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Friday, September 30, 2016

LBGTIQ, SSM, Christianity, and the Insoluble Divide

Is anyone else getting a little sick and tired of the arguments?
Just on the Christian side of the debate there is a wide range of views. Many Christians are incredulous that someone could be Christian and be pro-same-sex-marriage, or more poignant, that someone might be actively non-heterosexual and be a follower of Christ. The other side of the debate is similarly incredulous: “these are Christians? Who judge us. Who pontificate. Who are also sexually broken persons, yet pretend they’re perfect.” There is a lack of grace on both sides. Both Christian sides. Christians ripping each other apart, for the onlooking world to see, against the new command of Jesus, to “love one another.”[1] Many Christians, it has to be said, sit in the middle, seeing the folly in arguing without dignifying the other. Many are appalled at the behaviour of both sides.
The largest part of the issue is what glib Christians write, unchecked, in their social media comments. We all have the tendency to be glib when we live unchecked. Then many will say, “I wanted to say that.” If that’s the case — that something exclusivist was said — then it’s a case of intentional, stubborn disobedience. “Doesn’t God give us a mind and a mouth to express our thoughts and make our stand for Him?” God doesn’t need any of us to make a stand for Him. But if we’re glib, and we’re caught out in our glibness, there’s an opportunity for introspection. Glibness, no matter how right we think we are, will win nobody to Christ, and worse, it takes us farther from the Presence of God. See how deceived we can become?
A Look Within
Now, as I look inward, I see the materials of stubbornness and glibness right there; insoluble with God’s reckoning. Glibness, if I’m honest (and because I believe in Christ I need to be honest) is an abhorrent default. And stubbornness wills me to continue, insolently, along my prideful path. Glibness is a sign of something I cannot seem in my own strength to help, and how far short I fall of God’s glory; the enemy of God reminding me. Stubbornness is the same. I am stubborn on a daily basis, many times a day. Woefully inadequate am I in my awareness upon entering the intensity of my inner reflections.
Yet this is a great thing to know. It’s what makes me Christian. I’m a sinner. Knowing I’m a sinner means I understand the role of sin in others’ lives. I experience the grace of God in my own life, and, having been forgiven, He helps me to locate the log that is intermittently in my own eye. I accept I’ll never be anything close to being perfect in this life. And so I begin never to expect perfection in others. I begin to view others through God’s lens of grace. And then, peace.
Important Issues
These are no doubt important issues — to all parties. I would be glib and stubborn if I pretended that parties on all sides of the debate have no right to debate their argument.
As I watch from my vantage point in the middle, as someone wanting to have no view, and yet as someone who does have a view (for we all have a view, especially if we don’t), I have to remind myself that my frustration is a sign of my need of God, and not a sign of their fault; those who deal differently than I do.
There is no question, these are important issues for all sides of the debate. From my look within I establish that I must respect every different viewpoint, and particularly the person from which that different viewpoint has a viable worldview that backs it up.
What Is Making the Argument Insoluble
Now to what is irreconcilable. There is no relationship. All the sides can see is the difference and the ‘hating’ starts. I’ve seen hating language and behaviour from both sides. As far as east is to west, never the twain shall meet.[2] This is another thing we’re wise to accept. Until God reigns, truly in reality, there will never be a universal oneness of view. We’re made too different, together with our sinful natures, to achieve it. So we must accept that, as we’re passionate one way, others will be equally passionate the other way.
If there were relationship, and by relationship I mean functionally, then we might be able to argue respectfully. But even then we would not get agreement. It helps to accept this. It helps to commit beforehand to celebrate our vitalising diversity.
A Better Way to Fight – the Only Decent Way
Arguments aren’t the problem. In a free society we can argue, praise God; that all comers and all views have their rightful place — not at all regarding the material of respective arguments, but for the fact we’re equals. This is about upholding the decency of being human. Get that right, and keep it at the forefront, and only then do we gain entry into rightful debate.
The problem is twofold: arguing without a well-thought-out case and, underpinning fruitful arguing, playing the ball and not the man or woman, i.e. arguing responsibly by being a guardian of emotions — ours and theirs. If they lose emotional control, we need to modulate back. We’re called to love, not to victory. Love is the victory.
Entering an argument should mean that we’ve previously agreed we’ll not act hurt if what is said or done to us or our arguments runs awry. The licence to enter the arena should be contingent on being relationally resilient enough to hold ourselves well enough to respect the other. If we cannot do that we ought to get out of the debate, because we’ll fight badly and damage will ensue.
A good way to fight is also to accept there will always be a divide, and that God loves those on the opposite side of the argument just as much as He loves us. Our frustration should be a sign to us of our own incapacity to be God. It should drive us into the Godhead, but alas it doesn’t and we’ll often make ourselves and others pay for our spiritual incongruity that acts itself out in all sorts of criminal behaviours.
A New Solution
There is a new solution that is also an ancient one. It’s new because it’s new to us.  It’s new every day. It’s ancient because it’s eternal. Nothing new under the sun. Both new and ancient.
Knowing how far we fall short is fundamental. Yet I am new, and God looks at me as if I’m perfect already — when I’m am still so pathetically imperfect. Both things are true.
A new solution is this: stop. If we’re not called to be a lobbyist on either side, we need to stop. Get out of the argument. We could be getting in God’s way. We could be alienating people God has called us to love. Let us resolve to love in an inclusive way. Let us put away our differences, jettisoning our indifferences also, and commit again to living the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, … forbearance, kindness, goodness, … faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.[3]
Love will call us into a rigorously uncomfortable sphere. Let us endeavour to recommence the journey every moment of our lives.
May God truly bless us all as we endeavour to live in the community of humankind, giving to each other the kindness of being human in its original form,
Steve Wickham.


[1] John 13:34-35.
[2] Rudyard Kipling’s Ballad of East and West.
[3] Galatians 5:22-23.

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