Sunday, July 5, 2015

the black & the white & the gray & the rainbow

"Today's young people have gay friends whom they love. If they view the church as an unsafe place for them, a place more focused on politics than on people, we just might be raising the most anti-Christian generation America has ever seen, a generation that believes they have to choose between being loving and being a Christian." -Torn

This post has probably been a couple years in the making but it's been brewing in my mind since the recent SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality. It's time for it to be done brewing because if something brews too long it just starts to taste disgusting. And please, grant me grace. This is heavy, and my words are imperfect.

When it comes to controversial social & ethical & moral & what some may see as religious issues, I usually try to stay fairly neutral online. But I cannot stay silent on this topic. And let me make this one thing clear - I am entering this conversation knowing full well that it may not go over well, that there is a lot of weight to this conversation, that it's very important. But, as someone who grew up in the Christian Church, and who still tries to love like Jesus loved, I feel a prompting to speak. Or, write, as the case may be.

Whatever side of this debate you're on, the division between the right & the left, between the liberals & the conservatives, between the Christians in support of marriage equality & Christians not in support of it, has been painfully obvious. When the Supreme Court ruling was made on June 26th and many friends of mine were throwing a rainbow filter on their Facebook profile pictures, I was reluctant to do so because of what some people in my life would think. Did that stop me, ultimately, from doing a relatively minute thing to show my support of marriage equality? No, it didn't stop me. But, three or four years ago, it would've. Three or four years ago, I was too concerned about how certain people in my life - friends, family, members of the church I attended - would react should I show my support for what has been traditionally seen in the Christian church as sin. Actually, I would have been concerned about not even going so far as showing my support, but even showing that I didn't see it as an issue that was cut & dry. I was too afraid to say that something like that seemed completely unclear, completely gray in my mind. To admit that I did not necessarily agree with people I'd agreed with my entire life could actually be foundationally shattering. To my belief system, my social circle. Big stuff. But as time has gone by, this particular topic has become more & more important to me, enough so that the fear I've had about speaking up about it has been eclipsed by the significance that it has in my heart & my mind. To be frank though, I'm still a little scared. 

June 26th, my heart was equally thrilled & grieved by the happenings of the day. So many people in my country, many of my friends, were granted a right they had been previously denied.  They gained a freedom they hadn't had. They gained another path to pursue their happiness. And that thrilled me. Yet, with that, came backlash from so many people. People using their constitutional right to free speech to show their displeasure & disapproval of the SCOTUS ruling. But what broke my heart was knowing that my gay friends would also see the same kind of posts I was seeing from some Christians. Words of judgment & misunderstanding. Religious jargon & ill-placed scripture references. Claims that the country was headed even further away from the Word of God on which it was allegedly founded. Words that would further alienate the LGBTQ community from the Christian community. This broke my heart. I sat outside on the patio that night in tears, tears of conflicted joy & pain, knowing how significant this was for so many reasons. A community that should be loved by the Church was being pushed even further from it. And I couldnt help but think about how Jesus himself was the greatest advocate for the marginalized (whether you think he "loved the sinner & hated the sin" or not, whether he would have put that rainbow filter on his profile picture or not, whether he would have been attending a gay pride parade or not). The last thing he did, was push the marginalized away from himself. 

There are so many controversial issues within the Church, issues that intelligent, educated people drastically disagree on. Too many to count. The role of women in the church, the importance & authority of the Bible, heaven & hell, marriage & divorce, predestination & choice. So many topics are just not clear, just not agreed upon. Growing up in the churches I did, I learned about all of the topics I just named, and thought there was really only one correct interpretation on them and one way to correctly apply those interpretations to my life. But the older I got, the more people I talked to, the more I started to learn & realize just how many different perspectives & views there were on so many topics I used to think were completely black & white. This is not news. The Church as a whole has changed its stances on many things over the hundreds of years it's existed - topics that were as controversial in their day as the topic of homosexuality is today. 

Yesterday I listened to an incredible podcast (produced by The Liturgists). It featured multiple voices, multiple perspectives, within the Christian community. The dean of a conservative Christian university who is getting his PhD in Theology and who came out as a gay man when he was 38 years old. The pastor of a church in Nashville who used to condemn homosexuality as a sin, but after years of study & reflection now unapologetically accepts those in the LGBTQ community into his congregation. It featured the voices of gay people, trans people, straight people, pastors, scientists, authors. All of whom wrestle with how sexuality & their faith interact. All of whom are intelligent & educated & want to live with love & authenticity within the Christian community. All of whom have a slightly differing opinion. All of whom are not done learning, not done questioning. All of whom recognize their need for grace. The podcast gave me a sense of hope I haven't felt for the Church in a long time. It reminded me how much room there is for this conversation. That not every person who calls himself or herself a Christian thinks that this is a clear cut issue. Not every Christian thinks being a homosexual is a sin. Not every follower of Christ thinks that every trans person is going to hell. And I'm not saying that I think every Christian needs to have the same opinion. I'm not saying that at all.

But what I hope for is that the Church will actively engage in this conversation.

And that the LGBTQ community will grant the Church patience as it continues to discuss.

What I hope is that the Church would make a little room.

I hope that Christians will make a little room on the pews & the folding chairs & the stacking chairs on a Sunday morning.
A little room around the table.
A little room in their hearts & minds & their activities & their bookshelves.

Room to talk. 
Room to recognize the grey. 
Room to let in some new light. 

Thanks for listening.

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