This post has taken me a bit longer to figure out.
I’ve asked myself over and over again, “Why the heck are some people in church so opposed to this?”
Will society break down over the approximately 50 same-sex marriages performed in Manitoba a year?
If only 4-5% of the population identifies as LGBTQ, and many of them don’t go to church, why are we so keen to write policies about why we won’t officiate their weddings?
I think there several reasons, with some of them needing longer explanations than others.
1) One can look at their Bible and name it as “sin”, and Christians are loathe to condone sin. However, this one “sin” can be really easy to name and isolate and condemn, especially for those of us who are straight. As a straight guy who isn’t attracted to men, I am fairly certain that I will not “sin” by getting married to another man. So, in my effort to live a pure and holy life and not “sin”, I can easily throw daggers at a “sin” that I won’t be tempted with.
However, as soon as we talk about other sins that might brush up a bit closer to me or my family and friends, I have to treat the conversation with a little more nuance, because I know it’s not straightforward. If one is against porn because it is lust, is watching Titanic sin? If one is against adultery, is watching Grey’s Anatomy sin? If one is against violence, is playing Call of Duty sin? If one is against ecological disaster, is driving a SUV to church a sin? If one is against wealth inequality, are we supposed to cap our wages and pay more than minimum wage? If one is against slavery, do we only eat fair trade chocolate bars?
Obviously, most of these can’t be answered with black and white answers, because we like Grey’s Anatomy (although I can’t believe Derek Shepherd died), drive SUVs, and like pay raises so we can fund our vacations to those ecologically horrible hotels in Mexico that pays their workers peanuts while we drink our faces off bragging about how we bartered with the local merchant who is trying to put his kids through school. So, if a potential “sin” might hit close to home, we tread softer. Which is why some of us who are straight have a really easy time speaking about against those of us who aren’t.
2) Similarly, if something is foreign to us, we are quicker to name it as bad, evil, other, and condemn it. Our brains are dualistic, in that we only learn what tall is in relation to short, and we only learn what black is in relation to white, and we only learn what Canadian is in relation to American (a big thanks to Molson beer for helping us Canadians out with that one 15 years ago). And the nature of dualism is that we will usually call ourselves, “good” and “normal”, and the other, “bad”, “less than ideal,” or “not normative”. Think racism, sexism, Islamophobia, cultural ethnocentricity, genocide, partisan politics, etc.
So, if 95% of our population doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, then of course it’s easy to name “the other” as “wrong”, and then get all worked up when people are advocating something that we believe is “wrong”.
3) We ask questions like, “If I’m wrong about LGBTQ inclusion, what else might I be wrong about? Was I misled? Were my parents wrong? My pastor? What in the Bible is actually right then? Is anything true anymore? Did Jesus even rise from the dead?”
We get excited because sometimes our faith is like a deck of cards, and if one of those cards is pulled out, we’re afraid the entire thing might collapse. And, since our egos are usually in the habit of protecting themselves, we will do everything we can to make sure that deck of cards doesn’t collapse. So we make sure to tell people how the Bible is right (or at least our interpretation of it).
4) A pastor friend told me that he was shocked at how many older Mennonite were afraid of dying. Not the actual process of dying, but questions of the afterlife. I scrunched my eyebrows and asked “Why? If they’ve been faithful their whole lives, gone to church for 80 plus years, what the heck are they afraid of?”
My friend gave his best speculative answer. “Maybe we have spent such a long time emphasizing discipleship, action, and doing what Jesus wants, that we have forgotten the message of grace. Maybe we’ve been so focused on how we live that we’ve been trying to earn God’s favour, and are fearful that we haven’t done enough.”
Ah… so we’re afraid that if we get something wrong here on Earth, God is going to smite us. So we get really excited about who can marry whom for fear of God’s wrath. That might explain a lot.
5) Another idea – When a couple fights about whose turn it is to take out the garbage, the conflict usually isn’t about whose turn it was take out the garbage. The conflict is about something bigger, more important. Maybe about whether or not one feels listened to and respected, or about how each partner gives and receives love. Sure, the garbage is still there, but there’s probably something else going on.
My same pastor friend suggested that underneath all the policy writing and Facebook posts and leaving the conference is a question about God’s character and our own inadequacy. If we have parts of our lives that are broken, that aren’t humming along, that we wish we could change (which we all do), then we most likely are asking God for help.
So when people come along and say: ”I’m LGBTQ and this is who God made me and I can’t change”, we start to wonder then if God can actually change us. It makes us question God’s character, and whether or not transformation is possible, and question if our faith can really move mountains. So, in order to protect our image of God and our understanding of how God works, we end up shouting really loud about why same-sex marriage is wrong.
6) The end of Christendom is here. It’s becoming harder and harder to claim that the majority of Canadians are Christian, and thus we should be allowed to pray in schools and before city council meetings. However, to quickly move from a place of the majority to the minority, to where everyone once thought like and now nobody thinks like you, can be quite disorienting. And so part of us using LGBTQ inclusion as an orthodoxy test is us desperately trying to cling to some of cultural control and relevancy.
One of the best examples of this was what I was once told by another pastor. He said, “We lost the battle over evolution. We’re not going to lose this one.”
And, as Richard Rohr defines suffering simply as “anytime we’re not in control” (think health concerns, natural disasters, car crashes, lineups in stores, no WIFI), if we’re not in control of our churches, our governments, our culture, then we’re experiencing a form of suffering. Albeit, not a very large form of suffering, as most of our lives, jobs, churches, and marriages will look exactly the same, but it’s a form of suffering, nonetheless. And wow, do we ever hate suffering. So as the world swirls around us, we cling to “the traditional definition of marriage” as a form of control and to avoid suffering.
Having fun yet?
I’m sure there are more. But I think that these might help explain why some of us in church world would rather sit in jail than do a same-sex marriage. We’re actually not just talking about who marries whom. We’re talking about cultural relevancy and control, the avoidance of suffering, the character of God, scriptural interpretation, notions of afterlife, defining the boundaries of who’s in “our group,” and trying not to “sin”. Pretty intense stuff with pretty high stakes. Hence why one’s posture towards LGBTQ is the new orthodoxy test.
Tomorrow I’m offer two pieces of wisdom that hopefully help us move forward from hating each other.