Wednesday, June 29, 2016

If it is religiously controversial, why speak up against the majority?

On Facebook I have taken some controversial stands on religious grounds that are in direct contradiction to the positions of the great majority of Christian tradition and the majority of Christians today.  I do not take such positions lightly and I must admit that I do not hold to my positions with the iron clad certainty of so many of my fellow Christians with whom I am in opposition in these matters.  I am more than aware of previous opinions that I have changed (hopefully for the better), and I have no illusion that there must be matters where I am still not in line with God's thoughts on these same matters.

So why do I proclaim my stances in these matters when perhaps the prudent thing to do would be to keep these closer to the vest?  Or at least should I not wait until the majority of my brothers and sisters join with me to provide some measure of vindication before stepping out in controversy?

As someone who has a deep affinity for good questions, I do see these for the wisdom that they can point to.  To be honest there are issues where I may have leanings where I do keep them close to my vest.  Some of these are areas where I am still struggling to find the wisdom that I need for them.  Some of these are more worked out, but where I believe that it is wiser for me to hold them closer than proclaim them publicly.  

Of course there is a quite a lot where my beliefs coincide greatly with a great many Christian traditions; sometimes for different reasons than most, more often for quite traditional reasons - sometimes both at the same time (I rarely have just one reason for anything I believe).

But why be publicly controversial, when I could chose otherwise?  Because I believe that love and grace demand that I do - and that I do so to proclaim a message of grace for those who need it the most and at the same who also have been on the receiving end of the most scathing judgement that churches can dish out.

It is not lost on me why so many are on other sides than I am.  The great majority of them are doing their best to be faithful to what they believe about God and about scripture.  This is why in my proclamations (which I call my confessions), I have never asked that someone else change their beliefs about these controversial issues.  If someone is persuaded by what I have to say, then that is one thing; but I have no desire to force my perspective upon anyone - even if some of them on the other sides have no reservations about forcing their own perspective upon others.

So why speak up?
1.  Because I believe that the Gospel is good news for all people.  If the gospel we proclaim is good news for some, but not for others; then I believe that it is a lesser word than God's Word.

2.  I believe that church teachings for homosexuals and bisexuals has not been the good news that God has for them.  For many reasons that I don't quite understand, church teachings have also not been good news for transsexuals either.  This "bad news" teachings for LGBT+ has especially become quite loud since same-sex marriage has become legal in the US.

3.  I have spent a LOT of time looking at these matters in a prayerful stance before God and in reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I have listened carefully to not just the loudest voices on the various sides of the issues; but to the wisest and most considered voices - especially to those who are counter to my own current positions.  I have looked at all the scriptures that are used in opposition to my current beliefs and treated them with great reverence and care - looking not only at the various English translations, but examining many verses in their original languages with specific care to the most problematic wording (no I don't read these languages, but there are numerous aids with this type of examination).

4.  After all of this I did spend a long time silent about my stances.  I waited patiently and openly for messages from God to turn me in other directions.  I continued listening to the different sides on this with the same care as before - I still do.  I waited long enough that I felt like I could speak with confidence at least in my own confession of these things.

5. Because I felt that I could remain silent no longer.  To be honest, I probably should have spoken out before I did.  In the aftermath of the same-sex marriage ruling from the Supreme Court, I believed that it was time for faithful Christians to let in be known that some Christians are not in condemnation of our LGBT+ brothers and sisters (and roughly half of LGB in the US today identify as Christian), but supportive of them and their rights.

6. Because I believe that the movement towards loving Christian acceptance of our LGBT+ brothers, sisters, and neighbors is - in part at least - a movement of the Holy Spirit within His people.  Historically, I have seen many parallels in history; regarding slavery, civil rights to racial minorities, interracial marriage, the rights of women, and a host of other "progressive" movements.  Not all "progressive" movements may be from the Holy Spirit, but all movements of the Holy Spirit move His people ahead in better loving people who God loves.

7. Because I believe that the wholesale condemnation of our LGBT+ brothers, sisters, and neighbors is a cancer on the church.  The church cannot persecute others - and have no illusion that they have not been persecuted - without it distancing us from God.  If Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbors (defining neighbor rather liberally as in the parable of the Good Samaritan) and to love our enemies; then who can those who follow Jesus not love and still be faithful to His teaching? The more vocal and adamant the church has been in its condemnation of other people, the more I see it moving from the heart of the Holy Spirit.  The success of the church has never been about numbers, but trends in decreased church involvement I believe is an indication that the church is not being the church in the way that the church is called to do so - at least for most of those who have left it.

8. Because I believe that the acceptance and inclusion of our LGBT+ brothers and sisters is a blessing to the church. Even now I  still hear voices from the church that condemn the ordination of women as deacons and ministers.  I have been in a church where women have served in all roles in our church, and I can tell you without any reservation that this has been a source of great blessing to our church and we are not going back.  In the same way I have seen the service of some of my LGBT+ brothers and sisters in the church - some in my own, many in other churches in a variety of traditions.  I see the same faithfulness in them that I see in the rest of us.  I see something in this that I have seen before, and more than once; and every other time I believe it has been from God and it has been a blessing.  I have no reason to believe that this time is any different.

9.  Because other Christians who I admire have come to many of the same (or similar) conclusions that I have about this.  I am not a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but I am part of a growing chorus within the heart of the church.  While I realize that the truth is not about numbers, their parallel journeys have given me some additional degree of confidence.

10.  Because I am willing to place myself up for judgement about this.  I am willing to hear others' condemnation of what I believe about this ... and listen to them ... and still love them ... and be willing to change my mind either partly or wholly.  I do not need to believe everything I do to be accepting and loving of my LGBT+ brothers and sisters.  When I started my journey I was perfectly willing for this to be one of those areas about sin; because I trust in grace, and in Jesus, and in God.  I believe that when we follow God's grace unfettered it transforms us and it whittles away at those things that separate us from Him.  I wish that when we accepted Christ that our sin just vanished away, but just as we see though a glass darkly, our experience is that the light of God's transformation of our life is somehow also filtered from His full effect.  Maybe it just is that on this side of death we simply cannot bear so much direct light.  In Exodus 33, Moses asked God to show His full glory; but God said that no one can look at the face of God and live.  I'm kind of taking God's words on this.  So for now, I'm making do with the light I can see and willing to be examined even harshly by the light within others of my brothers and sisters.

11.  Because I want my children and grandchildren to know my heart and mind about this in years to come.  I realize that I do not know what my ancestors thought about so many things.  I am willing to be a positive example where history proves me true, and a negative example where history proves me wrong.  One day they will face some new challenge and I hope that what they can learn from me, in both regards, will be a help to them when I can't be there for them.

12. Finally, because I am casting my bread across the water in this - and no, I'm not looking for anything to come back to me in this analogy.  If God blesses my words then I trust, that in ways I will never know, it will help someone else.  If God does not bless them, then I hope that they are forgotten, so that they might not be a hindrance to anyone else.  But even where I am wrong, I hope that whoever makes it all the way to these last words will find courage to speak out and if any of my template for this helps then so be it. Amen.

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