Friday, June 08, 2007

Growth

Slowly but surely, evangelicals are shedding the fundamentalistic baggage that has so heavily colored (and poisoned) American Christianity for the better part of the last century. The most recent signs of that progress:

1. Jim Wallis. I may not always agree with his political views, but I respect what he has to say. Key quote:

But I've not found that. My gay friends are also friends with my family. And they're glad that we have a healthy heterosexual relationship and a healthy relationship with our kids. But they want to be respected too — their rights, their relationships — and not be scapegoated for things that have nothing to do with them.

I had this conversation with Focus on the Family, and I said I agree with you that family breakdown is a huge crisis, a serious crisis. And I don't think the Left talks about that enough. My neighborhood is eighty percent single parent families. You can't overcome poverty with that, with eighty percent single parent families. But how do we reweave the bonds of marriage, family, extended family, and community, to put our arms around the kids? And it's not just in poor neighborhoods. Kids are falling through the cracks of fractured family in all classes and neighborhoods. So I said to them, I want to rebuild family life and relationships, but explain to me how gay and lesbian people are the ones responsible for all that? which is what their fund-raising strategy suggests. And after about an hour and a half they conceded the point. They said, Okay Jim, we concede that family breakdown is caused much more by heterosexual dysfunction than by homosexuals. But then they said, We can't vouch for our fundraising department, which says a lot, I think.

Not that it tells us anything we didn't already know about Focus on the Family, but it's nice to have someone with evangelical credentials finally point it out.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

2. David Scholer. I'd never heard of him before reading this article, which appears to be my loss. He sounds like somebody who could be a positive influence on those (at Focus on the Family and elsewhere) for whom "compassion" means wrapping their condescension in a layer of velvet. Key quote:

Students will often hear him say that a sign of maturity is to be able to "live with ambiguity."

As he describes it, he tells each class something like this:

"People who think they have all the answers to all of life's questions are fake. You have no right to oppose women in ministry until you have made a friend who is called to ministry and you've listened to her story. You have no right to make a statement about homosexuality until you have made friends with a Christian homosexual person. The conclusion you draw is another issue."

Hat tip: Of Course, I Could Be Wrong

Neither article actually states what either of these men believe about gay relationships from a theological standpoint, but that's secondary to the impression I get that both of them would treat me with respect - an impression I've rarely gotten from anyone at Exodus or Focus on the Family, much less from any of their political allies.

A healthy friendship can thrive without conformity of opinion, but it can't last long without mutual respect - and unfortunately too many evangelicals have been taught that those who disagree with them on those issues deemed important by their churches are not worthy of their respect.

That's beginning to change, but it's an agonizingly slow process at times.

3 comments:

Steve F. said...

The age of miracles is not yet past...

BentonQuest said...

This may be off topic and if so, I apologize: The comments about family tend to get me thinking. Are we placing so much attention on "the children" that we forget that it takes stable parental relationships to make this happen? Wouldn't the best way to save "the children" be to empower the parents, whatever form that parenting may take.

Sorry, off topic.

Justin Ray said...

I think we will continue to see the taming down of radically "evangelical" sects as we continue through the information age. Isolationist views are dependent on isolationist situations, and those are becoming harder and harder to find in the U.S.

My parents have still never gotten to actually meet and get to know a real-life gay person, but I believe that when reality forces that situation on them--into reconciling their beliefs with that new circumstance--they will do the right thing.