Responding with Grace

The SCOTUS ruling and announcement about same-sex marriage blew up my Facebook account.


Lots of people have lots to say. Most of it isn’t all that helpful. In fact, some of it is simply hateful. But here are two examples of responses from two friends of mine on Facebook. One’s a Christian, and one’s not. But they both gracefully acknowledged the tension and spoke with grace towards others they might not fully agree with. I love that I can call these two gentlemen my friends.

From my Christian friend, Rory:

“Marriage can be hard. In a marriage, love only wins when you consistently, over a long period of time, make the sort of choices that don’t always feel “lovely” or “winning.” It requires commitment, a long-term perspective, humility, a willingness to consider someone else over yourself, a willingness to prepare for the possibility and responsibility of raising children, a denial of consumerism and selfishness and cheap promises, and an investment into and from your community.

Above all it requires the conviction that there are very, very few things, perhaps only death or sustained / serious infidelity, that truly amount to acceptable reasons for ending a marriage. This might mean that over the years you discover that you’ve actually married a few different “people” rather than the one person to whom you spoke vows. It is only under these conditions (and more) that marriage truly acts as a fundamental building block for society, as the SCOTUS mentioned in their ruling yesterday.

So, to same-sex couples who can now marry: sincere congratulations, but also, welcome to the long, good, hard struggle. I hope, for the sake of our children and grandchildren and societal flourishing, that you are in this for the long haul, and that as a result of more people having access to legal marriage we can start to see more of the benefits to society that marriage provides. It will be good to have more allies in the struggle against broken commitments, no-fault divorces, and children who are orphaned / parentless / shuffled-around-between-warring-parties / all that.”

From my non-Christian friend, Eric:

“To those who are disappointed by yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on the legality of gay marriage, I hear your anger. I don’t share it, but I hear you. I understand that you feel disgusted and horrified at the sin you feel this country is permitting, and that you may not feel the same pride in our nation as so many of us do at this moment. You have every right to these feelings and to continue disapproving of homosexuality, although you will likely face significant challenges from others each time you express these thoughts. I expect that these challenges will become stronger in the months and years to come. I truly hope that you won’t use these challenges as a reason for extricating yourselves from our collective society.

If you can find it in your hearts to forgive those who you feel are misguided, sinful, and deceived in their feelings of love for another person, I hope you will do so. It will bring you peace. I also hope you may find the courage to direct this anger and disgust toward other fights. Your anger and faith are ideal weapons for fighting poverty, sickness, violence, and hatred in our own communities and across the globe. I’m certain you will find many more allies in these fights than you have in your fight against gay marriage — you would have my support and my allegiance, at the very least. If you can bring the same level of organization and dedication to these other battles, I guarantee that we will have every chance of creating a truly just and loving world.

To my friends who are thrilled with this ruling, and especially to my gay friends for whom this changes everything, congratulations! This has been a long, and difficult, and uphill climb from the start. It’s so incredible to see these accomplishments come into being, when they often seemed so far from the realm of possibility. Your expressions of love, tolerance, and acceptance are a joy to have in this world, and I am so happy that you now have these equal rights in the eyes of the law. Whether or not you choose to marry, keep this spirit of love in your heart for all people. Celebrate this ruling, and celebrate your love. Please remember that those who oppose you will not change their hearts and minds by being told they are wrong. Their hearts and minds will only change by seeing you love and be loved. Stay vigilant, stay beautiful, and let us continue our push for equal rights and opportunities for all.”

Living in Ambiguity.

I think we stay away from conversations that make us uncomfortable because we don’t want to change. Ultimately, I think deep down we are all afraid of change. And at the end of the day if we’re honest with ourselves, not every day, but every once in a while, we think that horrible thought, What if I’m wrong about everything?

What we believe about God, the universe, the goodness within mankind (or lack thereof), and our future hope is what determines how we live our lives. As we grow up our family, friends, schools, community, culture, churches, books, experiences, society, chemical balances within our brain and body, and everything else we are exposed to affects the framework by which we determine how to live. We spend our entire lives building a framework of values and of beliefs. Most of those are built up at a very young age. The foundation is at least.

Something I’ve learned over these past few years is that as the circle of people and experiences one is exposed to expands, his or her own worldview expands. Same with their values. And with their love and respect. It’s easy to condemn something you don’t know, understand, or haven’t experienced. But it’s amazing how hard it is to condemn something when that something becomes a someone. Or multiple someones. Communities. Populations.

This is true for minorities. For those struggling in this country. It is easy to commentate on immigration. To bash those who break the law by coming into this country illegally. And it’s easy to condemn those who help those who do. So people try to write laws to prevent this from happening.

It makes sense. What do they think they are doing? How can they think that it ok to do that? They are stealing jobs from rightful citizens of this country. Right?

But then by accident you are flipping through the stations on the radio and you land on NPR and you hear a story on Latino USA about how the waiting period to legally immigrate to the U.S. through a family member who has become a citizen is now almost 20 years.

And that was just by accident. You didn’t even mean to hear that. Your world blows up a bit when you actually intentionally meet illegal immigrants or hear their stories.

This is true for the poor. For those struggling in this country. It is easy to commentate on poverty. To bash those who take checks from the government. It’s easy to condemn those who abuse the system. So people try to write laws to prevent this from happening.

It makes sense. Why can’t they just get jobs? If they just applied themselves they could stop taking advantage of normal hard-working tax payers. They have motivation to eat enough to get fat, why can’t they motivate themselves to go get jobs? Right?

But then you help out at a community center in the city which helps the homeless, and the under-resourced, and simple poor families. And you hear their stories. You hear about the true injustices and disadvantages that they experience. You realize that the reason they are overweight is because the cheapest food is the unhealthiest food. And even if they did want to eat fresh fruits and veggies, well, they are nowhere to be found. No grocery stores. They are miles away. (And that’s barely the tip of the iceberg.)

You see and hear their stories. You experience their reality, if only for a week when you were simply wanting to help out at a community center.

This is true for the LGBT community. For those who feel harassed in this country. Unequal. It is easy to commentate on homosexuality. To bash those who aren’t “normal.” It’s easy to condemn those who want to support same-sex marriage. So people try to write laws to prevent this from happening.

It makes sense. Homosexuality isn’t natural. How can they think it is ok to do that? They must have not been raised right. They clearly have rejected God. Right?

But then you go to dinner with a group of individuals who identify within the LGBT community AND within the Christian community. You meet a Christian gay man who recently came out to his wife. A Christian bisexual woman who is happily married to a straight man. A whole group of people who love Jesus, believe the Bible, and identify within the LGBT community. People who want to just do what is right.

You hear their stories. You get a glimpse of their reality – their struggles. And you are simply eating dinner with some people who are part of the LGBT community.

I could go on. For me, this is my story. I have decided to refuse to comment definitively about any group of people, especially without hearing their stories or getting glimpses of their realities. That’s one of the major injustices in this world. The people who make the decisions, who have the power, are often the ones who have not heard the stories or experienced the realities of the people whom their decisions affect directly and deeply. Or they just don’t care. Many times the people in power are the ones who think they have the best answers to the perceived problems that exist. They rarely take the time to listen. They rarely ask for solutions from the people experiencing the problems, which is unfortunate because the people who experience the problems, the injustices, are usually the ones that have the best solutions.

We just don’t care enough. Listening takes time. It takes humility. And what does power have to do with humility? More often than not, hearing the experiences and realities of people not like yourself challenges your values, your worldview, your understanding of, well, everything.

And that is scary. That does not make me feel good (or well…). It might keep me up a bit at night if I think too much about it. It might mean that I can’t have definitive answers. It makes life more ambiguous. No one wants to live in ambiguity. We want to have things figured out.

That’s where I’m at right now. Ambiguity.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t say I’m living in doubt or forsaking my values or worldview. I’m just allowing them to be challenged. Maybe I don’t have things as figured out as I once thought.

When I realize that I’m not desperately and defensively holding onto things I thought to be true, which might not be as sure as I once thought, I realize that I am just being honest – to myself, and before God and others.

That’s how I want to live. Honestly.

Even if it means living in ambiguity.