Tag Archives: Palm Springs

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
behold the sham james martin

Behold the Sham

‘You are the truth presiding over all things. But in my greed, I was unwilling to lose You, and wanted to have You at the same time as holding onto a lie…That is why I lost You: You do not condescend to be possessed together with falsehood.’ St. Augustine

We gathered in Palm Springs last weekend to celebrate the Lamb—He who became living water for us in the desert of sexual brokenness. Years prior, many of us had frequented this storied playground in pursuit of ‘gay’ everything; we fled to the desert from our Los Angeles suburbs to submerge ourselves in gleaming, toxic pools. Now we behold the Lamb and invite others to do the same. The marvelous Lutheran Church that sponsored us has a huge exterior cross emerging from a rock fountain. We entered those waters and were saved. Again.

With a 75% LGBT+ population, Palm Springs prides itself on having a City Council composed solely of LGBT members. We opened our doors to all who thirst. Cross and fountain await, smack dab in the middle of downtown!

A few persons asked me there about Fr. James Martin who also seeks to be a bridge between LGBT+ Catholics and the Church. He recently had a meeting with Pope Francis who Martin claimed was altogether supportive of his initiative ‘to offer this most marginalized group in the Church welcome, inclusion, and love.’

First, what I like about Martin.

He reminds us that many persons who identify as LGBT+ are baptized Catholics. That should encourage all family and friends to pray: ‘Awaken each to the truth of his or her status as a child of the Father, deeply loved!’

He points out that persons who are hidden in their own divided sexuality may tend to demonize persons who are ‘out and proud’: ‘Remove the beam from our own eyes, O God, that we may behold the speck in our loved ones!’

He also underscores Pope Francis’ call to accompany LGBT+ persons patiently and mercifully. We are dealing with people–not abstract ‘issues’—who need our presence over the long haul.

But Martin’s reminder that we are all sinners in need of mercy rings false. He deceives us here. He does not view the LGBT+ set as sinners in need of a Savior. Rather than absolving them of sin, he claims they have none, at least in the sexual arena. The Church Martin invites them into is cross-free. Behold the Lamb? No need. Let the good father assume it by crying ‘peace’ when there is none.

Let me be specific. Father Martin insists that as a priest he would never challenge Church teachings. But he already has. He efforts to alter the Catholic understanding of same-sex tendencies and action. The Catechism defines the latter as ‘intrinsically disordered’ (#2357) and other documents define the attraction as ‘objectively disordered.’ Martin seems to support a new definition that reframes same-sex desires and actions as ‘differently ordered.’ No disorder, no need for redemption. Behold the man who takes away the sin of the world.

He writes that LGBT+ persons will not ‘receive’ the call to chastity. I think what he means is that the Church needs to wake up to the fact that LGBT+ persons should be free to act upon their feelings. Martin makes a big deal of how the Church houses all kinds of traditional sinners; what the heck, why not welcome a host of exotic ones too? And let’s not call them sinners! He cannot advocate for LGBT+ sexual liberties and not redraw the moral boundary lines for all persons. Martin wants to redefine chastity for us altogether.

Finally, Martin advocates for a new anthropology—the ‘LGBT+ Catholic’—and wants this language in Church documents. Here we face the difference between ‘disordered’ and ‘differently ordered’. If a person’s SSA or gender dysphoria is disordered, then why build an identity around a disorder? Isn’t it more congruent with Scripture and Catholic teaching to identify with the Source of our ‘ordering’—Jesus, who defines us as sons and daughters of the Father, and endows us with His Spirit to make it so? But here Martin is consistent. He sets up a new ‘order’ by normalizing a range of gender identity fractures and placing them on par with persons inclined toward the opposite gender. Martin wants to integrate LGBT+ reality in the Church. He wants Jesus’ Bride to take her cues from all the rainbowed institutions of our western culture.

Martin’s good intentions veil deception. In undermining Church teaching, he removes the heart of the Gospel for LGBT+ persons. Behold the Lamb? Nah. Behold the sham.

You can purchase “Becoming Good News” in book form directly from Desert Stream or get it from Amazon for your Kindle.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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The Greening of Gender

Those of us who have reduced Pope Francis’ recent encyclical–‘On Care of Our Common Home’–to a holy call to recycle may want to reconsider. The man advocates a rethinking of our relationship to all of creation, including our own gender and bodies.

‘Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential part of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way, we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.’ (155)

An artist in Palm Springs who runs Living Waters there, Brian Barlow encountered a confused young man with merciful regard for his true gender home. Who knew that a green commitment is well-expressed in tending to another’s gender clarity? Pope Francis would be proud of the following:

drawing 1““Wow, what just walked up?” That was my weak response to a man God loves who stationed himself outside my art gallery in Palm Springs. He was dressed in women’s pajamas complete with a lace satin black top and a polka dot skirt accented by pink flip-flops; I watched as he rifled through his backpack which seemed to hold all his earthly belongings. He pulled out a wet-wipe and started to clean himself, beginning with his face from which he carefully wiped dirt and sweat then moved downward to clean his arms and finally his feet.

I recalled that I had a travel kit at the gallery for the times like that morning when I arrived early to start painting. I also remembered that I had a set of extra men’s clothes, including shoes at the gallery, as well as soap and water and towels. In a small way I could offer this broken homeless soul a small gift to show that he is noticed and not forgotten. In spite of his evident gender confusion, I could offer him a new set of clothes that testify to God’s design for him–a design intended for this child of God to walk uprightly in his male humanity.

I approached this gentle soul who, as I offered him the items, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Why are you doing this?” That is often the question I am asked when I reach out to the gender broken in this desert ‘city of refuge.’ It’s a pregnant question that means: “What is this going to cost me? Another piece of my dignity?”

I paused for a brief moment and said the first thing that came to mind, “We are a ministry that offers hope to our community through the arts. I thought you could use these things. I thought to myself, “Wow that was canned!” Sigh…Then a peace came over me and I offered to pray for him. He accepted. I asked for protection and blessed him with a firm hand on his shoulder on which he rested his hand.

drawing 2I watched him walk away and there was no mistaking his gender. He was a man!

Perhaps you might ask, so what?! ‘Good for you, you dressed up a homeless transgender person to look the part of a male. Big deal!’

My response, YES! YES! It is a BIG DEAL! Calling out the true self of every person we encounter matters! God has intentionally designed each gender as either male or female. That is the truth, and truth sets us free.

Fractured by life, assaulted by abuse and isolation, broken humanity needs to be reminded of the Father’s original design. Our confirmation testifies powerfully that there is hope for what went wrong. It answers a significant question: “Was I created for more, or is this it?” Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well who lived with an unquenched thirst for more. The good news: we can offer a drink of living water for a person evidently thirsting for life’s most basic requirements, which include cleansing and clothing one’s gendered humanity.”

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Fountains from the Furnace

‘The burning sand will become a pool; the thirsty ground, a bubbling spring… And a highway will be there; it will be called the way of holiness.’ (IS 35:7, 8)

Jim waited for me after the workshop I taught at Moody’s Pastor’s Conference in Chicago. Apparently passionate about the health of his congregants, he bore a sweet and sober countenance, and asked incisive questions about the wounds beneath immorality. ‘I could pour out my heart to this guy,’ I thought.

Then he shared deeply with me of his own moral crisis with pornography, a habit sourced in an abusive home and a divided religious life where the Spirit never quite overcame the flesh. Until a couple years ago when his world melted down. That began a long process of enlisting the help of a whole healing team, including his wife and elders, and committing to living each day in the light of Love. He has emerged from the furnace and is becoming a fountain of mercy for all who love Jesus but still live divided lives. He wants to pastor them into wholeness.

Next stop, Palm Springs. My friend Brian left the Midwest and a conservative, abusive family not unlike Jim’s and ended up in the desert. He found plenty of men like him seeking confirmation through confusing sexual bonds. He left this ‘gay’ furnace only to return a couple years later, humbled by his excesses and earnestly seeking the God of his youth whose answers he needed for his adult conflicts. He found a church that was starting to run CrossCurrent; he became an avid participant then a leader.

He also began investing in his gifts as a painter, so much so that his church put him in charge of an art gallery right in the thick of Palm Springs where he showcased his inspired work (see image). He deepened in the ‘healing arts’ as well, experiencing numerous miracles as he testified and prayed with persons in the gallery and in healing groups.

Nicole worked for the church started coming to one of the groups just to learn how to better care for all the gay-identified folks around her. She and Brian became friends and over time grew in love with each other. They were married and now have two kids.

Brian and Nicole want nothing more than to dig a deep well in their desert home, and to prime churches throughout the Coachella Valley to become evident sources of living water. They have a passion for restoring persons who seek to heal their wounds through sexual unions that only keep them wounded.

Rescued from the furnace, Jim and Brian are now fountains of life. Let mercy roll like a river through all who discover Jesus in dry and weary lands.

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