Monday, July 30, 2012

Yep, I'm Going There

My beliefs aren't a surprise to anyone who knows me or has been reading my blog for a while.

But it's time for me to go there again.

There is a huge divisive issue in our country and in the Christian faith and it is going to continue to divide, I'm afraid.

It's that gay thing.  Those darn gay people wanting to be treated equally.  Those annoying gays wanting to marry the person they love, wanting to commit themselves to a monogamous relationship, wanting to have the benefits offered by the act of marriage.

And then there are those darn Conservative Christians.  Those CC's who are throwing the Bible up as a front for hate, who turn to the Bible to look for ways to oppress others, who use religion as an excuse to be bigots instead of focusing on what Christianity is really all about (loving others).

And don't forget the darn Liberal Christians.  May not seem like there are many of us, but we're here.  We are getting louder and stronger, too.  See, there used to be (and maybe still is) this fear of coming out against the CC's because it somehow meant we were "less" Christian.  But the voices are combining and getting louder, proclaiming that the anger and hate we see coming from our own brothers and sisters is not acceptable anymore.

And there are those pesky atheists and secularists and people who just plain hate religion of any kind.  These Big Issues that divide us are like a field day full of easy picking, low hanging fruit.  It's in these hard and difficult times that non-believers or those angry with God or with a church get onto their own "high and mighty" horse and proclaim that they were right about those Christians all along.

It's exhausting.

I see some things boiling down to certain fundamental topics.

Boycotts

If you don't like what a company does, you have the right to not give them your money.  When a company makes donations to political groups, religious groups, non-profit groups, they are choosing to take the risk that they might piss off some customers.  This all goes both ways and across lots of topics and issues.  If a city determines that a business or group doesn't align with the city's laws, the city has the right to deny that business a home there.

Personally, I don't go out of my way to find out where every company puts their money.  I'd drive myself mad if I tried to only make ethical decisions with every dollar I spend.  However, when I find out that a company is making a choice to support something that I personally see as truly damaging and against my personal ethical code, I can't continue giving my money to that company.  Once a company starts to learn, grow, expand, and change their ways, I'm all about rewarding for good behavior.  Target and Cracker Barrel are companies that have learned, in my opinion.  Chick-Fil-A and the Boy Scouts are groups/businesses that aren't interested in growing in that direction.  There are some who will boycott Target for the same reason I embrace Target.  There will be some who embrace Chick-Fil-A for the same reason I boycott it.  That's just the way it works.

Religion

Here's my hot button.  It absolutely exhausts me, breaks my heart, and angers me that the loud actions of the Conservative side have defined the entire group.

Let me make something clear.

NOT ALL CHRISTIANS HATE GAY PEOPLE.  NOT ALL CHRISTIANS SEE BEING GAY AS A SIN.

I know many Christians who are fighting constantly to change that perspective.  Some in their everyday connections to others and some in a bigger venue (like within the Church or the bigger church bodies).  And it is a struggle.  And I think the struggle is perfectly summed up by one of those stupid images making the rounds that says "Let's ask the Christian owner of a restaurant chain that isn't open on Sunday his view on gay marriage and act surprised and outraged when we don't like his answer."  That restaurant guy does not speak for me as a Christian.  And I think that is why people are being more verbal and angry this time around.  Chick-Fil-A's history of donating to groups that not only oppose gay marriage but also oppose and oppress and vilify and harm gay people has been known for a few years.  But this time, this one guy is stating very plainly that the reason they give money to these groups is based in their Christianity.  Which means his definition of "Christian" is vastly different than my understanding of living a life of following Jesus.

The Bible

I have read the entire Bible over the course of my life.  I am not a Bible scholar, nor am I an expert.  I was raised to be a literalist when reading the Bible but have come to a place in my life where I can't take the Bible literally but still use it and read it as a Holy text that provides spiritual strength, guidance, and so on.

A lot of people point to the Bible when they want to label being gay as choosing a sin.  The "clobber verses" can be pointed to as "clear" words that show that homosexuality is sinful.  However, study of these verses and stories indicates that the use of these verses is wrong in the interpretation or that the historical context and translation gives more information than the anti-gay folks want to hear.  Some will point to the story of the Sodomites as proof that God punished the Sodomites for being gay.  Except that full understanding points to punishment of the Sodomites was due to the violence and rape that had become their normal culture.  It wasn't the gay thing, it was the hate, power, and violence thing.  I think it is silly for anyone to point to Levitical Law as a basis for judging gay people- unless you are truly living all of those laws yourself.  It is still on my list to read A.J. Jacobs "The Year of Living Biblically" and his website gives some insight in to what I should be seeing from someone who is truly living those Levitical Laws- and many other Biblical laws, rules, and principles.  I hear that the Bible defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.  I haven't personally read a specific definition of marriage in the Bible.  I also think that there is a lot of law in the Bible about marriage that really wouldn't fly these days- having multiple wives, a woman having no choice in who she marries, having sex with a woman outside of your marriage in order to create a baby, and so on.

Again- being a Christian and following what Christ taught are two very different things these days.  And if you follow what Christ taught about gay people... you won't find anything.  And if you follow what Christ taught about people in general and you put gay people in that same category of being, you know, just people like everyone else, you find out a lot about how we should be treating one another.  And those who stand behind the title of Christian and wave their Bibles around as their reason for being angry or hateful or cruel... aren't following what Christ taught.

So where does that leave all of us in our opposite corners?  We hurl out quips and blog posts and quotes and make blunt statements.  We get our feelings hurt, we get angry when we hear hurtful things being said, we defend, we offend.

Here is what I ask...

If you truly believe that homosexuality is a choice and a sin, take some honest time to determine where that comes from for you.  Take some time to study the Bible, review what you've been brought up to believe, and honestly determine what it is you actually take issue with.  If it is something that is outside your realm of understanding, maybe that is something you can confront.  If it boils down to "that's what I've been taught" or "it just makes me uncomfortable," it's time to stretch, my friend.  I've been on this side, I've followed what I was taught without question, and I've prayerfully come to realize that what I was told was black and white really isn't so clear.

If you believe that homosexuality is no different than black to my white, male to my female... keep loving out loud.  Because I think the voice of those who love God and who also openly accept people who are gay have a voice that needs to be heard.  If you are someone who doesn't see homosexuality as a sin and you are someone who passionately loves God and your faith, I urge you to get loud about it.

And if you are someone who is gay or transsexual or bi-sexual and has been hurt by someone or an organization who uses faith and God and the Bible as their weapons, I urge you to listen to the voices of those of us who don't believe that way, who are finding our place as your allies.

After publishing this post, I was inundated with links in my news feed from various organizations that just happened to be posting about the same topic.  Check it out:



Biblical Standard for Marriage (Huffington Post)

Gay Friends and Waffle Fries (State of Formation)

Some words for Christians on both sides of the Chick-Fil-A war  (Rachel Held Evans)

The Chick-Fil-A Controversy  (Crumbs from the Communion Table)

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9 comments:

runningwithmickey said...

((hugs you))

You are awesome and amazing!!

Angelic said...

Just to prove your point about not all Christians seeing gay as a sin. I know a certain church I used to be a member of fully embraces it. Our pastor was an openly gay male as was our organist. They were treated equally with in the church congregation.

Lindsey said...

Liz - first time I've commented in a while but I love this post, and am going to share it on FB. I, like you, once upon a time struggled and prayerfully came to the conclusion that homosexuality isn't any more a sin than a gender or a color of skin. It's so hurtful to see family members of mine support Chic-fil-a and it's recent public outcries supporting, well, hate. And in the name of Christianity. I applaud you, Liz, for stepping up and making your voice heard.

Mellodee said...

Liz, Beautifully stated. Many good points and clearly stated positions and beliefs. Asking people to think without being offensive or insulting or sarcastic. Should be required reading in every church and home in the country. Great post!!

Wendy said...

Love this post, Liz!

Alison said...

I can't hear this message enough. Preach on, Liz! I especially like the paragraph starting with "...being a Christian and following what Christ taught are two very different things these days."

I was raised in the Episcopal church, which was one of the first to start splitting over this issue. And I have to wonder, why this one? Why not divorce? Or drinking alcohol? Or any other number of "moral" divides? Why is S-E-X such a divisive issue? Why are we so afraid of the bodies and passions God gave us?

It's so bizarre, since, as you, I don't remember sex being all that important to Christ, one way or another.

Alison said...

Thought you'd appreciate this article in the Charlotte Observer in regards to today's big Chick Fil-A kerfuffle:

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/08/01/3420154/will-you-eat-at-chick-fil-a-today.html

Kevin Davis said...

Wow you have no idea what you are talking about. If you don't agree with the Bible then say you don't agree. But please stop trying to twist it to fit you own purposes.

Matthew 19:4–6 (ESV)
4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? "

What part of that is unclear to you? I just don't get it when you say that Jesus never addressed this. Those where his words!

BTW, stop throwing around the word "hate". Hate is what happened to African Americans in this country not what white, rich, liberal americans feel offends them.

Hate is Emmet Till being beaten to death for whistling at a white woman not someone looking at a homosexual couple funny because they kissed in public. Hate is thousands and thousands of black men slaughtered in this country - not a disagreement over whether homosexual marriage should be allowed.

Get it right.

Eternal Lizdom said...

Hate is spreading irrational fear- like preaching and teaching that homosexuals are pedophiles. Hate is encouraging bullying and attacking someone even considered to be gay. Hate is what happened to Matthew Shepherd and Tyler Clementi and the woman in Nebraska and what Stonewall was all about. Spreading false propaganda about a group of people is hate.

That passage is about divorce. It's one of the many times the Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus with a tricky question or situation. Jesus' answer to their question about divorce wasn't to define marriage as 1 man, 1 woman. His answer to divorce was that the focus shouldn't be on divorce but on the marriage itself. If I use that passage as the definition of marriage, I would have to condemn all single people, too, right? If we want to cling to a passage on divorce as our reason for an anti-gay agenda, shouldn't we also include anyone who has been married and then remarried? Because Jesus went on to say that anyone who has done that is committing adultery, right? And in the same chapter, he goes on and states some of the commandments and adultery is one that he mentions so it seems it should be one of the big ones.

He also says Love Thy Neighbor.

And in Matthew 22, Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is... and His answer is what should really be guiding us.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."

Encouraging people to believe false information- that's not love.

Encouraging hate crimes- that's not love.

Standing with the marginalized and persecuted- that is love.

The statement made by Dan Cathy is just the media blitz. The underlying issue to all of this is that we should be loving one another and taking care of each other. It isn't about gay marriage. From a Christ following perspective, it's about loving your neighbor, compassionately caring for your neighbor, fighting injustice.

And if the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is to be followed- go and make disciples- how is hate and fear going to bring people to God? If I was gay and I knew someone was against me, no way would I ever visit their church or listen to what they had to say about God.

Fighting so destructively against God's children is in direct violation of the greatest of His commandments and of the Great Commission.