Last week I started writing a blog that went something like this:
I don’t know quite what to say. But by God I’ll figure it out because some things need saying. There has been recent “scandalous” news in the Christian community. The Christian organization World Vision is one of the leading third-world-country child sponsorship organizations in the world. It provides opportunities for people to financially sponsor children in desperate need of basic accommodations, food, water, education, etc. For more information on the positive impact this organization has made see: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/bolivia-dam-good-story.
On Monday, World Vision announced that the organization would begin allowing the employment of gay and lesbian Christians in legal same-sex marriages. True to form, some “Christians” freaked out. By freaked out, I mean thousands of “Christians” who previously committed to sponsoring children and their respective communities, pulled their funding and sponsorships from these children in protest. As a result of this, World Vision reversed their decision to employ gay and lesbian Christians. Their statement is as follows:
“The board acknowledged it made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between one man and one woman. … We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.”
At this point I should say, what I originally wrote in my blog was intense. I haven’t fully decided if it was inappropriate or not, but if ever I’m not sure, this time via conviction through my wife, I know I shouldn’t post it. I had only terrible things to say about these “Christians” that sounded something like *&%$, and *%#&, and #%$*. You get my point. After gaining some distance from this I wanted to try the blog again because I still think there are some important things to say. Here’s my best, many times edited, attempt.
These occurrences grieve me beyond belief. I am honestly not grieved that World Vision disagrees with my theology on same sex marriage. That is not my issue. I don’t even mind if some “Christians” hate me and the gay community. I will still sleep soundly tonight, nestled close to my wife whom I will love unconditionally, sacrificially, and passionately until the day I die. The reason that I taste bile in my mouth at this situation is twofold.
First, I honestly pray mercy over the “Christians” who withdrew their support to their sponsored child over this issue. There is so much justifiable anger coursing through my veins and so much hurt over all of the thousands of lives negatively impacted. These types of “protests” are empty displays of a false morality. These actions (though I am tempted to harshly judge the very heart of every “Christian involved) are not a representation of Christ or anything he stood for. There is no supporting Bible verse anyone can drudge up, no holy justification anyone can lean on, and no Christ-like example anyone can extract from the scriptures to make right what went down last week. Please don’t, anyone, insult the deep, holy, intricate nature of our faith by throwing the “homosexuality” and “man lying with man” verses out there as if they could possibly be strong and indisputable enough to hold the severity of these actions, as if they could be central to the gospel enough to merit throwing love and support for precious vulnerable children out the window. It will never line up with Jesus. It will never line up with his greatest command to love God and to love others. Those scriptures as justification for hate, self-righteousness, and at the very least, irresponsibility, will crack, crumble, and perish, when exposed to the true light of unconditional love.
Some “Christians” can hate my relationship with my wife all day long and will yet never be justified for these detestable actions. They represent a broken promise to a child, a child to whom support was pledged, and all because theological feathers got ruffled. If we call a spade a spade, “Christians” withdrew support because they are uncomfortable with two women getting married. It is a disgrace to faith, to the faith community, and to Christianity.
A Christian is literally called such for his or her likeness to Christ, for being a “little Christ.” These actions are representative of different biblical characters, Pharisees, the ones Jesus consistently reprimanded for being hard hearted, unloving, and burdensome to their communities in the name of God. Christian history boasts a long list of characters whose actions, theological beliefs, and attitudes are very similar to those of “Christians” who withdrew their support from World Vision. These beliefs supported the crusades, the African slave trade, and racism. These systems of belief essentially make cultural issues central to the gospel. The comparison I have made here is not reflective of the scope and severity of each issue. I will not hold homosexual discrimination up against slavery. This is more about the reprehensible justifications put forth by generations of Christians to propagate hate. Every person has the right to hold any theological belief they choose. That’s fine. I will never try to pry that from anyone. But let us not forget that anytime we make something central to the gospel other than Jesus, anytime we make something worth the act of casting love aside, it will never be anything but inexcusable, shameful, and even prideful. May any of us who have or ever will be tempted to prostitute love for theology, feel the utmost conviction for years to come to the point that this thorn in our flesh becomes unbearable.
Second, to World Vision: I would have understood if you reversed your decision because you desperately want the children in need around the world to have a sponsor and support. That would have been an admirable move to make. Your Christian board initially decided on an action which I know was deeply considered, thoroughly prayed over, and discussed at length by wise members of your organization not for moments, but for years. It was a way-paving decision that you no-doubt felt convicted to make. You were on the right track. However, and there is a big however, you succumbed to the Pharisaical mindset of a group of “Christians.” You let them question your dedication to “Biblical authority,” which, for the record, has always been a tactic of conservative “Christians” in attempting to have their way. Rather than standing by your decision and, instead, focusing your efforts on replacing the sponsors who withdrew their conditional support, you doubted the wisdom of your decision, which you must have felt strongly about to begin with to make such a move. This doubt caused you to cave to the prideful demands of “Christians” likely more from fear than from true conviction. You relinquished your ability to move independently in response to the spirit of God and his guiding for your organization. These “Christians” heaped heavy burdens on your backs, and you withdrew under the pressure. I hope that years from now when you look back on this pressure caving reaction, you will feel the sharp sting of regret, and learn to not repeat the mistakes of your past.
I am not usually surprised by hateful “Christians.” I, my wife, and countless other gay and lesbian people have been on the receiving end of “Christian” hate since the day we came out (and long before then). But, the severity of the aforementioned happenings shocks me anew. I’ve said my peace. May God have mercy on us all.
Disclaimer: I do not believe that all Christians are hateful bigots. I personally know several Christians who are loving, generous, compassionate people. You know who you are. I in no way believe that Christians who disagree with my theology are bad people, or hateful people. Again, you are on a journey in life figuring out how to love people and love God the same as I am. This was not for you. I count myself a follower of Christ, not just because I was raised in church, or because I’ve served in the church every time the doors were opened since I was a pre-teen, and not because I have been employed by the church for a portion of my adult professional life. I follow Christ because he stood for the perfect sacrificial love, because there were no conditions on his love. No qualifiers. No one left out. So, from me to you, may your voice carry farther than the hateful “Christians” who all too often represent faith in Christ as a closed-minded, hate filled, bigoted, ignorant faith. No, this is not the entirety of the Christian faith or the Christian community at all. And, I believe in you.