Dear Christian Friends. No. You Are Not Being persecuted.
My Facebook page is a wash of rainbow hue. Its nice. People showing their support.
I’m not gonna colour in my Facebook pic. Sorry gay friends. I support you but I don’t do trendy. Although, I DID like this one…
But amongst all the colour (or attempted colour) there is the occasional frowney face. A few of my Christians friends have voiced their disapproval of all of this acceptance, celebration and general good will.
Here is one good example.
I am a conservative Lutheran But at least I admit it. I support the church’s (anti-gay) policy. I am not willing to give in to public pressure. I will say what I believe to be true even if it is unpopular and even if I have to suffer the consequences of those beliefs.
This person fits neatly into a growing counter narrative that some in our Church are adopting. They know that their views are unpopular and they are starting to feel the heat that their views generate. In short, people are telling them to “shut up” and it feels to them like they are being persecuted. Like the Christians of old they boldly face the lions of community disapproval in the Colosseum of public debate. In their minds they are standing up for God and refusing to deny their faith.
But that’s not what this is about.
This has nothing to do with persecution
This has nothing to do with standing up for God.
Dear Christian brothers and sisters. Can I encourage you to put aside for a moment how you are feeling and consider what is happening from the perspective of a gay person. (I think Jesus would be ok with you doing that. As long as you don’t walk around in those fabulous gay shoes for too long you should be ok.)
This is what our church says to our gay brothers and sisters.
Your sexuality is sinful. Your love is not acceptable. You ideally should live without the benefits and joy of a lifelong, loving partner. But if you can’t, your relationship and your love should be kept hidden as a shameful thing.
Your relationship and your love is not the same as ours. Ours is honourable, good and instituted and blessed by God. Yours is ungodly and dirty and is based in sin and evil desire. Our relationships should be celebrated by the community. Yours should not.
In days gone by this condemnation was supported by the community and this community support gave the church enormous power. The community echoed the church’s statement with nasty captions like “Faggot” or “Poof”. The church recoils from words like these but our underlying message says much the same thing. If you are gay and in love then you are a shameful and unacceptable creature.
But something has changed.
Gay people are finally standing up and saying…
NO! No more! you will not say that about me, my partner and my relationship. It is hurtful and nasty and causes damage to me and to my family. Stop it!
And as they stand in defiant protest the community is learning to stand with them. They have learnt to recognise that gay people are their brothers, sisters, children, mums, dads, aunties, uncles and friends. The caption “Poof” is turning to “Goodonyamate!” They too are telling the church that the anti-gay comments are unwelcome and harmful.
The shift of community attitudes has bought with it a shift of power. The church feels its loss of power and, it seems, grieves this loss acutely. But the church should not get confused about what those feelings of grief and loss actually mean.
Our church is just as free as we ever were to continue to make anti gay comments. No one is stopping us. The only difference now is that we are being confronted with the very real effects that our comments have in the very real lives of gay people and their families. We are being told, in no uncertain terms, not to say those harmful things anymore.
We are being told to shut up!
That is not called persecution. That is called accountability.
And… we are ok with self-examination and accountability. Aren’t we?
I have a different picture in mind. Not the Colosseum and lions but my 1960’s Dianella Primary school play ground. We stood to attention every Wednesday morning, sang God Save our Gracious Queen and recited the Lord’s Prayer. A new kid came to school fresh off the plane from a country somewhere east of mother England. And he talked strange. And he ate some weird black sausage. And it wasn’t even in a sandwich. And, worse than that, when asked he said it was made out of BLOOD! (of all the godless, heathen, vampirish…)
Well. of course he needed to be ostracised and called names. It felt right and that feeling was confirmed in me as all my friends stood with me in the name calling. We were a band of brothers bonded by the common enemy, just like our dads in WW2.
Then Mr Allen, big of girth and big on poetry and times tables, talked to us about other lands and customs and foods. By the end of the year the climate had changes. Kids were bringing pizza and pickled herring and left over pasta for lunch. Suddenly no one was scared to show what they ate at home. Suddenly it was ok to eat anything!
Well, not for me! This strange kid and his strange lunch was not OK! It was a black, blood sausage for God’s sake! And I made sure that the foreign kid knew it.
But by the end of the year no one stood with me anymore. I felt alone and betrayed.
Then a couple of the bigger kids said…
Just shut up, Neil!
And I felt…I dont know… what would you call it?… persecuted?
Dear Christian friends, you are not being persecuted. But you do have a decision to make. You can either pack up your lunchbox and go sit alone with bottom lip pouting… or your can join the happy majority who have learnt that different is ok.
Ok. You can step out of those gay shoes now. Thanks for listening. I hope I haven’t offended you. Sometimes hard words are necessary. I hope we can still sit down to lunch together.
I still haven’t tried black sausage. Perhaps we can try some together.