What Lies Beneath: Tim Otto's "Oriented To Faith"

So much bad news these days, and so much more we’ll never even hear about. Troubled Christian leaders. Clergy misconduct. Sexual and domestic abuse. Family brokenness.

Yet we often see homosexuality as a problem in and of itself; it stirs up trouble, so let’s hope it doesn’t pop up at our church.

But there’s a problem cross-cutting all of these troubles, the problem of power: how and where it flows, how to know and hold one’s own personal power, and how to recognize and resist illegitimate authority. And the problem that so many people experience in their gender and/or sexuality: feeling trapped in an unresponsive or abusive environment.

In Oriented to Faith, Tim Otto shares his story as a gay Christian man who has lived for many years in a Christian community church in San Francisco. He brings rich stories of sacrifice, generosity, and conflict that will inspire readers to look at what lies beneath surface conflicts, fundamental distortions in our faith involving who we are to each other, and how we live together as believers.

For example, he describes community life as political, because it requires using power appropriately. “The Bible teaches us that politics is transformed from the practice of using power to get our way to a process of lovingly trying to discern together God’s way.” Attention to right use of power would soothe much of our bad news, including the many ways in which pain accompanies religious interactions with LGBT persons and concerns.

He recommends looking for God’s presence everywhere, expecting to see God at work even in conflict.

"…rather than latching onto whether same-sex relationships are right or wrong, a better initial question might be: how is God working for the good? How is God working for the good through the controversy in the church around homosexuality? How is God working for the good through Christians who identify themselves as LGBT?”

He encourages us to reach and wrestle for

“a truth bigger than ‘right or wrong’ judgments, a truth that requires costly changes in how we live…If Christians are going to make any kind of intelligible case one way or the other, we will need to form faith communities that demand far more of all Christians – communities that make us odd, generous blessings to the world.”

Christian concern about homosexuality is often centrally concerned with who lays with who; even the word “homosexual” indicates a genital, personal, and moral focus. More contemporary language – LGBTQ – highlights social life and personal identity, the human and cultural context in which sexuality plays a part.

“Who lays with who” is not unimportant, but judging rightly on that issue means little if we fail to tend – lovingly and ongoingly – to what lies beneath.