oh, what a wicked web we weave.
these days, it’s nearly common knowledge that our so-called secular society most often describes american evangelical christians as being ‘anti-gay,’ ‘judgmental’ and ‘hypocritical.’ 91% of non-christians FIRST identify the word ‘christian’ with ‘anti-homosexual.’ 80% of young christians feel the same way.
that’s not good news.
but before pigeon-hole-ing the entire evangelical camp into these negative categories, it’s fair to say that there are at least some (and perhaps many?) folks attempting to walk what they consider to be a fine-line balance between loving well | and | ‘standing up for Truth‘ (emphasized with a capital ‘T’). this stems from an often well-intentioned desire to remain faithful to a preferred perspective – a belief or interpretation – to select portions of scripture.
it isn’t as simple as ‘the bible says it; i believe it; that settles it.’
the truth is much more nuanced, intricate and complicated than that.
yet for evangelicals, the fact remains we’ve become identified – defined, even – by our holding onto doctrine and dogma. in both the sunday morning pulpit and the marketplace, the messages articulate that many christians are concerned they’ll be mischaracterized as ‘accepting’ those with whom they disagree.
as a result, folks often take a stand against whatever it is they find in contradiction to their preferred perspective – and become defined like this.
merriam webster defines the word ‘define’ as ::
a : to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of some thing
b : to discover and set forth the meaning of a thing
christians- we’ve become entangled in secondary issues and have lost sight of the only foundational doctrine worth holding onto – LOVE.
in the midst of a pluralistic and postmodern culture, the church has become defined more by what it is against than what it is for.
and that is (UN)interesting.
with a multitude of perspectives on faith and religion, ethics and morality, theological and cultural questions along with a host of other conversations pertinent to the family of humanity, it’s no wonder that we can find areas of disagreement. yet disagreement does not dictate disrespect.
as someone who works as a bridge builder in one of the most potentially divisive conversations of our day, my time is intentionally and strategically spent in a distinctively different position in the midst of these polarizing conversations. my ‘daily grind’ takes place amidst the tremendously painful juxtapositions of the philosophical, legal and moral arguments that inhabit the tension-filled spaces of the LGBT and conservative disconnect.
this unique positioning at The Marin Foundation allows for my perspective to be shaped not through the lens of an internet activist (on either side of the conversation) but through my daily interactions with both conservative people and LGBT people in joint spaces – real people, in real time – where we refuse to allow cultural and theological arguments to shape the conversations, but instead root them in an acknowledgement and celebration of one another’s humanity.
this does not mean we all agree.
nor does it mean we need to.
the reality is that there will be disagreement between different groups of people in these conversations. the question is not whether or not we agree; rather, can we disagree with civility rather than lobbing ignorant and intolerant statements at one another?
can we disagree in a way in which the command to love one another is followed? can we disagree in a way in which we are treating ‘the Other’ the way we would like to be treated?
we have an opportunity and responsibility to allow our words and actions to surge with the power and energy of a life defined by love, rather than our commitment to a specific (whether conservative or progressive) perspective or theological preference.
jesus stated that the way the world would know we were his disciples was if you have love for one another.
‘one another’ doesn’t just mean ‘us’. it also means ‘them’. when we draw clear lines of who’s in and who’s out, we exploit our differences and distort the potential for peaceful and productive dialogue. we begin to follow the slippery slope toward the marginalization, ostracization, dehumanization and demonization of the so-called ‘Other’ – all the while quoting verses and using the bible as a weapon rather than a tool for healing, restoration and reconciliation.
we must move from viewing those with whom we disagree as ‘the Other’ to ‘one another.’
the movement from ‘the Other’ to ‘one another’, as author brian mclaren puts it, is at the core of the christian church recapturing any sort of relevancy and credibility in our contemporary culture. it’s also essential to our roerientation toward the person, teachings and work of jesus christ.
our job is to untangle the church from the secondary issues which have become its sticking points, and move – thoughtfully and intentionally – toward a reputation more fitting of the jesus we claim to follow.
during his earthly ministry, christ was defined by rejecting the status quo, upsetting religious norms, rejecting dogmatic hypocrisy and (most importantly) loving all.
how are you defined?
what do you need to be untangled from?