I’m afraid to write this post.
I’m usually pretty honest on this blog. It’s not too hard for me to lay the things I’m struggling with out on the table for you, mostly because I know I’ll be met with the heavenly “me too” chorus that I love so much. Your voices confirm for me that I’m not alone over and over and over again.
But this post scares me. It scares me because it isn’t really about my struggle. It’s a post about a struggle that belongs to people I love, people I know, people I cherish. And it’s about an issue that I know you, small sample of the world who read these words, are divided on. So I’m asking you to read with grace. I’m going to do what I can to address this topic with a lot of love, and I’m asking you to read it with love. I’m not perfect, and I have anger and sin here – read it like you know me, and if you have questions for me, ask them. Read it knowing that I don’t know all the answers, that I want to learn from you, and that I am so grateful for your opinions in my life.
You should also know that this is a particularly Bible-y blog, and if you’re new to that sort of thing or not into that sort of thing, it might not be your fave. I won’t be offended if you take the day off. Honest. Love your faces.
Shane Claiborne came to speak at Imago last week. Shane is a bit of a hero in my life, and one of my favorite humans, because his life is a constant source of inspiration, challenge, and revelation for me. Shane is a Christian dude who walks the walk, and humbles the heck out of me. You should check him out.
In his talk, Shane referenced a book called UnChristian. You can read all about it on the site, but in short, it’s a study on the evolution of public opinion of Christians over the last decade or so. I haven’t read it. I plan to, because the findings Shane quoted broke my heart.
Here goes: most common impression that non-Christian folks have of Christian folks in America, according to UnChristian? That we’re anti-homosexual.
Top of the list, most agreed upon truth, most wide-spread opinion. We’re anti-homosexual. Right up there with our being hypocritical and judgmental, both of which I honestly find considerably easier to swallow. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so stung by a statistic.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t live under a rock. I know all about the media circus battle over gay marriage, and I’m not blind to the way things have intensified in recent years. I just, I don’t know, I wouldn’t have imagined that would be the first thing people thought of. I didn’t realize that, to those looking in, the go-to definition of Christian = Anti-Homosexual. Judgmental I’ve heard all my life, sure, hypocritical, well, obviously, but to hear that they’ve been trumped by our apparent hatred for a particular act, one that the world identifies as a particular people group? Could we have screwed this up any more royally than that?
Whatever happened to “they will know you by your love?”
If you want my opinions on homosexuality, I’m happy to share them with you. But not right now. Because right now I don’t care how my opinion differs from yours, I don’t care who’s right and who’s wrong, I don’t care about politics and I don’t care about the defense of whatever. Right now, I’m simply horrified.
Shouldn’t we be horrified? Am I wrong to be horrified? Am I wrong to be embarrassed that we’ve made such a fantastically terrible impression on the people to whom we’re supposed to be representing Jesus? How is it that we’ve invested enough of our time and energy into waging a war against homosexuality that it’s become the thing by which our belief system is defined? What happened to the gospel? Do we honestly believe that homosexuality is the problem with the world, or do we believe that the world needs Jesus? If we successfully defeat the “gay agenda” by alienating, defending, bashing, accusing, and enforcing, will we have accomplished something huge for the kingdom of God?
I don’t know how not to be angry about this. As someone with a significant number of close friends who are gay, and beautiful, and wildly different from each other, and hugely loved by the God who created them, I don’t know how not to be angry at the way they are treated by people who share my faith. I don’t know how not to judge Christians. Which makes me judgmental, and a hypocrite. I’d love it if you’d pray for me on that.
I think we can all agree that Christian: Anti-Homosexual is an unacceptable definition. If that’s the primary way the world sees us, then we are hugely missing the mark and the point. Something has got to give.
If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.
I am not writing you a new command, but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them… There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
A very brave soul approached the open mic after Shane Claiborne finished speaking last Thursday night. In tears, she confessed that she’s more afraid of Christians than anything else, that she fears the way they’ll look at her when she admits that she’s gay, that she wants to know God but doesn’t want to go to church because she feels hated.
How we have failed her.
It doesn’t matter if you or I think she’s right or wrong. It matters that we’ve made her feel hated instead of loved, no matter what we intended, no matter how much we were trying to “hate the sin” or whatever. The way we have made her feel matters. The way we’ve made her feel has kept her from getting closer to Jesus. She’s not a casualty of war or a spy or a demon or a means to an end. She’s a child of God, and we’ve made her feel hated instead of loved.
I’m not a Bible scholar, or a prophet, or a pastor, or even a very good person a good chunk of the time. But I think it’s obvious that we, the Church with a capitol C, need to do better. You and I, we need to wage our war against the pain that we have caused here. Because if we aren’t known for our love, then we aren’t living as we’re called to live. We have some serious loving to do.
Because you and I are abominable. But our God loved us enough to die that we might be forgiven, and our Savior invites all of us, gay or straight or somewhere in between, to come as we are to the foot of the cross. That’s the whole story, isn’t it?
Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
It’s a messed up world we live in, Cardigan Girl…
Word, Aaron Coe. Word.
Oh man, what our Christian brothers and sisters do sometimes is messed up. What we do sometimes is messed up. There is a great read out right now called “Washed and Waiting” by Wesley Hill and it chronicles his life as a Christian who struggles with homosexuality and the redemption he has experienced following Christ. It also helped me see how to love and live in community with people who battle sin (hey, me too!).
Before someone needs to “go to hell” for living a homosexual life, they need to realize that is it our (humanity’s) sin that keeps us separated from God. Yes, God, in his justice must despise sin. But the cross is where this justice and love come together. Christ came because he loves us and wants us to be restored by understanding that we have his righteousness in front of God and that our punishment is paid. We are free, we are loved. We are washed. We are waiting.
Thank you for this comment, Alissa! I’ll check out the book you suggested. 🙂 love.
Yesterday I had about 10 things I wanted to say in reply to this post, but they were either too long or too tangential. But: great post.
It’s very sad that people view the Church that way – a place of judgement not love. It’s sadder still that sometimes it’s true.
I couldn’t agree more, Jeanne. And I’ll take your tangents any time. 🙂 love.
Oh, Christianity. When that woman stood up at Shane Claiborne, I felt her pain. When Shane responded, I cried. This is a topic close to my heart (and even closer since November 5, 2010). Thank you for your boldness (and I don’t use that Christianese term lightly). I think it’s baffling how often we forget that when we read “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” it means he died for the whole world. All of us. As Shane Claiborne said, when the gay man perceives himself to be a mistake and outside of the Church, who have we become. What are we if those who need us the most feel the most isolated from us?
All we need is love. And all we need give is love. Thank you, my favorite Girl of Cardigan, for reminding us of this. 🙂
I have to admit I’ve been reading your blog since I found it on Ravelry after Favorite sent me the photos of your wedding bouquet. I feel like a bit of a stalker. Sorry. 🙂 Anyway, I don’t usually comment on blogs (I prefer stalking) but this is something I’ve struggled with a lot lately and I have to post my agreement.
I think that most groups of people end up being defined by those with the worst behavior: Christians by anti-homosexual sentiments, Muslims by terrorist actions, today’s youth by laziness, etc. I am absolutely mortified that we Christians are defined by this hatred and judgement but we’re not alone. All we can do as individuals is to live our lives loving people as Christ did and try to show His love and light to the people within our small circles and communities. We may not change the public view as a whole (not quickly anyway), but we can’t help but touch individual lives.
I’m so glad you commented! I love this… so true about our tendency, even our desire to stereotype. I absolutely agree with you that the best we can do is try to live what we believe and love the people who are right in front of us.
Thanks for being brave enough to ask this question out loud, and talking about something that from any perspective, is hard to deal with. And thank you for reminding me of how simple love needs to be.
The Christian view of gay people is the reason I left the faith. I couldn’t subscribe to a religion that would ostracize a group of people. I do feel empty from time to time without a structured faith in my life and continue to search for spiritual outlets, but I feel like it is arguable that any religion is divisive as much as it is inclusive. So, I say focus on spirituality and faith and don’t worry about labels like Christianity, Buddhism, Muslim, Judaism, etc. Every faith has inspiration and is based on love at the core. I don’t know if that helps (or I even expressed myself correctly.) Thank you for your blog. I just started reading it after seeing your lovely wedding on green wedding shoes. I have a feeling this will become another source of inspiration for me and I appreciate your candid insights.
Margey- Thank you so much for this comment. I appreciate your honesty more than I can say, and I agree with you that religion can be pretty darn divisive. I do believe that there has to be an ultimate truth, which makes it hard for me to do away with the labels you speak of… though I agree that they are all rooted in love, which is beautiful, I do believe there has to be something that is really truly true. As horrified as I often am by Christian behavior, including my own, I believe that most of the ugliness is born of our human failure, not the religion, and certainly not God. I wish we were better at living the way I think Jesus has called us to live – with love, with candor, with humility. I think the Jesus of the Bible is significantly more awesome and inclusive than the way we portray Him, ya know? I don’t want to walk away from my faith (though I understand why you did), but I do want to be a voice for the change that I think is soooo needed in the way we treat certain folks – the gay community especially. I hope you stick around, because I’d love to have your voice on this blog… I think we all (Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Spiritual but not religious) have so much we can learn from each other. Thank you so much, lovely. 🙂
You are too cute. Seriously! Anyways, I definitely encourage you to advocate inclusiveness of the gay community in Christianity. The religion needs more people like you! I spent a few hours reading your blog last night. I couldn’t walk away, ha ha. You are adorable and if I lived in Portland, I would surely ask you on a friend date. Alas, I am in Chicago. . .
Aw, gee. 🙂 If I ever get out to Chicago again, I’m looking you up and holding you to your friend date offer. We love hosting if you ever make it out this way… I’ll be your Portland tour guide. 🙂 You made my day. Thank you for your encouragement and awesome thoughts. love.
These last few comments teared me up. I love you guys. All of you. 🙂