I was at a church community group meeting last night when one of the participants began to tell us about a conflict going on amongst the governing bodies of the Reformed Church of America. Quick background: Each church in the RCA belongs to a larger governing body called a classis whose job it is to help guide member churches on theology, church governance, dealing with the social issues of the day, etc. – at least that’s my basic understanding of it.
Anyway, two of these particular classis(s?) are apparently now engaged in a heated argument over how to “handle” the “gay issue”. I’ve been hearing the same argument for four years now. The Far West Classis (or something like that) doesn’t want gays in the churches or in leadership or getting married – some kind of exclusion – while the Rocky Mountain Classis (or something like that) thinks gays are just fine. That’s the gist of it at least, but the one thing I do know for sure is that people are spending a lot of time, energy, and money (that they don’t have) on this. Which leads me to one simple question:
Shouldn’t we be feeding hungry people? Sheltering refugees? Or maybe getting involved in stopping something that actually harms (kills) people, like mass shootings?
By the way, my aim is to stay non-partisan in this blog so I’m mentioning mass shootings for one reason and one reason only here: people are dying, often children, yet nothing, absolutely nothing, is being done about it. Isn’t that staggering? I don’t care what the solution is – gun control, mental health, further background checks, whatever – we just need to do something about mass shootings, all politics aside.
But back to the topic of this post. I cannot for the life of me understand why people spend so much time and energy on something that is not affecting anyone negatively, at least not in any real way. You are born gay and we all know that. God makes all people, so he made “them” gay. Sure God makes murderers too but those people do real harm and should be punished. That’s obvious to anyone being objective.
How has a gay person ever harmed anyone? Wait, let me put that more clearly: how has gayness ever harmed anyone?
Of course there are some horrible people – thieves, murderers, kidnappers – who happen to be gay and they should be punished accordingly, but it wasn’t their gayness that did the harm. Their sexuality had nothing to do with it.
Quick story to illustrate this point: I had a conversation with a relative who considers herself evangelical and I asked her basically this same thing. She gave me the following example: “What if your daughter had a gay teacher who presented the “gay lifestyle” as an option to your 10 year-old? Like this teacher suggested sexual situations to her, situations that gay people participate in?”
Needless to say, I was stunned. If that same teacher was 100% heterosexual and suggested 100% heterosexual situations to my 10 year-old my reaction would be no different than with the gay teacher: fire him/her right now. The teacher’s sexuality had absolutely nothing to do with it whatsoever and I was shocked (and enlightened) to learn that my relative could not separate the immoral, the bad, from the gayness. Gayness does not harm; immorality does.
So given that fact – yes, fact – why do we spend so much time, energy, and money fighting against something that isn’t doing any real harm to anyone? Is it because it’s “in the bible”?
I’ve heard that one a lot. I’m not sure where that passage is – it’s definitely not one of the Ten Commandments – but I typically hear people cite the bible as the reason they are against gays. (Incidentally, you know what one of the commandments is? Love thy neighbor…but only if he’s not gay…?)
So just for argument’s sake, let’s say it is in the bible, clear as day, right in one of those popular books: Gayness is immoral. In big bold letters.
Is that really how anyone judges right and wrong? When you first heard of someone murdering someone did you have to consult the bible first to know it was wrong or was there something inside you that just knew it? When someone stole your bike did you thumb through the good book to know if you should be pissed?
The bible has a lot of good in it but it also has a lot of contradictions, and I guarantee 99% of people have not read and understood the entire thing. The Ten Commandments is a simple list that I could see people using as a guide, but the bible? The whole thing? It’s a massive, complex book that you need footnotes or a theologian to understand. And that footnote author or theologian often has their own agenda and interpretations…just like the people who wrote it.
The bible was not written by God – it was inspired by God – but our morality, our soul did come from God. I believe that he creates that. In my opinion, when we look inside ourselves to judge right or wrong, when we consult our morality and just know that sexual abuse (for example) is wrong, it’s not from some book – it’s from our soul. I am positive that a newborn baby could witness a murder and just know that it’s wrong. No one would have to tell them – they would just feel it.
So, do all these people who want gay people to just stop being gay and want to banish them from their communities just feel it inside- as in truly despising the entirety of that gay person – and merely use the bible as an excuse? My guess is that their imaginations jump to the sexual acts that gays engage in and that is what disgusts them and then they use the bible as the moral compass for that disgust. OK, fair enough – gay sexual acts disgust you. But I’ll tell you this – it disgusts me to think about anyone having any kind of sex. Picture your parents having sex – disgusting ? Of course. Do you hate them for it? Why jump to this thing – sexual acts – that comprises probably 1% of a person’s life and use that as your judgement of them? We don’t love everything about about anyone in this world. Sexual orientation is a very arbitrary criteria for moral soundness.
And as far as using the bible for that criteria, imagine someone shows up one day and says “hey wait, biblical scholars just figured out that the part in the bible that says gays are bad was actually added in the 1700s by some English king – it’s a bogus passage”. Would all the people who despise gays change their minds overnight? Snap! Oh, OK, gays are all right after all! Nice! I can start loving my neighbor now!
Or another example: I know guns were not invented in the era of the bible, but let’s say they were and someone discovered a new book by Saint John that said we shouldn’t have guns – would people just throw them away because “it’s in the bible?” Does that book really define their morality?
I doubt it. I think it can be a fine guide (I think the stuff about idols and loving your neighbor are words to live by) but a word-for-word guide to life?
Often times we find many of the same people who live by the bible also live by this other text created a couple millennia later: the United States Constitution; another fine document with some great ideas, but also not without contradictions. Like, for example, the 18th and 21st amendments.
18th: booze is bad!
21st: no, we had it wrong, booze is great!
We see a lot of people cite the 2nd amendment to justify their use, love, and defense of guns. “It’s my right, this weapon is my right, it’s in the constitution”. Tell me, how did they work around the 18th and 21st amendments when it came to alcohol? From 1919 to 1933 the 18th amendment banned all booze from being bought, sold, or consumed in the United States, and I guarantee you there were large groups of people pointing to that amendment to justify their conviction that drinking a beer was immoral.
So what was their argument then on December 5, 1933 when the 21st amendment passed? Were they suddenly OK with your six-pack of IPA?
Governments are different entities than saints, I get that. Governments write laws (constitutions) while saints (mostly) wrote the bible, so with a lot of people the bible and constitution carry different weight, but by listening to the 2nd amendment folks there isn’t much weight difference.
But those documents and texts are not truly the point here. I believe the bible and the constitution are treated much like our news channels are nowadays – you find the one that supports your sense of morality, your sense of rights and wrongs, and you justify your beliefs with it.
Those staunch defenders of the constitution who always cite the 2nd amendment? Many of those same people support politicians who seek to ban the 14th amendment (if you are born here, regardless of your parents’ status, you are an American).
If the constitution is your gold standard you have to defend it all. No exceptions. You can’t use it to justify your morality on some issues but not on others. You just can’t. That’s called hypocrisy.
Again, giving them the benefit of the doubt that the bible tells you not to be gay (I don’t believe it does but I’ll give them this), how about the couple commandments I cited earlier? Are they adhering to those? The commandments are definitely in the bible and I guarantee a lot of those anti-gay folks do not automatically love their neighbors. I guarantee they have on occasion made idols of things other than God…like cars, wealth, status, etc. Guaranteed.
We’re all hypocrites in the end. I’m a hypocrite. You’re a hypocrite. Democrats are hypocrites. Republicans are hypocrites. All humans are hypocrites. Why, you will often catch me eating a piece of chocolate cake and drinking a…..diet coke!
Hypocrite. Are you really watching your calories, Mike?
When people see me they may chuckle to themselves and take note of the hypocrisy but it certainly won’t bother them. It doesn’t hurt them. A reasonable person won’t spend any time thinking about it. They may notice it briefly, and then get on to the more important things in their day. Maybe they’ll get back to their productive job, maybe teach somebody something useful. Maybe they’ll get in their car and drive off to see an ailing neighbor. Maybe they’ll arrive at the construction site where they are helping a group of people build a house for someone. Maybe they’ll just go home and spend time with their families. They certainly have much more important things to do than get spun up about my behavior.
They won’t spend any time on the thing I’m doing – even though they may not agree with it – because it does not actually affect them, not in any way. They don’t need to read a line in a book to tell them that my drinking a diet beverage and eating a fattening cake is harmless- they just simply know it. So, most likely, they merely notice the behavior, shrug their shoulders, and then get on their way, to the actual important, productive things in life…
…you know, like the Reformed Church Of America should start doing.