Thursday, April 20, 2006

Priorities

Some time back I came across this article in Southern Voice about a screening of an ex-gay video in Atlanta. For the most part such gatherings (and the articles about them) are nothing out of the ordinary, but the writer made one comment that really stood out to me:

Still, showing "I Do Exist" to the eight hopeful homosexuals who attended the movie with me was false advertising. I asked another ex-gay ministry leader in attendance if this really works.

He smiled and said it is important for all people to know that they can run the race, and if even one makes the finish line, it is a great victory for God.

I don't know about him, but I care about the people who can't finish this race.


That last statement really resonated with me, because I've often wondered the same thing. What about all of those who drop out of ex-gay ministries, for whatever reason? Why does Exodus (and the church at large) care so little about them that it treats them as enemies?

I don't want to paint all ex-gay ministries with a broad brush, but even knowing that some leaders (at least at the local level) do genuinely care doesn't change the fact that those who choose not to devote their entire lives to the ex-gay path are treated by most conservative Christians as pariahs and never given another positive thought.

Getting back to the quote from the article, it reminds me of Jesus' parable about the shepherd who left his 99 sheep on the hillside to search for the one that was missing (Matt. 18:12-14). What do you suppose that shepherd would do if 99 had wandered off and only one was left in his custody? And yet the church seems to be content to parade the one around like a trophy while writing off the rest of the flock.

Of course, many conservatives would claim that they are trying to reach out to gays by throwing scripture verses in their faces and telling them how evil they are. But empty rhetoric aside, there's no real love in such an approach, and certainly nothing resembling compassion or respect for the fact that they're addressing fellow human beings. Conservatives hide behind the notion of "tough love" to justify such actions, but to call it a biblical approach takes more than a little creative interpreting.

But then, the conservative church is far more selective than it would ever admit about which biblical commands it takes seriously. And that, in turn, makes it more than a little difficult to take the conservative church seriously. Why would I accept someone as a biblical authority whose actions and lifestyle don't reflect the priorities of the One they claim to speak for?

For my part it's not the Bible I question, but those who insist that their interpretation of its contents is infallible. As I get older I find myself less and less impressed by those who can devise elaborate theological systems based on their ability to conjugate Greek verbs and cross-reference historical documents and far more interested in those whose lives and actions genuinely reflect the priorities that Christ modeled during his time on this earth, whether or not their doctrine is entirely "pure".

Talk is cheap; show me your love and your compassion through your actions, and then maybe I'll listen to what you have to say.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Wow, Eugene, absolutely.

I remember feeling strongly that sting of "failure" especially when I'd been so sure it would work for me (and had, for a time, thought it was working).

And maybe what weighed on me even further was the knowing that I would lose everything if I admitted that it wasn't working.

You write beautifully about this. Thanks.