Monday, October 31, 2005

Conditional Love

One more quote from Blue Like Jazz that I identified with:

Until this point, the majority of my friends had been Christians. In fact, nearly all of them had been Christians. I was amazed to find, outside the church, genuine affection being shared, affection that seemed, well, authentic in comparison to the sort of love I had known within the church. I was even more amazed when I realized I preferred, in fact, the company of the hippies to the company of Christians. It isn't that I didn't love my Christian friends or that they didn't love me, it was just that there was something different about my hippie friends; something, I don't know, more real, more true. I realize that is a provocative statement, but I only felt I could be myself around them, and I could not be myself with my Christian friends. My Christian communities had always had little unwritten social ethics like don't cuss and don't support Democrats and don't ask tough questions about the Bible.

Place "evangelical" in front of "Christian" and "church" and substitute "gay Christians" for "hippies," and this tracks pretty closely with my own experience. On the whole my gay Christian (and non-Christian) friends are considerably more open than my other Christian friends to listening to my doubts and questions without presuming which conclusions I'll reach if I'm truly saved.

To be fair I have several ex-gay and non-gay friends who are willing to love and support me as a person whether or not we agree on everything, but by and large I've learned that I still have to be very selective about who I open up to.

So when did it become okay for the church to be such an unsafe place? When did we become more concerned with rules and outward conformity than with loving people? I mean really loving them, not throwing scripture verses in their face and calling it "speaking the truth in love." When did driving people away from God become proof that we were following His will (since God's truth is a stumbling block and all that)?

I've heard it said that, by showing any acceptance for homosexuality, the Church would be losing its distinctiveness and becoming just like "the world." But if that's the only thing (or even the main thing) that separates us from "the world," then our faith must have been pretty shallow and indistinct to begin with.

The early church creeds give us a pretty good idea of what the essential beliefs of the Christian faith are. Not once is any mention made of sexual ethics. Does it matter what we do with our bodies? Absolutely. But to say that condemnation of all homosexual behavior is an essential Christian doctrine is to adopt a questionable set of priorities.

If one were to rank sins based on the emphasis placed on them in the Bible, idolatry, pride and economic injustice (among others) would come out well ahead of homosexuality. Yet the actions of many evangelicals suggest that battling the so-called "gay agenda" is more important than caring for the widows and orphans in their own neighborhoods.

And yes, all sin is sin in God's eyes. But that only exposes the hypocrisy that we engage in when we create our own little systems to rank which sinners are the worst. Perhaps if we focused more attention on our own sins, we'd find that we're better able to extend God's love to others and transform the church into the safe haven that it was meant to be.

7 comments:

Dwight said...

As a non-homosexual that still thinks you're saved regardless of the decision you make on this issue, I think your post is right on.

I agree with Miller's statement if you substitute the word liberal instead of hippy.

I think that your point about the creeds and what is or is not essential doctrine is paramount. If the creeds weren't fighting heresy then they were stating what one should be able to believe in to be a Christian. There is no statement about sexuality or martrydom or feeding the poor or taking care of the widows and orphans. No statement about idol meat and circumcision. No hot button topics on the time period, unless it was an issue of heresy. Apparently (using an argument from silence which is sometimes all you get) those issues weren't that important to the writers of the creed. The issues of social injustice or morality weren't at the forefront of figuring out what being a Christian meant when writing the creed. To me that is interesting to say the least.

Eric said...

Hey E,

great post. referenced you in my recent post.

gosh, i'm gonna have to dig up my Blue Like Jazz book and actually read it. I received it as a gift about a year ago and never got around to reading it. sounds likes it's relevant to this "hot zone".

Eric
Two World Collision

E said...

Dwight,

Yeah, it is telling that the creed writers avoided addressing any "hot button" issues outside of the short list that we now consider to be the bare essentials of the Christian faith.

Although homosexuality may or may not have been a significant blip on their radar at the time, there was undoubtedly a stack of other "sin" issues that they were addressing every day in their congregations - and yet they chose not to define Christianity by any of those issues.

Eric,

Blue Like Jazz is a very good book, and it never gets too heavy. I don't think you'll regret reading it.

Ash said...

Yeah, good post.

A lot of churches would say accept the sinner but not the sin. The problem therein is how do you even go about doing that? A leader of mine knows my problem, and he is clear that he thinks the practice of homosexuality is a sin, but he still loves me as much as before he found out. I have other friends that show the same love regardless of what they know about me. That is what the church should be about.

But I remember one of my commenters said that because I'm in a leader position in certain ministries, it's not the sin that the church should focus on, but rather the consequence of the practiced sin on the people that are watching you. If the sin isn't practiced, what is there to focus on?

Hebrews 12:1 talks about the great cloud of witnesses, so I can understand what he meant about having people watching you, have having the responsibility of not stumbling other Christians. It'd be easier if I was in a less prominent position I guess.

olympiada said...

Hello I came in off my friend Eric's blog. I really enjoy this post. I am a convert to the Orthodox Christian faith and finding it to be like swimming upstream.

Steve said...

Interestingly enough, you're the third person to reference Blue Like Jazz in as many days. Guess I'd better find me a copy of it...

As for same-sex marriage and doctrine, I'd encourage you to read up on Tom's blog over at PurpleScarf. Tom is a retired lawyer, civil-rights advocate, a former Catholic (religious instructor, not priest) who is passionate about God's love for gays & lesbians, regardless of what the religious right says. His presentations are reasoned, thorough and logical, yet passionate.

His partner, whom you can read over at Damien's Spot, is a former Carmelite priest who left because of Catholicism's attitude toward gays, not because of any misdeeds so typical of ex-priests. He, too, is a passionate defender of SSM.

I've just found your site, so it will be fun to catch up with your thoughts and experiences.

E said...

Steve,

Thanks for the links; I've bookmarked them.