Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Still learning

I guess the thing that I didn't realize is that my experience with the gay Christian community has been very much the exception, not the rule. The fact that I want the dialogue to be based on Scripture is completely new to most people. I guess usually if I say I don't believe being gay is sinful, then the assumption (based upon the rhetoric from both sides) is that I don't believe in the Bible, or value it or live by it, or love my Christian tradition, or something along those lines. I didn't even realize that people could think I wasn't a Bible-believing Christian because I have come to this understanding of committed monogamous gay love as not sinful.

But yeah, I guess I'm really in the minority. My first Episcopal church, which values the Bible and wrestles with it and submits to its authority, was also a church that welcomed and loved gay people as they were. I just learned from those kind of people. If our denomination split into two camps - the Bible-believing, gay-hating fundamentalists, and the Bible-denying, gay-loving liberals - I don't know where we would go.

And I've learned that those who are on the other side of the "Is it a sin?" divide also do not like being lumped in with the extremists of their position. Just as I do not want to be labeled as throwing out Scripture, they do not want to be labeled as hating gay people. Most of them, in fact, simply believe it's a sin no worse or better than their own sinful tendencies. I try to explain that the other sins don't mean you can't be a minister, though. And they don't keep you from getting married to the person you love.

Anyway, there is a very large middle ground here, a very big number of moderates whose voices I wish could be heard. Many of us love the Bible deeply, respect our tradition deeply, and want to see a change on this issue but one that will take probably a few hundred years, as most of these changes do. That's how long it would take for everyone to have the personal experience I had - and that can't happen in newspapers or even in primates' meetings, it can't happen by arguing over Scripture nor by dioceses making sweeping pronouncements. It has to happen one by one, painfully slowly, as people are led by the Holy Spirit. And she works in her time.

One thing I don't think is going to help is this sort of action:

It just causes people to dig in their heels. Dobson is partly right that dialogue is not possible - but that's because both sides want to monologue, not just those sitting in his building.

Anyway, I'm glad to have become aware of the uniqueness of my position and experience. I hope to be more sensitive and explain myself better as I meet those who do not share it.

And a blessed Ash Wednesday to you all! So far so good on the fast. :)


Anonymous said...

You don't know who I am, but I stumbled on your blog a while ago.

There are a lot of people who feel the way you do, and I'm finding more of us all the time. You're not alone.

Maybe if all of us were as articulate as you were in this post, our voices might be heard.

twocents said...

This is a great post. I'm usually a "silent reader," but couldn't resist responding to this one. I'm in the midst of figuring out where I stand on this issue, and the polemics used by both sides often make me want to just crawl under a rock instead. But, here's what I've been learning--there's two facets to any kind of argumentation: process and content. How we say what we say is as important as what we are saying. And I find myself being faced with being labeled a bigot on one hand and a fundamentalist on the other. Which is painful. And seems to overlook the fact that I actually care about the theological decision I make/stand with and its pastoral ramifications for gay and lesbian people in our congregations--I will actually grieve if I come to a place of not being able to support same sex unions, but I don't want to just get there with out genuinely struggling through the issues.
I think the thing that I wish I heard more often was a common acknowledgement that people on both sides are afraid for the church and both see it as being compromised by the other side. At least that's the more honorable of emotions/motives shared by both sides...and fear leads to entrenchment, distrust, and insecurity. On the other side of the coin, we share a common love for the church and a desire for it to faithfully reflect the character of God, however different our ideas of that may be. And if there could be some places where we could all recognize our fear and our own incomplete understanding of God we would approach each other with much more humility. I could go on, but I think I'll try to keep this from becoming too long...

Anonymous said...

this is one of the reasons it has been so hard for me to find an episcopal, or otherwise, church. all of the ones near me are either "throw the Bible out with the bath water" types or hard line gender traditionalists and gay-hating, or at least gay-unwelcoming. so hard to find a body of believers committed to the middle ground, which is ironic for a faith system based on the ministry of reconciliation...

Stasi said...

Way to go, Hugo!! Keep it up!

(wish I'd known when I was there...sigh...although it's what I was starting to try with the 20/30s. I just gave up too soon, I guess)

The maiden said...

Well said! When it comes right down to it, the debate about sexuality in the church really is about the Bible--how we will read it, how we will interpret it. I'm so happy that the PB is stressing that point. Thanks to her, and to you!

Chrissy said...

Soulforce came to my school last year when I was in undergrad. Far from being a monologue, our auditorium was standing room only when both evangelical-homosexuality-is-a-sin faculty and the equality riders dialogued. Even if people did tune out to that i think the fact that there was a small group of students that welcomed them really said a lot to the gay and nongay people at the school (students and fac).

Caelius said...

As an intellectual, I take a very intellectual perspective on the matter and believe that there is a very strong case from all of the sources of authority, including Scripture, for same-sex unions, because I think same sex unions are the crux of the matter. The Christian gays and lesbians I know just want to be held to the same standards as their straight brothers and sisters in Christ. I don't think the right arguments have been made, but I think you're right that this change may take a long time and cannot be made by fiat. The people in the pews need to make the decision, as much as that offends my High Church sensibilities.
Same-sex unions existed in another time in Christian history, and they survived in those places where the people took a charitable view of their gay neighbors, "that is unknown where I come from; everyone eats at the same table and those
differences don't matter" (N. Zymaris, quoting an Albanian).

That said, the place from which I come on this issue is a heart place and not a head place. I was taught to value the Scriptures as an account of our same real, gritty world in the past in which God really interfered in people's lives, often in astonishing ways. I think it stuck. I used to re-read Lewis and Tolkien repeatedly. I now read the Bible far more frequently. At the same time, I also saw an upstanding member of my parish nursing his partner with fullblown AIDS and dealing with HIV himself. I'm not sure what kind of pastoral care he received beyond the kindness of a few friends. I think God pretty much took care of him like Jeremiah and Elijah. He's still alive, and this was back in the 1980s. I was a little kid at the time, and you know what? I don't want to do that or see that done to anyone in a community where I regularly seek the visitation of Christ ever again. It would shame me before the Body and Blood of the Lord.

I don't mind the kind of moderation that holds to the core of the Christian faith, those things actually delivered to the saints. That is the kind of moderation I try to practice, and I think this is the kind of moderation you're promoting. And I do continue to hold up in my heart to God many who would be quite nasty to others I hold in my heart. But I worry continually about moderation that is neither hot nor cold, which isn't willing to do anything for a fellow brother or sister for fear of making a mistake or for fear of scandalizing someone, anyone.

If this process is going to be slow, there will have to be people willing to live contradictorily in the eyes of the unwise, who are willing to build Biblically faithful communities that treat gays and lesbians, as neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave, nor free but one in Christ Jesus. Frankly, "If our denomination split into two camps - the Bible-believing, gay-hating fundamentalists, and the Bible-denying, gay-loving liberals...," I would leave both camps, find like-minded sisters and brothers, and claim to be an authentic expression of the church catholic. I think I'd be surprised what company I'd find.