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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Where were you when it mattered?"

Image source.

A week ago I read Hemant Mehta's post Is It Okay for Christians to Support Marriage Equality Long After the Rest of Us?, and couldn't stop thinking about it. Why has it taken Christians so long to come around and support marriage equality? (As I've said before, I believe Christians MUST do this precisely BECAUSE Christianity is about loving others, which means listening to what they say they need and taking that seriously.) Why has the church been the main obstacle in the way of equality on this issue?

In Mehta's post (seriously, go read the whole thing), he discusses the fact that recently many Christian leaders have voiced support for marriage equality- but it would have been nice if they had done so BEFORE now, before the "tipping point." Currently, it seems that most Americans- even opponents of marriage equality- agree that it will inevitably be law in the United States. We're past the "tipping point" in the legal sense.

Better late than never, but "where were you when it mattered?"

I have a few things to say about that. First of all, it still DOES matter. There are many many issues affecting gay people besides marriage equality. Gay marriage may be legal, but LGBT people face discrimination in so many other ways in their day-to-day lives. Gay students are bullied and have a high rate of suicide. The very act of coming out is difficult and many people fear rejection- some children are even kicked out by their parents after revealing they are gay. The laws may change, but we still live in a culture where these totally horrible things happen. And that needs to change.

And it matters in the church. So, I'm a Christian, and you have no idea how many arguments I've had with other Christians, now that I found out gay people are real people who, ya know, actually matter and deserve equality and respect. There is SO MUCH IGNORANCE within the church, and it's so wrong. Christian leaders declaring their support for marriage equality may not have an effect in terms of the legal battle for gay marriage, but it does get them in a lot of trouble with other Christians. But it's the right thing to do.

I can't imagine what it's like to be an LGBT Christian. To want so much to follow Jesus, but fear that other Christians will reject you if they really knew you. And to the LGBT Christians out there, you all are my heroes.

And the church desperately needs more people to stand up and say, "We need to support gay rights and love gay people, accepting them unconditionally, because they are PEOPLE and I think the bible may have mentioned something about loving people."

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So yes, this still matters. But Mehta also says in his post that the church can never claim they helped advance gay rights. Christians can never claim we led the fight for equality and justice on this issue. Actually, we were the main opposition.

And he's right. And I'm ashamed to say that for a long time, I opposed all of the gay rights.

Why? Why has the church been the biggest obstacle here? Well I have a theory. There are 2 things present in Christian culture (or maybe just evangelical culture? not sure- my background is evangelical), and it's a dangerous combination:
  1. Absolute faith in what pastors/ Christian leaders say.
  2. Incredible skepticism toward regular people's accounts of their own personal experiences, emotions, and beliefs.
There are tons of Christian leaders out there that want to tell you "God's way" to do something. Or "the biblical way." "The Christian way." Etc. And for a long time I never questioned. I thought, hey they must be right, because they're Christians and they're presenting this as OBVIOUSLY the way that GOD HIMSELF wants things to be.

So what happens when I go into the real world and get to know people and find that their life experiences do not match what I was taught in church?

Suppose I meet an atheist who says they are content with their life. They're happy and they don't feel like they're missing anything by not having religion. Well... in church I was told that's not possible. "There's a God-shaped hole in everyone's heart." There's no way they're really content with life.

And what if I meet someone who says, "I had sex back in high school and I don't regret it"? Or "I had an abortion and I don't regret it- it really was the right choice for me at the time"? How can this be? In church they said people would always regret it...

What if I meet a gay person who says they didn't choose to be gay?

What if I meet a same-sex couple with children, and they say their family is healthy and loving?

What if I meet someone who says they were raised Christian and lost their faith and tried so hard to be a Christian but... it didn't happen?

And the truth is, since I spend so much time blogging and reading other people's blogs, I have met all of these people online. And in some sense I've gotten to know them.

And there's a choice, when an evangelical Christian encounters real people who do not fit the narratives we were told in church. We can either stand strong for the truth, or let our emotions lead us astray, deceived by the world. Oh wait. No, what I meant to say is, we can either shut our eyes and ears to reality, or have love and compassion for people and work hard to understand them, like Jesus did.

Image source.

But far too often, Christians DON'T listen. Instead, they conclude that this complete stranger is lying about their own personal life. Christians, including me, have argued "no no, deep down you really DO believe in God." Christians have told gay people "you just need to repent and God will change you." We have heard of people's struggles and difficulties and said "well you just didn't pray hard enough."

Either there's a world-wide conspiracy, and everyone who claims to have experienced something that doesn't match up with what I was taught about Christianity is lying, or maybe I should have some empathy and re-examine my beliefs. (Though the "world-wide conspiracy" thing finds some support in the whole "all people have a sinful nature" thing. You know, all people except those Christian leaders who claim "THIS IS GOD'S WAY TO DO IT!")

So, in summary: I hypothesize that it has taken so long for prominent Christian leaders to support marriage equality, and the church has stood in the way, because Christians believe we already have all the answers. We already know all there is to know about everyone's personal life and we would like to give them advice on what to do.

And that was the case for me too. I read story after story about what coming out is like, what it's like to discover that you're LGBT, how the church has misunderstood and hurt the very people Jesus loves- story after story after story, with immense skepticism, before I was willing to consider that maybe everything the Christian propaganda machine told me about "the homosexuals" was a bunch of bullshit.

Please, Christians, let's stop this. Please, let's be like Jesus. Empathy, love, humility.

Get your head out of your own personal interpretation of the bible, and go love people.

4 comments:

  1. As an Atheist I think this blog is unintentionally hilarious. I read what it says and imagine what christians who were in favor of freeing the slaves were saying to the die hard christians who used the bible to defend slavery. 150 years ago christians who were antislavery cherry picked their bible to claim that jesus was love and would have wanted the slaves to be free, yet ignoring the clear approval of slavery by jesus. And here we are 150 years later and we have christians cherry picking the bible yet again. Ignoring the clear biblical prohibitions towards gays, and claiming they are pro gay rights yet still devout christians. Talk about hypocrisy. Whenever you hear a christian say they are pro gay marriage just cross out the words *gay marriage* and substitute *Free Negroes* and you will have an idea what the biggest religious controversy of the last half of the 1800's was like. With christians cherry picking their bible more and more every year is it possible that christianity is *evolving* (pun intended) towards Atheism at a glacial pace?

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  2. Whoever, I hope Christians are evolving toward Jesus at at quicker than a glacial pace

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  3. Perfect number, my confession is I was not where Jesus would have been when it mattered. For that I am sorry too. Like yourself, I believed many of the lies, and like yourself, real world experience changed me. People I knew in person and many many ppl online contributed to this, as did books by Wesley hill, Justin lee, Jeff chu, Mel white, and Andrew Marin.

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