Monthly Archives: June 2016

An Open Letter to the LGBTQ Community

First of all, let me apologize to those reading this who have followed me here for a while now. When I originally started this site, I swore to myself I’d never use it to become involved in political events or to advance any political cause whatsoever. It’s just too easy for such efforts to devolve into hate, which does nothing more than hurt those involved with it. That being said, given what happened this past weekend and what has been on my heart since then, this platform seems to me the perfect place for what follows. 

An Open Letter to the LGBTQ Community 

My name is Mike Shewfelt. I am pastor with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and I would like to talk. Before you get tempted to write me off as just another stereotypical conservative, let me state that I am originally from Canada, and for what it’s worth, I have shoulder-length hair that is both permed and colour treated and which I had put in a French braid yesterday (which I’m loving every minute of). That’s not to say that we necessarily have anything in common, but simply that I am not your typical Southern minister.

What I want to say, first of all, is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry not only for what happened in Orlando this past Sunday, but also for the way we Christians have, as a whole, treated you in the past in general and in recent months in particular. When I read of outpourings of love and prayers for you all following the tragic shooting, more than anything they pissed me off. Not that they are not genuine or called for in such circumstances, but rather that they do nothing to take away from the reality that our attitude towards you has, as a whole, not been very loving. We’ve condemned you. We’ve ignored you. We’ve stated that what makes you who you are is nothing more than a mental illness. What really pisses me off is that it took an event of this nature and scope to get us past all of that to actually show you love and support. We should have done so a long time ago, and we didn’t.

As the Bible tells us, when Jesus was here on earth He loved the unlovable. There was no one who could out love Him, and it didn’t matter who the recipient of that love was. Some of the people He loved the most were the outcasts and misfits of society, and without being too blunt, that is how we should have been towards you. (I speak for myself here as much as for any of the rest of us. There are very few gay, lesbian, etc., individuals in my life, let alone any who I have made the effort to have a relationship with.) Again, I can only say I’m sorry.

I believe we can do better in the future, however, and as part of that belief I have a proposal for you. I want to talk, as I said, but more importantly I want to listen. I want to hear from you. I want to hear your stories, your frustrations, your anger. All of it. What makes you who you are? How do you see the world? How do you see us as Christians? How has the Church helped you? How have we failed you? I want to know. I want to understand. And please, don’t hold back. I promise to be honest, and I would hope you will be the same. (Edited to add an aside for my Christian friends here, because when one lives in the South apparently even reaching out to the LGBT community can be misconstrued in many different ways: I am not seeking to join the LGBT community. Any good conversation starts with respectful listening, and that is all I am trying to do here.)

I promise not to judge. I know that may seem an empty promise coming from one who calls myself a Christian, but if you knew me, knew the person I am and the things I’ve been through, you’d know that I am the last one to judge anyone. If you still doubt my word, read other of my writings here on this site. You’ll see that I don’t judge or condemn. Mainly, I just try to encourage. So, again, here’s my promise to you: I won’t judge. I won’t condemn. What I will do is keep an open mind and treat your views with dignity and respect. All I would ask from you is that you try to do the same.

Feel free to use the comments section below. I do have a full-time job in addition to being a minister, so it may be a day or two before I can reply, but I will do my best not to keep you waiting.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Mike Shewfelt

 

Advertisements

Never Again…?

Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin and Emilie De Ravin as Belle on Once Upon A Time S01E12One of the joys of going back to Season 1 of Once Upon a Time is that, having missed this season the first time around, I get to learn what actually makes everybody tick. How did people meet? What happened to drive those two apart? What makes him who he is? These are all questions I’m getting answered finally, albeit slowly and with great joy on the part of my wife (who’s seen all this before and knows the answers to all those questions).

One of my favourite ones to wonder about is Rumplestiltskin, who if you haven’t seen the show is in love with Belle yet when faced with choosing between her and having power he always, always, always chooses power. Even when he knows he’s hurting her, without fail that’s what he chooses. My question in watching the more recent seasons has always been why. Why does he do it?

Turns out the answer is simple. Again, without giving away too much, early on in the first season Rumple is placed in a position that emphasizes just how powerless he truly is and long story short, having been there once before he refuses to go back again. Even if it means losing the one he loves, he refuses to be hurt that way again.

We may curse him for a fool (and fansites have done so many times), but if we’re honest we’d have to admit that we’re more like Rumple than we’d care to admit. Just ask yourself how many times you’ve been hurt by someone in a relationship and then sworn to yourself you’ll never put yourself in a position to be hurt like that again.

And it doesn’t have to be a relationship that causes it. It can be work, a hobby, or any other part of life. For example, growing up, I was smart. I grasped concepts quickly and I loved to learn. When I excelled I enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel any pressure to keep it up. I just had fun with it. In Grade 4, late in the year, one incident in particular happened where another student who witnessed it kept telling me over and over again “Mike, you are so stupid.” In hindsight I’d made a foolish mistake (emptying out a fish tank by pouring it down the sink, where the gravel could have gone likewise but thankfully didn’t), but the words hurt a lot worse than the mistake ever did. From that point on, I didn’t just enjoy being smart. I excelled at everything academic. I graduated high school with a 95.4 % average. (My Canadian high school didn’t have the GPA system.) Never again would I give someone the opportunity to call me stupid.

All it takes for us to end up like Rumple is getting hurt and then vowing never to be in that position again. And just like Rumple, I hurt those closest to me. I spent so much time on my studies that I didn’t have time for of anyone else.

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus tells us, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” We might think He’s referring here to ducking martyrdom or something similar, but He’s actually not. “Life” here in the original Greek refers to that which makes you who you are. The sense is that in trying to protect that which is most valuable to us we actually end up losing it. Giving that which is most valuable over to Christ, however, means He can actually protect it. In losing it, so to speak, we get to hold onto it.

Think of it this way. If Rumple had someone in his life he could trust to protect himself, he would be free to choose Belle over power. An act like that, whether in his life or in yours or mine, requires a supreme sort of vulnerability, and that’s the kind that you only find when you have someone around you trust enough to be that vulnerable with. Jesus gives us that freedom, if we’ll only trust Him enough to see it.

The ironic twist to all this is that if we don’t trust Him with it, losing our life in the sense of Matthew 16:25 can entail missing out not only on what makes us who we are but also on whatever it is we’re turning to in order to protect ourselves with. The story of my grades ends that way. I had the highest average in my class for 3 of my 4 years in high school, and I enjoyed being in that spotlight. It became part of who I was. The one year I wasn’t on top was Grade 12, the year that really counted. I missed out on it by 0.1%, and all the spotlight went to someone else. In an instant, that part of me was gone. I left high school having been so focused on grades that I’d left my heart behind, and I ended up with precious little to show for it.

What part of yourself are you trying to protect? Will you trust Jesus enough to lay that down in His arms? Like Rumple, you’ll only hurt yourself and those around you if you don’t.

Of Kings and Queens

2990d79e0110b3fddc604b1b81ebfae4My wife and I are huge fans of the show Once Upon a Time, and now that this season has wrapped, and there’s no new episodes til September, she’s had us starting over with the Season 1 DVD. Without giving away too much, the premise of the first season is that every fairytale character you’ve ever known is trapped in this town in Maine where they don’t remember who they are and think their hum-drum existence is all that there is. The Evil Queen, now the mayor of this town, knows what’s going on and basically gets to sit back and enjoy everyone else’s misery, and Emma Swan, the protagonist, is apparently fated to lift this curse (although she doesn’t yet believe there even is a curse).

It is an agonizing show to watch at times, as the story flips back and forth between the past and present day which means that watching it, you know who these people really are. To see them settle for much less (like Snow White, who’s basically decided she’ll never find true love in this existence), or to watch them die just as they realize the truth (not giving that one away), definitely tugs at your heartstrings.

Before you think this post is just a review of Once Upon a Time, there’s more to this story than just a TV show. My favourite English professor in college used to assert that cultures everywhere are basically telling the same stories. We put cultural twists on them, but at heart they’re the same. As a Christian, I take this one step further. Not only are we all telling the same stories, but those stories all have their root in the greater Story that God is telling. This is the story that began in Eternity past and which plays itself out in our lives today, and which also has a funny habit of popping up in TV shows like Once Upon a Time.

Think about it. How often in our own lives do we long to be more than who we are? How many of us have drifted off to sleep knowing that there has to be more to life than the daily grind? And have you ever watched a sunset and felt a longing for you don’t know what? Deep down, in the lonely places of our hearts, the parts that once we’ve settled down we make sure never see the light of day (what else are we supposed to do with this longing we can’t control and don’t understand?), we know there’s something more. Something else.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11, we’re told that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” That itch you just can’t satisfy, that longing you can’t get rid of or numb away, that’s God’s way of reminding us who we used to be. We really were kings and queens once, and though we’re fallen and broken now, we still are. And that is the context of Christianity. We really are under a curse, just like the characters in Once Upon a Time are right now, and just like in that show, our Saviour has come to save us, make us whole, and invite us back into the greater Story.