Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Maybe I Should Just Keep Soap in this Box…


soapboxAh yes, the moment you’ve all been waiting for … time for me to climb up on the ol’ soapbox again and air my views. 

I try to restrain myself, really I do.  Especially when it comes to anything related to church, because I usually keep my mouth shut IN church about things I disagree with, as I don’t want to be the person who harangues others about my own personal views. But then I also don’t want to be the person who agrees on the surface and then rants behind people’s backs (or on my blog).

But I suspect the particular thing that’s annoying me at the moment is common to far more places in the world than just my local church, so the internet seems like the Place To Vent.

Not long ago, I attended a shower for a young, unmarried mother-to-be in our church. I think it’s absolutely great that even though we preach “traditional morality” which means babies should belong in marriage, we also welcome and love those whose lives haven’t quite fit that format. 

We also have in our congregation some divorced and remarried people, including people whose relationships started while they were still married to other people.  And though we don’t say that adultery is all cool and we’re in favour of it, we accept and include people who have made mistakes and are trying to make a new start. Despite the Bible’s stern words on things like fornication and adultery, we recognize that people’s lives don’t always fit the Eden pattern and we try to love people where they are. (By “we” I mean we as a church, institutionally, and most of the people in the congregation. That’s not to say that no individual in the church has ever said a harsh or judgemental word to any of these people).

That’s something I love about my church. I love that while we uphold the ideal that marriage is a lifelong committment between a man and a woman who stay true to each other, we recognize the brokenness of the world and we don’t shut out people who struggle with less-than-ideal situations.

There’s an exception of course, and you know what it is and you know it’s going to bug me, right?

In this same conservative-evangelical-yet-loving congregation, I’ve heard many comments recently about the wrongness of same sex marriage — not just asserting that the speaker believes it’s wrong, but that believing it’s wrong should be a mark of who’s a true Christian, and a deciding factor in whom you should vote for.  I’ve heard comments that just assume we all share the “Gay Marriage = Utter Evil” perspective without question, coming from people who in the same breath are talking about heterosexual divorce and remarriage as though there’s not a single Biblical or ethical question to be raised about it.

I don’t expect everyone in my church to share my radical, heretical views on accepting same-sex marriage and gay people. I know that’s not going to happen.  But I would like to see people step away from the hypocrisy and recognize it for what it is.  The Bible says that God hates divorce.  Jesus said that a divorced person who remarries is committing adultery.  That’s from the lips of Jesus Himself, folks — not as easy to brush off as a few verses in Leviticus about abominations and the like.  But in the one case, we are willing to be understanding and accepting, to make exceptions, to be inclusive — while in the other case we are more than ready to vilify and condemn.

What makes the difference? It’s not theological.  I don’t think you can make a theological case for saying that the marriage of two straight people who committed adultery against their previous spouses, is any more blessed by God than the marriage of two gays or lesbians.  Not if you’re taking the Bible as your guide. The difference isn’t theology,  it’s the People Like Us factor.

We don’t want to speak out too harshly against the single parents, the couples living together, the divorced and remarried people and even the adulterers, because they are People Like Us. They are our friends and relatives.  Most of can probably imagine ourselves in that situation, and we can imagine all too well how harsh that pointing finger might feel.

But it’s easier to put the gay or lesbian brother or sister on the other side of a barrier and say that they’re Not Like Us. They’re different. Other.  And thus much easier to label, and to shame, and to exclude.

I’m not in favour of MORE exclusion and finger-pointing. I do not want to see single parents ashamed to bring their children up in church, or adulterers wearing big scarlet A’s on their sweaters.  I would just like to see some of that tolerance and inclusivity extended to the gay brothers and lesbian sisters who are lurking, invisible, on the edges of our congregations — even those who have chosen to enter a lifelong partnership with another.

Or, failing that, I’d be happy just to see people question their automatic assumptions, ask themselves “Why am I so quick to condemn this person while so willing to accept that one?” At the very least, take a hard look at where we draw our lines and why.

Which challenges me, too, of course, to look for that beam in my own eye and see where I’m drawing lines, and who I’m excluding.

Down off the soapbox. I’ll just pack that away till I need it again.


12 thoughts on “Maybe I Should Just Keep Soap in this Box…

  1. I just wrote a long comment that was deleted by a technicality. Maybe I’ll take that as a sign to keep my mouth more tightly zipped than I had.

    Suffice it to say that I agree with you here.

  2. Why is it acceptable to be one of those people who do the judging? Is it a sin to allow “those” people to live their own lives and leave the judging to the Pearly Gates admissions officer?

    C’mon… Jesus may have taught about the definition of adultery, but He also taught of tolerance, forgiveness, and not to condemn others because of what YOU believe to be intolerable. “Let he without sin cast the first stone…” Isn’t the condemnation itself a violation of His teachings?

    I don’t have a strong religious influence in my life, largely because of some of the hypocrisy and close mindedness of some of the most “devout”.

  3. Jamie, I wish I’d read your other comment.

    Steve, I hope it’s clear from what I’ve posted that I don’t think it’s my place as an individual to judge anyone. I do think churches, like other organizations, do some judging in terms of who is in and who is out (of membership, of community) and that may be right or wrong according to your opinion. What I’m objecting to, I guess, are the inconsistent way in which those standards are applied — leniently for people who we feel a kinship with, and stringently for people we feel we can label as “other” and “outsider.”

    Certainly in terms of judging any individual’s standing wtih God ,that is not my business. And I think your experience is common, in that many of those outside or on the fringes of the Christian community are offended and disgusted by the very practice of judging and drawing boundaries.

  4. Hey Trudy
    You’re timing is interesting, to say the least. In the RECORD at the start of November they published a review on a book – something about an Adventist perspective to homosexuality – can’t remember the exact title. I actually think it may have come from the “Reinventing the Adventist Wheel” Blog…saw something similar on there. Anyway, they have obviously copped a heap of flack over it – there was a published statement a few weeks ago apologising for the article essentially, and affirming the traditional viewpoint. And then today there was a letter in the letters section saying they are not going to be printing any letters in the letters section about it!!!

    Personally, the older I get the more I don’t understand. I honestly don’t know what I think. I have a cousin who was raised an Adventist (the only other lot in our clan!!) and she is gay. She and her partner have a baby (with a little extra help from a token male along the way 🙂 ) and are trying for another. I look at the heartache, pain, and agony she’s been through and I seriously doubt she would have chosen to go through what’s she’s been through. I also see the pain that her family has been through. Her parents have been awesome and very supportive, but there has been some fall out with her brothers etc. And at my wedding, her mum was in tears knowing that she would never get to experience this – not in the same way anyway. (She’s since had a commitment ceremony with her partner.)

    Would it be the path I would want for my kids? No. I have to be honest there. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love them and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t accept them for who they are. It’s just that I think there’s a whole lot of pain that goes along with it… *sigh*

    And there are a lot of things in the Bible that I don’t quite get. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to throw the whole lot away. It does mean that I’m the first to admit I don’t understand it all. What I am sure about, however, is that God does understand it all. I guess that’s why it’s called ‘faith’ and not ‘certainty’. And my list of questions for him when I get to heaven eventually is growing by the minute… Take a number, people. I’m going to be here a while… 🙂

  5. Karen, my timing is triggered entirely by events in my local church and conversations with people there, but I was aware of some of the Record controversy through Nathan. I think it’s a shame that this is such a “hot button” that we can’t even discuss or explore different views on it within a church setting — which is part of what I mean. An article exploring different perspectives on our traditional view of divorce and remarriage, say, would probably still get a lot of disagreement from Adventists, but not that kind of panicked, intense emotional response that discussion of anything to do with homosexuality does. Why is that?

    I guess my questioning of the traditional position (which I have blogged about in more detail here: https://trudymorgancole.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/coming-out/ ) comes from the same kind of reflection you have done about your cousin — looking at what devout Christian gays and lesbians I know have gone through and thinking, “How is this a lifestyle choice?” And yes, I too have a lot of questions for God, but as I get older am getting more comfortable with the fact that I don’t have all the answers. I think (sort of what I alluded to in my recent post about the second coming) all of us religious people should be forced to wear something like the scarlet letter, only it should be a giant question mark with the words “I MAY BE WRONG” emblazoned on it.

  6. Nobody would want that path for their kids…but it’s not up to anyone, including a gay kid, to decide whether this is the path he or she is on. The path comes unbidden (I speak from experience), and sometimes we try to switch paths…but that just leaves us off any path at all. And unfortunately, in the trying, we sometimes bring other people with us (opposite sex spouses, children, for example).

    I read a quote once that said, “You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all.” I think that sums up what happens when we try to force our path to be different than it is.

    I know that I am fundamentally unacceptable at church. I left for other reasons than that…but I think of those other reasons weren’t there, I would have left by now because of my inherent unacceptablity. It’s as simple as this: I know I am not wanted there. Not as I am, anyway. It’s okay if I pretend, or if I choose celibacy (and we need only look at the vast percentage of uncelibate priests to know how THAT turns out).

    In one of the Prop 8 protests, a young gay man held a sign that said, “Would you rather I marry YOUR daughter?” I don’t think people think through what they are asking when they are asking a gay person to be straight. They don’t just need to think “what if my son is gay”, they need to think, “what if that gay man married my daughter because he was trying to be straight”.

    I guess there is no shortage of ignorance out there, though. Despite the tens of thousands of people who try ex-gay therapy only to find themselves still gay at the end of it all, a large number of people in churches simply refuse to believe that if we just prayed hard enough we would be turned straight. On the rare occasion that they find someone who has claimed to turn straight, they parade him around the Christian shows saying “See?”. And who knows. Maybe God turned that person straight. But it seems for every one, there are thousands praying those same prayers for whom God seems to say, “no, I’ll just leave you the way you are”.

    Maybe it’s like praying to God for brown eyes when mine are blue. Maybe no matter how much I want my eyes to be brown, or how much flack I might get in for them being blue, God simply doesn’t see a reason to change them.

    I guess for me, I’ve come to the point where I don’t care, in a way, that the church doesn’t find me acceptable. When it comes to this issue, I feel that I’ve been the victim of a campaign of lies, and would really just rather remove myself from the path of the bullets.

  7. Thanks for posting that, Jamie.

  8. I wish that there were more open minds in our church like yours. Sometimes I wonder if our church and society had been more open and loving when my brother came out, maybe he would still be alive. He thought he was going to hell anyway so he never took precautions.
    I wish I could have met the people I now know back when I was coming out. People that have been together 15 to 22 years or more. I have been with my spouse for 13 years and got married in California just before the elections.
    We have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy at our church. There are some rumors, but everyone accepts us and we hold posts in the church. We confuse them. We love them all and by being involved in the church it throws off their preconceived ideas about us. We are always asked places together and people even treat us as a couple. I know there are people in our church that voted for prop 8, but there was nothing from our pastor and he is very loving to us. I try to see what they feel from their upbringing and world view. If It hadn’t been for my brother and my coming out, maybe I would have a narrow world view also. We can’t change the whole church, but we can try to change ours. I am glad that there are people like you out there.

  9. Just had to come back and have another chat. 🙂 From the time I was in school at aged 5, I had two very close male friends, Kent and Clinton – both of whom my older brother used to spout off about being gay. They were my friends right up until we went to different universities, so we’re talking about long term friendship here. And my brother was right. Both of them are gay. I look back at their childhood experiences and wonder how hard it must have been for them. One of them had a series of girlfriends and I wonder how much of that was for our benefit, rather than his? Or whether he was still finding himself??

    And then I fast forward a decade or so to when I was teaching. I distinctly remember a little boy, Mark, in my grade 4 class. He just wasn’t like the other little boys. When I told my class I had bought a new house and what road it was on, his hand shot up and asked, “Oh, Mrs Collum! Is it the one with the French doors?” I don’t know if he’s gay or not – but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that ends up being his life’s journey.

    My husband is less open to the whole possibility of being born with a particular sexual orientation, however he and I had a discussion about this particular boy. He made an interesting point. He said that we’re not very good as a community at accepting any differences. So, if you’re a boy who happens not to enjoy contact sport and rough and tumbling, then what option to we as a society give that young boy, except that he’s gay? Do we celebrate gentle men – who are not by default, gay? I thought that was worth pondering. Don’t know how that concept would sit with someone like Kent or Clinton. Maybe I should ask them.

    Thanks for making me think.

  10. Thank you to everyone who’s posted here, and for your original entry, Trudy.

    I’ve had similar struggles with my faith community and my views on sexual orientation and (to extend the discussion a bit) gender identity. There are times that I’ve been deeply ashamed to be Anglican, and times that I have been terribly proud. I left one parish in town because, in part, of the public stance of the clergy there. It hurt to be part of a place where people I care about were not welcome. Interestingly, that seemed to be part and parcel of a lack of community there – very much a sense of in-crowds and outlaws – that was expressed in many other ways. I’m now part of a congregation where people may or may not agree on specifics but where we ALL agree that we’re here to be a loving and welcoming community.

    A long time ago, my best friend in university came out to me about his sexuality. Since then, I’ve been blessed to know wonderful gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered, transsexual, queer, and questioning people. It’s brought me to now, where I’m the local chapter chair for PFLAG Canada. Homophobia and transphobia hurt people – even kill them. Thursday is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, commemorating the lives of trans people and others who’ve died because of hatred and ignorance. It’s also a day to raise awareness, to celebrate the wonderful diversity of life, and to educate – first mourn, then work for change.

    So, a little plug 🙂 PFLAG and the Planned Parenthood LBGTQ Youth Group are hosting a film showing and discussion (Ma Vie en Rose) at the Lantern on Barnes Road at 6:30 p.m. on November 20. You and your readers are very welcome to come along!

  11. Karen, I don’t know how that concept would sit with Kent or Clinton, but I can say that I think the idea that society somehow turns boys like this gay because they have no other option just doesn’t seem true to me. The gay community is full of a variety of people who have a variety of interests, just like the straight community. There are plenty of straight guys who care about French glass doors. The lucky ones end up with jobs like Ty Pennington (who I believe is pretty straight).

    What I’m trying to say is that sexual orientation is really more about who you are attracted to, from your heart, and not whether your interests are feminine or masculine. You may find more of one way in the gay community, but it is by no means across the board.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think society turns people gay by the way they treat people with certain interests and characteristics. I think we are already either that way or not.

  12. what a refreshing veiw!! I too feel the same as you – a sin is a sin, what makes one better than the other, they are what they are – it is a sin….. I have stuggled with my family about this heated issue… How can you judge a person for what they are when you yourself are without sin?

    God says we are to do for others as we would want them to do for us…. he commands us to love one another….

    I take that and I know – I may not like it, but I have to do it… and in the end, He will teach me more then what I ever thought was possible! and when I put his words into action, it works… I find that I love them, and that I enjoy doing what he has commanded me to do.

    Long story short, I have people in my life that are divorced…. I have people in my life that are guy. I love them….. I don’t love the sin, in the same manor that I don’t love myself when I sin…… I am, just as they are, a sinner…. nothing less and nothing more…. that is what we all are.

    Thank you for sharing this…. nice to ‘find’ ya!

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