Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Love 'em all, and let God sort 'em out!

I believe marriage between two consenting adults should be a civil right. Gay couples who have committed to spending their lives together, who share their finances and living space, pain and joy, should be entitled to the same benefits and responsibilities as any heterosexual couple. It is not proper for a group of Christians to impose their religious convictions on a secular society. This has nothing to do with whether or not I believe being gay is a sin (a pointed question Rob Bell appears desperate to dodge), and everything to do with the separation of state and kingdom. Creating laws based on "majority Christian" values and imposing those laws on a diverse group of believers, non-believers and other-believers, is a recipe for resentment and division. Enforcing rules will not usher in God's kingdom. We do more harm than good when we treat gay people as less than. We need to love people into the kingdom, not convict them of their sins -that's God's department.

But is being gay a sin? I really wish Jesus had met a homosexual at the well, or given us a parable about this issue, but he didn't, so we are left to consider how Jesus treated other marginalized people. Who were the marginalized people in Jesus' day? Who were looked down upon, considered less than, or morally suspect? The poor, the disabled, women, children, Samaritans, adulterers, tax collectors, criminals... and in every one of these cases Jesus elevated their status. He built them up rather than tearing them down. He was radically inclusive and had harsh words for anyone who sought to dismiss, exclude or destroy God's people -even those who didn't consider themselves one of God's chosen, even those who were considered the worst sinners of his time! Jesus never once addressed the issue of homosexuality, and as such, I am inclined to believe it wasn't a pressing issue for him.

Having said that, I do not believe all sexual orientations/expressions are spiritually healthy. Gay people, like straight people, may be personally convicted about their sexual practices and God will let each and every one of us know what is right if we choose to ask and listen. In the early church eating meat sacrificed to idols was considered an abomination by some, but for others their conscience did not convict them that it was wrong. Even though we clearly read in Acts and in Revelation that it is wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols, Paul states in Ephesians that those who feel convicted to abstain from meat should not condemn those who are not convicted, who do not struggle with the issue. This may seem like a stretch for some people, but this was a big deal for the early church, and it received much more attention than homosexuality. Culturally, the early church had little to no context for two consenting adults engaging in a committed, exclusive relationship, and following Jesus.

I will admit, I could be wrong about this whole thing, but I don't think I am. Nonetheless, let me be judged as loving too much, including too many people in God's kingdom, than for dismissing, excluding or shaming. Love 'em all, and let God sort 'em out!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What I Learned About Christians Since Becoming One

Whenever I reveal to someone that I am a Christian, I immediately want to, and sometimes do, qualify that statement with an explanation of what kind of Christian I am. I am not one of those Christians -you know, the conservative, judgmental type. (My appologies to conservatives; it's my own prejudice, I know.) I think I'd prefer to tell people I am a drug addict than a Christian most days. Why is that?

I think most non-Christians think of us as weird, hypocritical, sheltered, ignorant, judgmental, arrogant, easily brainwashed and/or emotionally weak. We are dependent personalities. Baa! We believe absurd stories that people with half a brain would recognize as myth. We live in a bubble and don't see the real world.

But I wonder, is that what people really think? Or am I projecting my own insecurities?

Truthfully, from my experience in the church, well, my church anyway, I have found Christians to be stronger, more accepting, and more humble than the average non-Christian. Maybe my church family is an exception, but I have a feeling we are pretty average.

I've been on both sides of the fence, and I've seen more non-Christians look down on Christians than Christians look down on non-Christians. I don't say that to point fingers. I did it too.

However, I now know that not all Christians believe the same things (and if you are part of a church in which every question has an answer, and all hold the exact same beliefs about the Bible/heaven/hell/the nature of God/etc. you might want to check out the characteristics of cults, because even the greatest theologians of all time, even those who walked with Jesus and laid the foundation for Christianity, had differing opinions); I now know that many Christians are intelligent, critical thinkers; I now know that Christians are often more broken than they appear; I now know that most Christians experience doubt and feel absolutely no connection to God by times; I now know that it takes an enormous amount of perseverance and strength to follow the Christian path in our current culture; I now know that there are literally thousands of Christian movements, and some of these movements make other Christians just as uncomfortable as they make non-Christians. We are not homogeneous; we are not blind to the absurd among us; we are not static, unchanging people.

We are hungry for God. We experienced something that may or may not have had anything to do with the Bible or church, and that experience ignited a spark of faith in the supernatural. Each of us have our own story as to why, but following The Way of Jesus intuitively makes sense to us.

Does that mean we now have answers to life's big questions? Hardly.

Does that mean we should now be "good" people? Here's the thing, like every other human on the face of the earth, just because we know something is wrong doesn't mean we can easily stop. Non-Christians and Christians alike are guilty of judging Christians with less mercy than the average Joe. From my experience, people in the church are, on average, living healthier lives spiritually, but everyone still struggles with some sin, and some Christians struggle with pretty hardcore stuff. However, I would bet that Christians (again, on average) are more likely to recognize shortcomings and want to change them. We are often acutely aware of where we miss the mark. That's not to say there aren't assholes among us. That's a fact of life. Some people just suck, whether Christian or not. As Christians, we are called to love (care for, treat) the assholes among us, rather than ridicule or shun. My less Christian self would want to (and sometimes does) ignore or lash out.

I'm not sure where these ramblings are going, if anywhere, so I will end with this final thought. If you are a non-Christian, and you are a little intimidated around your Christian friends/relatives/neighbours because you think they are taking your inventory or judging your lifestyle, let me tell you a little secret: most Christians, like everyone else, are too caught up in their own stuff to be worried about yours. Sad, but true.