Friday, February 24, 2012

pondering a response

I recently received a very gracious email from someone who was speaking from a place of concern and love.  This person is worried that I am on dangerous ground, I and our family, both theologically and in our choice of place to worship.  I spent so much time and thought on my response - and because I know many others share this person's thoughts/feelings, only won't say so - that I wanted to post this as an open letter.  

Hey ________, 

I've been pondering how to answer this. 
First of all, YES - I know beyond any shadow of doubt that your words come from a place of love. But I'm not sure I can tell you not to be concerned, because your concern is a logical result of your theology/understanding, so it makes sense. I get that.  What I will do is ask you to realize, if you can, that I'm not going in with my mouth wide open, blindly taking in whatever theology is given there, either.  No - I don't do that with anyone.   
However, there are reasons I've landed where I have for the time being.  If there's anything I've learned on my journey, it's that theological constructs can be wrong.  As I read the New Testament, I see people getting stuff wrong right off the bat.  It's actually funny to me, to see how long this has been going on.  I wore myself out with this for some time, but I believe that I've been led by the Spirit to give up trying to figure out who's right, at least for a while. I do not see that as a worthy use of my time/energy. The message of the Spirit and what is being revealed to me from scripture is that I am to seek to KNOW one thing:  CHRIST, and I am to DO one thing: LOVE.  I could sit here and list all the passages that affirm this, but I won't do that.  I do believe the harvest is ripe for followers of Jesus committed to that sole focus.   
Now, as to the elephant in the room here, gay people - a bit more on that... I spent a couple years researching/reading, trying to figure out who's right or wrong on that.  I spent a lot of time in solitude praying Psalms like, "show me the right path and make me walk in it" and "never withhold truth from me, ever!"  This was no small issue for me.  
I came to the conclusion that it was foolhardy to wrestle with this as an abstract concept.  The only way to know anything about it was to immerse myself with real people living this reality, and so I began to do that in various ways.  In the process, I was blessed to encounter many dedicated Christian gay people who have same sex partners - some I've known since high school and reconnected with, some I've only met in the past year.  In the midst of those relationships, something happened - which is why I suppose you would think it dangerous of me to hang around with them.  I began to realize that I could not doubt that the fruit of the Spirit is alive and flourishing in their lives, that they are convicted of sin just as I am, that they repent of it, that they hunger and thirst after righteousness, that they dig into the scripture just as I do.  They answer my questions with grace and humility, more than I can say I've always shown to them.  More by far, actually. 
It doesn't make any logical sense to me, that someone who is basically flipping God off in such a significant area, who lives in unrepentant blatant sin, could carry the fragrance of Christ so beautifully in their life.  And so the only conclusion I can come to is that my idea of sin is flawed.  That it's not a specific behavior but a heart motive, and so, sex and partnership is beautiful or ugly - righteous or sinful - based on the heart intent of the person, based on the SPIRIT (of good or of evil), and that no "law" can adequately capture that, which is one reason why we are repeatedly told the law was inadequate.  Jesus seems to capture this essence often, in His teaching, does He not?  
Now, you can quote me the "black and white" passages from both the Old and New Testament and I can quote for you all the scriptures that both the Catholic Church and people like Martin Luther and John Calvin used to dismiss Copernicus.  You can tell me about Adam and Eve and I can tell you that the one thing God called "not good" was for man to be alone, so He created a helpmeet, a suitable partner, so how can I in good conscience ever speak for God by imposing lifelong alone-ness on another person?  We'd go round and round and nothing would change except that we might understand one another better and, I hope, respect each other even more. 
My point is I'm not sure I'm right on this topic.  What I am sure of, what I've learned in almost 40 years (not quite as long as you, ha ha) is that either way, I could be wrong.  And that is enough reason for me to fall over into love, rather than knowledge.  If I'm to err, let me err on the side of grace and mercy.  I know no other way to respond.   In all my relationships, I strive to treat people as I want to be treated, to Love people as they discover and live out their role in God's story.  That hasn't changed ... I just see that as a more open-ended statement than you do, right now.   
I hope this helps relieve some of your concern.  And I'm not sure I've expressed all this as well as I'd like, in fact I'm sure I haven't.  Certainly there are other theological issues you have in mind but in my experience, but this is the one that causes people the most angst - even more so than the whole hell question - which is frankly quite interesting to me, why that is... 
I look forward to more from you, if and when you can or care to. 
Much love always,


Allison said...

Your letter brings tears to my eyes. This is something I have struggled with for years and it is part of the reason why I gave up on church for a long time. I don't think I could have ever expressed my mutual feelings in any better way than you have. I am so glad you chose to share this.

Allison Schleuger

Megandy said...

wow. first of all, thank you for sharing this letter publicly. your transparency and honesty show that you are brave and genuine. secondly, thank you for wrestling with such a difficult issue. i came from what i would guess to be a similar upbringing to yours (along the lines of Liberty University) and had to wrestle with the gay issue because i myself am gay. i've since come out as a gay person and as a person of faith. i've reconciled my spirituality with my sexuality, and i've reconciled those two things with god. but, not many people who aren't gay seem to take this struggle personally. they don't seem to take the time to really consider what it would mean to not believe a theology that condemns gay people. you give an example that i hope will shine a light on a path that many others will follow.