Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Facing Our Complicities

Reflecting back on the previous post, there are other situations where these issues of societal complicity show themselves. One that comes to mind is the relationship between evangelicals and homosexuals. It is far too easy for Christians to distance themselves from homosexuals and make homosexuality the standard illustration of obvious sin. This self-righteous posture betrays an overwhelming ignorance of the more subtle sins within—such as slander and judgmentalism—as well of the societal complicity in the sin of homosexuality itself.

Generations of evangelicals have cavorted to and strongly perpetuated patriarchalism and its inherent gender sterteotypes, and have therefore unwittingly encouraged their more "masculine" daughters and "effeminate" sons into an identity crisis. Not all have done this, of course, and even those that have have done so with varying degrees of intentionality and grace. Nonetheless, this has been the societal environment of which we've been a part and it (among other things) has caused the gender-confused seek identity and community from other sources.

That some find relative peace and compassion by embracing the identity given them by the homosexual community should not surprise us. The sad irony, however, is that often enough this only causes evangelical parents to turn more adamantly away from them. Too often I think this "righteous indignation" plays as a comforting mask for one's own unarticulated and unrealized guilt--- and manifests itself, at worst, as a deep-seeded homophobia (which is different, in my view, from just thinking homosexuality a sin).

Having had a hand in creating a homosexual, these evangelicals turn on their own sons and daughters to avoid facing up to their own culpability in a societal evil.

This is just another example of the mess in which all are intertwined. This is why separating the world into in/out categories of sinners & saints is just way too simplistic. Acknowledging this does not negate or reduce the moral culpability of those who manifest sins in their most outward and perhaps egregious forms, but it does force us all to face up to the corporate reality of our fallenness as a human race. I'd like to see us face up to these complicities a little bit more. I think it might actually cause us to be more aware of and open to the depths of God's redemptive grace.

Perhaps such honesty with the human condition would help evangelicals to maintain a real, rather than an abstract, "love for the lost"—rather than having to conjure it up every "Missions Sunday" with manipulative slide shows and sappy worship songs. Instead, perhaps it would be borne out of a genuine conviction and empathy for our fellow sinners.

Perhaps we need a slap in the face so we can no longer miss the depth of grace. Perhaps this is what it means to be come honestly and humbly together before the throne of the reconciling God by the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Perhaps what it means to be a Christian is to grasp a vision of a shared humanity—not one which concedes itself to evil but one which confesses hope and humanity in Christ.

Perhaps confession is more than a negative renouncing but also a positive pronouncing and accepting—even a gracious quickening! Perhaps this is what it means to be filled with the Spirit, to become ambassadors of reconciliation, and to be the first taste of the new creation in Christ.

Perhaps we should be the salt of the earth rather than holding out in self-righteous seclusion for the rapture. Such a vision of Christianity might be dangerous and costly—but it is veraciously daring and compelling.


Anonymous said...

I can believe that some homosexual people may end up there by choice directed to that choice by their surroundings, and within this group of homosexuals there is certainly some who ended up there partially due to a reaction to an attempt at social gender stereotype engineering by their evangelical parents. In that group your comments in this post are a wake up call and a great challenge to evangelicals.

Having known a number of homosexual people I also wonder what you would say about those who were born that way. I tend to believe this is the majority of homosexual people. I'm not even convinced a case can be made that biblical teaching can be considered to see monogomous commited homosexual relationships as immoral. But for those who do believe it is an immoral choice all the time how would you propose they walk the line between judgement of the action and acceptance of the person? I can tell you that the homosexual sees no difference since this action that you are telling them is a sin is such a huge part of who they are and what defines them.

jon or angie said...

This is definitely a sticking point between me and homosexuals who believe this is the fullest expression of their identity. However, should it discount the possiblity of us being friends? On my part I hope it doesn't. I imagine it could come to that, but I don't see myself in a place of moral superiority where I need to "accept" that person at all. Accepted as a person already. Nothing can change that. Accepting into membership at a church that believes it a sin and asks for members to repent of sin would be an issue, and i'll admit, when I'm a pastor this may be a problem for any homosexual friends I have if they want to make that an issue. Why they'd want to be members of a place that believes soemthing they don't would be the first question i'd ask, though.

Does judging an action cancel out acceptance of that person, even if they see that action or choice as part of their very identity and being? I can see how they might feel that way, but I'd try to not make that the way it is. We are always judging actions and yet accepting people in our lives. If it is impossible to do both then all of our relationships are in big trouble.

I'm not convinced that there is reason to believe homosexuals are born that way, in a scientific, biological, sense. But I do believe that most are born with or born into certain gender tendencies which, when given the right environmnet, will lead them to embrace homosexuality. This isn't a problem for my theology, if that's what you are asking, since in the same way I've also been born into all my sins.

We are all born with a sex. Gender is a societal construct. I'm pretty sure sociologists and psychologists are in agreement on this. Without downplaying what you are trying to say, which (in my words) is that most homosexuals feel they've been born into it it, I just want to make that distinction clear. If I'm saying that homosexuality is something God says is not right, then I'm saying that this a gender construct that GOd's guide to life says to avoid. It doesn't mean a person's whole being and identity and worth as a person is out the window--it just means, if given the chance, I would as a friend enter into a conversation with that friend about what it does mean to be them, given GOd's guide to wholeness and identity, rather than the one our society has embraced with little reasoned discussion.

And frankly, I am in that discussion with all my good friends. It is the joy of discovery. I have found that my identity and wholeness as a person lies in seeking God and his idea of who exactly I am meant to be. I am not totally that person yet. But insomuch that Jesus Christ is living in me I am on that way. If people disagree with me, we can still be friends, but its not like I have don't have these disagreements with plenty of heterosexuals as well. Granted, homosexuality is more controversial and perhaps a more dramatic difference and would be perhaps more difficult for us at points, but I would hope that disagreements of worldview, even one so close to home, would not automatically cancel us out from that great dialogue of life that comes with good relationships.

That's me trying to articulate my approach, not a rant. I would be willing to talk it through a little more here if you want. I wouldn't usually do that on my blog without a name or ID, but on this issue I'll let that slide. The point of asking for people's names is for accountability to be respectful. But you seem respectful in disagreement so that's all I'll ask. Hope my comments are taken with all due respect as well.

Anonymous said...

Your view is very well articulated here and I appreciate the clarification and honesty. It's obviously a tough line to walk for those who believe homosexuality is always a choice but your view is reasonable.

I've known many homosexuals who attest to ALWAYS having had those tendencies, from the moment romantic attraction become something they were aware of. Often these examples are not easily explained by sociological reasoning and it's hard for me to come to terms for myself with a belief that homosexuality is a sin when practiced by someone who was born with that attraction and who is not promiscuous but remains in a committed monogomous relationship. This is a much more common reality than most Christians believe.

Again though, thanks for your response especially considering my anonymity.

jon or angie said...

I hear you. It definitely raises very serious difficult questions and demands FAR MORE empathy from people with my perspective. Why are we so willing, for instance, to excuse someone's predeliction to gossip and slander (because they were born a loud mouth and that's just the way they've always been) or are willing to bear with an awful lot of racist or bigoted or chauvinistic comments from people just because they grew up in a culture for whom this was just the way you talked? We could maybe have empathy for such things when we understand the background from which it comes, but that doesn't mean change isn't necessary. Those are perhaps trite examples compared to one's whole sexual orientation and gender identity, but I am just trying to call attention to how much empathy we show with other things we think are wrong.

I want to be empathetic with others, even as I try to uphold the vision of human identity and community and wholeness which Jesus Christ calls us to. I certainly have no right to downplay the difficulty of seeing one's way through to this vision, given the cards that one has been dealt from birth. I don't think Jesus himself would be unempathetic or uncaring in his call to wholeness either. In fact I think he would come right into that person's life and usher them along in love and grace, as long as that person were willing to embark upon the difficult journey.

It is a difficult journey, living in this fallen world and seeking to reconcile with the vision of a new creation given us in Christ. Let's not downplay that at all. Too often it is made to sound like an easy sinner's prayer and that's it. No. It isn't easy. It is a complete change of life-orientation, for all of us. I for one am sold on it and put my entire faith in Jesus for it. But I am not totally changed. There is much to be overcome in me as well.

On this basis I believe I could be friends with anyone on that same journey, even if we disagree about the nature of the journey. I don't want to make that sound easy either, but that's an ideal I'd like to hold out there anyway.

Thanks for your comments and for pushing me to be honest with my ideas and ideals. The greatest of these is love.

jon or angie said...

I realize that using the word empathy might sound condescending. I just mean understanding the reality of where a person is coming from rather than demonizing them because we are born with different questions to ask and things to work through.