(dis)grace.

mjkimpan  —  February 25, 2013 — 6 Comments

protest
before the weekend, a friend of mine linked this article from the local newspaper of the community from whence i came, outlining some of the (un)christian behavior that often accompanies the name of jesus in the public marketplace.

she wrote on her facebook wall,

‘As a Christian, I hate that we are often labeled “hypocrites” by society… but then I read stories like this and I know why we have that label.’

essentially, the online article reports, members of a few local peoria churches (one ironically named ‘Grace’) showed up in the state capitol wednesday to fight against same sex marriage.

according to the article, the group of protesters also included students from the local private catholic high school, where an instructor created a mini-controversy among alumni when she offered incentives to students who attended the protest with promises to ‘miss school all day Wednesday‘ for ‘20 points extra credit

the email to students also quoted the local bishop, who stated ::

‘For 2000 years, the Catholic Church has passionately defended the doctrines of Jesus Christ. It is now our time, as the faithful… to take a public stand to protect and uphold the sanctity and dignity of Marriage (sic).’

click here for the full letter.

<ahem.>

the argument that marriage is ‘an essential doctrine of salvation‘ or that God ‘instituted marriage‘ as between one man and one woman when he created adam and eve is both intellectually dishonest and biblically simplistic.

here is an info graphic  that breaks down the examples of ‘biblical marriage’ (i admit this once got me in a bit of hot water with some folks).

this is not to suggest that everyone who holds to a traditional conservative interpretation of scripture regarding sexuality, or whom understands God’s design for marriage to be between one man and one woman is wrong or bad – we’re each entitled to our opinion.

yet anyone who takes biblical studies seriously ought to be able to admit there are legitimate arguments supporting both sides of the discussion.

as my friend The Registered Runaway posted on his blog earlier last week, a five-second-google-search of homosexuality + bible verse ≠ diligent bible study.

the fact is, any conversation dealing honestly with scripture, science, cultural anthropology and sociology  – particularly one grounded in relationship – is much more nuanced than a slogan that fits on a protestors’ poster-board or that can fit on a bumper sticker.

but i digress.

this post is not a diatribe into my opinion about gay marriage – which, for the record, is best reflected here or perhaps even here – but rather a simple observation on the ineffective nature of these churches in their engagement with the LGBT ‘issue.’

the peoria newspaper article begins by naming Grace as the particular church which made up the majority of the 3,000 protestors, according to the illinois family institute.

i know that church. i know and love many of their staff, a few of their elders – and many more whom regularly attend. i know the pastors quoted in the article, and recognize the folks in the pictures from the newspaper.

and it breaks my heart – because it’s a disgrace.

five busloads showed up to articulate such intricate arguments as,

‘It’s a plumbing issue, it comes down to basic plumbing.’

(i think the quote needed a #rickwarrentips addendum, saying ‘can’t explain all the reasons here‘)

one citizen lobbyist highlighted the change in cultural the perception of what is normal :: ‘In fifty years, [homosexuality has] gone from being a felony to political, legalized status.’

hmmmmph.

the local catholic bishop blessed a group of protesters in peoria before they departed for the state’s capital ::

‘I’m very proud of you this morning, but you’re going out among the Nenevites today. ‘

some of us may remember the story of jonah and his journey to nineveh – which brings some interesting questions when taken in this context. as one commenter on that post stated,

‘who are the Ninevites in our lives? Despite our best efforts, if we are honest with ourselves, we harbor unloving thoughts towards SOMEONE in our lives; but are they not our Ninevites? … if we look at our behavior towards them, are we so different from Jonah?’

what we’re doing is not working – and i’ve suggested here, this may have less to do with a commitment to the gospel and more to do with an addiction to an ‘answer culture.’

as one who engages in this dialogue on a daily basis, i am convinced we are addicted to judgment, polarizing language and declarations of Truth (emphasized with a capital ‘T’) –  and we consistently look to our leaders to spoon feed us theology in black and white absolutes. as we do so, we alienate and demonize those with whom we disagree, most often in an effort to convert and convince each other that we alone have the answer.

even when pastors truly desire to elevate the conversation with their congregation regarding discussion between the church and the LGBT community, it’s often paired with a caveat attachment of ‘but for the record, we don’t agree with…

we fear ambiguity.

making dogmatic, finalized statements that lack clarification, conversation, and relationship in a public forum is unhelpful in elevating the conversation with the gay community.

i realize there will be disagreement among people of faith about whether or not gay relationships should be celebrated and consecrated by the church.

churches disagree on a lot of things. that’s why we have so many of them.

i’m not asking that people give up their convictions.

but we desperately need to change our culture.

perhaps that begins with a posture of humility, and the possibility that God may be up to something greater than our firm positions on sexuality and gay marriage.

‘the world reads christians, not the bible.’ — andrew marin

so the question is, what are they reading from our lives?

is it grace? or is it a disgrace?

does the world know us by our love – or are we committed to being known for our political or theological position on secondary issues? what does a busload (or five) of protestors communicate to those against whom we are protesting?

what do you think?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennerd Jen Daniels

    I saw a bumper sticker today with the same slogan as the above banner. My first thought was fear that my 5 year old son could read it. I didn’t want to have to explain to him that some people choose to show their hate in subtle yet loud proclamations. I don’t want him to know yet that people fear each other’s differences instead of embracing and learning about them (the PEOPLE more so than the differences). I want a world for my children where there is less concentrated effort to condemn “the sinner” and more passion for showing them the love that could draw them in. I want to make that world win.

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      knowing you and the ways in which you (and your hubby) teach your children what it means to love and follow jesus, i am hopeful ‘that world’ will win.
      because…yes. love *does* win. thanks for sharing, jen.

    • SomeDudeSomewhere

      Wait, how does one description of the heteronormative reality we have lived in for 7000 years constitute “subtle hate?” Is the statement that obese people die sooner subtle hate? Is the statement that people who sleep around run a high risk of contracting STDs subtle hate?

      This is the problem with the “legalize” crowd. To you there’s no rational reason why gay marriage has never been recognized by any government of people for 99.99% of human history. The nuclear household is just an old-fashioned notion that we need to be liberated from, never mind the fact that it worked.

      If you’re this freaked about explaining basic sociological principles to your kid from your whackadoodle point of view, I’d hate to see you give “the talk” and try to make it jive with your new age sensibilities.

      • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

        to the anonymous ‘SomeDudeSomewhere’ – consider this a warning :: http://www.mjkimpan.com/comments-policy/ (i would consider telling someone they have ‘a whackadoodle point of view’ that they’re teaching their own children a bit of a poopstain-like comment. nice use of whackadoodle – but still – not a fan).

        to reply to your first paragraph worth of questions – YES.

        slapping a bumper sticker on your car that says, ‘Fat people die early.’ would be considered hateful, insensitive and un-christ-like.

        it is a declarative statement void of relationship, compassion or nuance.

        i’ve found a good rule of thumb is if you can fit an argument on a bumper sticker (or a picket sign), it’s not likely to be all that compelling.

        i’d also challenge your notion that the ‘nuclear household’ has ‘worked’ for the whole of human history.

        first, the idea of one man and one woman has *not* been the norm for the majority of human history. polygamy and the use of concubines was both culturally and morally accepted for a good long while before we started dressing girls up in white for their wedding day. to ignore the elements of even the biblical normalcy of such relationships is intellectually dishonest in a discussion about the ‘christian’ view of marriage.

        second, the culturally accepted norm of monogamy hasn’t really ‘worked’ all that well, has it? over half of *all* marriages (ironically [and tragically] both inside and outside of faith communities) in the US end in divorce. teenage pregnancy and unwanted pregnancy continues to climb, as do STDs and infidelity.

        the claims that ‘those gays’ are destroying the fabric of society in some sort of agenda against marriage is not only dishonest, it’s laughable. or at least it would be, if there weren’t so many people harmed by such thinking.

        third – and finally – just because something *has always been* or *has not always been* sanctioned by governments (or churches!) throughout human history does not de facto make it morally right. in fact, many morally repugnant things have been done in the name of God and government ::

        the crusades, inquisitions, misogyny, the abuse of native american peoples, slavery, apartheid, wars, et cetera all were done with government and clerical support.

        something that is or is not accepted by those in a position of power does not necessarily make it moral or good.

        as you consider a response (and i hope you do!), i hope we’re able to both extend grace and courtesy to one another through respectful dialogue – whether between you and i or you and my other readers – just watch the snark.

        thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.kupper Andrew Kupper

    Since the world reads Christians and not the Bible, where are those 5 busloads to serve the poor and the needy. I think if we got that many people together on a regular basis to serve the less fortunate in our community we could see a radical change of the opinions of Christians. After all in the early church, there were countless converts because of the mission work the first Christians did with the poor. Just a thought…

    • http://www.mjkimpan.com/ michael j. kimpan

      and a great one at that. my post from today ( http://www.mjkimpan.com/job-opening/ ) pairs well with that thought – particularly if you want to be pope! ;)