I am more than happy to talk about my faith (and any of the larger faith-based issues) in personal one-on-one conversations, but I very rarely do so here on my blog. And even when I do touch on a faith-based issue here, I’m usually using humor to call out something ridiculous. (But not always).
Getting into flame wars with people over faith or politics or favorite local sports teams or whatever else folks want to argue about just isn’t my battle. Over the past five years I’ve mobilized tens of thousands of people to spend their time and energy on doing good in the world, and every hour we spend yelling at people from behind a computer screen is an hour less we have to make a difference in someone’s life.
Today, however, I do want to briefly address something that I feel it’s important to say. I am a God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian, and have been ever since I was old enough to understand what these things meant. I grew up in the Evangelical church (as a collective gasp rises from the audience), riding the church bus my dad drove to pick up families from the inner city – our own neighborhood – who had no way of getting to service in the morning. Our church was diverse, around 75% black, 15% white, and 10% Hispanic. I grew up there with a pretty good example of how people from different backgrounds and viewpoints could come together to worship as a family every Sunday . . . and softball on Monday, and youth group on Wednesday, and small groups on Thursday, etc. As one does. 🙂
I feel that much of that goodwill in the church has been erased today, or at least changed drastically for the worse, especially when it comes to the way we treat our LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ. I’m not going to go into any details here, because that would take many pages, but suffice it to say that I had never been confused and ashamed by the way my Christian family acted until the last couple years. From fervent opposition to (civil!) gay marriage, to World Vision, to recent state discrimination bills, to simple church family love and acceptance, I’ve been surprised and disappointed by how hurtful and so very un-Christ-like the church has been to a select group of people.
These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head for a while, and I’ve debated whether or not to say anything about them. Even though it’s not my battle or my platform, my words could still help a little, right?
And then something happened a couple days ago that made me decide to speak up. I got this tweet, telling me that Vicky Beeching was using my “Change the World” hand as the screensaver on her phone.
I don’t know Vicky personally, and I believe we’ve only said hi once or twice before on Twitter. So I went over to her site to see what she’s about, and found her taking a very reasoned, educated, Biblically-informed position on same-sex marriage. And Christians, when I say that her argument is Biblically informed, I mean it. She’s an Oxford-educated theologian, currently getting her Ph.D. in the subject, and spent years in America as a successful Christian singer-songwriter, writing the very songs you sing in church every week. This girl churches and Bibles more than you do, so don’t try to write her off as a know-nothing liberal half-Christian.
Vicky is being very transparent about where she’s coming from, how she got there, and is trying to open up an honest conversation on the topic from anyone who wants to participate in the discussion. If you’ve been on the internet at least once in your life, you’ll understand that this is really, really tough to do in a civil manner online. And, as you would expect, she’s taking a lot of abuse for it, obviously online, but also in person. Sadly, this is pretty much par for the course. The internet brings out the worst, even in church people.
So here’s what I want to say, first to Vicky, and then to the rest of you:
Vicky – I don’t know your positions well enough to know if I agree with you on everything you say. Shoot, I don’t know my own positions well enough to know! But I can see that you’re approaching this topic with love and humility, and I have all the respect in the world for people who are brave enough to do that in a very public way. It makes you vulnerable to all manner of things that most others will never have to experience, and I just want you to know that you have my love and support.
These are important topics for the church to work through right now, and I’m happy to have people like you leading the charge to take it on. It won’t always be pretty, but I know that we need it.
The rest of you lot – (That UK phrase is for Vicky, ha – hope I used it right.) Again, fighting a religious battle is not what I’ve been put here to do, but I will say this as a Christian: We are called to love. Period, end of story. I wrote this in a previous article:
What’s the one thing that God has called us to do above all else? Here’s the answer, in Jesus’ own words, when someone asked Him what the most important commandment was (from Mark 12:30-31): ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
You have one thing to do, and you’re blowing it. I don’t see any of this happening right now. I see Christians rushing to support a polarizing cause, at the expense of real people with real hearts. It’s ugly and alienating, and only causes a greater rift in the national community. What you’re doing may not be hate, but it certainly isn’t love.
I honestly don’t understand why we’ve taken one specific group and one specific cause and turned them into Church Public Enemy Number One, leaving a path of broken believers in the wake . . . making our brothers and sisters in Christ feel like they’re coming back to an abusive relationship time and again whenever they walk through the doors on Sunday.
I listened to one of my favorite songs today, one that makes me tear up every time. It always makes me feel so small, so insignificant, so unworthy, and yet I am still embraced in the arms of our all-powerful loving Father. It always makes me ask “Who am I?”
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I’m calling.
Lord, You catch me when I’m falling.
And You’ve told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.
Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?
As I listened to the song while thinking about writing this post, the usual questions formed in my mind: Who am I to be loved by God? Who am I to be shown mercy by Him?
But also today came a new question . . . who am I to decide which of His people is to be loved and shown grace by the church, by the body of Christ? And the answer came just as easily: I am not called to decide, of course. I am simply called to love.
We are all called to love. And so that is what I will do.
So say we all.