Wouldn’t it be great if Christianity were represented by people who care about the poor, about treating all people with dignity and respect, about peace and love? Instead, the most visible voices this week are those who seem to think that the cornerstone of their faith relies on being mean to gay people. I know perfectly well that most Christian people are not that way. Maybe it’s time for a new movement, in which people of faith speak out as loudly against other problems in society.
So here we go: #notallxtians*
A big reason that some wings of modern American Christianity are so vocal about gay marriage is that the issue defines an “other” to hate, without threatening (most of) their own flock. Can we imagine Pat Robertson blaming a natural disaster on sloth? Creflo Dollar thundering about greed? Mike Huckabee putting his weight loss in context of “repenting of his gluttony” ? No, because any preacher who too vocally condemns sloth, greed, and gluttony will soon find himself without a congregation. Further, given the toxic culture of closeted self-hatred, it’s not surprising that we find a good number of virulently homophobic men who get outed as having had sex with other men. (I hesitate to use the word “relationship” in that context.) Even hetero sexual sins are glossed over for fear of alienating congregants. Yes, the Roman Catholic Church condemns divorce, but it’s fairly common to get an “annulment“, at least if you are influential enough.
The Christian writer C.S. Lewis, a bachelor until fairly late in his life, thought homosexual behavior was wrong as did most of the culture in which he lived. But he famously refused to condemn it, because he had not been tempted by it. I found an item in which Lewis writes about marriage law that might apply.
Thus my plea: People of faith, work to remind the rest of us that not all Christians are anti-gay bigots. Because I used to go to a “reconciling” Methodist church, I know that many are welcoming. And yet, ironically, that same church is forbidden (by its national organization) to perform gay weddings although they have been legal in Minnesota for almost two years. So the message is, “we love you, we welcome you, we invite you to participate in the life of our congregation, except oops sorry you can’t do the single most meaningful act anybody does in a church.”. And yes, there is tension between the local congregations and the national organization, which clearly bans gay weddings. So yeah, go get married somewhere else and then come on back.
So, as a cisgender male ex-Christian, why do I even care? Because I don’t want to see anybody get hated on. Because I think that, for people who do find meaning and comfort in their religion, it’s a disservice to them for the media voices of “Christianity” to claim you have to hate gays as a central element of the faith. Because if a church defines itself that way, it has no appeal to non-haters.
Just as many commentators want moderate Muslims to speak out against ISIS, extremism, and terrorism, can moderate Christians please speak up and say, “Your hatred is not my hatred. You are presenting a distorted view of this great religion, and you are driving people away. Start looking for a millstone.”
And for those people who do think that keeping gays from marrying is central to their faith, I have to say, “Really? Central to the faith, huh?” No one is saying you personally have to marry a gay person, or even perform a ceremony in your church. (Yes, I know there’s a tension with the reconciling movement mentioned above. But at least the reconciling churches are trying to change the canonical rules.)
What we are saying is that condemning someone else’s relationship because you think it’s icky is not OK. Maybe you think it’s icky for a black to marry a white. But you know perfectly well that if you told an interracial couple to take their business elsewhere you’d be committing an illegal act of discrimination. Would you refuse to serve a tattooed person because of their deliberate choice to violate Leviticus 19:28? Not just disapprove, but say, “No, if I were to sell you this cake it would mean I tolerate tattoos, and I don’t, so go away.” Do you picket farmers that practice crop rotation or breed hybrid cows? As far as I know, the only New Testament items that repealed an Old Testament commandment were (1) Peter’s dream in Acts 10, which conveniently allowed the omnivorous Romans to maintain their diet, and (2) circumcision, another church-broadening concession. “Sure, we are glad you want to join our church. Just one thing, drop your pants and come over here”…
And guess what? You aren’t being persecuted for your faith. You aren’t even being condemned for your faith. You’re being condemned for being a bigoted ass. Does your faith make you a bigot? Is that a good witness to the world?
So, if you want to live out a meaningful faith that inspires and enlightens everyone, live it like Jimmy Carter who has devoted his post-presidential years to helping the poor. Live it like Pope Francis, who ties faith to caring for the poor and the environment. Let your goodness, not your prejudices, show the world your faith.
Better yet, just be kind, respect everybody. And if someone says, “You seem like a really kind and together person. What helps you be that way?” Then you have an opportunity for witness. Because you’d probably prefer that to the witness of being a bigoted ass.
*I hope that my 2-meter friend, a certain gingerish Canadian, won’t misread this to say that only short people are welcome in church.