The Chick Fil-A hoopla brings up some important socio-political issues that are worthy of discussion. However, we can’t discuss them very well until we have another, more foundational, discussion.
In the last post, I talked about the “circle-the-wagons,” “us vs. them,” fear-driven instinct that kicks in when we feel threatened. Until we factor in what our brains just do to us (our mammalian brain reactionary response), we aren’t going to do a good job addressing the issues everybody’s discussing.
When I was young I was an active, involved Christian. This meant I didn’t know any gay people. Given the harsh message my church sent them, they had the good sense to stay away (or at least, to keep quiet about sex).
Not knowing any gay people, the controversy could remain in the realm of “issues” for me. It was like tax policy, social policy, or abortion. I acknowledged that there was a contentious debate going on, and like everybody else, I chose a side (the Christian side). I assumed (of course) that our side was the right one. We had God and the Bible, for goodness sake!
And this state of affairs could have continued my whole life. For many Christians it does. We live in our separate camps; we in ours, homosexual people in theirs. We don’t speak. We don’t share meals. We don’t know one another’s pains or fears.
In these segregated lives, it’s pretty easy to keep one another locked in non-person boxes in our minds. Living without experience of one another, we don’t have to see one another as people, we can reduce one another to symbols.
We do that, you know.
But I created a problem for myself.
- I was a Christian teacher
- I was teaching that authentic relationships are a critical part of Christian spirituality.
- Believing what I was saying, a gay man snuck under the Christian fence, and became my friend.
- We became dear friends
- After years of fearing my rejection, he finally told me about himself.
- And now I had a gay, Christian friend.
When I had a gay, Christian friend…
- When I understood the pain my church had caused him
- When I realized the pain I had caused him with my flippant words and smug certitude…
- When I learned how hurtful it is to live in tension between spiritual passion and sexual energy…
…My pat, Christian answers started to sound really hollow.
This was not a sinful choice my friend was making. I know him. He would have gladly chopped off one of his arms if he could have been straight. That’s how painful our church had made things for him. That’s how deep his spiritual passions ran. He loved the Church. He loved God. And he was gay.
When a gay man was my friend… gay/straight could no longer be an “issue,” It was the dilemma my friend was living. It could no longer be “us vs. them.” It became just “us.”
Having a friend in pain changes everything. Being part of the system that causes him pain… changes everything.
I could never approach these socio-political issues the way my lining-up-to-eat-chicken Christian community is.
It would hurt my friend.
I liked this post. As you know it happened to me with a Muslim friend where I live. Since then I have made a special effort to go out of my way at my part time job at Walmart to befriend Muslims. I have three from Morocco and one from Lebanon. They know I will go the extra mile to help them, just for the sake of it, not to convert them. It seems to energize me. Also, after a year of deciding to accept gays as not being sinners, it has gotten easier to be around them or not to notice their orientation. I respect and admire informative, socially motivated, sincere gay TV personalities.
Doug,there are those who compartmentalize and differentiate between “hating the sin” from “loving the sinner.” They would insist that they care deeply for their gay friend, are moved deeply by the suffering caused by the hatred and homophobia of others, but still cannot morally accept the gay lifestyle. How would you speak to this view?
how wonderful to see your name here. some other time, i’d love to get an update on your life out there in ca.
as to your question. i know the quote. we don’t use it in our community.
there has been such a sin-conscious focus in the church for years, that we’ve decided to take a different tack. we say all the time that sin “is just not that big a deal.” (scandalous, i know.) instead, we put our energy and focus into strengthening our attachment to the Inner Divine Presence, and let sin take care of itself.
taking that tack has raised a big flap. every so often, i get hate mail from a local minister who has discovered our website. i got called up on an orthodoxy check by one of my own overseers for posting it (check out #6: HERE).
but we make that apparently scandalous statement for a reason.
the christian practice of “accountability” or “church discipline” or “hating the sin while loving the sinner” has taken a very dark turn… so badly so, that in our community, we’ve determined we have to set it aside for a while. before we can do what is, in fact, a very healing and helpful spiritual practice, we need a lot of remedial help on healthy community, loving community, and trust, trust, trust!
so, we’ve reframed that oft-quoted line, and instead, say this…
“love the sinner. that’s all… just love the sinner.”
“you’re a sinner, for goodness sake. love the sinner. period.”
“we’ll let god take care of the sin when it’s time.”
these years later, many in our community have learned the art of deep trusting relationships; the context in which we can pursue the self-awareness and self-disclosure that marks the ancient practice of confession. in that context, there are very effective and healthy ways in which we can help one other through the dark parts of our souls… and nobody gets hurt.
and we never say the words “hate the sin.” first, we don’t have to. second, we think it’s counter-productive. our lives unfold toward the light without every having to muster hating the darkness. rather, we work hard together, to walk toward the Light and Life of the Indwelling Voice and Presence of the Divine. the dark parts of our souls tend to shrink in this context much better than they do in the other.
that’s big for us, and you hit on it with that quote…
however, i suspect you may have another question underlying the one you asked…
“is the homosexual lifestyle a sin that christians of good conscience cannot morally accept?”
it’s saturday, and i’m getting a lesson ready for tomorrow, so i won’t answer that now (especially since you didn’t ask it explicitly). however, if you’re interested in that rather complicated topic…
1. i will answer it later if you ask (it’d take a while)
2. a good place to start is to read this BOOK
it’s very difficult for christians who use the commonly-shared, conservative hermeneutic to challenge his exegesis of the (very few) hebrew and christian scriptures that address homosexuality. (except the romans one. his literary interpretation seemed a bit tortured to me).
if you do read it, i’d love to hear what you think.
and again, wonderful, wonderful to see your name on the blog comments. as always, it just made me happy to think of you.