I had originally planned to write a few more installments of 'One Year Later', which is currently in three parts (see previous posts), but I think I've pretty much said everything I wanted or really needed to say about all of that, so I'm ready to move on now... ready to get to what I really need to be writing, which is the book I've been working on (on and off) for about a year now. I've talked with a couple of publishers over the last 12 months who sort of had a different vision of what they thought I should write than what I had. I even hired a publishing agent, but at this point, nothing has really come of that. I am certainly still open to that working out, but in the meantime, I feel an urgency to just get this stuff out there in any way that I can. I've also looked into just doing an e-book, and I haven't ruled out that possibility. Normally, I would self-publish as I have always done before, but in all honesty, I simply don't have the kind of up-front cash to get that sort of project going as I did in years past. Things are a little different for me now in that department. I'm not poor-mouthing...I know that God supplies all of my need...but I feel that if I don't just take a step of faith and start putting it out there that nothing's going to happen with it at all. Some people say you shouldn't publish your writing for free on a blog because it will prevent people from buying it later in book form, but I can't worry about that now. If you would like to donate to the publishing of my book or even invest in it in some way, I am also totally open to that. But, one way or another, I'm writing this book. So my step of faith is to just start where I am with what I have to work with. Beginning today I will post the book, chapter by chapter, on the blog, and whatever happens with it happens. Just living in the now and doing what my hand finds to do...
FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS
by Bishop Jim Swilley
by Bishop Jim Swilley
"One Thing I Can Tell You Is,
You Got To Be Free"
They say that writers should write what they know.
Well, OK then...here's what I know.
I know God.
I don't know everything about Him, but I know that He's real, even though my perception of Him has changed rather profoundly over the course of my life and ministry, especially in the last few years.
I used to know everything about Him when I was a young preacher just starting out at the age of 13...when I was young, zealous, dynamic and committed...obsessively faithful to the call that I believed God had placed on my life. It was beautiful...you should have seen me. I was...how shall I put it? Oh, yeah...I was "on fire for Jesus", and, quite frankly, completely arrogant and full of myself, in retrospect.
Well, maybe not completely arrogant...the touch of God on my life was real enough that it prevented my motives in ministry from being totally self-serving.
But, yes...definitely...back then I knew pretty much everything there was to know about God and the Bible and about what it meant to be a Christian.
And I was happy to let you know that I knew everything, especially if you disagreed with what I believed was the truth. And if you disagreed with me, you were just dead wrong, and that's all there was to it (which is why I can completely empathize now with many of my critics...but more about that later in the book).
Anyway, it's an awesome thing to know everything.
I just don't know where I lost that information.
Every now and then I'll drive by a church and will see written on their signage out front something like this..."Our Mission: To Make Him Known to the World!"
But if you really think about it, it's a rather pretentious idea to assume that you know enough about God to make Him known to the whole world.
I know, at this point...at least for myself...I can only tell you about the part of Him that I know (or know about)...about what I've learned on my journey...about how He's worked in my life...about what has worked for me in my spiritual evolution.
I can't and won't set myself up as someone who has such a grasp on the width and length and depth and height of the mysteries of God that I can tell you about Him fully. I now realize after many years of preaching (40, to be exact, at the time of this writing), that I only see a little corner of the whole thing...the "big picture" of God, if you will.
I know that I know in part and I prophesy in part.
The bottom line is, I'm only an authority on the subject of what I know about my relationship with Him.
Everyone else will have to work out their own salvation, including the ones who consider me to be their bishop/pastor/teacher/spiritual leader . The sower simply sows the word...the different types of soil that receive the seed of it produce different results in their lives. If what I know and have learned (and continue to learn) about God can help another person on their own spiritual path, then, as the song says, my living shall not be in vain.
The other thing I know about is internal conflict...the kind of conflict that comes from living your life in a way that is contrary to your nature, in order to conform to the appearance of what you believe...or of what you say you believe...or of what you think you believe...or of what you want to believe.
In a word, I know what it means to be gay in a world where being gay is unmentionable, unacceptable, damnable, abominable and just plain wrong...what it means to spend your entire life trying not to be something that you know you are not so as to support what you believe is right.
As I said, I used to know everything about God and the Bible (and if you don't realize that that's a tongue-in-cheek statement, it's probably going to be a waste of your time to try to get through this book). But what I "knew" and what I REALLY "knew" were just totally incompatible.
I didn't grow up "in the closet"...in the world in which I grew up, the closet would have been freedom. No, I wasn't in the closet, I was in a vault 100 feet underground where I refused to admit to myself on any level what I really knew to be true, because if I were to admit or accept that truth, I would have to reject the other truth...the Bible truth...the God truth. And that just couldn't be done.
I'll be saying a lot more about this in the following pages, but I want to first establish that this isn't a book about being gay. It's a book about authenticity...the ability to be exactly who you are, exactly how you are, without any fear of being rejected by the God you believe in, and about Whom you preach.
Ultimately, then, it's really about GOOD NEWS.
I'll be discussing a lot of things about God and religion and spirituality and sexual orientation and about coming to terms with the truth that sets you free.
But before I explore any of that, I need to make a few statements of what I believe to be fact, and it's fine with me if you disagree with me. You certainly won't be the first. But you should know at the outset that this is what I believe to be true, and if you don't accept these statements, this book is only going to irritate you.
Anyway, here goes...
First, some people are gay, in the same way that some people are straight. There's a percentage of all people who are homosexual...about a tithe of the entire population by most estimates. The world isn't turning gay. No one can "turn" gay... you either are or you aren't. No one can "recruit" you to be either gay or straight.
Again, the world is not turning gay, even though many religious/conservative/fundamentalist people apparently seem to think that it is. There are no more gay people on the planet than there have ever been. It may appear that way, but that's because more people are free to talk about their sexual orientation now than in the past, and because those people are more visible than they were before for any number of reasons.
People are who they are. Gay people aren't gay because they have sex with people of the same sex, in the same way that sex with the opposite sex doesn't make someone straight. In fact, there are gay people who have never had sex with the same sex, or sex at all for that matter...orientation is about orientation, not about activity.
There is no such thing as "the gay lifestyle".
Being gay is not a sexual fetish or an aberration.
It is not a choice. No one can choose homosexuality any more than they can choose heterosexuality.
If you are gay, you will always be gay, regardless of whether or not you have sex with the same sex, or with the opposite sex, or if you choose to be celibate.
I will say more about all of this, but before I do, I need to tell you that I already read the Bible. I need to establish that fact before anyone starts up their computer to send me a message from God.
I'm very familiar with the handful of passages that refer to homosexuality, which are, for the most part, a couple of statements made by Moses, and a few others by Paul.
I am familiar with Leviticus, which I will later discuss.
And in the year prior to this writing, the first chapter of Romans and the sixth chapter of 1 Corinthians have been cut and pasted and sent to me about 2, 500 - 3,000 times...so even though I appreciate the fact that those who have sent me those passages have the ability to cut and paste with their computers, they should know that I have read, studied, meditated and wrestled my entire life and 40 years of ministry with said passages. The majority of my preaching is from Paul's epistles, so I'm pretty familiar with everything he said about everything.
Well, that's about it for opening statements. As I said, I'll come back to all of these things later in the book.
But for now, the most important thing I can tell you is that the Gospel is good news.
And at the end of the day, that's really what I want to talk about. But I have to get this other stuff out of the way first, so please bear with me if it's not applicable to you, personally.
How am I going to bring all these topics together into one book that makes sense?
One chapter at a time.
Ok, let's get started.