Sunday, March 3, 2019

How Well Are We Showing Them Love?

This post took a bit to come together but has been on my mind for a while.

On Tuesday, February 26, 2019, the United Methodist Church voted 53% to 47% for the so-called "Traditional Plan" to strengthen its ban on gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriages.  After three days of debate at their conference in St. Louis, the vote from officials and lay members around the world doubled down on current church policy, stating that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."  A rejection of a push by more progressive members to allow the decision to be left to the local church bodies.

The open question is "now what?"

A split in the church seems imminent.  "I think at this point one group will have to leave."  The division seems not only between conservative and progressive, but along geographic lines as well.  West of the Rockies and in the Northeast versus the Bible Belt.  Africa, Asia, and Russia compared to the rest of the globe.

And the split goes much further than the Methodist denomination.  Conservatives have left the Episcopal Church over gay rights, Presbyterians have split, and young evangelicals are leaving their churches over the lack of inclusion of LGBT people.  Religiously unaffiliateds are on the rise, but while mainline denominations embracing gay rights decline in membership, conservative Christian institutions are growing in power and financial resources.

The rise of this conservative movement, this solidification of a policy that has been developing for years now, brings me to the largest question I have regarding this whole controversy.

I understand the Biblical passages cited for the conservative interpretation regarding the prohibition on the "practice of homosexuality."  I also understand the caveats that are raised with those verses and the interpretation of the more progressive denominations for the support of LGBTQ rights.

The question that continues to bother me is, now with one more denomination making it clear that LGBTQ members are not desired, who is left to show the grace of Christ to members of the LGBTQ community?

Or have we closed that door entirely?  Is this the final nail?

Do we even care?

Are we going to continue to treat LGBTQ as some special category of unpardonable sin?

When do we treat them like any other person on the planet?  A sinner, just like everyone else?  And a person capable of receiving God's grace, just like anyone else?

I think I can sum up my greatest concern with an illustration from a friend's life that is all too common.  When a friend came out to his best friend, her first response was that he was going to hell.  In too many minds, we've set that up as an automatic ticket.  An issue we don't have to deal with; a group of people we can simply write off.  No need to worry about even trying to work with them.

Even under the sin interpretation, this is a flawed understanding and approach.  You can break any sexuality down into four component parts: attraction, emotion, lust, and consummation.  

Attraction, in and of itself, is not sinful.  Attraction is equivalent to temptation. Regardless of who you are attracted to (whether of the same or different sex, whether to your partner or someone else's), temptation is not sin.  It only becomes sin when dwelt upon or developed into something prohibited (like lust or consummation if improper).  

The emotion of love is not sinful either.  To love someone, any person with all your heart, is our highest calling.  Just so long as that never gets in front of our love for God.  So that the object of our love never becomes an idol.

Lust is always sinful.  There is nothing that makes lust for a person of the same sex somehow special.  Lust is lust.  It's not graded on a curve, it's pass fail.  And something we all struggle with.

Consummation can be sinful, depending on the context.  The condoned sex in the Bible that is pointed to is between man and woman in marriage only, although that is not exactly true.  Everything else is labeled sinful.  Again, it doesn't matter if it's premarital, extramarital, or homosexual, it's all labeled as sinful. We're the ones that carve it up into these special categories that are somehow more or less socially and "spiritually" acceptable.

The conservative church has gotten to the point where it considers the status of being homosexual a sin.  A status that dooms a person, so to speak, viewing all four components as sinful and problematic.

It's what allowed us in the 1980s to write off AIDS as a just punishment.  To tacitly condone hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.  For it to be heard in a conservative church in small town East Texas that a member tried to run into a couple on the sidewalk.  Just joking, of course, but not really.

It's what lets us avoid really hard issues and questions.

Like, what would our church do if a gay couple came in holding hands looking to sit in and join the service?  Or worse, how would the church react if they kissed?  Would the church turn them away?  Or chastise them?  What conditions would be placed on them coming to here the message?

How would the church react if a youth admitted to dealing with same-sex attraction?  If a deacon or elder?  Would it even matter how or whether they had acted on it?  Is the church prepared to have that conversation in any more depth than "don't"?

Even more simply and bluntly, are LGBTQ people welcome in the church in any capacity?  Or is it expected that they be "converted" before that happens?

I guess my biggest question is do we have any room for the LGBTQ community to question and search to struggle and to seek God?  Or do we simply stop them at the door?  Or worse, have we made it clearly known they shouldn't even try?

How well are we showing love to the LGBTQ community?

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."  1 Peter 4:8

If anyone is still reading, I realize this will not change anyone's opinion, but I hope it is at least an opportunity to pause and reflect. There are so many things that divide us and all too often we give in to them because they are easy. I hope we can move beyond that.

I pray there will be somewhere to go for those in the LGBTQ community who desire to seek God.   Somewhere that is open to them, somewhere that is committed to digging into life with them.

Somewhere that will step up, where we seem to be determined to abdicate.

To any members of the LGBTQ community that are reading:
I apologize for how often Christ's name has been used to marginalize or dehumanize you. We, as the Church, have squandered many opportunities to show you love and grace, to get to know you and to share in this life together. That is unacceptable.

Please forgive us; we can do better.

No comments:

Post a Comment