Aaannnddd… we’re back. Bill 18 is in the news again, where over 300 Manitobans have been signed up to make ten minute presentations to our MLAs.
I wasn’t going to write anything about it this time. Really. I just got back from vacation, I have far more important things to do (eg. Zach and I just rocked our first “Starfish” swimming lessons this week), it’s not getting the media coverage that it has in the past, and there’s less of an uproar, both locally and provincially, so why bother? The bill will pass, and in the end it will all be much ado about nothing.
Then yesterday happened. Over 30 people were making presentations, and one of my friends was there observing. He sent me the following message:
Line of the night (so far) goes to someone who used the words “put to death” in reference to GLBTQ and the Bible.
Now, the case can be made that I shouldn’t even respond to such drivel. That they represent such a small segment of the population (hopefully just themselves), it’s not worth my time. And usually I would agree.
But last night was also a night where some presenters were gay. Including a teenager. And his family. Not to mention that some of the MLAs sitting in that room are gay.
How they can sit there and listen to this and not fly off the handle is a testament to the inner strength they have.
There have been a lot Bible “verses” thrown around in a lot of the presentations, but this one seemed to tip the scale for me.
I have told my gay friends over the last 6 months, especially in Steinbach, that they are not alone. So thus I will briefly respond.
1) My response when people are quoting Leviticus in response to Bill 18. Take away their Bibles for a bit, and give them a 5 minute major (or a game misconduct) for poor hermeneutics.
Most North American Christians assume that they have a right, if not an obligation, to read the Bible. I challenge that assumption. No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America. Let us no longer give the Bible to all children when they enter the third grade or whenever their assumed rise to Christian maturity is marked, such as eighth-grade commencements. Let us rather tell them and their parents that they are possessed by habits far too corrupt for them to be encouraged to read the Bible on their own.
North American Christians are trained to believe that they are capable of reading the Bible without spiritual and moral transformation. They read the Bible not as Christians, not as a people set apart, but as democratic citizens who think their “common sense” is sufficient for “understanding” the Scripture. They feel no need to stand under the authority of a truthful community to be told how to read. Instead they assume that they have all the “religious experience” necessary to know what the Bible is about. As a result the Bible inherently becomes the ideology for a politics quite different from the politics of the Church.
Note: it is not an issue of whether the Bible should be read politically, but an issue of which politics should determine our reading as Christians. All reading is embedded in a politics, and avoiding politics is not something for which we can or should strive.
– Stanley Hauerwas, Unleashing the Scripture: Freeing the Bible from Captivity to America
2) Fear. Much of the concern is that people are afraid. Most people won’t admit it, but if you listen carefully, you can hear it.
– I’m afraid we’re losing our religious rights.
– I’m afraid I’ll lose my job if I only promote heterosexual marriage.
– I’m afraid that Christians won’t be allowed to meet in school.
– I’m afraid that this bill “normalizes homosexuality.”
– I’m afraid we’re going to become secularized like Europe (or Quebec).
– If this bill passes, I’m going to home school my kids.
See the common thread? Fear.
Note: In the event that people aren’t genuinely afraid, I’d contend that they are sowing fear, which is far more insidious (and tribal), but I digress…
The church is the only institution that shouldn’t exist for itself. It should exist for the benefit of others. Advocating for our own rights seems to be a bit counter-intuitive, especially when the legislation adds nothing or takes nothing away from religious groups (despite the fear some are spewing).
When we are fearful, we do one of two things: Fight, or flight. It seems like people are afraid and are choosing to fight (thankfully non-violently), because flight is kind of hard when you have a mortgage and a job and your kids have friends down the street.
When I read my Bible, over and over again the words “Fear not” appear. When angels appear, they start off by saying “Do not fear.” Do not be afraid. Over and over and over again.
I was rolling my eyes last week over all of this hullabaloo, a bit frustrated, when someone much wiser than me said: “Fear shouldn’t be condemned. Fear needs be healed.”
And then I came across this from spiritual director Flora Slosson Wuellner (Prayer, Stress and our Inner Wounds):
No matter how distorted and hurtful our powers within us, they were originally created from the divine source, and they hold the potentiality for the unique and beautiful. In their healing, they are not wiped out or destroyed, for nothing in God’s creation can ultimately be destroyed. Rather, they are restored to their original, intended power of gifted creativity.
Our fear, when healed, becomes intuitive, empathetic compassion and sensitivity toward others.
Or, another way of putting it: There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.
May we all seek healing from our fear.
Grace and Peace,
PS – A good conversation starter would be to ask everyone what they are afraid of (including myself), because while my post only addresses the faith-based side that I find myself in, it is not only evangelical Christians who suffer from fear.