389. why would anyone ever want to be a Christian when we treat one another this way?
TRIGGER WARNING: homophobic speech, extreme Christian intolerance
I got added to a group on facebook (and no, I won’t link to or name it here). I was told that it was supposed to be a place where Christians could discuss difficult topics in an open, friendly manner. I introduced myself briefly then waited a day or so to watch how the group operated. It looked like what I had been told – a place where people posted questions and then others in the group responded. Nice.
And then I put up a question of my own along with my stance on the matter:
The initial responses came pretty quickly (see the time stamps).
Also, click on the images to see screen grabs of the whole comment thread (caution, the image files are pretty big).
Now at this point, these are all things I’d heard before. At the end of his comment, Mr. White did say “There is no such thing as a LGBT brother and sister…” but I chose to ignore that. In my response, I tried to emphasize the importance of taking social context into account, but the others wanted to take the biblical text at face value.
And then things started getting weird.
Turns out, Mr. White not only believes that there’s no such thing as an LGBT Christian, there’s also no such thing as a lefty progressive Christian. On top of that, the mere fact that I self identified as a progressive causes White to question my Christology!
In response, I wrote:
After a number of other interchanges where I had to defend my position, I decided it might be time to turn the tables.
And this is the answer I got:
Mr. Orange actually believes that “True Christians are not tolerant… social justice is evil, leftism is the damnation of the human race… liberalism is a mental illness that leads to deafness, blindness, eventually death.” And notice Mr. White’s high-fiving approval.
Up until this point, I tried my best to be diplomatic and reasoned but I was running out of patience and so in return, I wrote:
Note the time stamp. I sent that at 3:51am, Thanksgiving morning. I went to bed dreaming of turkey and stuffing and pie.
A few hours later, I woke up to see…
Amid the vitriol and the random bit about Obamacare, I actually saw an opportunity to engage in dialogue over one of the foundational differences between liberal and conservative Christians – the issue of how we understand truth.
Conservatives tend to believe that truth is (1) absolute, (2) unchanging, and that (3) we can be certain about our understanding of that truth.
Me? I actually agree with the first two – I do believe that truth is absolute and unchanging.
It’s on the third point where I disagree. We, as finite human beings, can never grasp the totality of truth. Our knowledge of truth is always contextual and contingent. As Paul puts it, “we know only in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9).
The difficulty we have in discussing issues like same-sex marriage has to do with this difference in how we understand truth. Because of this, I thought it might be a good idea to move the discussion thread in that direction.
And so I asked:
And then this comment dropped.
One more screen grab before I (finally) get to what I want to say about all of this.
Check the time stamp: December 5th. This fb conversation went on for over a week and at this point, we’re about 200 comments deep. I’d been pretty active through it all and while there were a few (very few) encouraging moments for me (for example, Mr. Blue is someone I know personally and while he disagrees with my take on the Bible and homosexuality, he nevertheless came to my defense more on more than one occasion), overall it was pretty brutal.
I titled this post “why would anyone ever want to be a Christian when we treat one another this way?” because it’s a question I asked myself over and over again while working that fb thread.
And I think the answer has to be, “if this is how we treat one another then they shouldn’t want to be a Christian.”
And that’s a shame.
Because I believe the world is longing for a place where different people can come together with their differences and still love one another.
And the church is supposed to be just that sort of place but far too often, it’s not.
And that’s a shame.
It’ll probably take a few more posts for me to unpack my thoughts on all that went down, but I’ll close by saying this.
Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Martin Luther King Jr. expanded on this idea in a stunning sermon where he said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” and “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
Some people criticize the liberal end of the church for being big on love but soft on sin, as if love is just some fluffy, easy, ephemeral thing.
Love is costly. It’s brutal. Love is fucking hard work.
And it’s supposed to be Christians’ defining feature:
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Let it be, Lord. Let it be.
If for some insane reason you want to read through the entire facebook comment thread, here are links to all the screen grabs: