In light of the Supreme Court hearings and future decisions about same sex marriages in the states, I wanted to reflect on this personally. I wrote a little about my personal journey toward LGBTQ inclusion here, and someday I may write about how to understand same sex marriage in light of Scripture, but today I felt like writing something more from the heart than the head.
While there are many nuances, there are clearly two major sides to the LGBTQ argument.
First, you have the conservative side who believe same sex marriage is a compromise, a redefinition of traditional marriage that God instituted to be between one man and one women. This group also see’s itself as defending truth (actually, somewhat ironically this is true of both sides), but more importantly they see themselves defending the Bible and 2,000 years of church tradition.
Second, you have the more progressives that see same sex marriage as a civil rights issue. Just like slavery and racial issues, it is about equality. This group wants to see equal rights given to all those in same sex marriages that are given to those in heterosexual marriages. While many are not religious, this group also contains a growing number of religious people that believe God has created each person, gay or straight, in God’s image. They do not interpret the Bible to condemn same sex marriage, but believe it is God’s desire for everyone who wants to be in a committed relationship to enjoy this.
Let me be up front, I’m a progressive – no if’s and’s or but’s about it!
But, I haven’t always been.
I vividly remember about 7 years ago a good friend suggesting that same sex marriages is the slavery issues of our day. This was the first, of many times I would hear this. Sadly, I didn’t know how to respond. I’m going to be honest here, I was raised to see homosexuality as a sin and I had never questioned this and I was in my mid 20s! When my friend said this, I was speechless. I wonder what he thought as I starred at him not knowing what to think or to say. He handled it well, but it left me with many questions.
You see my friend and I were on very similar pages in almost all theological, political, and ecological issues so this surprised me. I am very thankful for this conversation, and many others since, that have forced me to think more deeply upon this.
As I mentioned, I grew up in a conservative Christian environment and viewed homosexuality as a sin. It was wrong and God hated it. I remember frequently using phrases growing up such as, “what are you gay?”, “dude, that’s so gay”, etc. Though it was done in ignorance, I regret these things. There very well may have been someone wrestling with their sexuality, and I was only adding to the pain and confusion.
This also lead to a feeling of self righteousness within me. I felt I had the truth and gay people needed to hear it. It was the loving thing to do, or so I thought. I spoke out against homosexuality in ways I believed were in line with the ways God would speak out against it. I argued with those who were from the LGBTQ community, and I am ashamed to say, I added to their pain and marginalization. I alienated them. Deep down inside I felt righteous because they were wrong and I was right.
Our culture is shifting and American’s are more likely to be inclusive. This is also reflected in the religious shift where many denominations that once opposed same sex marriage have now become inclusive. There is also a growing number of evangelicals who have shifted their understandings.
Here’s what I predict.
Same sex marriage will be legal in all 50 US cities (this seems pretty clear).
Conservatives, while becoming less influential, will entrench themselves and try to stake out as much area as possible. They will continue to believe that they are standing for God’s truth and will see themselves as many have in the past who have stood against the greater secular culture.
This is where we, as progressives, have a choice.
I shared a little of my background in hope to show how conservatives think. They truly believe they are right, and progressives are wrong. They truly believe they are defending God’s truth, God’s word, in the face of relativism and increasing secularism. While I do believe this group will decrease, they will continue to push for influence and power for they believe they have a righteous cause. I think they are wrong, but I also relate to them because I understand what it is like to be in their shoes.
Here is my hope.
My hope is that as progressives, we do not debate or argue in hurtful ways. My hope is that as the consciousness shifts and we sense momentum on our side, that we exercise restraint and keep from lashing out at those who make us angry or hurt us because of their words. My hope is that we don’t take all of the pain, hurt, frustration that we have felt (Esp. those from the LGBTQ community who have been most affected) and unleash it upon conservatives. While we are tempted to do this, I suspect this temptation will only increase. I think there is a better way – the way of Jesus.
In a recent interview, one of the leading and most influential theologians, Walter Brueggemann, was asked about the LGBTQ community and acceptance. He responded:
The only thing that will change people’s minds about this is getting to know people who happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual, and what you discover is that they’re people just like us. To overcome our fears, I think it is basically fear, means getting to know people and to see that they are not a threat.
I think there is a time for clear, thoughtful, Biblical instruction, but that is most helpful when someone is open and seeking. In my experience, the majority of the time we are firing missiles back and forth and arguing biblical texts in a way that misses the point. If someone asks, we should be able to have an answer, but the majority of conservatives are not asking but are seeking to persuade. Does this mean we sit back idly? Absolutely not! But it does mean that in our dialogue what stands out above all else is not how persuasive we are or how firm we are or how convinced we are, but how loving and compassionate we are – yes our actions do indeed speak louder than our words.
I changed from one who was extremely opposed to same sex marriage to one who is fighting for it. This change was a slow process, and much of this change was influenced by those who I knew that were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. l began to see these people as…well…people just like myself. I believe all people, gay or straight, are loved and accepted by the God revealed in Jesus.
If you are a part of the LGBTQ community my heart is with you. You are not in an easy place. While there is a shift, it will take time and you will no doubt continue to experience pain and frustration. For whatever it is worth, I stand with you. We can have sound, thoughtful reasons for fighting for same sex marriage equality. While we continue to press forward, as progressives, let’s rise above the angry and hostile debates and seek to offer gentle and loving answers. Let’s allow our lives and actions to speak (along with our words), for our actions do speak louder. Let my story be an example that conservatives can change, but this change will not be brought about by anger or bitterness but by people seeing love within us. Conservatives believe they are on the right side, fighting for truth and for God, let’s allow our lives to show that the divine love is shining in and through us.
May we have grace in the midst of this difficult and exciting time as we look forward to a future where our children and grandchildren will not know a time where this was ever an issue!