… none of that crap matters if we are not doing the work of pursuing a life of flourishing ourselves. If we are not totally committed to facing our own humanity, getting help if we need it (and most of us do), and ministering from a place of resurrection on the other side of death. If we are not grounded in our own identity as loved children of God. If we are not centered on the truth that we are enough.
And then I would say, “but none of you will take me seriously. So you’ll go out in to the world and you’ll hustle for your worth, you’ll put on masks that you’re okay, you’ll try and convince people you know what you’re talking about, you’ll think that being happy and being whole are the same thing… and then one day you’ll crash. You’ll not recognize yourself. You’ll wonder why you never feel like you’re enough. You’ll question whether or not ministry is for you. You’ll be exhausted at trying to constantly make people happy. And maybe then, just then, you’ll remember what I’m telling you know, and you’ll start the journey of loving yourself. For it is only from that place that we can truly love others.”
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Connect with Colby Martin:
Church Website: http://sojourngrace.com/#sojourn
Personal Website: http://colbymartinonline.com/
Colby’s Social Media Sites
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