Quick aside here from NaNoWriMo.
My friend Jenny just posted a link to an article on Ye Olde Facebook that was posted by Rachel Held Evans entitled “A Non-Zero-Sum Conversation Between the Traditional Church and the Gay Community“, which I guess is a re-post of an article written by a guy named Richard Beck. I thought about commenting but then decided to write my own quick rebuttal before plunging back into the writing fray.
For those who don’t care to read or explore either of these authors or their articles, let me sum up briefly. The thrust of the piece is that the gay community and the trad Christian community have mutually compatible interests in promoting acceptance, even in the face of fundamental differences in belief. “Both groups share a mutual concern in treating others with respect, love and dignity,” Beck writes. “We share an interest in the Golden Rule. We both want to be treated well.” He also rightly observes that trad Christians have an obligation as Christians to display kindness, hospitality and generosity – three things that the church lacks in spades.
“The game isn’t zero-sum; it’s non-zero-sum. Fighting doesn’t have to be the only thing we have in common. There are significant areas of mutual concern, locations where we can drop our fists and partner together on important Kingdom work . . . Imagine how the conversation would change between the traditional Christian and gay communities if traditional Christian communities became, say, known for their guardian angel and anti-bullying programs and initiatives, often partnering with local gay advocacy groups to get this work done.”
This is a lovely, Utopian image where everyone gets along and is able to put aside their differences and work together to build a world based on peace and love. It’s a sentiment that many of my Christian friends express (including my two best friends, Mark and Emily) in their continuing work in building a church that fosters such a worldview, and is open to discussion and bridging that conversation with the trad Christian church in bringing about real and tangible change in how Christians and gay (and really anyone who is of a non-believing persuasion–Jews, Muslims, atheists, Hindus, etc.).
Well, forgive me for not jumping on the hippie bandwagon (to be sarcastic for just a moment) but I have experienced first-hand the “openness” of the fundamentalist church. And I can say that without hesitation that my friends will be fighting an uphill battle both ways to start that conversation; and maybe that says something of their love for people, and their willingness to not give up.
The problem with the trad Christian community and why I think this Utopian world will never come about is that their beliefs about the Bible and about this world will always prevent this. It’s why Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, James Dobson, Peter LaBarbera and the rest of the anti-gay crowd can say the things they do and still sleep at night. They honestly believe that they are doing homosexuals a favor by “proclaiming the Truth” (and yes, I am using the capital T there purposefully) in order to free them from their “lifestyle of sexual bondage,” which I think was something like the phrase Bachmann used once.
Underlying their actions is the fundamental Christian belief that this world is not all there is, and that a better world awaits those who love and follow Jesus after death. Amongst the Evangelicals is the additional caveat that you have to “proclaim him as your Lord and Savior.” Just try doing a search for “how to become a Christian.”
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9 (NASB)
It’s this eschatology that allows them to believe that the only thing that matters is getting to the right side in the afterlife. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS EXCEPT FOR JESUS. That “nothing else” includes sexual orientation, because obviously God created us all with a heterosexual orientation–right? So what does it matter if you have to live 70 years in total misery or loneliness if at the end of all that you have an eternity with Jesus?
[hold for laughs]
It’s this view that will not allow any sort of conversation between gays and trad Christians, and I don’t know that Richard Beck or Rachel Held Evans really understand that. I have the sense that they grew up in much more generous Christian denominations that were more life-affirming and dignity-affording. Then again, maybe they do and like the pacifist protesters getting beaten down in the film Gandhi they know what they’re in for.
All I know is that until trad Christians back down from their position of biblical literalism and inerrancy, there can be no conversation, for to even back down would be to waver in devotion to the Word and to God, which means jeopardizing their eternal security. My own parents would rather hold to that notion: that if I continue to “live as a homosexual” that I will one day suffer an eternity in hell while they enjoy a blessed eternity with Je-sus. (No, my parents are not Southern televangelists, but it’s fun to make them sound like they are.
It was partly because of this that I became an atheist in the first place (and I’ll be devoting my 100th blog entry to the reasons why I am an atheist). Jesus supposedly stood for love, affording dignity to all persons and speaking out against hypocrisy. And yet his followers resemble more the men who allegedly put him to death, and are putting gays to death every day in one form or another. They will continue to fight against gay marriage and equal rights for gays. They will oppose anti-bullying measures because it “encourages the proliferation and tolerance of homosexuality in schools.” They will rail against the teaching of evolution, ignoring all evidence that contradicts and disproves creationism.
Because the bible told them so.