“Yes, we have to love people, but we have to hold the standard,” Carl* said, and he really meant it.
He sat in a meeting where I spoke about faith and the LGBTQ community. He was referring to his sister, a lesbian, who sat one seat over from him, their mom in the middle.
Carl could not understand how love was enough—even though Jesus explicitly taught us that—Carl kept repeating that we’ve got to hold the standard.
I know this thinking: it’s about someone bullying someone else into what they think is right for them.
How are we going to hold that standard, I asked him. Which standard? Whose interpretation? How do we agree on it?
I pointed out that “applying the Biblical standard” has justified slavery, oppression, men beating their wives, bullying, abusing children, killing people we don’t agree with.
He said, “Well, it has to be properly applied.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “Who is going to properly apply it? When has that ever happened in history?”
People have this fantasy that we are going to apply a Biblical standard—to other people. We can’t even agree on the Biblical standard—which version, which denomination, which century—much less how to apply it.
My niece discovered when she lived in Turkey that there is a law against doing anything “non-Turkish.” Do you think there’s some room for interpretation there, for disagreement? Should we make a law in America against doing anything unchristian? One second’s reflection will show us the lunacy of such a thought.
Are we talking about women wearing head coverings, as clearly stated in the New Testament? Some people would still argue for that, though most of us understand that context changes that directive. Where does context change directives and where doesn’t it? And do we enforce those picayune standards as the Pharisees did, or what Jesus called the weightier standards of justice and mercy? [Here]
And to apply a Biblical standard, we have to completely step over (trample on) Jesus’ clarion call not to do that. [Here]
He prevented those who tried with the woman forgiven for adultery, and what he said to her (which we constantly misinterpret [Here]), HE said it, not those who wanted to “hold the standard.” [Here] This is not only Jesus but as far back as Genesis, we’re shown that we are not to play God in others’ lives. [Here]
The reality of how all this works out in the real world was clear at the end of our evening together. As people got up and began to talk to each other, I went to where Carl’s sister, with her partner of ten years, and a gay man all stood talking. What were they talking about? A lovely monk the gay man had met at the Buddhist temple. They discussed with interest the love and peace this monk had to offer.
These three gay people had grown up in the church. They had experienced Carl’s “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude their entire lives. Now that they were adults and had a choice, they were choosing a Buddhist temple. (I know the response: “Sure they love it because they aren’t held accountable,” to which I would say, “Even if that’s true, YOU AND I are not the ones to hold them accountable.”)
I wanted to tell Carl…
“This is the result of your kind of thinking. The church’s interactions with LGBTQ people drove them away. The very Jesus you claim as your namesake, the very Jesus you think they need, the very Jesus who offered absolute unconditional love, you are effectively denying to these people because you think you’re required to hold them to some standard – and they are required to meet that standard before they are fully welcomed with open arms.”
“Your very way of thinking and interacting makes these people—and plenty you’ll never know about—believe that God is not for them. They’ve said as much. You are like the religious leaders Jesus scorned because they made common people feel unworthy of God. How dare any human being think he or she has the prerogative to do such a thing?”
I wanted to say all that, but Carl had already left, leaving a trail of wreckage behind him.