Christian Clifton argues that the rift is because each side is seeing only a fraction of someone’s identity and treating it as the only defining factor in that unique individual’s life.
We live in a world embroiled in battles that seem fresh, but in reality they existed decades before any of us took our first breath. We treat our words as new weapons against an enemy that sees their position as one of revolution and freedom. It goes by many names and has manifold faces but the describing phrase that seems to best summarize the majority of feelings in this contest is “Christians vs. Gays”. It’s looked at by many as a cage match to decide the fate of the modern church and to others could spell certain doom for America if their opinion does not come out the victor.
I do not hold an entirely unheard of stance in this current debate; I am a Christian but compared to many I fall to the more liberal side. I am forced to admit that I am not fully committed to either side of the topic; I cannot say that I fully believe homosexuality to be acceptable according to scripture neither can I readily condemn it. This might sound unnecessarily politically correct but being stuck in the middle has brought a perspective that many might miss sitting so entrenched on their respective sides of the fence.
If one simply listened to the slant of the news or read stories posted online it would seem that only two options appear; either hate the Gays or hate the Christians. Both sides seem to be intent on holding to the cliché “if you aren’t for us, you are against us”. This is foolishness that neglects to account for the multitude of real people behind the stereotypes.
I have several friends and close family members who have had same-sex attraction as part of their life. Some count it as no longer part of who they are while others have embraced it to varying levels. Being a Christian who holds to a faith in the truthfulness of scripture has, at times, made these relationships difficult to navigate. Unknowingly the past few months have been the culmination of a few years of wrestling with this debate internally and outwardly. Through it all I came to know there is another way.
This other way, not one bound in hate or disregard for truth, is one that focuses on something that many have either forgotten about or refused to notice; the people that exist behind these made up facades that we disagree with. To accept this other way will require work on both parts.
Both sides are guilty of putting the focus on what in reality is a minutia. They are taking something that under other circumstances is only a fraction of someone’s identity and treating it as the only defining factor in their life. The current argument allows the entirety of an individual to be cast aside in light of a single revelation. This misplaced and overly intensive focus needs to be shifted; a person cannot and should not be viewed through a microscope but rather through a macro lens.
To focus on the Christians first, to some they would be an easy target and to others the ones that have no faults to repent. The Christians that blatantly disagree with and aggressively deny support for homosexuality or same-sex marriage have to realize something; they are making their disagreement the most important part of the relationship. It is obvious that many see someone who is openly gay as a homosexual first with all of their other qualities and titles listed below that heading. They readily take a single descriptor and allow it to be the ultimate definition of the entire person sitting before them. This cannot be the way we view any human; it is such a way of categorizing and understanding humans that leads to genocide.
My closest friend in the world, aside from my wife, is Kevin. We have been friends for nearly five years now. He came out to me only six months ago, he has known he was gay for nearly a decade. Our friendship existed for four and a half years with him being gay and me having no knowledge of it. For those years he was titled as simply “Friend”, and his coming out did not change that. I did not suddenly scratch out that title and replace it with his sexuality; instead his sexuality was simply added to the list below that heading that inventories his attributes. It was not put at the top of the list, bolded, or underlined; it was simply added. Our relationship is still focused on that shared bond of friendship and not on the fact that our sexual preferences or beliefs on sexuality do not match up.
Accepting someone into your life does not have to mean that you agree with everything they say or do but are able to look past any transgressions, whether justly perceived or not, and love the person right in front of you. My friend Kevin puts it perfectly that his family may never “accept him and his partner because they believe homosexuality to be wrong” but could “still welcome them as part of their family as valued human beings.” In his case, as is the situation for many others, the feeling of acceptance is muted by a lack of acceptance or recognition of his partner. Instead of a full relationship, lines are drawn around an uncomfortable subject. Ignoring these cordoned off areas for fear of appearing to condone such activities, or out of a desire to communicate disproval of them, sends a clear message of rejection.
The world would be done a favor if the title we place on our fellow man was not based a single part of their being. Instead of labeling them by something as small as gender, faith, color, or even sexuality they need to be labeled first as human. As Christians know we are each labeled as fallen and someone you disagree with is no more fallen than you are. A sin that is different from yours does not warrant a different type or amount of grace. Love, the same love Christians are commanded to have for their fellow man, pours out equally on the entirety of mankind. Believers should hold to this lest they be tricked into thinking the sin of another is worse than their own.
I can already hear the voices chiming in that the above statements would be a call to disregard truth. Truth can be a sword or a bandage; it depends on the whom and how of it’s wielding. While scripture does refer to itself several times as a sword, its destructive power is only used in the destruction of evil and not the obliteration of a person. Truth can be used as a tool of healing and does not always have to appear as a weapon. Never discard truth but be prepared to apply it with prudence and precaution, lest it become the sword. There is room for truth within any relationship but constantly focusing it on a single point of disagreement within the relationship will burn more bridges than it builds.
Let’s shift to the other side of the battlefield; someone who identifies as gay needs to not be so enveloped in that definition to the point that they are nothing else but their sexuality. Our sexuality does not paint the entire picture of who we are. While it may be something that changes many of our traits and actions it does not underlie our entire being. Never change or feel like hiding who you are for the sake of another, but there are plenty of times when throwing it in someone’s face to illicit a response is not the best tactic.
I have heard and read several accounts that include a phrase along the lines of “if you don’t accept this part of me, you don’t accept me”. This line is an ultimatum that can be used as a weapon of vengeance and guilt; unfairly making someone choose where a choice should not have been forced. There can be hundreds of disagreements and vast incongruence between two people in a very close relationship, why is this suddenly a line worth losing loved ones over? We can have different beliefs in the categories of politics, economics, religion, athletics, etc, and still be extremely close to someone, yet if they disagree with our ideas about sexuality the relationship must be abandoned. This line of thinking must be stopped if any real understanding is to happen.
There is another way other than what is told us by the overhyped news and extremist websites. It doesn’t have to be us vs. them, battling over differences; instead let’s make it us AND them coming together to discuss and learn from each other. It is time to stop missing out on so much good in the way of other people simply because they are different, it is time to start remembering that we are all humans trying to piece it together. We need each other because we are so similar, human and fallible, two traits that define every living person. Two traits that are only overcome through learning to love a person and not hate a difference.
photo by spinfist / flickr