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.