Archive | March, 2013

A conservative Christian’s unconventional approach to gay rights

28 Mar
Photo by Doug Wheller via Flickr

Photo by Doug Wheller via Flickr

Yeah, right, you scoff as you read this headline. There’s nothing unconventional about that. I know exactly what she’s going to say.

My liberal friend, I hope to prove you wrong.

Oh, goody, you say, as your Google search of “Christian arguments against gay marriage” somehow brought you to this blog, and now you’re wondering if I intentionally tagged this blog post wrong to trick you into coming here.

My homophobic Christian friend, I hope to speak to your heart.

This week is tantamount in the history of gay rights. The Supreme Court is hearing cases that could potentially change the course of history and the lives of gay people around the country.

And tomorrow is Good Friday – a day when I am reminded of the most incredible act of grace and compassion that has ever, and will ever, be extended to me. Through a sacrifice incomprehensible to the human mind, a scandal of unmatched proportion, a man who knew no sin endured the harshest brutality his society could issue in order to pardon the sins of his beloved people. This was compassion. This was Jesus’ message.

It’s a message Christians are called to extend to others. An undeserved extension of grace and compassion is to be our signature characteristic, setting us apart from the culture of selfishness and greed around us. But is this the message we’re sending to the gay community during this tumultuous time in their cultural history? Most importantly, if Jesus had instead come at this time and place, what would He be doing right now?

I am increasingly more disturbed listening to my favorite talk radio programs and watching my conservative representatives on TV using phraseology like, “Forcing their lifestyle on the rest of us,” “It’s their choice,” “That perversion,” “Imagine putting kids in that kind of environment.” Such commentary has overridden HIS phraseology – “Beloved, let us love one another,” “Let all that you do be done in love,” “See to it that no one misses the grace of God” – and ultimately: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” Where is our compassion? Where is our grace? Where is the unconditional love we are to extend, from the grace and love we have been so undeservedly given?

We will never be anything more to the gay community than Bible-bashing rednecks if we can’t get around our severe case of homophobia that we try to play off as simply following our Biblical principles. We will never shed the stereotype of hypocrisy that shrouds the church, the “religious right” and Christian conservatives.

The saddest part about this for me is that between all the bickering, the noisemaking, the slander and the name calling, the most important element of the argument is lost in the melee – the person. The person who we are called to love, to show compassion to and extend grace to. Not the gay person. Not the person with the perversion so much more severe than the log in your own eye. Not the person unredeemable by God because of a somehow special sin that inherently renders him too far from grace to be saved. Get that person out of your head. I’m talking about the person whom God loves with a love so passionate that He sent the same Son to redeem him as He sent to redeem your perfect, sinless ass.

Let me be straight (pun… intended. Get over it.) I believe in the Bible as God’s truth and the ultimate authority in my life. I’m not saying the Bible says homosexual behaviors and the gay lifestyle are right. However, I’m removing myself from that argument right now to focus on something I wholeheartedly believe is more important than explaining to gay people why their lifestyle is or is not right. Why? Because in my Bible, Jesus explains to us what is most important. I don’t know if you caught that or not, but let me refresh your memory if you’ve forgotten. The Pharisees (these guys basically represent everything that was wrong with followers of God back in the day… aka we’re supposed to try not to resemble them. Just a thought.) try to trick Jesus into saying one of God’s laws is more important than the others by asking Him which of the Ten Commandments is the greatest. These guys can’t fathom how Jesus will get around this question, because all they know is law. They really think this is their “gotcha” moment… sound familiar? But Jesus blows them away, saying,

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Get the point? The point is love. Love God and love others. Show compassion, show mercy, extend grace. Don’t stand outside the Supreme Court with a sign that says, “I SUPPORT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE.” Even if you do. That’s not demonstrating love. Let the court do what it will. Give to Caesar what’s Caesar’s. Your job is to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Do you think Jesus would be protesting outside the Supreme Court? I have a feeling he’d be elsewhere – breaking bread, washing feet and speaking healing into people’s lives.

Thanks to my incredible life group at Greenbrier Church, my best friend, and Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation for inspiring this post.

Rambling of the Day: Social media, a modern scarlet letter

18 Mar
Photo by Ethan Marcotte via Flickr

Photo by Ethan Marcotte via Flickr

By now, most of you have heard about the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio, where two high school football players have been found guilty in juvenile court for raping a 16-year-old girl. Obviously I’m highly disturbed by what these kids did, but what irks me the most about this case beyond the rape is the use of social media as an outlet to brag about the crime and humiliate the victim.

Let me be clear: by focusing on the media aspect of this instance, I am in no way trying to belittle the physical actions of these high schoolers. What they did to this 16-year-old in the physical sense is horrendous and they certainly deserve the punishment they are getting. But what they did on a separate level through the use of their technology is almost certainly going to be the more damaging crime to themselves and this young woman in the long run.

It is becoming more and more blaringly apparent that we as a generation and culture are stepping onto a new playing field with our technological advances. And it’s happening quickly – so quickly that the kids growing up in this social media/big data generation have yet to fully understand the permanency of their decisions regarding the way they are sharing their data. These kids are treating text messages and Facebook the way we would have treated passing notes in class. They are failing to see the vast consequences of what they share and how they are sharing it.

 “Digital communication is so commonplace, especially among the younger generation, that those who engage in it are often not aware that they are creating a permanent record of their impressions, opinions and beliefs which could later be used in court.” Ric Simmons, CNN

The Steubenville case is a landmark case not because of the physical crime that took place – despicable as it is, this is certainly not the first time a high schooler has been taken advantage of at a drunken party. This case is so astonishing to us because we are finally witnessing the devastating consequences of the abuse of social media. We’ve seen somewhat similar issues arise, such as what has been termed “cyber bullying,” where kids are essentially electronically torturing each other via social media. But this is different. This is a disturbing display of the viciousness of the kids of this generation – a display available for all to see. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not necessarily saying kids these days are more or less violent than they were twenty years ago before they had access to social media. However, hearing about something like this secondhand like we would have ten years ago is vastly different from actually seeing it – reading what they texted about word for word, seeing the pictures these kids took and how many people they sent them to, and finding out how many people were involved in humiliating this girl. This is brand new terrain.

The consequences of these high schoolers’ decisions will not end after they serve a few years locked up. Because of their crimes, they will be registered sex offenders – a scar that will mar their image forever. But that’s still not the end of it. Going back to the passing notes analogy – the notes they sent can’t be torn up and thrown away. Their texts and pictures will live on forever in cyber space, and there’s nothing they can do to get rid of the evidence of their foolishness.

So what do we take away from this, other than the sick feeling in our stomachs? Honestly, I don’t know exactly. The technological capabilities at our disposal are advancing more quickly than we have prepared ourselves – and our kids – for. But what do we do, then, ban them from sending pictures to their friends? Read every text message they write? I don’t think that’s the answer.

And I’m not going to propose a clear-cut answer, because I just don’t have one. Obviously this is a moral issue, but it’s more than that. It’s also an issue of what these minors have at their disposal. Sure, they’re 16 and not 8, meaning they should have the cognitive understanding that what they did was wrong. But 16 is a far cry from adulthood for a male – hell, even 18 is a far cry for many guys. We allow them to carry around these mobile devices that truly give them the capability to access any kind of information they want. If that smart phone can go online, then that kid can get onto any website in the world. I don’t care what kind of restrictions you think you put on your account – your kid can get to whatever they want to get.

Think back to when you were 16. Even if you weren’t a bad kid, it’s highly unlikely that you were totally responsible and trustworthy 100% of the time. By handing our kids these devices, we’re essentially asking them to be perfect, trustworthy individuals every hour of everyday. Really? How negligently naïve can we be?

Like I said, I’m not proposing a solution to the problem we have on our hands. I simply don’t have one. I just know that we’ve got to start thinking outside the box here, start treating our kids like what they are – kids. We’ve got to get rid of the delusional idea that their frontal lobes automatically become fully developed the day we hand them a smart phone. And we definitely have to instill in them the understanding that the things they send from their devices can’t be unsent. Once one picture, text or video is sent to as little as one other person, what happens to that item is completely out of your hands. They must understand the gravity and the permanence of their decision to send their information anywhere. As sad as this case in Steubenville is, my hope is that it helps lead us to a better understanding of how to deal with social media in a generation where almost nothing is sacred and even less is secret.

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