LGBT Rights, The Church, and the Importance of Timing

It’s been a few weeks since the Supreme Court decision to make gay marriage legal across all 50 states. With this being such a huge decision, and massive change in our country, some of you might be wondering how this change has affected my life. I mean, such a wide scale court case has to have changed something in my life right? Well, let’s see… I’m still working in my summer job at a factory. I still love to eat cereal at literally any time, day or night. I’m still attracted to women, and continue to date my wonderful girlfriend Anna (Thank goodness this decision didn’t turn every American into a homosexual, whew). I’m still a very strong Christian, and am desiring to follow Jesus’ life and teachings as examples of living the best kind of life. So I guess you could say, in fact, NOTHING has changed in my life since this decision.

Since this decision, I’ve seen so many Facebook posts, Tweets, blogs, and heard all sorts of conversations about how this has drastically changed our nation, and apparently, their lives. I’ve heard a range of statements from ultra conservatives like Ted Cruz calling this, “Some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history” to “What’s next? Are people gonna be allowed to marry their dogs??” I wonder if Mr. Cruz was around during the day that a self-proclaimed White Supremacist went into a church and murdered 9 black church members participating in a bible study? To me, that day feels quite a bit darker for our nation than any  court decision. And come on people with the whole “marrying dogs” thing…let’s please remember what logical fallacies are, and try our very best not to use them.

I apologize if that last paragraph seemed like a rant to you, I guess I’m just tired and annoyed of ludicrous and illogical reactions  that seem to occur when topics like this one are discussed. Now that I have all of that bit out-of-the-way, I would like to dive into more of the heart of what this week’s blog post is actually about. As you might have figured out after my first two posts, I enjoy connecting social justice topics with personal aspects of my life experiences. I find that it is a very meaningful way to connect on more of a personal and deeper level the complex and frustrating issues that are social justice. Hopefully this particular story that I am going to share will have an impact, and cause you to maybe consider some things about your own life and the journey that you are on.

When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I remember watching a movie with my family one evening. We love to watch movies as a family together; it’s something we have always done. I don’t remember what movie we were watching, but everything else about that moment I do remember vividly. There was a particular scene in the movie where two male characters began kissing. I remember my mom gasping, “Oh my goodness” and my dad quickly fast forwarded through the scene. That was it. Nothing else. No talking with us kids about what just happened. No discussion about what we had witnessed (even though it was fairly obvious to me). Zero. Zilch. Nada.

In one moment, one not-so-subtle action, my 13-year-old teenage brain learned everything I needed to know about what it means to be a homosexual. This experience caused me to put together that homosexuality was bad, wrong, disgusting, abnormal, gross, something that shouldn’t even be witnessed, and basically any other negative connotation you could think of. My parents never discussed this with me or my siblings. I think maybe they thought if they just skipped over it fast enough we wouldn’t have to experience it.

For my middle school years and most of high school, I had very few encounters with homosexuality, and even fewer with people who identified as such. As much as truly breaks my heart to admit, I know that I held animosity and judgment towards the homosexual community. I wasn’t necessarily outright homophobic, since people in conservative Hudsonville didn’t exactly talk about these things, but I definitely was judgmental and weirded out by anyone or anything related to the LGBT community. Hudsonville is a very religious community if you’ve never visited or heard about it. One of the most religious communities in West Michigan actually. For many Christians, homosexuality is something that is either on the DL (down low) or something to be condemned harshly.

Interestingly, my judgment and animosity and weird feelings about homosexuality had nothing to do with religion. Oh, I’m sure if I was talking to someone about how I felt, I would use language like, “Well God says it’s a sin, so I think it’s wrong” or “I still love them as people, just not the sin they are committing”. Yes, this last statement is identical to the ever-classic “Love the sinner, hate the sin” that so many Christians love to use. But deep down, I was just masking my real feelings toward homosexuals through “Niceties” and “Jesus talk”. I wasn’t willing to let people know how I actually felt, and I honestly wasn’t even willing to be honest with myself about my feelings. This was an incredibly damaging viewpoint on homosexuality, and absolutely one that wasn’t God-centered. Jesus would never have thought like that. In fact, in this, I was exactly like the Pharisees who he called out for judging the speck in another’s eye while having a plank in their own.

It wasn’t until I neared the end of my high school career, and even more so when I got to Michigan State, that some of my feelings about homosexuals were brought up and challenged. My teaching class on diversity and discrimination in American society had a huge impact on learning about the oppression that the LGBT community faces daily. My heart for justice broke when I realized that I was in fact the oppressor when it came to homosexuality. And not just a passive, silent observer either. I had true animosity and discrimination in my heart. Not only was my class helpful in opening my eyes to my vies on homosexuality, but also friendships that I began to develop as well.

This, like many of these things, started slowly, growing gradually, and then it grew faster and faster. I went from knowing of gay people, to having acquaintances who were LGBT, to having wonderful and beautiful friendships with members of the LGBT community. Through talking with them about classes, sports, friends, work, and hearing personal stories of what it was like to be a member of an oppressed minority in today’s society, my heart began to evolve and change. I truly thank God for putting those people in my life, for both their friendship, as well as their impact on my views towards the LGBT community. I know that God put those people in my life for a reason. He knew that my heart wasn’t fully open to giving love and kindness to ALL people, and that was never his desire for any member of his Church. Through my relationships with these beautiful and wonderful friends, I truly have experienced the love and grace of God and it has forever changed my heart. Because at the end of the day, no matter how hard we as humans try ourselves, only God is in the business of changing and evolving hearts.

This is why when I heard the news of the Supreme Court decision, I was extremely excited. I was excited as a social justice warrior that the LGBT community was granted the right to have the same benefits of marriage in this country. I was excited as a Christian because I believe that Jesus was (and still is) always one to fight for the oppressed. He is in the business of bringing justice, love, grace, to the oppressed (and even the oppressors). And if he’s in that business, then I believe that Christians should absolutely be in that business too.

Right after the decision, I saw way too many Facebook posts about how this nation is “Going to Hell” and has “Turned its back on God”, yadda, yadda, yadda. I don’t believe that these posts are exactly loving, and definitely don’t do a good job of portraying what I believe to be God’s character. I also saw plenty of posts that went something like “I just wanted to let you know that I still love you, and God loves you, but what you’re doing is wrong.”  Now, I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing to say at all. I know these are coming from a place of desiring to show God’s love, while still not accepting what they view as a sin. I still cringed when I saw these posts because they showed, what I believe, a poor choice in timing. There is a time for everything, and there is definitely a time for the Church to discuss its stance on homosexuality, but I don’t believe that immediately after a landmark court decision that granted the LGBT community the right to get married is showing good discretion. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned it might be, this kind of stuff can cause people to view Christians as close-minded, bigots, etc.

What if instead of immediately condemning the decision, claiming an attack on religious liberty, or proclaiming our nation has forsaken God, Christians were able to first exclaim how joyous they were for the human and civil right that was just bestowed on millions of people? How crazy would that be? How unexpected would that be? Wouldn’t that cause people to pause, to say “Huh”? To be pleasantly surprised? What if in doing that, we actually showed the love of Jesus by caring for the oppressed? I believe it would definitely cause the non-Christian culture to at least take notice. Maybe some might even think, “Wow. That’s kind of a cool thing they have going on over there. Maybe I should check it out sometime.”

I believe that when Christians point the message to the Gospel, and to Jesus, instead of bickering with each other, or the rest of the world about all of these theological stances, we are in fact spreading the “Good News” that Jesus talked about. It’s really, really Good News. Not, “Well that’s sort of good news, but I don’t know about all of that other crap they keep screaming about.” It’s just Good News. God’s love and mercy that he sent his son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the entire world. That kind of unaltered, simple but powerful, sweeping Good News.

About two weeks ago, my parents texted me a picture when they were in Seattle visiting friends. The message below it said, “At the Pride Parade in Seattle”. I will admit at first that I was a little surprised. So I asked, “Did you just happen to be there when it was happening, or did you know about it and actively choose to go down there?” My dad replied, “We knew about it.” Ok. So my parents chose, on purpose, to attend a Gay Pride parade. I was very intrigued, and definitely excited to hear about their experience.

When I FaceTimed them later that day we talked more about the experience in detail. They talked about how they wanted to attend to see some of what it was like, to go outside of their comfort zone, and want to experience something they thought would be meaningful. It was amazing to hear about what they thought of it, and how they actually enjoyed some of the parade. These were my same parents who had fast-forwarded through a kissing scene between two men, and avoided talking with us about homosexuality. I shared with them how proud of them I was, for being willing to go outside of their comfort zone, and for how thankful I was for the fact that they were keeping their hearts open to the possibility of change as well.

I think that my story, as well as my parents’, is an extraordinary testament to the mysterious and wonderful ways in which God can change and shape our hearts. I know that my views towards homosexuality and seeking justice for the LGBT community are not because of me working really hard to “get better” on my own, but rather God taking an active role in changing my heart through the people in my life and my experiences. It’s a testament to God’s love. Which is why I find it very appropriate that the hashtag in support of the Supreme Court ruling was #LoveWins.

It’s true. In the end, God’s love always wins.

Always.

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