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.