Tuesday, September 20, 2011

pondering my gay neighbor

The repeal of DADT is official.  California schools will begin highlighting the contributions of gays and lesbians in their history curriculum.  And a "defense of marriage" amendment will be voted on in May, here in my home state of NC (in case you're wondering, I'm voting NO).

I don't know about yours, but my world is a buzz with "gay" right now.  Gay has gotten even bigger than hell (and that's saying something!)

What do I think?

I don't think the question is (or ever was) whether gay people should be allowed to get married, or whether students should learn about their contributions, or whether they should be allowed to serve in the military.  I'm convinced that the question is whether or not we will acknowledge that gay people exist (and I'm not even touching transgender, that's a completely different issue - though I'm inspired to tears by the way others have modeled grace to these children of God).

My point is singularly focused:  will we acknowledge that gay people exist? 

They are here.  They aren't going anywhere.  Gay simply is.  Don't believe it?  I wasn't sure what to believe, either.  Then I got to know some gay people.  Gracious people who let me ask them hard, personal questions.  That is the single biggest problem I see with folks who are so certain of their ideological views:  they've removed the other from the equation.  They don't intimately know or love anyone who happens to be gay.  Often, the ones they do know well are "ex-gay".  Well, I have a supposition for you.

Has it ever occurred to you that the reason you only know ex-gay people is because those who don't ex-the-gay aren't comfortable around you?  

 If one more christian tells me they know all there is to know about homosexuality because they have this one token ex-gay friend ... (sigh)

Reality is what is.  We are called to live in reality.  And gay is.  Gay people are.  Christian gay people are.  And while some will choose live a celibate life (just like some straight people do), and others will be promiscuous (as many straight people are), most hope to fall in love and live happily ever after (just like most straight people do).  Whether or not you or I can reconcile that with what we understand the Bible to teach, the fact remains:  they are.  We can legislate and amend and litigate and censor and exclude and require people to lie all day long, but in the meantime, gay people will continue to be living in this world all around us.

Which begs the question... is the gay person my neighbor?  Jesus used the Samaritan to answer the "who is my neighbor?" question for a bunch of Jews.  Samaritan and Jew might as well have been gay and straight back then.  (the answer is yes, by the way)

Love your neighbor as yourself.  That's a directive I understand.  That's a command of Jesus that my flesh butts up against every day.  There's plenty for me to sit with my chin in my hand and ponder about, but not this.  This is not a mystery.  Sin is not Love.  Love is not sin.

This gets clouded, though, when we are hung up on "but homosexuality is a sin".  I get that.  I do.

Homosexuality is supposed to be a sin.  Black and white, nothing to pray about or wonder about - no conversation, no debate.  Gay people are supposed to be God-less perverts bound for hell.  They aren't supposed to be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control

When you get to know some who unmistakably are, it can really throw you back on your heels.

When that happened to me, I got to thinking... well, the earth was supposed to be the center of the universe.  That wasn't a fun process to go through, reconciling what is with what was supposed to be.  People of God are supposed to be circumcised, but a good part of the New Testament is about how that turns out not to be the case after all.   Women aren't supposed to be gifted in ways reserved only for men, but it turns out they totally are - what fun it's been for men to figure out what to do with that one!  The list goes on... God actually seems rather fond of this pattern; Jesus sure was

I can't debate the issue, I'd totally lose.  I just know what I see.  Gay people can lust and sin just like straight people can lust and sin.  And they can Love with lay-down-my-life-for-you-committed-to-your-good-before-my-own-sacrificial-Love just like straight people can Love.  And I believe that Love comes from the same place.

I won't look at Love and call it sin.  I can't.

I don't understand (yet) how all this informs - or is informed by -  my exegesis of scripture, my theology, my doctrine.  And those are things I'd really like to have squared up.  I like answered questions a lot better than unanswered ones.  Still, I cannot allow what I don't understand to keep me from what I do, and I understand this:  if in this world I am to be like Jesus, I am to Love my neighbor.

And my gay neighbor ... is


AM said...

i hold to sexual immorality in all it's forms being Sin.
gay or straight. and i am to love my neighbor either way. very interesting post and worth sharing :).

Michelle said...

I appreciate this comment. I understand where you are coming from.
It took me a long time to publish this post because I do not with to divide myself from all my friends and loved ones who feel as you do.
Thank you.
Much love,

tracy said...

i love your honesty about the lack of certainty surrounding this. i too am there. but what is definitely clear is that we are to love. beyond that, i'm not at all sure. <3

Richard Beck said...

Let me put on my psychology hat:

Christians who say they "love everyone, even gay people" are often self-deluded. Not because they are evil or homophobic or bad people. It's just a product of social psychology. (For more, Google stuff on the Implicit Association Test, infrahumanization, and ingroup/outgroup bias and denigration.) Because the questions get harder when we ask Christians the following questions: How would you feel if your child's schoolteacher were a gay man? Would you march with gay people for equal marriage rights? Have you stood with gay people to call out playground bullying toward gay kids? And so on. In short, have you acted like a neighbor? Actively seeking the welfare of the other, despite disagreements?

The point is: Love isn't an abstraction. It's a behavior. And how many Christians have blandly said "I love everyone, even gay people" only to have their behavior tell a very different story?

In short: Never say you love gay people. Just act and let us watch.