As expected, my recent post about the Duck Dynasty issue has had tons of readers, a lot of Facebook shares, and sparked incredible debate/dialogue, especially where it appeared on Facebook. If you do not follow my writer page there, I hope you will sign on and join in the conversation! The post below is an edited version of something I just posted on Facebook that I think stands alone as a unique statement on my views not only of homosexuality, but -- more important -- of the relationship between God and all of us. Note: All scripture links were added after I finished the post, not as I wrote it. My worldview is deeply rooted in the Bible's ancient wisdom, and I wanted to provide these links for all who are interested.
I have gone from thinking about this issue of God and gays theologically to thinking about it relationally (though I think the best theological thinking IS relational thinking). If one of my daughters announced she was gay, it would change NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL. I certainly would not hope for her salvation, at least not any more than anyone else’s, because I believe that if I love my daughters so deeply, God must love them infinitely more, and since my daughters are safe in my care, they must be infinitely safer in God’s. I think the reason Jesus commanded love is precisely because of the way loves biases us so strongly in favor of people, puts us so firmly in their corner and on their side, no matter what.
When I do think of this issue theologically, I see it as something that is evolving culturally, and that that is by no means a bad thing. The Bible pretty much endorses slavery, and for years many used scripture to resist racial equality, but at some point the church began to understand that there simply is no good argument in favor of this terrible thing, regardless of what the Bible seemed to be saying. Yes, even in the face of the Bible’s seeming endorsement of slavery, we can confidently pronounce it a great evil — indeed one of the greatest, because it so fundamentally stands against the spirit of what it means to be human. In the same way, the church will view homosexuality differently in the years to come, and that has already begun. I realize this statement will inflame some people, but anyone who cannot see this is simply not fairly considering past history, current events, and how we know things like this march forward, with the conservative faction dragging their feet but eventually coming along nonetheless.
This simply is the road the church is on and there is no stemming that tide. I say this despite the fact that in some ways my own faith tradition is trying to do exactly that.
Conservatives fight it and fear it, but I welcome it. This is possible because I don’t look at scripture as a list of things to do and not do, things that are good and bad, etc., but as a statement about the availability of God to humanity and how to stand in the stream of God’s mercy and grace. It’s not even about approving or not approving of things — it’s about accepting what is. At Christmas time, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, and the Apostle John records, “the light shines, and the darkness cannot extinguish it.” Both light and darkness are realities. One does not and, for now, cannot cancel out the other. Light and darkness are in us all. We are all in need of redemption, of heart change, on a moment by moment basis. When the Apostle Paul makes lists of people who cannot inherent the kingdom of heaven, remember, he even includes those who disobey their parents! The point is, none of us qualify. As Jesus says, “With man it is impossible to enter the Kingdom, but with God all things are possible.”
We’re all a mix of good and evil, light and darkness. Jesus even made clear in his parable of the wheat and tares that it is often impossible to separate one from the other. All we can do is learn to see as clearly as possible, and trust that God is active in this world and will sort everything out for us with his own incomprehensible “bias” toward all of us that comes only from love. What we constantly fail to see is that we ourselves, every one of us, are the recipients of that very bias. We are, as Frederick Buechner says, “Under the mercy.” God loves us all that way. That is our only hope — for me, for you, for Aaron, for Nicole, for Phil Robertson and his family, for all of humanity. It is the great equalizer that we all stand in need of God’s mercy. And, rather contrary to some traditional evangelical teachings, no one gets to “accept” God’s mercy and then just be on “God’s side” for the rest of their lives, able to point out the sins and failures of everybody else. We all have that fatal plank in our eye that keeps us continually wanting to try to remove the specks in the eyes of others. So the point of knowing God is whether we realize that we stand in need of God’s mercy at every moment, as people who are both blessed and broken.
This is the gospel (“good news”) that is truly good news — that unites, that helps us see both our need for God and the amazing, beautiful fact that God has already supplied what we need.
All three of my girls, like all humanity, are both blessed and broken in their own unique ways. As a loving father, I do not celebrate their blessedness and condemn their brokenness, for it is that very mix that makes them what they are. Instead I love them as they are and pray that somehow, through the seemingly inconsequential free gift of my love towards them, their brokenness will gradually be healed (a better Christian term is “redeemed“). Further, I don’t even presume to believe I know in what ways it needs to be healed. Perhaps in some ways their brokenness IS their blessing, and vice versa. I know with my MS that is true. I cannot say, “I’m healthy today and that is good, and if I am sick tomorrow that is bad.” All of my life, whether I am sick or healthy, is an opportunity for me to live, learn, and grow in love and grace towards myself and others, to be present and available both to receive and transmit the gracious presence of God.
In summary, and please don’t hear this personally or critically, as I say it with the greatest love for you and the church, I believe the church has taught us rules, systems, methods, and processes (much of which was necessary), but not how to understand the world relationally. We do this intuitively with our own families, but Jesus, as well as all great spiritual teachers in all traditions, points us toward universal love, and boy has Western Christianity ever missed that. As long as I see gay people or anyone else as anything other than my very own brothers and sisters, my very own children, I will hold them at a distance and make pronouncements about them and their lives, and — further — I can do this ONLY when I hold people at a distance. The moment I let go of my need to pronounce and make judgments, and allow myself to just love without condition (as God does), I will simply be incapable of living anymore as if people are math and I can love what I think is good in them and hate what I think is is evil in them. It is then that I can begin to realize that even my perceptions of what is good and evil are tainted by hidden wells of evil in me. And in the seemingly worst people, there may be hidden dimensions of love and truth that have been planted in their lives but have yet to shoot above ground so that they or anyone else can see them.
This great unknowing is the basis for humility, and — in that strange paradox Jesus talked about all the time — humility is the only basis for really being able to know much of anything that matters.
We are all without the knowledge we need. We are all deeply wrong, I’m sure, on things that matter very much, and we are all under the the mercy of God. I have chosen to believe that that is a completely safe place to be.
Three Things to Do in Response to this Post
1. Would you be willing to forward this post to as many of your friends as possible? I know this post won’t “fix” or “solve” anything, but I sure do believe we need more words like this out there in the ether.
2. Would you — personally — consider subscribing to this blog? I have so much more healing stuff I want to tell you, and changing the world only happens one person at a time. If you’re interested, you can subscribe here.
3. Would you leave a comment? I want to hear your journey and your reflections on my reflections.