Saturday, December 19, 2015

A 2015 Christmas Thank You from Tom and Michele Johnson

This was the year of the anniversary - our fiftieth - and we celebrated all year. The official date was March 26th, but we didn’t let that narrow window of time stop us from enjoying the whole year with each other, our family, and you. 

So, thanks to the people we love, who have included us in their love for a wonderful 2015, esp. to our children: Jason, Amy, & Sarah, their spouses (Helen, Peter, & Matt), and our three grandkids (Nina, Nathaniel & Sam). I guess you all meant it when you said to us last Jan, 1, “Happy New Year!!” It was indeed.

Thanks to friends at St. Augustine’s and St. Stephen’s Episcopal churches, and at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church with whom we prayed, sang, planned, studied, retreated, ate, and talked.

Thanks to all the people with whom we got older, grieved the loss of friends, read books, and shared coffee, beer, meals, a second annual (may there be a third, Go Seahawks) Super Bowl Party at our house, weekly pinochle, fantasy baseball (the George Fox University [GFU] league) and live baseball (nine Mariners and Tigers games), and just time together, listening to one another’s stories (more often now, medical) and enjoying with gratitude the lives God has given us.

The actual week of our 50th anniversary, we vacationed at Eagle Crest in Redmond, OR, and in June the family came to help us re-pledge our vows in Bend, OR at the Inn at Seventh Mountain. Our grandson, Sam (13), came out from Colorado for a week in July to party with us, fishing and crabbing. Thanks to Melahn and David for sharing their boat and crab-whacking expertise!

Other celebratory travels included a week with grandchildren, Nina (9) and Nathaniel (6.5), in Rockport, MA and a week with Michele’s family in Ludington, Michigan in late July-early August. In Newberg, OR, we celebrated with our friends, Dave and Melva Brandt, at GFU at the dedication of the new residence hall named in their honor, and then came back to GFU in November for a dinner honoring Michele for her role in founding the Accounting major there.

But the big event was our long-planned, three-week, Mediterranean trip cruising to Venice Italy, Dubrovnik Croatia, Athens Greece, Ephesus Turkey, Split Croatia, and the Greek islands of Corfu, Santorini, Mykonos, and Katakolon and the third week in Assisi and central Italy, capstoning our year-long anniversary celebration. We will cross the finish line of this marathon of partying when the whole family comes out to Whidbey Island for Christmas at our house.

Footnotes to the year’s non-stop revelry
Tom taught a Bible study and biblical Greek class on Mondays and a seminar on the Minor Prophets, served on the boards of Whidbey Island Theological Studies and the Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship, co-authored a book Healing Church Strife in the New Testament and Today, assisted two authors in the editing of their new books, lectured for the GFU Leadership Forum, and helped to inaugurate the Johnson Leadership Forum at the University of Sioux Falls. 

Michele continues to do taxes (January through March) as a volunteer for the AARP free tax-prep service, serves as treasurer and volunteer for Island County Habitat for Humanity, participated in BeachWatcher environmental programs including detailed (e.g., species-counting) beach-monitoring, does the books and helps distribute food twice a month for the Coupeville food bank, known as Gifts from the Heart, went to Michigan in the fall to spent three weeks with her mother, Jane, in Ludington, and has recently taken up knitting.  

We thank you all for your part in these joys, and we are grateful for all the blessings and challenges that draw us closer together. 

Merry Christmas and a truly Happy New Year in 2016 from our house to yours!
Michele and Tom Johnson

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why I Support Gay/Lesbian Marriage

My View of Gay/Lesbian Marriage
First, a little context. I was asked to write this essay by good Christian friends, people I love and respect, who do not understand my support for gay marriage. How can a Christian who takes the Bible seriously, as they and I do, hold this viewpoint? Well, here is a personal account, not a logical argument, for how I came to hold my outlook on this issue.

I have come to the views I currently hold on gay and lesbian marriage, on the basis of a long period of reflection on biblical texts (authoritative for Christians), reason (what seems logical or rational to me in the light of evidence), and my experience with friends and relatives who are gay or lesbian. All these factors shape my understanding of homosexuality and gay marriage.

I never believed that homosexuality itself was wrong, immoral, or unethical. But I did believe, at one time, that the practice of it was wrong for Christians. It seemed to me that certain passages in the New Testament forbid sexual acts between persons of the same gender, Romans 1:26-28, in particular. And that opinion was primarily before I knew any gay or lesbian Christians.

Over the years, I have become good friends with many gay and lesbian people, most of them Christians, including family members, church members, and colleagues at work. This experience has deepened my understanding of the issues involved and caused me to think again about my understanding of that Romans text. 

Science also has played an important role. This is part of the role reason or common sense plays in the outcome. There is no doubt that people are born with genetic predisposition to heterosexuality and homosexuality. How you were treated as you grew up in those earliest years also plays a role. But, no one chooses to be gay or straight. This disposition is a given; it is pre-choice.  To me, that translates to: “God made me the way I am.” Personally I am glad to be what I am. But that also means that I want gay and lesbian people to be happy with their sexuality as well. “Do unto others . . . ” applies.

I suppose you could say, as I used to, before I knew the scientific data, that, “OK, you are gay. You just have to act celibately. You do not get to practice your sexuality. I do, but you don’t.” But now, that position seems irrational, unjust, and uncaring. I used to think that way, though, because that’s what I thought the Bible taught. 

Then I read again those biblical texts that appeared to ban homosexual conduct. The more I read them, the more I saw that Paul was writing about sexual abuse. Homosexual abuse of boys was common in the Greco-Roman world, and Paul believed that it was wrong in God’s eyes. He also observed the flaunting of one’s homosexuality in terms of irresponsible, unrestrained sexual expression and its unhealthy consequences. That too he believed was against God’s good purposes for human well-being. But Paul was not writing about (for or against) healthy, committed, natural attraction and affection between persons of the same gender. 

I believe now that the same moral rules should govern both homosexual and heterosexual conduct. Lustful, promiscuous practice is harmful to everyone, gay or straight. Faithful committed love is good for all partners, gay or straight. My experience may be unusual, but none of the dozens of gay and lesbian people I know personally think unrestrained sexual practice, sleeping around, is a good thing. That is not what healthy people desire. In fact, there is far more sexually abusive and irresponsible conduct (rape, incest, spouse abuse, adultery, pornography, etc.) by heterosexuals than by homosexuals. 

Which brings me to gay marriage. You can see where this train of thought and experience is leading, and, rightly so. If one wants gay and lesbian people to act morally, responsibly, and  in a way that is healthy for them and for society, how can we, how can I, be opposed to gay marriage? Marriage is the socially responsible, God-intended means of faithfully exercising one’s given sexuality and building a home. It is inconsistent with all that has been said above to proscribe marriage to gay and lesbian people. This is the view I hold, not just as a reasonable human being, but as a Christian. I believe this viewpoint is more consistent with what Jesus and the New Testament teach, about love and justice, than other responses.

But I didn’t get here over night. So, if you do not hold this view, I am in no position to judge you. Think it through, pray it through, for yourself, and see what seems right to you, in the light of your understanding of the Bible, your experience, and the best use of reason and the evidence.

Tom Johnson