Monday, May 14, 2012

Starting Conversations--and Stopping Them

I am borrowing today's post from my good friend Sally Gary who is the fearless leader of a ministry named CenterPeace. The goal of CenterPeace is to provide a place at the table for everyone to come to know the love of Christ...a safe place. This is a post Sally wrote this week. 

I’ve ‘listened’ to a lot of the conversations on Facebook, the blogs, the editorials written in response to the North Carolina election last week. And President Obama’s endorsement of marriage rights for same-sex couples.

 I have friends on both ends of the spectrum.

 Both sides say hurtful things, sincerely believing they’re standing up for what’s right, not realizing how hurtful it is.

As a woman who experiences same-sex attraction and wrestles with reconciling faith in God and what he wants for my life in the midst of struggling with those feelings, I can tell you that this is not a black and white issue. As someone who talks with men and women and their families from all over the world who are wrestling with the same questions, I can assure you there are no easy answers.

 Perhaps we need to focus on what we really want to accomplish by those conversations.

 To convey the love of Christ.

 To create opportunities for deeper dialogue, deeper insight, deeper understanding.

Which does that more – stating our beliefs about an issue or really getting involved in the lives of men and women who are that issue? Telling you what I think or listening to the journey you’ve been on to bring you to this place in your life?

When I wrestle with these questions, what’s been most helpful to me is to have a place where I’m safe to say what I’m thinking without judgment, without reaction that causes me to shut down – to stop expressing my own feelings because I see that it’s upsetting to the other person. In order for me to really be able to sort through my own feelings, I need someone who will simply listen and love me right where I am, no matter what.

 That has helped me more than anything.

My fear is that these comments – in the absence of deep, ongoing, meaningful relationships – are divisive and serve no other purpose but to shut down opportunities for further conversation. And for building those life-altering relationships.

 Relationships that remind me of who I am.

What if, instead of spending all this time and energy fighting against something, we invested in discovering as much as we can about what’s underneath? What if we spent all our vast resources trying to learn as much as we can from the men and women who experience same-sex attraction – of listening to the struggle, the pain, the confusion, the torment within those of us who have wrestled with these feelings for a lifetime?

My heart goes out to my brothers and sisters whose stories remain unheard. Some of these men and women have embraced a gay identity, some have not. Many are still sitting in the pews of churches believing homosexuality is contrary to God’s will for their lives, but finding themselves in an utterly miserable place of being deeply attracted to someone of the same sex, and at the same time, deeply committed to God.



 Terrified of someone finding out.

 Precious souls who are faithful Christ-followers, truly desirous of living the lives of holiness they believe God has called them to, and yet, because of the shame fueled by comments like those made over the last week, they are unable to even claim same-sex attraction as a struggle. Within their families. Among their closest friends. With their ministers.

 Because they’ve heard the things we’ve said in love.

Women and men in their 60s and 70s who are still afraid to speak up.

College students at our Christian universities.

We’re in your pews. In your classes. In your social clubs. Majoring in ministry.

Because we love the Lord. And we love our church families. But we’re terrified to tell you.

Because we’ve read the comments you write on Facebook.

We listen to the things you say from the pulpit. In the van on mission trips. At the supper table.

And we’re paying close attention to how you react to the gay characters on television. It’s time to learn how to talk about homosexuality. It’s time to explore what’s underneath, instead of only paying attention to what’s most obvious. Well-intentioned, precious hearts want to make this right by making it okay – while other well-intentioned, equally precious hearts want to demonize it as the sin above sins. The latter is most obvious in its harm, but what if the former is lacking as well?

What if this really is a far more complex question than we’ve ever imagined – or been willing to adequately investigate?

What if, instead of fighting a political battle that just causes more hurt feelings and isolation, we focused all of our attention and energy to discovering the real underlying issues? What if, instead of taking a defensive posture against an ideology with which we disagreed, we sought sincerely to better understand where people are coming from?

What if we didn’t just talk about the need to do something, but really started doing it?

Meanwhile, kids are still growing up confused about who they really are. And we create graphics about marriage being between a man and a woman.

*I want to thank Sally for letting me publish this. We in the church world have a huge task of love in front of us. It's much easier to sit back and point fingers and decide where to draw lines. God loves beyond lines and barriers. He reaches beyond them...seeking, befriending, sacrificing himself. Will you?


Justin Mundie said...

Amen BST - I suppose Sally and I may come to different conclusions theologically on this issue, but I respect her and what she's doing. Anything that will stop the marginalization of people, especially young people, who experience same sex attraction (and stop the suicides and destructive life choices that result from the church's general position and rejection/shaming) is ok in my book, the marriage thing, however, shouldn't be based on our feelings about homosexuality. People are suffering emotionally and financially because of these amendments. And the church should never be at the forefront of inflicting suffering on anyone, regardless of whether or not we think a lifestyle is against the will of God.

Peace - miss you brother!

Brandon Scott Thomas said...

I am in agreement that the church should never be at the forefront of inflicting suffering. And I am also for the church spending time and energy on loving instead of legislating. If anyone thinks you can legislate someone into a relationship with Jesus, they're sadly mistaken.

I have stayed largely silent on this issue because my feelings on it are so complex. Also, I have been afraid of what I might say. I've been so angry with the posts and comments I've seen from people who claim to speak for Jesus. In fact, I just deleted about 5 paragraphs on this comment. It's SO tempting to want to jump in the fight and argue about this because I have seen first hand the hurt and pain caused by churches, church leaders, church members, etc regarding this issue. I have heard the snide remarks made at other people's expense. I have seen our discomfort take the shape of hatred...or more commonly, avoidance.

I believe Isaiah 58--the whole chapter--would be a great place to just camp for a while. It's extremely convicting and I've got a long way to go in embracing grace and serving Jesus from the inside out and laying down my life for others (white, black, purple, gay, straight, believer, atheist...) before I have any room to point fingers or sit in judgment. I'm going to go ahead and trust that God's got that part covered. He's also got the love part covered. Fully. And that's what He's called me to do. That's it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this BST. Probably about the best article/comments I have heard on the subject. Just from all that I have been through, I have a different way of thinking about how we, as the church, treat people overall. I too have been hurt by the comments on Facebook concerning this subject. Thank you for stepping up to post this and to Sally for writing it.