Monday, November 04, 2013

Great Concessions

I took our students to a great one-day conference last week. Main attraction: Shane Claiborne, who is almost cool enough for his accent alone but also delivered a high vision of believers living in intentional community where suffering is the greatest. Great stuff and much food for thought.

I went to a seminar which really troubled me, though, and I was less troubled by the seminar than by the fact it it seemed to trouble few others who were there with me.

Let me start by saying that I do not hate people who identify themselves as gay. I have known quite a few in my lifetime and I love them dearly, though I know they are often less than comfortable with me. I am in turn not afraid of them, though I have briefly felt that kind of fear with some gay people - something like what women might feel about some men whose glances, attitudes and touch make them uncomfortable.

However, I was told in this seminar that I also should not seek to help people who identify themselves as gay. I have big questions about that stance. In a PowerPoint cartoon shown on the screen, a fellow says to Jesus, "I just can't help having these feelings," and Jesus replies, "Who says you need help?"

That cartoon is not representative of my Jesus. Sorry.

To explain why, let's take the theory of evolution as an analogy. Everyone knows that the earth has been around for billions of years and that there has been plenty of time for life to develop from the simplest beginnings to become the complexity it is today. Since this is common knowledge, followers of Jesus concede to the general consensus with some explanation of creation that allows for the evolution of life over billions of years. If they don't do this, they were likely home-schooled and haven't really thought it through for themselves.

But evolution is only a theory - an assumption by the masses, yes - but we may all be wrong.

There is also the theory of sexual orientation. Everyone knows that some people are born with a sexuality that is different than the heterosexual majority, so that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual is simply who they are. Since this is common knowledge, followers of Jesus concede to the general consensus with some explanation of why we should receive people of any sexual orientation and practice into our fellowship without any expectation of change. Those who don't do this are homophobic and probably live on a farm with cows and chickens.

But genetically-based sexual orientation is only a theory - an assumption by the masses, yes - but we may all be wrong. That admission was the only breath of fresh air for me in that seminar.

Can we stretch our minds for a moment, and imagine that God really did create the world and all the wonders in it through his spoken word, and that he did not require billions of years to do it? Even if that is too far a reach,  can we stretch in another direction and imagine that there are other explanations for the growing prevalence of variant sexual orientation?

If so, we may discover tragic consequences to our strongly-held assumptions.

Though there is no conclusive evidence of a genetic link to homosexual orientation, there is a great body of evidence for developmental causes (I'm no big fan of Wikipedia, but if interested compare and, or just Google though it may take you places you do not want to go). These developmental causes - whether environmental or circumstantial - are largely ignored, just as evidences for creation are largely ignored.

Does it not seem possible that we have been duped into refusing help to a group of people who are in desperate need of it?

What if "gay" is not who a person is, but what he or she has become, how they have responded to developmental issues in their lives? What if the root causes include deep layers of pain, loss and injustice that will never be addressed because we assume this person was born this way? What if we close the door to Jesus' redeeming grace in these areas of his or her life because the general population considers it demeaning to offer them help, bigoted to to be bearers of the grace of God? This would indeed be gross negligence on the part of Christ's body, the church.

But it is too unpopular and perhaps even dangerous to entertain such possibilities. Instead, we are told to do everything possible to make our gay brothers and sisters as welcome and comfortable - even celebrated - as possible. We would not want to make them feel ill at ease by offering them help for who they are.

Recognizing that I have placed a loaded gun in your hand with this post, I welcome your best shot.