Sunday, January 20, 2013

God Love Wendell Berry - Intolerance and/OR Compassion

God love Wendell Berry and other heterosexuals who don't see gay marriage as a threat or an abomination - or, for that matter, as a "right" to be granted.  In a recent article put out by abpnews, Berry asserts that liberals and conservatives have invented "a politics of sexuality" that establishes marriage as a "right" to be granted or withheld by whichever side prevails.  He said both viewpoints contravene principles of democracy that rights are self-evident and inalienable and not determined and granted or withheld by the government.

I shared another article on Facebook from the Huffington Post the other day and found myself in an interesting dialogue/commentary with two former students - one on the far left, and one on the far right of the discussion. The HP article suggested that it is time for conservative Christians to "evolve" on the subject of LGBT equality.  My far right friend patently disagreed, quoting scripture and verse to support his stance. I pointed out that God is love, and Jesus was compassionate to the point of choosing not to observe Biblical and Pharasaic law and heal folks (usually presumed to be in need of healing because of some "sin") on the Sabbath (a law deemed punishable by death). Further "discussion" ensued, my far left friend adding his two cents in support of my assertions, with neither side giving much ground to the other - but kindly and civilly, of course.

And then, I politely stopped "discussing." There comes a point where one realizes there is no common ground to be had, and the dialogue becomes a volleying of monologues.  I have to admit I was saddened to have to accept that my former student was "compassionately" pointing out that he was intolerant of my "sin."

No matter how intolerant of me or the truth of Jesus our society becomes . . . I won't "evolve" into a mentality that equates sin with truth.  But that doesn't mean I am not compassionate, either.  Jesus dined with prostitutes and thieves, yet he was intolerant of sin.  I'm not a hate monger or bigot because I'm intolerant of the LGBT lifestyle: I just don't believe it is right by God's standard expressed in the Bible. Compassion does not mean tolerance of sin. . . .  Therefore, followers of Jesus cannot simply "evolve" to accept as truth a concept that would betray their faith.

My sadness came from wondering what he really knows about the "LGBT lifestyle" - and whether, as a part of his "compassion," he even wants to understand it.  Nor do I, as a follower of Jesus, find my "lifestyle" a betrayal of my faith.  My "lifestyle" is pretty normal and even boring by most people's standards - heterosexuals included.  In fact, the only thing that distinguishes my life from my heterosexual counterparts is who I choose to sleep with.  And, like most of my middle aged, straight friends, there is generally a lot more sleeping than "sinning" occurring. I'm frankly not sure that my "lifestyle" is worthy of the time and energy involved in being "intolerant."

I find myself saying this often, so forgive the broken record if you've heard this before, but . . . When homosexuals become a face and a family, rather than an abstraction and an arbitrary group, I think we all begin to wrestle with our understanding of how Jesus would interact with, and love, this person. We all have to come to a decision about whether the Bible should be interpreted in light of the cultural context, or if they are God's overarching literal intent for all eternity.

As my far left friend and I continued our discussion privately, he pointed out that Wendell Berry perhaps said it best in the following:

"Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred," Berry said.  "Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness - as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies or any other group different from ourselves."

May we all, myself included, avoid a betrayal of our faith through categorical condemnation. 

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