Thanks Katie for your post “’the homosexual lifestyle’ – a rhetoric of bigotry”. It is a perspective that needs to be heard and continues to challenge my use of language surrounding the LGBT community. Your article prompted me to think through some of the complexities of this issue and other divisive issues that tend to polarize the church while attempting, as you wrote, to avoid harmful stereotypes. This post is hopefully less of a commentary about homosexuality, but rather an attempt to use this topic to examine how the church addresses these divisive issues.
A quick background on where I’m coming from. I’m a white straight male who has grown up in a church that’s always taught marriage is between a male and female, and sex is to be reserved for marriage (which rules out sex with the same gender). The attempt of this post is not to defend this perspective, but an attempt to shed light on some of the complexities facing someone with my upbringing, who is attempting to figure out: what would Jesus do (sorry for the cliché) with a topic like homosexuality.
I have been in enough church circles and heard demeaning, hateful “rhetoric of bigotry” aimed at homosexuals. I’m extremely uncomfortable in these situations and have called people on using that language because it is contrary to how I understand the God of love, as I understand him/her.
On the other hand, I’m also uncomfortable, personally, endorsing sexual intercourse outside of marriage and am not sure about this same sex marriage thing. I recognize this discomfort has a lot to do with my upbringing, which affects my reading of scripture, how I value scripture, and understanding of God’s “intentions”. I think I am mature enough in my faith to recognize how much upbringing affects my approach to scripture and that I can’t comprehend God’s intentions, much less claim to speak for him/her.
As a straight male, I don’t claim to be able to understand homosexuality, but let me attempt to explain some of the complexities using experiences I do understand. The church body, as I understand it, is a group of broken individuals who are all attempting to follow the example of Jesus. As a group, we come together, and say, for example, “As followers of Jesus, we think it is best to reserve sex for marriage.” So as members of this group, we attempt to hold each other accountable to that standard. As a 25 year old dating non-married person, not having sex is a difficult standard, but I hold to that, because I think there is value to standard (which I won’t go into here).
Now it gets tricky how to deal with members who break that standard in our community, but there is this idea of to truly love this person, we must approach them in love about correcting what some would label “sin” and maintain that value that we hold as a community.
We should NOT attempt to force these standards on those who aren’t trying to follow this same Jesus guy, but it gets REALLY tricky when we run into people who are following this same Jesus, but do NOT hold the same standard that the group has valued.
As a community, we should NOT attempt to force these standards on those who aren’t trying to follow this same Jesus guy, but it gets REALLY tricky when we run into people who are following this same Jesus, but do NOT hold the same standard that the group has valued (name your issue: pre-marital sex, war, abortion, divinity of Jesus, alcohol, not oppressing people, rock music, women in ministry, and homosexuality). Our choice is either to say,” we agree to disagree, you can still be in this community.” Or “This standard is so fundamental to my understanding of what it means to follow this Jesus guy, that I can’t recognize you as a member of the same community I am part of.”
Premarital sex and same-sex marriage, for me, falls in the “agree to disagree category”. I think someone who is having sex outside of marriage or is in a same sex marriage can be just as good follower of Christ as me. The complexity therefore is that I am a part of a church community that discourages both. Unfortunately we have greatly erred in our approach to these issues and have attempted to IMPOSE these standards in way that is both hateful and discriminatory.
So here I stand, extremely uncomfortable at how church has hatefully approached homosexuality, but not willing to wholeheartedly endorse it. This may be the age old question but I’m curious to hear from others, what is the most effective way to relate with other followers of Christ on issues we don’t agree upon? Katie has done an excellent job of pointing out that the church has failed in this regard. Where do you draw the line on fundamental dogma or decide to agree to disagree on doctrine?