by Steve Kindlepost and comments in opposition to and in favor of same-sex marriage. What did it bring to light? I know some of you are thinking–Nothing! Most of us are probably set in our considered opinions on the subject of gays and gay marriage. What more can be said than has been said over the past fifty-five years that the church has struggled with this issue? Surely, nothing new surfaced in terms of new arguments. We were exposed to more of the same, including what I had to say on the subject. This is not to say that the pros and cons are irrelevant anymore, just repetitive. Of course, not everything that could be said would occur in our discussions, and possibly something of value may yet come forth. But our discussion ended in an impasse–a draw, if you will, where it seems no minds were changed.
But changing minds might not be the most important reason for the discussion. After all, if all we want to do is change another’s mind, in my view (and Martin Buber’s, too), we treat each other as objects to be defeated, not equals to learn from. In the process, we deny the other the status of human being, equal to our self.
Full disclosure: I am a stanch advocate for gay equality in the church and society. I am the executive director of an organization that works with churches and individuals to encourage gay inclusion. I have given seminars literally from coast to coast including Hawaii, and published two books on the subject. I have stood with LGBTQs in public protests when we were driven off the sidewalks by angry truck drivers. I’ve had stones throne at me during vigils, I know the stories of countless gays whose parents disowned them, churches ex-communicated them, and society discriminated against them and finally shunned them.
Yet, this is not the end of the story. One thing changed all this. Over the last couple of decades, gays “came out” by the thousands, even hundreds of thousands. We discovered that they are our brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, pastors, doctors, even our parents. Our minds changed from thinking all gays are like the demonstrators in the pride parades to seeing they are just like us, for they are us. So now America is solidly behind full equality, including same-sex marriage.
I bring this up because minds do change. They change, not because they have been argued into a new position, but because they have a personal relationship with someone gay they know well. Most people I have encountered over the years who were pro or anti gay were so out of a disposition, not out of a well-reasoned proposition. The anti-gay folk just found it “unnatural,” and the pro-gay folk disliked discrimination of any kind. In Christian circles, “My Bible says…” was met with “No it doesn’t.” Yet, the anti-gay folk changed their minds in droves, and the pro-gay folk learned personally why they hated discrimination.
So, what did I learn from our discussion on EDN? Mostly that we are talking past one another. Each side begins from such a different place that communication is almost impossible. Our views of how to understand the Bible turn that document into a jumble of interpretations that make no sense if you don’t hold the same view. Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 didn’t come up, but for many, this is all one needs to know that gay sex is an abomination. Those with an inclusive view can’t understand how a Bible verse can carry such import as to condemn a whole people; we prefer theology to proof-texting.
I wanted to make clear my total commitment to my position in order to make a larger point. I prefer having a relationship with those who disagree with me over winning the argument. My chief antagonists, Elgin and Nancy (see comments), are model Christians whose lives I admire, and who I hope hold me in the same regard. I can say this, because over the years I have burned a few bridges and wish I had not valued my own position over our friendship. So, in the future, I hope we can continue to raise controversial issues and maintain the priority of people over opinion. Being the liberal I am, I believe God prefers it this way.
Go in peace, dear ones. God loves us all.