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.
I see some things boiling down to certain fundamental topics.
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.
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.
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)