In his post, “Why Every Christian Leader Needs To Have a Good Answer about Homosexuality“, Tony Jones asserts directly, concisely and correctly that “…LGBT issues are a wave crashing across American culture right now, and you don’t get to not have an opinion about it.” It truly is a fantastic post and could not be more spot on. It raises a critical concept and responds in no uncertain terms (which we all know Tony is pretty good at anyway).
In his post he responding to both a specific conversation and a wider cultural concept among some Christian leaders. He and Doug Pagitt were having lunch with an unnamed prominent Christian leader “When the subject of marriage equality came up, he pushed back on me a bit: “Tony, it’s just not my issue. My issue is ______. Why do you insist on pulling me into the issue that you think is most important?”
Yeah, I totally get it that there are people the world over who are in desperate need of a compassionate word from and decisive action by people of faith who live their faith as a call to action. I agree 100% that as people of faith we need to be directing our energy to addressing the deep pains of a world groaning under the oppressions we ourselves have wrought. But I also know that the church has lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children of God aching to be seen and heard, really seen and heard – and loved.
So here is my invitation to Tony and other bloggers who are having these conversations. Whenever you can, please go one step further and explicitly remind your readers and leaders you have lunch with that we are not an issue. We are not politics and we are not a lifestyle. I know that Tony believes and lives this. Indeed, in his recent post he states “It’s also because GLBT persons have rightly asked the church for a response.” But it truly can not be said too many times; we are not debating the issue of hymns verses praise bands nor are we asking about an abstract concepts like transubstantiation or theodicy. When asking the church, a congregation, a leader or a friend about “where one stands on marriage equality” what we are really asking is, ‘Do you regard me as a sacred child of God?’ or ‘Do you believe that I am equally free in Christ to live and love another child of God?” What we are also asking is ‘do you regard me as an equal citizen of this country where we claim that we believe in and pledge uphold liberty and justice for all?’
The only way I see forward is to continuously invite people into what Christian educator Carol Lakey Hess has termed “an invitation to ‘hard dialogue and deep connections’: (a) with one another, (b) with Scripture and tradition, and (c ) with God.” People’s real lives and the questions we raise rarely have easy answers. These sorts of conversations require: 1) honest questioning and conversations, 2) hard dialogue and deep connections and 3) searching for an understanding of God’s will through theological and biblical study prayer, and discussion, which in turn leads to action. I implore everyone, everyone, everyone to do the really hard work of moving toward one another into that space where the Holy Spirit dwells. That means I need to be open to the chance of being deeply hurt and disappointed and others need to be open to the chance of being radically changed.
Change does not begin with a well thought out answer to a complex issue but in the messy and grace-filled relationship with beautiful and broken people.