I have to admit: a perplexed well of emotions concerning the continued debate over the Indiana RFLA law. On the one hand I do not believe the government has the right to tell a person how their religious life should be lived. On the other, I also believe that all persons are created in the image of God and deserve the respect and dignity that entails.
While I applauded Clinton signing the initial RFLA Act into play for all federal concerns. I do not think a Muslim should be fired for wearing a veil. They sould be able to practice their faith even if it offends our Western sensibilities about clothing for women. I do not think a Military Chaplain should be punished for holding a religious service comparable to their standards. They should be able to practice their faith even if it means saying “Jesus is Lord,” a statement offensive to Jews and Muslims.
I have been and continue to hold concerns about the narrative advanced by many Christians (including it must be said, my own diocese- disclaimer, here in this post I am speaking for myself and not my Bishop or fellow Chaplains) that we are in a culture war. It is not that I don’t believe there is a war on, the Bible plainly speaks to this. Yet I believe our enemies are not flesh and blood. I believe that those persons often portrayed as enemies of the faith are not so much enemies as people needing my empathy and support- not my fear and anger. I have said it time and again- Obama and the Democrats are not my enemy; nor are members of the LGBT community. They do not deserve my scorn and ridicule, they desire my love- whether or not I agree with them about how they are to live out the identities they hold.
Both parties are trying to live out their best lives. Both are trying to be true to the identities they hold. The LGBT community did not ask for the attractions they hold; they have sought to live out their lives honestly and completely. They really don’t want their Evangelical friends to go against their faith (most of them anyway); but they do want to be loved and accepted for who they are. They see sin the lives of others that are dealt with by grace and long for the same treatment. The Evangelical community did not ask for the teachings of scripture that they hold; they have sought to live out these teachings to the best of their abilities. They do not hate their LGBT friends (most of them anyway). They want their friends to live happy, healthy lives and believe that they are helping their friends do this.
This makes for a sad and frustrating confrontation. Both are trying to be good. Both are misunderstanding the other. Both could handle themselves better. Both could apply a little more grace to their lives. In saying this I have just offended both parties. I know this, and I am sorry. If I sound like a Southerner discussing race in 1950, I am sorry. This is not my desire. Yet here we stand.
The LGBT community will say they are who they are and should not be discriminated against for this. I agree. The Church- State separation works such that the State is protected from the Church. Both of us ought to be able to live together without one of us being treated as second-hand citizens. We as Christians ought to be grace-filled and while we should be able to live our lives, we also ought to be able to understand that others may not choose the same things. As Christians we can live with purpose, and as Americans we can live and let live- not trying to control others lives as well. Of course I would expect that the LGBT community might ought to practice the same grace they are asking for. If we agree to let you hold the same civil rights as us; perhaps you can allow us to hold to our faith. If you want religion, you are free to find a faith and church that suits you; but allow us to have a church that suits us.
Now again you are going to say that civil liberties trump religious faith. And you are right. But I ask you if we cede your space in America and promise to stop complaining about civil unions; could you allow us to serve communion to who we choose to serve communion to?
The Evangelical community will say that they are being forced to follow along with actions that belay their faith. They will say that if they do not approve of something, they should not be forced to be a part of it. I think you are right. You should not have to perform a religious ceremony that they think is harmful to others. You should be able to practice your faith free of intervention. But what would live and let live mean for us? If we are to make a compromise and cede space in the public arena to the LGBT community, should we not expect the LGBT community to provide us some space in the religious world. We might ask our friends to find churches where they can be who they are; and allow us churches to be who we are.
Speaking to my Evangelical friends, I must ask that you ask how you can show a bit more grace to your LGBT friends. Stop complaining about them and stop taking about how the LGBT community is destroying marriage. The truth is that we were destroying marriage far before the LGBT movement. The LGBT community is full of sinners in need of grace and forgiveness- in their zeal to acheive freedom and respect, perhaps they demand too much from us. But what if we stop treating them as enemies? What if we stop comparing them with Hitler and all things evil? What if we step back from the ring and choose another fight, another day? What if we as Americans allow them room to be in America?
Speaking to my LGBT friends, I must ask you to show a bit more grace to your Evangelical friends. Stop complaining about them, and stop talking about how they are destroying America. Choose to understand that they honestly believe that they have your best interest at heart. The Evangelical community, too, is full of sinners in need of grace and forgiveness. In their zeal they have said unkind words and caused much hurt. For this we ask forgiveness. But what if you stop treating us as enemies? What if you say “we understand and will give you space to practice your faith.”
As a child my mom would often separate my sister and I and send us to separate corners of the house. If we could not play together; then perhaps it was time to play apart from one another. Perhaps what we need is just such a reset.
Let the LGBT community have their space in the civil world (they are public people and deserve free space in public- by this I mean business and government). Let them experience all the benefits of being American. Let them live their lives, and choose to support those churches and businesses that support them. The market can sort out the rest.
Let the Evangelical church have their space in the religious community. Let them marry who they will and serve communion to who they will (they are a private institution and deserve a chance to be one). Let them live their lives. The God of all will sort out the rest.
This is a horrible post. I am sure that my Liberal friends are mad at me as our my Conservative friends. That is the adult world of compromise in which we live. Sometimes we have to make agreements and live them out imperfectly. Sometimes what seems like injustice to one; seems just to another. Sometimes we have to be realistic and deal with imperfect unions.
Once again, I am quite aware what I sound like. I am sorry. I wish this was a black and white issue in which I could justify one clear position and scream at my opponent. I sound like a closet segregationist. I sound like a closet homophobe. I sound like a heretic. Perhaps I am all of these, and perhaps I need your grace and forgiveness for writing this post. Perhaps I am wrong. But if I am, please see that I am wrong based on pure motives (mostly pure, somewhat pure, who knows). I long to love and accept my LGBT brothers and sisters for who they are. I long to meet them with open arms. I just can’t go all the way with you. I cannot in good conscience offer a religious ceremony that I believe belongs to a man and a woman alone. I cannot offer the sacraments to someone who is actively outside the prohibitions of scripture
(Granted I believe there is a difference between desire and action, and am willing to serve a celibate. For the record as an unmarried man this applies to me as well. Were I actively having sex with women not my wife, I would expect my Bishop to refuse the sacraments from me).
I am deeply sorry; but I can love you regardless of this. I can treat you with respect and dignity. I am willing to cheer you on and love you; yet…. If however my refusal to offer the sacraments means no relationship, I am saddened by this, but I understand.
I love my Evangelical brothers and sisters and long to meet you with open arms. Yet I can’t go all the way with you. I cannot be a culture warrior. It is not in me. I just want to love people and provide a place where people can meet God. I would rather expend my energy fighting for the poor; than fighting the man. I am deeply sorry. If this means we cannot be in communion, I am saddened but understand.
I cannot choose how you respond; but I can say “I love you and I see you and I know you are trying. Let’s try to be better together.”