When I was young, my mom once made us some Chinese food for dinner. Well, “made” might be a little too innocent a word…. Concocted? Maybe “devised.” She devised us some Chinese food. It should be noted that my mom is normally an awesome cook. I love just about everything she makes, but this one time when she attempted to fix us some “Sweet & Sour Chicken,” it did not get fixed–It got broken. I can still remember struggling to chew pieces of chicken that somehow had astringent properties…. Chicken so dry it made my hands feel like they needed lotion. I marveled at how something so surrounded with an awful, wet sauce could manage to stay so dry. After making about four trips to the bathroom to spit out mouth-fulls of unswallowable chicken into the toilet, I swore off Chinese food forever. Not only Chinese food, but ALL FOOD whose origins were from Asia, as a continent capable of producing a people capable of consuming such filth was NOT to be trusted.
Then came College, with all its annoying people saying annoying things like, “What do you mean, you ‘don’t like Chinese food?’ Have you ever tried Chicken & Broccoli? Do you like chicken? Do you like broccoli? THEN YOU’LL LIKE CHICKEN & BROCCOLI!!!” and things of this sort. Finally, (after much coercion, harassment, and unwanted readings of Green Eggs & Ham) I tried a bite…. I spent the next year saying that the only kind of Chinese food I liked was Chicken & Broccoli.
But a question started eating away at my stubborn soul–like some sort of Chinese water torture drip, drip, dripping on rationality: If I was wrong about Chicken & Broccoli, what else might I be wrong about? Before I knew it, I had tried sushi. SUSHI!!! I tasted it once and said, “It’s not that bad.” The second time I had it, I was a little disappointed when it was gone. After that, I started to think about it when I drove past the Sushi place near my apartment. I began to crave it–Like a junkie. Sometimes I would drop $20-$30 on a meal. FOR MYSELF!!! To this day, it is my absolute favorite thing in the world to eat. To think of all that time I wasted not eating Sushi…. What a shame.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about a lot of things. Annoyingly passionate–Everything from “Shut up while this song is playing,” to “You’ve got to see this youtube video,” to “Try a bite of this,” to “Seriously, shut up while this song is playing.” As annoying as this can be, one of my gifts is being able to take my excitement about something and transfer that to another person. But if you think I am passionate about regular issues, that is NOTHING compared to when someone changes my mind about something.
Well…. My mind has gotten changed recently about the issue of gay marriage–Not so much my mind as my heart. I have gotten it wrong all these years…. And I can’t wait to tell you about it.
I think that most people would say that the government shouldn’t be in the business of discriminating against people. There are laws to prevent systemic discrimination, but many people work very hard to keep discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation a legal thing to do. This is almost entirely due to the belief that being gay is wrong/immoral/sinful, and I think it’s safe to say that most of the opposition (in this country, at least) to equal rights for our homosexual brothers and sisters comes from Christians (Which is strange, because we don’t take away rights from adulterers, liars, blasphemers, Sabbath-breakers, or coveters–And those are in the 10 Commandments). This fact makes me ask this question: Should followers of Jesus Christ be in the business of trying to enforce their ideas of morality on others? If you are a reader of my blog, then you probably already know that my answer to this question, and if this is your first time reading, I’ll help you out–The answer is no. The goal of evangelism is not getting enough people to make sin illegal–the goal of evangelism is a changed heart.
Speaking of which, my heart was recently changed about about the issue of a Christian’s response to homosexuality by a documentary called “For The Bible Tells Me So.” It introduces you to five Christian families who had gay kids, and the range of reactions to their kids–everything from complete acceptance and love, to complete rejection and abandonment. And it shows you the fruit of those reactions–everything from a healthy, supportive family relationship, to a life that was tragically ended by suicide…. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which parental reaction bore which fruit (The Church’s reaction to gay men and women bears the same fruit, by the way). The families in the movie really struggled with a child/spouse/sibling coming out of the closet because they had been taught their whole lives that being gay is simply a choice. One that will send the chooser to hell…. This movie is so amazing and even-handed. I can not recommend it highly enough.
Christians are usually very certain about their views on homosexuality–right up until someone they love lets them know they are gay. I have a good friend whose father recently came out of the closet. This was a really hard thing for the son to hear, as his father had spent almost his whole life as a leader in the Church, and the son had been (wrongly) taught his whole life that being gay was a special sort of sin. When he told me about it, he had had some time to work through it, and I listened as the son described what a good father his dad had always been: He was loving, and he was present, and he raised his son to love the Lord. And I was a little jealous–My dad wasn’t around when I was growing up, and I’m still muddling through what it means to be a man. Many times he was angry and violent and out of control…. If only my dad could have traded some of his own demons for something simple like being attracted to dudes.
Here’s the thing (I know, I say that a lot): The Bible is not as clear on the issue of homosexuality as we have been taught (It is seemingly WAY more clear about systemized misogyny and limiting a woman’s role in Church leadership than it is about the issue of the inherent sinfulness of being gay, but we easily chalk that up to cultural and historical differences). There are many, MANY things in the Old Testament that are described as “abominations” other than just homosexuality. The Bible has been translated over the years with a very anti-gay bias. For example, when Paul uses the word “Sodomite,” it’s translated as “homosexual,” even though the Bible says that the sin of Sodom was not homosexuality, but Ezekiel 16:49 says, “Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.” And even more, when the men from Sodom asked to send out the angels “so that we may know them” in the story of Sodom’s destruction, it was not so much about homosexuality as it was about rape.
Usually, when I want the right view on things, I check what Jesus had to say about it…. Unfortunately, Jesus never said anything about homosexuality (or, if he did, it was not written down in any of the Gospels), but we can still learn some things about this issue from his life and words.
Just like there are today, there were many big debates going on during Jesus’ time. The other Rabbis would ask Jesus questions to see which side he was on (in today’s terms, it was like trying to find out if he was liberal or conservative). The Rabbis of that time were very aware (as we should be today) that there were many things that appeared to contradict each other in scripture. For example, they might be like “Hey Jesus–Scripture says that I shouldn’t work on the Sabbath, but it also says I should help my neighbor who needs help. Let’s say my neighbor’s donkey falls in a hole on the Sabbath…. Should I help him?” (This, by the way, proves that even in Biblical times, people still had trouble with assholes) The question boils down to this: In questions of LAW versus LOVE, which one wins out? And here’s the thing: EVERY TIME JESUS IS QUESTIONED LIKE THIS, HE SIDES WITH LOVE. Every time. “Who’s my neighbor?” Love–That’s who. Not those two religious men that left the guy bleeding in the road trying to keep the law, but the dirty, sinful Samaritan who helped him. You guys have ears? Well, let them hear!
Well, I have heard! And I am giving up my right to judge someone else’s heart based on their sexual orientation. Paul writing to some freaky Romans (who were going to fertility temples and having sex with everything that moved) about sexual immorality does not inform my opinion of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of a committed, loving, monogamous relationship between two people of the same sex. I’m done with bull shit phrases like “Love the sinner, hate the sin” (especially when the “sin” in question might be in the same category as eating shellfish or wearing two types of fabric at once). What if that person’s “sin” is having both sexual organs? What if their “sin” is Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome? What if being gay is not something from which a person needs to be delivered?
Then again, maybe it is. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong (it has happened before), and the Church should be telling gay people that if they want to be Christians, they need to be straight. Maybe Christian parents should be turning their backs on their gay kids and kicking them out of their houses. Maybe the Church shouldn’t put gay people in positions of leadership. And maybe the Church shouldn’t bless the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman…. But if we get it wrong, what are we worried about? If we aren’t supposed to freely accept everyone into the Church and leave the judging up to God, are we worried that God is going to send us to Hell for getting this wrong? Is that the kind of Father to which we pray–a father who send his kids to Hell for getting the wrong interpretation? Of course, if he is, we might already be damned for allowing women to talk in Church…. This is a situation (like a neighbor’s donkey falling in a hole on the Sabbath) where Jesus-loving, Bible-believing people of good conscience have come to different conclusions. From now on, if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of love.