The Synchroblog – A Conversation toward Building Bridges
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.
June 24th, 2009
Wendy Gritter of New Directions is seeking to increase communication and decrease hostility between the Christian community and the gay community. While I do not see these as necessarily exclusive communities, it is unquestionable that conservative Christians and gay people are to some extent at war with each other.
Towards the goal of healing, Wendy came up with the concept of a synchroblog, a time in which everyone would focus on their perspectives about such communication. She chose today, the Wednesday of Pride Week, for this effort. So today, a couple dozen bloggers with various Christian or gay perspectives will be participating in this joint conversation and Wendy invited me to join them.
I was born into a very religious, very conservative Christian family. Where other familes argued sports or politics, my family debated points of faith. And as a consequence, I am not unfamiliar with the mindset of conservative Christians, both the positives and the pitfalls. And consider myself a Christian, though many of the positions I was taught have yielded to different perspectives.
In college, I became involved in Republican partisan politics. Some of the individuals I met at that time have later become players in the battle over equality, on both sides of the issue. I know the dialect spoken by those on the right.
Based on my history, unlike some in the gay community, I do not necessarily look at conservatives and/or Christians and automatically assume that they have nefarious intentions or are motivated by hatred and superstition. Nor do I assume that because we disagree that therefore they are deluded and stubborn and blinded by strict adherence to an archaic text.
I was first invited to join the blogosphere as a participant at Ex-Gay Watch. And for a while this was a good match. My interest in politics and religion and how both interacted with the gay community fit with the goals of that site.
But a restructuring at XGW brought their focus a little narrower and deeper. So at the invitation of Jim Burroway I began to blog here at Box Turtle Bulletin. However, as most readers know, I still have a strong interest in the current struggle within Christendom to resolve issues surrounding homosexuality and the place, if any, of gay people within the body of believers.
In this process I’ve come to believe that much of the battle between conservative Christianity and the gay community is due to ignorance. We don’t know each other, we don’t trust each other, and we assume the worst about each other.
Recently I traded stinging denunciations with a writer at an organization included in the SPLA’s list of hate groups. I accused the writer of callousness and deceit and she returned the favor. But, oddly enough, this opened a dialogue between us, one which led to a later retraction of a particularly odious claim at the website of that organization.
I should not have been surprised. It was hardly the first time that I found that if I tried a personal approach, many anti-gay activists are receptive to at least listening to what you have to say.
I think that most of those who generate or disseminate anti-gay beliefs and accusations do so out of ignorance. Most do not wish to be telling deliberate lies and genuinely care whether their words are truthful.
And most conservative Christians do not hate gay people, or at least do not think that they do. The culture of Christianity is strongly influenced by Christ’s commandments to love; and most Christians believe that they do love, even if such love is sometimes experienced in ways that others find horrifying or hateful.
One of the biggest pitfall of conservative Christianity is an arrogant and patronizing superiority. Being a religion based on faith – and at times rock-solid certainty – conservative Christians are inclined to believe that they know God’s Will for their life. And far too often, that extends to knowing God’s Will for your life as well – a Will that can be forced upon you for your own good if you aren’t humble enough to submit to it on your own.
One of the biggest problem for the gay community is victimhood. Being a persecuted people, too often we see any disagreement as an attack on our dignity and our personhood. And if others are not inclined to treat us decently, we are quick to use whatever measure is available to force them to do so.
As we go forward,
- We need to know each other. We need to open communication wherever possible and ask about intentions and beliefs and attitudes before we assume the worst about each other.
- We need to believe each other. Should the gay community tell Christians that we aren’t trying to shut down their churches, they need to consider that our motivations may not be directed towards them at all. If Christians tell us that they don’t hate us, we should consider that hate may not be driving their actions, positions, or beliefs.
- We need to tolerate each other. It is not acceptable for either of us to demand that the other must change. Christians cannot insist that gays cease to be gay or that public policy punish those who do not. Likewise, gays cannot insist that conservative Christians change their theology and embrace a change in sexual ethic or that they be otherwise punished by tax law.
- We need to call off the culture war. We are not enemies. We are not mutually exclusive communities. Most gay people consider themselves Christian and most Christians know and love a gay person. This culture war benefits only those who profit from the continued conflict. Let’s stop acting in the best interest of culture war barons and in the interests of our people.
- We need to denounce the haters and the liars. It reflects poorly on each of us when the reactionary and the extreme get to speak for us.
Christians need to stand up and say that the Traditional Values Coalition and Peter LaBarbera and Scott Lively are instruments of hatred and have no voice in Christianity. While I wish to credit Dr. Throckmorton for having the integrity to speak against Lively and some others, far too often Christians are forgiving of the excesses of their own. It is time for Christian denominations to publicly disassociate themselves from hatemongers and to commit to expressions of love – real love, not the kind that is loaded with contempt, self-righteousness, and demonization.
And when deceivers like Maggie Gallagher run campaigns of lies, it is the moral obligation of people of faith to denounce those lies and those who are making them. This has not happened in any significant way. Too often Christians have chosen to put the intent of an anti-gay political campaign ahead of an obligation to honesty and objective truth. If Christians really want to build a bridge to the gay community, they need to not only avoid lies themselves but refute the lies of others within their camp.
And while I believe that the gay community has done a better job of rejecting the liars and haters, we too have a ways to go. While mean spirited bloggers such as Perez Hilton do receive public condemnation from parts of the community, they still have far too many who are willing to listen to their self-centered viciousness.
And one of the things that our community needs to do – one of the hardest, actually – is to stop mocking Christians. It doesn’t matter if the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have contributed to charities or if we understand how and why they came to be; they are offensive to Christians in the same way that prancing lisping mockery is offensive to us. And while there is a place for those within a faith to protest the teachings of their mother church, it is wrong for gays outside of a faith to desecrate a church or interrupt a service. These are things which needlessly hurt and offend others and which make it difficult for them to accept us as anything other than a threat.
- We need to commit to civility. Even if we cannot agree on theology, perspective, principle, or policy, we can agree to debate and discuss with civility. This has been, I believe, a real challenge for most of us. But it is a challenge to which we can rise.
Let’s hope that this attempt at communication, this synchroblog, will shed light and open doors and lead to a reconciliation between communities. And I thank Wendy for the hard work in bringing it about.
Please go to the New Directions site to link to others who are participating in this event.
Ex-Exodus Minister Condemns Uganda Conference
March 12th, 2009
New Direction is a ministry in Canada for those individuals who struggle with sexual and gender identity issues. Until last year they were an affiliate of Exodus International, but chose to disassociate due to a difference in view about the purpose and direction of ex-gay ministries. New Direction strongly believes in staying out of politics and is more interested in engaging gay people than in winning battles at the ballot box.
However, the situation in Uganda is beyond the typical rhetoric or political positioning. And it has compelled Wendy Gritter, the leader of New Directions, to respond regarding what God’s calling for His people:
It is not just to advocate for the criminalization of gay people. Currently, gay people in Uganda face the possibility of life in prison. This ought not to be! And those who name the name of Jesus need to speak up and say so.
It is not just to coerce gay people into therapy. Disputes about the harm of reparative therapy aside, forced therapy ought not to be. And those who know the invitational character of Jesus need to speak up and say so.
It is not just to stir up fear and hatred of gay people. Blaming gay people for the genocide in Rwanda cannot be tolerated. Equating homosexuality with pedophilia when the research clearly refutes such a notion is inexcusable. It must be challenged for what it is – inciting hatred and potential violence towards gay people in an already volatile context such as Uganda. Such hatred is completely inconsistent with God’s call to shalom. And those who follow Jesus need to speak up and say so.
Wendy invites other Christians to join her in countering the behavior engaged in by the Uganda conference participants.
I invite others to join me in calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality throughout the world. I invite others to join me in standing for justice for our gay neighbours – in Uganda and throughout the world. And I invite others to do all they can, through relationship and in word & deed, to overcome the incitement of hatred with love.
I hope that those who seek to be followers of Christ will pay careful attention to Wendy’s words.