I’m very open about sharing my politics, and my opinions in general. (I know. Not much of a newsflash.)
I don’t expect others to agree with my views. It seems the world needs all of our different perspectives. If we could really appreciate the other’s perspective–not so we could figure out how to correct it, but so we could figure out what to learn from it–then surely the world would be a better place.
Clearly, I’m some sort of pollyanna who believes in pixie dust and unicorns. Because there is seems to be no meeting in the middle any more. I don’t see the middle in politics, where you are called a ‘flip flopper’ (so eloquent!) if you compromise or are seen as a traitor to the ‘base’ of your political team if you work across the aisle.
I don’t even see the middle in the church any more. At least, not very often.
First Presbyterian Church in Houston just had a big vote at the end of a long period of discernment about leaving our denomination for another denomination. The vote failed by a close margin, so they remain. But they are divided. I pray for them, for their unity in Christ to be stronger than their division. I pray they can find the middle.
The rhetoric in American Christianity has not been of the middle.
One of my more theologically conservative relatives recently posted an article about the dangers of marriage equality. I found the article problematic on a number of levels. I tried to be respectful in my comments, because I love my relative, I know she is a good person and, like me, is doing the best she can to figure out the world we’re in. Here was my comment:
One of my concerns with this article is in this paragraph:
“To accept same-sex unions as ‘marriage’ is thus to commit officially to the proposition that there is no meaningful difference between a married man and woman conceiving a child naturally, two women conceiving a child with the aid of donor semen and IVF, or two men employing a surrogate to have a child together, though in the latter cases only one of the legally recognized parents can (presently) contribute to the child’s hereditary endowment and hope for a family resemblance.”
This seems pretty clearly to set up an argument that the main purpose of marriage is to produce biologically related children. As an adopted child and a birth mother, I object to the idea I grew up in a deficient home (and I know you don’t believe that).
I also know of many heterosexual people who have gotten married after the age where having children was the plan. This argument against gay marriage also suggests second marriages, marriages of older people, or marriages where children aren’t the goal are somehow not true marriage.
People can make whatever case they want against marriage equality, but this particular argument undermines many things other than same gender marriage.
You can decide for yourself if I managed to be respectful or not, but I tried.
The comments from her other friends, none of whom are known to me, included phrases such as these:
“When thinking about the legalism of same-sex unions (can’t use the word marriage) this made me realize that we have no idea of the consequences when we stray from God’s law/plan. Not unlike what’s going on in Colorado with the legalization of marijuana! And it seems we already think of the un-born as artifacts – with the ease with which we abort them!”
“…I see the main issue as Man wanting to be his own God. This culture presently runs on what feels good and not on what is good. I agree with Nancy T, same-sex unions are not marriages, regardless of what a human judge has to say. My faith is in the one true Judge, Jesus Christ, and I believe that God did not create us to create human beings in an artificial manner.”
“I agree that few have truly considered the ramifications of these ideas and practices… so it is with so much of human lusts… the blind leading the blind and calling it freedom… oh the darkness of our hearts without the Living Christ!”
While none of those people addressed my comment at all, they all implied that by seeing the issue of same gender marriage differently than they do, that I must not be a Christian. The language in their comments set up a world where you either agree with them, or else you have a “dark heart” and don’t know Jesus.
I commented as much. I suggested the conversation would be more helpful if they could see me (and others in favor of marriage equality) as Christians who interpreted Scripture differently than they do instead of people who are living in sin and darkness and denying God’s law.
One of her friends told me not to be so sensitive.
I do believe there is room in the church for people to interpret scripture differently and still call themselves brother and sister. It gets harder when we don’t see our political and doctrinal “opponents” as Christians at all. This fall a blogger compared me to the Nazis because I was working for marriage equality.
I know it happens the other way too. I hear opponents of marriage equality called “bigots”, “modern day Pharisees”, and other names.
As Republicans in state after state (Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Georgia, Arizona, Tennessee, the list is getting longer every day….) keep proposing these “religious freedom” bills, I worry the rhetoric is going to get even more polarized.
I’ve seen this picture floating around the interwebs a lot recently, in response to Arizona’s bill that would allow people of “sincere religious faith” (whatever that means) to deny services to people with whom their “sincere” faith has issues .
To be clear, I don’t think this graphic is incorrect. I do think the comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement are apt. I’m just not sure they are helpful. Once we’ve called people “Jim Crow”, how much space does that give them to change their position? We are painting them into a corner, and they have given us the paint and brushes to do it.
While I agree, on so many levels, that these bills promote only discrimination and have nothing to do with religious liberty, I also worry about comparing well meaning Christians who see the issue differently than I do to racists, or Nazis, or witch burners.
In all of these bills, I sense fear–fear the world is not what it used to be, fear they can’t see what the future will be, fear the control they used to have is gone, and maybe even fear they might have to change the way they’ve seen the world, interacted in the world, and understood the world.
To my friends and family who feel this fear, or who sincerely worry your religious freedom is at risk, what can I do to help alleviate that worry?
Because I don’t see any way your life needs to change.
If your church doesn’t believe homosexuality is compatible with a Christian life, then I support you excluding homosexuals from the life of your church. (And as I’ve said elsewhere, gays and lesbians looking for welcoming congregations–let me know. Ready to help you find a home).
If you don’t support marriage equality, then I support your decision not to attend a same gender wedding as a guest. I support your decision not to get gay married.
Other than that, could you please (seriously, I want to know) help me understand your concern?
How will your religious liberty be negatively affected if other people are allowed to have the same privileges and freedoms you have?
Can we still be brothers and sisters in Christ if I interpret scripture differently than you do?
Can we still be brothers and sisters in Christ if I support marriage equality and support your decision not to?
I truly believe there is room for us to see these issues differently without resorting to passing legislation that codifies discrimination. You don’t really want that either, do you? Because that’s what will happen if these bills get signed in to law.
How can we come back from what feels like the edge of a dangerous precipice, where society is stratified and completely separated?
I’m actively working for marriage equality and an end to discrimination. That won’t change. But I’m also committed to continuing to call people who disagree with me my brothers and sisters in Christ. Can we find a place to meet in the middle?