Thursday, June 25, 2015

When Love Is Sorely Missing From the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

TWO wrongs don’t make it right, ever.
The situation is this: 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 equal 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 must surely know that they are in danger of return fire.
It doesn’t matter what side of the same-sex marriage debate we sit on. That’s irrelevant. The matter of a pastor pointing the bone at Christians who have apparently been “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative” reeks of hypocrisy.
For the record, and from the outset, no Christian should withhold love from anyone.
But let’s pull this statement apart. It assumes that “actions of those who denied rights & equality” — in the realm possibly of the marriage equality debate (maybe more broadly) — have actually done the wrong thing. Nowhere has the traditional Christian lobby denied established rights. They cannot legally do such a thing. Are these human rights? 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. If the church has ever discriminated against the rights of the LGBTQ community it has done so from the beginning, based on the interpretation of biblical principles. Is this pastor saying that the church has gotten it wrong for 2,000 years? I can concede that LGBTQ issues have been more at the forefront in recent generations. But has the Church ever roundly accepted homosexuality as God’s best sexuality for a person? (I am not arguing for or against here, just saying.)
“Equality” is another very intangible idea. There are myriad areas of life that are inequitable. I personally don’t like it that women still don’t get paid the same and still don’t receive the same leadership opportunities as men, in the workplace or in ministry. I, like millions of others, abhor that millions of women are violated so much, especially in terms of family violence. These are more pervasive phenomena than the perceived inequalities against gays. Gays deserve this equality — they are sinners just as much as straight people are. If a straight person walks into church, and they are serious about discipleship (because church and discipleship should be synonymous), and they have a pornography or gambling problem, they will be serious about rectifying the problem. Yet, still there’s grace. Many of us have our secret sins that only we and God are aware of. It’s between us and God. But let’s not call it “all good.” It defies not equality, but our relationship with the living God. “Equality” might wish to portray that homosexuality is not a sin. But it misses the mark of God’s intended design. Yet we all struggle with sin. Why should my variety of heterosexual sin be any more palatable to God than your homosexual sin?
For any Christian, especially — given the grace God has extended to them; that they have received willingly and with open arms — to call other Christians “narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative” is just self-righteousness at its poignant worst. The truth is we are all narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative. We are infected and infested with such propensity to sin. It is aberrant hypocrisy for a church leader to take such a stand. How can an attempt to love one part of the community be an excuse to hate upon another part of the community? Who anointed this leader to be judge? Who is being narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive and manipulative now?
The final part of the sandwich board that rankles is “IN THE NAME OF GOD.” The name of the Christian God is, and has always been, linked with the Word of God — whether the Pentateuch in the days of Moses or the gospels which reflect Jesus’ day. The entire canon of Scripture is intrinsically linked with IN THE NAME OF GOD. (I’ll not venture into Islam here. I’ll stick with something of what I know.) Given the inherent link between Scripture and IN THE NAME OF GOD, how can people who have sought to diligently apply the Scriptures — as they are written — be implicated in a conspiracy that determines them to manipulate God?
To the two originating tweets (@huffpostgay and @phillipsan) I tweeted back “2 wrongs don’t make it right. Ok with AP’s stand, but doesn’t give him a right to ingratiate himself [with the LGBTQ community] at [other] Christians’ expense.”
We must be very careful when we state publically that we are Christian. We ought not to take the high ground, but the low ground. We ought rather not to judge, but to be judged. (Have mercy on me, Lord, and may those I criticise here have grace for me as I ask you, Lord, to imbue me with grace for them.) We ought to be careful that we practice what we preach. And, even when this is all said and done, we should be the first people to say, “God, forgive me and save me, afresh, a sinner!”
If we would love, we ought to just simply love, and not engage in hateful judgment. We cannot be selective in who or how we love. Our love ought to strive to meet the perfect standard of Jesus. We are always destined to be learning and never mastering.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
Image Credit to Hel Bel.

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