Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UnChristian - Part 3

I'm reading the book now faster than I can keep up with the blog, but I'll try and do a couple here tonight to catch up a bit. The next perception Kinnaman tackles is this: "Christians show contempt for gays and lesbians." At least so far, this is probably the most difficult perception to deal with, and maybe a bit controversial in some circles.

First, what Kinnaman is not saying. He is not saying that homosexuality is ok. He's also not saying that we should read Scripture any differently or adopt a new theology of any kind. But here's what he is saying. He is pointing out the hypocrisy of the church as it relates to this issue. There are many, many sins in the church that get simply overlooked. Divorce, gluttony, greed, pride, materialism, etc. And yet, homosexuality somehow gets raised as the sin that simply can't be forgiven. Let's agree on this, sin is bad. All sin. My sin. Your sin. Listen to this finding though in Kinnaman's research: "In our research, the perception that Christians are 'against' gays and lesbians - not only objecting to their lifestyles but also harboring irrational fear and unmerited scorn toward them - has reached critical mass. The gay issue has become the 'big one', the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity's reputation" (92). He also says that "our hostility towards gays - not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals - has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith" (92). Wow. Is that what Jesus said? "This is how they will know that you are my disciples, by your disdain for people."

As usual, there are tons of talking points from this chapter, but let me focus on this one thing. I fully believe that most Christians simply don't know what to do with this issue. It's a difficult one. It's hard to understand. But even more, unless you can put a face to this issue, you are going to have a very different view than others. Kinnaman shares a personal story about a homosexual friend who felt condemned and judged by him because of his Christian views. I have experienced some of the same things. One of my best friends as I grew up came out as gay in his twenties. All through junior high and high school people teased him because he was different. He swore he was straight. I'm positive that at that age I said things about gays that I would be completely embarrassed about now. I wonder though, did he know in high school? If so, he clearly had no safe place to share that, or to wrestle with the feelings he was experiencing. Even worse, I wasn't safe. What things did I say that may have pushed him away? My guess is that the only place he experienced grace and understanding was in the homosexual community. It certainly wasn't in the church.

Flash forward 10 years. I got a call one day from a student who wanted to come talk to me right away. When he showed up in my office I could tell he was as nervous as could be. After some small talk he eventually got around to telling me he was gay. I was the first person he ever told. Can I tell you the first thing that came out of his mouth after this news? "Am I going to hell because I'm gay?" This question wasn't just a random question. It was THE question that had given him such grief and heartache for so long. It's what kept him pretending. It's what caused him to be angry, to be socially awkward, to over eat, to hate his parents. It was fear that drove him to live a lie. It was fear that made him shake so badly as we talked. Yet, in the midst of this fear he was searching. He was reaching out because he desperately wanted someone to love him and accept him and to tell him that God still loved him. In his mind, God hated him. I wonder where he got that idea.


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