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On Not Being Trusted

April 4, 2015

A few years ago I befriended a young woman at my workplace who was a lesbian.  It took some time to become her friend because, as she told me, I had three strikes against me; I was (a) male, (b) old, and (c) a Christian.  Eventually we became friends but I could always sense that her distrust was simmering just under the surface; that she was taking a chance on friendship but was prepared to bail out at the first sign of trouble.

The moment of truth in our friendship came when she asked me to do her a favor.  It turned out that her father, who was a committed Christian, had broken off his relationship with her; shunned her as he called it.  She asked me, as an older male Christian, if I would talk to him because I “spoke his language.”  She wanted some sort of relationship with him without needing to deny who she was, without giving up her lesbian identity.  She had no illusions that he would agree with her, but she “wanted her daddy back.”

I agreed to talk to him and, frankly, the results of that talk are private, not blog fodder.  But I was thinking of them this week as I continued to look at the fall-out in Indiana and their fiasco with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

One of the drawbacks of having friends on both sides of an issue is that they bombard you with articles and stories supporting their side of the issue and this is most likely to happen in our culture on LGBT matters.  My pastor sent me, and the rest of our church, link after link explaining “our” side of the issue and making it clear that “their” side was not only wrong but mean.  My progressive neighbor did the same from the other point of view.  I was tempted to just forward their e-mails to the other and say nothing but didn’t.

This is life in America today, particularly on LGBT issues.  One side yells at the other that they are ignorant of the law, and that they hate America, Christians and religious freedom.  The other side yells that the RFRA is nothing more than a hidden attempt to legalize Christian discrimination of LGBT individuals.  Everyone is talking; nobody is listening, at least not to those who differ.

So….I’ve really made an effort to seek out and try and listen to those who are outraged about the RFRA and here is what I think they are saying they don’t trust Christians.  They fully expect that we will use the RFRA and religious freedom as a tool to discriminate, no matter our protestations to the contrary are.  Last night our pastor asked us, in his Good Friday sermon, if we have ever felt “despised and rejected.”  Frankly, on the LGBT issue I think it is becoming the norm that we are despised by an increasing number of people.  At the very least we are not trusted.

And I have to ask myself – why should they trust us?  We have a horrible record when it comes to loving and caring about the LGBT community.  The facts are alarming.  LGBT youth are 5 times more likely to commit suicide; they represent 40% of the youth homeless (my friend was kicked out her house on her 18th birthday.).  90% of them have been bullied in school.  We Christians do little or nothing to change that reality.  In fact, opposition to same sex marriage is a focal point for many Christians.  We tolerate Christian leaders who call 9/11, Katrina, and Sandy God’s judgement on gays.

OK, I still believe in traditional marriage.  But I can’t look at the statistics above and not see the pain these people feel.  When we blame a group of people for natural disasters and the criminal acts of others it must be painful beyond imagining.  It is calling them unloved and unlovable.  To be rejected by people who claim to speak for a God of love is heartbreaking.

The outcry in Indiana is not about the RFRA, it is about us.  It is about a fear that we will discriminate and do all in our power to marginalize an entire class of people.  Because of our history of kicking out sons and daughters, of protesting, of blaming them for the ills of society and natural disaster, they have every right to mistrust us.

For us, we feel homosexuality is a moral issue but, frankly, for an ever increasing part of society it is not.  For them it is about the way we treat people.  And here we are failing miserably.  What is the benefit of giving a moral lecture in response to the question “Will you treat me like a human being?”

While we Christians are by no means the only shouters, the only angry ones, the only villains, in this story I feel that, as a Christian, the burden is on me, on us, to change this debate.  For this reason I think we ought to deliver the pizza, bake the cake or take the pictures.  We should do it because we follow a God who made 120 gallons of wine for a wedding where they had already drunk everything in sight.

I can’t find a place in the Gospels where Jesus refused to serve or help those with a different view.  He met Samaritan women, centurions, tax collectors and others with grace and love.  Why shouldn’t we do the same?  When we feel we need a law protecting our right to not serve someone we are going to have a hard time convincing them, or anyone else, that we love them.   Maybe we need to focus less on our rights and more on our opportunities to comfort the hurting and stand up for the marginalized, even when we disagree with their theology,their lifestyle and their choices.

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From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. The Indiana Act does seem more extreme than similar acts elsewhere. It creates a defence to legal claims by other people, not just the State as in other RFRAs; and it defines “exercise of religion” very widely.

    And- there is no biblical basis for baking cakes for the second marriage Adultery wedding, and the young couple Fornication before marriage wedding, but not the gay wedding.

    Well done on being trusted by that young woman.

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