I’ve always found it strange the people most open to other points of view – most accepting of other religions, ideas, or world views – have never been Christians.
The people most likely to support tolerance, who preach acceptance in their everyday actions, haven’t been followers of Christ.
And yet the most divisive, judgmental, exclusive people I know all claim to be members of the Church. The ones who automatically deem a view wrong because it is different than their own apparently follow the same Jesus I do. The people who condemn freely and extend grace selectively apparently adhere to the same gospel as I.
Maybe you’ve had different experiences.
But this is what I know.
I was raised to be fearful of gay marriage. Fearful it was ungodly, fearful it was an abomination. Fearful it would ruin the beauty and sanctity and special-ness of the marriage of a man and woman. The kind marriage God sanctioned.
I learned to be wary of the flamboyant, the butch – anything embracingly different. I learned to worry about the “gay agenda” and what it would mean for the world at large. I learned to scoff at “made up words” and “life choices” and “phases”. I learned be hesitant of anything that didn’t fit inside the norm – for it could be dangerous.
I was taught a horrible, gut wrenching us versus them mentality. I was taught lies and half truths and most of all fear. Fear of what was different. Fear of the tides changing. Fear of a power shift. So much fear.
Was I taught this outright? Was this preached clearly? Oh goodness, no. I grew up Christian. We proclaimed love. But I picked up on the subtle messages, I noticed the politics. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be that way. Maybe it wasn’t people’s intentions. But it’s still what I saw, what I heard. What I’m realizing most people outside the church saw and heard, as well.
This is what I know.
I am hesitant to speak “biblically” on matters I have not fully researched, issues I have not spent the time required on. I am hesitant to instruct people on things I know little of, hesitant to claim truth where I only have questions. This is why I will not play Bible Paintball with you. This is why I will not quote Paul this and Jesus said that and actually Peter mentioned… because I don’t know. I don’t claim to.
But I know people I admire and respect are saying maybe we’ve gotten it all wrong. People whose faith I appreciate and whose life bear the kind of fruit I think Jesus was all about are now singing a different tune than the one I grew up with. It’s one of mercy and grace and Love for all. It sounds a lot more like Jesus than the rigid structures and rules and ever tightening rulebook of American Evangelicalism today.
I know the Bible is Good and True and also it’s contradictory and messy. I know throughout history the Bible has been the basis for all kinds of evil, for hundreds of years various leaders have used scripture to back egregious actions. I know to be wary of any kind of power structure some claim the Bible “preaches”, I know to be hesitant of people using Jesus to draw tighter lines.
And above all, I know Jesus’ heart is for people. It’s not for rulebooks or hierarchies of power, it’s not for VIP lists or exclusionary practices. God’s heart is for His people. And if I err anywhere, I will err on the side of love – for I believe thats where God has called us. I will choose love again and again and again. I will celebrate love again and again and again.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’re wrong. I won’t claim to know all the meanings and nuances of scripture, but I know Jesus.
This is also what I know: The church’s treatment of the marginalized has, quite frankly, been embarrassing. Women, people of color, LGTBQ; there are countless groups here – we’ve passed them up when it got too hard to carry their burdens. We cling on to them long enough to take a picture for the press, but refuse to bind our lives to theirs. We chip in our two cents when we see the topic is trending, but then we leave the actual people in the actual dust – off to find our next sermon illustration.
This is also what I know: LGTBQ aren’t burdens, they are people. They aren’t a sermon point, they are a person. They don’t deserve to be constantly tossed around in headlines, have their rights and their value and their dignity continually up for debate. They are living, breathing beings created in the image of the Creator. Just like me. Just like you.
This is what I know:
I want nothing to do with a Church who – in the wake of Charlottesville, in the midst of a history-making-horrible natural disaster happening in our borders, in the presidency that is tearing our country apart – chooses divisive and offensive language, chooses to stand up and yell instead of sit down and listen, chooses to dictate and decree instead of a posture of humility.
I want nothing to do with a Church who claims absolute authority on something that is not theirs to claim, who puts themselves on the throne and places decision making power in their own hands.
I want nothing to do with a Church who claims the Bible is clear where it is not, who claims complex matters are simple, who makes no room for questions, ambiguity, change. Who refuses to admit gray areas, who refuses to admit past mistakes, who chooses to double down on issues instead of pushing forward toward truth.
I want nothing to do with a Church so concerned with the “sexual immorality” of homosexuality, but places so little focus on the sexual immorality of pornography.
I want nothing to do with a Church so concerned with the “sexual immorality” of homosexuality, but places so little focus on the sexual immorality of adultery.
I want nothing to do with a Church so concerned with the “sexual immorality” of homosexuality, but places so little focus on sexual assault.
I want nothing to do with a Church who claims they can’t get political when it comes to race issues, but has no problem getting political when it comes to gender, abortion, human rights.
I want nothing to do with a Church who refuses to to condemn the repugnant, sinful actions of our president – but freely condemns other people’s whole ways of being.
I want nothing to do with a Church that continues to marginalize the hurting, continues to silence those without voices, continues to speak louder over those who are just learning to whisper their pain.
I want nothing to do with a Church who looks so little like Jesus.