Word of the Week

When We Meet the Divide

The past couple weeks have been a great time of cultural conflict across our country, in particular in relation to the issue of homosexuality, the church, and marriage.

Friends in the United Methodist Church have struggled with this issues at General Conference with all kinds of scenes being created in session meetings. The state of North Carolina has wrestled with this over his vote about Amendment One. And, all of us in one way or another have responded to President Obama's declaration that the believes marriage should be between not just a man and a woman. Some have been happy with our President and others have not.

If your social media sites are anything like the ones that I am connected to, we've been bombarded with pro and con statements about these events. In response, hateful comments have been hurled. Madness. It has been madness!

Personally, when I expressed joy alongside my gay and lesbian friends about the President's endorsement of their marriages on my Facebook page this week, I even got a "I know you weren't raised like this" comment about my views by a family member. Not very nice.

I see so many of my pastoral colleagues being afraid to say anything at all out of fear of what their congregations might do to them. Jobs or appointments might be at sake depending on what you say.

In all of this, it is so easy for the debate to become personal real fast. Feelings can be hurt real quick. Most of us have strong opinions one way or another and it is hard to comprehend how someone on the other "side" could see things as they do.

Lord, have mercy on us all!

Is our church in all branches going to explode soon? Is this the state of cultural and religious affairs we've come to in this country? It seems so.

Doing some sermon prep this week, I found this commentary the John 15 lectionary reading for this Sunday by  Dr. David Lose out of Luther Seminary. I couldn't help but think about all the debate this week as I read it. When we are faced with a theological divide on a topic like homosexuality, for example, what do with do? Lose has this to say:

So when faced with a challenge, dilemma, problem, or divisive moral issue, 1) search the Scriptures, looking not just for commandments but for how you honestly think Jesus would have responded, 2) trust your own experience and ask how you would want to be treated in similar circumstances, and 3) talk it over in your community, especially involving the folks the question-at-hand most directly affects.

I really appreciated this level-headed approach because I have to think so many of our strong opinions on those who are gay have more to do with tradition, culture from which we come than it does "what the Bible says." Yes, there are those passages of scriptures that say, homosexual relations are wrong, but then there are also lots of passages that say that women should cover their heads in church and not wear jewelry (and I don't know a lot of people who follow the Bible this literally). And, often we are quick to say, "Being gay is a sin" without actually knowing such a person and/or if we do, never asking a gay person how our interpretations of scripture make them feel, how they have been hurt by the church or by their families, etc. We are quick to elevate being gay (if we think being gay is a sin) to the level in which it is greater than ALL other sins. I just don't think such is really fair.

I know my heart breaks for my friends, colleagues and family members who are a part of the gay and lesbian community who love Jesus every bit as much as I do and are living in monogamous, committed relationships or are single and celibate and so many parts of our society continue to be so cruel to them.

I know my heart breaks for my friends and neighbors in other churches who have made Christianity into something that fits into a one-size fits all box and have no room in their souls for the Spirit to come and bring new understandings.

I know my heart breaks for our churches that are growing more divided by the day as more and more schisms keep occurring and occurring again. (How many times can the Christian church split? It seems we are on a course to find out!)

Because such conversation (as we've experienced its intensity this week) is not going away, what will we do when divide comes to us?

For me, I couldn't be silent. But, now that I have said my part, I must move on and keep finding ways to love. What about you?

Will you find a way to love the "other side?" Will you use words of hate? Will you defriend everyone you know on Facebook who doesn't believe as you do? How will you live in community?

We've got to figure out a better way to live together, all of us. This is what I know.