Once-upon-a-time, there was a story trending on Twitter: an evangelical pastor attends his first Pride parade and holds up a sandwich board in favour of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) equality and rights.
The story can be read, here.
When a pastor aligns him or herself with a sandwich board that says, “As a Christian I AM SORRY for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who denied rights & equality to so many IN THE NAME OF GOD,” they might feel they are doing a good thing; not suspecting that they are in danger of offending people — offences based possibly in assumption, probably because of the context. The distance between fact and fiction is sometimes just a bare thread apart.
Who is the pastor pointing the bone at? We might presume Christians. But it’s not only Christians who have apparently been “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative.” As a Christian, he deplores narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative behaviour. As a human being, too. Anytime most of us see narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative behaviour we are enraged from within.
Let’s look at this statement further. It abhors the “actions of those who denied rights & equality.” There is no question that human rights have been infracted trillions of times over the history of humanity. Human rights are inherent to all human beings, whatever our status. We are all equally entitled to our human rights without discrimination. These rights are all interrelated, interdependent and indivisible. It is easy to think that this portion of the statement, or the whole statement, is directed at the church, in sympathy to the LBGTQ people (in this case). But perhaps it isn’t. Given that it’s a pastor holding the sandwich board, we could assume both — and that he just detests the very thought that discrimination of any sort takes place or has taken place. Given that he’s at a Pride parade leads us to make an assumption, but which assumption will we choose? — There is more than one possibility. Try reading the sandwich board from the angle of discrimination in any sphere; the wording does appear to hold up for any situation.
“Equality” is a potent principle that is worth fleshing out in every arena of life. Everyone deserves a fair go at life; to live without fear, to be loved, and to have the opportunity to love. Without fear.
The people who will disparage the rights of others will do so in “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative” ways. Yet, we are all narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative on our worst days — most times when we think we are at our best.
The final part of the sandwich board states “IN THE NAME OF GOD.” There are clearly many times when people have done abhorrent things IN THE NAME OF GOD. It is easy to make the assumption that this is pointed at Christians when perhaps it isn’t — though it would be naïve to suggest this isn’t pointed at some parts of the church (e.g. Westboro). Or, perhaps it’s pointed at those who call themselves “Christian” yet are still hate-filled; there are still the strains of hurt deep within them that they haven’t yet been healed of. They ought to spend their energy of hate more worthily, take an honest look within, and receive Christ’s compassion for themselves.
We need compassion for those who have not yet approached within themselves the liberating truth of their sinfulness. When we live in the light of such truth we know we are hardly qualified to judge others. We know we deceive ourselves and need to be on guard against deceiving others. We know we are capable of manipulation. And we know just how narrow-minded we can be because of the assumptions we so easily make. Those who are narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative deserve our compassion.
We can say we are sorry for the sins people have suffered. Well done, pastor.
It is too easy to make assumptions. We make them when there is precious little information for our minds to feed on; when our hearts are hungry for truth.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
Image Credit to Hel Bel.