Sometimes, I am chastised for being uncharitable to conservatives, online and offline (and sometimes, I certainly can be.)
People will ask me out for coffee to debate sexual ethics. People will email me so we can officially have it out. Sometimes they even express a willingness to learn, a need for information that they do not have, some backstory to my theology and the theology of many affirming Christians, because all they’ve heard is all they know…. Leading me to engage eagerly. It fills me up with hope. Until suddenly I start getting syrupy notes, patronizing paragraphs about how it’s just so darn hard to put up with those God rules isn’t it? But the “offensiveness of the gospel” should serve as a warning to my “lifestyle.” I close my laptop instantly. I feel foolish.
Sometimes my scoffing, my silence, it’s seen as a kind of intransigence on my part. A stubborn refusal to dialog. Like I have an unwillingness to leave my echo chamber and enter into the uncomfortable places, the spaces where we grow through loving disagreement. And while I get that, I also know that when it comes to this voice, my voice, they simply cannot hear it. I might as well be mouthing random words.
Because I’m gay, they can’t hear me. Because I believe God loves me as I am, they can’t hear me.
Instead of listening to me as an equal, immediately I am judged as being “biased” by my allegedly “objective” Christian challengers, so no matter my depth of study, no matter my hours spent in prayer, no matter the wisdom I’ve gleaned from my deep-painful-soul-searching-journey, my witness is dismissed out of hand. And I’m left standing here hit. Insulted. Dehumanized.
I wrote a new article for Sojourners on the day of the Supreme Court marriage decision- a very gentle article, I might add, holding in my metaphorical hands both my own celebration along with the concerns of conservative Christians. I offered a possible way forward for all of us: bridging the gap of our disagreement with radical love in action. In kind, some commenters called me “smug” and “sinful”, one going so far as to issue an altar call for my repentance. I turned to facebook where my posts was shared and while there were many kind words to be read, my mind has a tendency to Xerox all the words of extreme dislike.
And unlike past cultural events that exploded on social media, but were largely absent in my real life, this decision spilled into all spheres. There were some unexpected betrayals within intimate circles. A cold afterwards I’m still working through. But calls were issued for my repentance from those that know my faith. Vocalized concern (all of a sudden!) was made known for my “lifestyle”. And it is all too much sometimes. It’s dark out here. And they can’t hear me.
Recently, my friend Julie Rodgers, a public Christian figure, published a blog post explaining her evolving views on same-sex relationships. Unsurprisingly, she was set fire on the internet’s stake. If you know Julie, you know how infuriating this is. Julie is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Even though she disagreed with my theology, you should’ve seen how she embraced me when we met in Chicago, how she wanted to be a safe person, how she wanted to simply get to know me, Ben. A devout Christian, Julie has been (and continues to be) faithful to God’s call in her life to celibacy, but she no longer believes that this is mandatory for all LGB people. She supports them now. She believes they are good.
And when she announced that, she was torn to shreds by the conservative Christian gatekeepers. Particularly by Denny Burk who wasted no time in penning a blog post calling her faith invalid, a false teacher, calling her a “blemish on our love feast.” He later stated in the comments section that her, along with Matthew Vines, were “willfully suppressing the Truth of scriptures,” assuming a motive that I don’t quite understand (they’re secretly anti-Christian?), except that it serves Denny’s purpose to vilify LGB people and our allies.
So I’m done, temporarily, with the bridge building. It’s not intransigence. It’s not simply snark. It is protection. It is practicing safety for my emotional, spiritual, and in some cases, physical, wellbeing.
I don’t particularly care for those hours following brief, infuriating conversations; the way the anger grabs hold of my heart and will not let go. I don’t like wasting time on people who don’t (and won’t) see me as anything but a deviant gone astray. It’s become a boundary issue for me. Unless I perceive that the person is willing to meet me as an equal, respect me as one just as faithful and honest as they are. That’s different. And it’s also rare.
There is little use, I’m realizing, in talking with these folks. They can’t hear us. They can’t see beyond their own bigotry. It’s going to have to be an internal realization for them, or a forever separation from us, I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m washing my hands clean of this bridge building. The burden is not on me. I never should’ve thought it was. My humanity is not an argument I should have to fight.