This post covers topics I’ve thought about for a long time. It references faith and politics and personal tendencies. It rambles here and there, but I know its importance (at least to me) is not lost in that. I’ve been working on this particular post since January 21 – Inauguration/MLK Day. Walk with me for a few paragraphs, will you?
I’ll start here: I’m southern. I loved growing up in my small town, and – though I like to travel – I’m not sure I could ever move above the Mason Dixon line. Harsh winters aren’t my thing.
You don’t have to tell me the connotations that go along with with word “southern,” either. Some qualifiers that come to mind are: gun-toting, conservative, religious, unintelligent, and polite. Many of those assumptions aren’t true; at least not for everyone. We, of course, are as diverse as any people-group.
I say all that to draw attention to one word: polite. In the south, politeness is a virtue. If you sling a verbal barb, you must follow it with “bless her/his heart,” lest you be thought rude. (I know it doesn’t make sense.) You shouldn’t speak out of turn. I never want to cause offense to anyone. Don’t get me wrong – I love the general friendliness of my region of the country. On a personal level, though, I’ve realized that I have a problem with politeness.
Hi, my name is Lindsey, and I have a problem with politeness.
I’m polite to a fault. I’ve lived here so long, there’s really no way to know if it’s nature or nurture that’s made me this way. A high-functioning introvert, I’d probably behave similarly no matter where I came from or where I went. Call it politeness, call it introversion, call it fear of conflict, call it whatever you want; I tend to maintain a public silence on controversial issues. I’m trying to change that.
Before I get into the meat of this, I need to give credit where it’s due. This particular post was inspired by my friend Sophia. She recently spoke in a chapel service and referenced a quotation by Martin Luther King, Jr., from his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
That stung. I’m not saying I’m a good person, but I know I can be a silent person. About issues that matter. And that’s appalling.
Another function in this equation, though, is my general inclination to shy away from politics (save for my recent addiction to The West Wing). Polarization and conflict and games are all things I tend to avoid. It wasn’t until President Obama came along that I felt any real passion for election results and the hope of change. Though the last four years haven’t been perfect, I felt that same twinge of hope at a particular point in his 2013 Inaugural Address.
“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
Politically, socially and personally, President Obama’s words are one of my great desires for our country. Why?
First, I don’t believe the government should be able to tell people they cannot wed. It is politicizing a private matter – an agreement between two people to try and live together and make a life as best they can. Though I’m a person of faith, I have real problems with the lack of separation between church and state apparent in the way certain laws are approached. Should we, as people of faith, incorporate personal religious beliefs into every aspect of our lives? Perhaps. In the same vein, this does not mean we should attempt to incorporate personal religious beliefs into aspects of the lives of those who believe differently. I tend to take a somewhat libertarian view on this point.
Religiously, things get grayer, but I’ve always been pretty comfortable with gray. I’m not a Biblical literalist. As with issues of slavery, etc. in the Bible, I believe historical context must be considered alongside passages that, at least to modern eyes and in modern languages, seem to condemn homosexuality as an abomination. Honestly, the This I Know Bible study helped me learn to contextualize and defend much of what I already felt to be true. Check it out for scholarly research and more eloquently stated opinions than my own. Just this week, a particular sentence in a blog post by Rachel Held Evans really resonated with how I feel on the matter. Hopefully she’ll forgive my out-of-context use of it. (Check out her whole post/blog sometime.)
“What sort of God would call himself love and then ask that I betray everything I know in my bones to be love in order to worship him?”
I believe that the God I believe in would not abandon my homosexual friends, just because they happen to be so, anymore than He would abandon the heterosexual me, just because I happen to be so. Nor would He ask me to abandon them. As Wendell Berry recently said, in an article tackling homosexual marriage from political and religious aspects,
“Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness – as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies or any other group different from ourselves.“
Whether you agree with my religious perspective or not, let us stop the refusal to kindness.
From a common sense perspective, I would ask those opposed to LGBTQ rights the following question: How does this issue affect you personally? Will allowing someone to live as he or she was born to – with full rights and protection – really affect anything about your life? Does granting someone else the opportunity to publicly commit to another person cheapen your own love/marriage or take away your own rights in any way? I personally cannot see how it does. I know I’m simplifying, but sometimes simple works.
The final piece to this bolder-than-usual post of mine is my personal perspective on the matter. I have several very close friends who are LGBTQ. I want to be able to see them live openly, to love fully – in marriage, if they choose. I don’t want the law or the church to try and tell them they are lesser because of who they love. The following is a portion of a statement I wrote for my church’s Reconciling Committee. (I feel weird quoting myself, but I’ll do it for format’s sake.)
“I’ve heard stories over and over about how minds change when abstract stories become personal. For me, that person didn’t so much change my mind, but provided a catalyst to care more deeply about injustice. Since that time – through that friend and others – I’ve witnessed a friend coming out to a less-than-supportive family. I’ve seen the very real struggle between self-realization and faith – from shame to acceptance. I have watched men fall in love with men; women fall in love with women. I have seen friends transform from stifled gray to full color as they learned to embrace every aspect of themselves. Other friends have remained closeted – to keep jobs, family or just to stay under society’s radar. It wasn’t until I made meaningful friendships of my own with gay and lesbian men and women that I understood the true importance of standing up for the rights of my friends, especially those who cannot risk speaking out on their own.
I could make arguments about how I believe God’s command to love our neighbor supports full inclusion in the life of the church. I could point to John Wesley’s simple rules for reasoning. I could say that I don’t believe straight people have a monopoly on love, let alone God’s love. When it comes down to it, though, the greatest evidence I have for reconciling is the people I know. Some of the best friends I have are gay and lesbian men and women, not because they are gay, but because they are kind, caring, spiritual, and loving individuals.”
My neighborhood church is not officially Reconciling, but there is beauty and hope in this conversation/struggle. Simply belonging to a congregation of people willing to explore and question and speak together means so much to me. It is a stark contrast to the churches I experienced growing up.
I think I’ve reached the end, for now. To travel full circle, I know intellectually that a lack of silence and lack of politeness are not mutually exclusive. Thus, this is merely my small attempt at breaking my silence on an issue I care about deeply.
I’ve come across several other great articles/songs/resources related to the topic, but not referenced above. Check out the following for further reading. I may add more as I come across them.
- From Rev. Adam Hamilton – “On Homosexuality, Many Christians Get the Bible Wrong”
- From Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie – “What It Means to be A Liberal Person of Faith”
- From Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Same Love”