I was nestled in my upstairs corner office lost in the world of the sermon when, "Pastor Taylor! Pastor Taylor!" I knew it was a visitor; my Church of Christers understood that referring to me as "Pastor" had a place at the top of the list with National Treason and Blaspheming the Spirit. I was a "Minister."
As the familiar voice jarred me out of "Dimension Homily" back to the real world I made my way down the stairs to find a local pastor waving a document in the air. Little did I know it was not a piece of paper but a bugle calling me to war. He handed it to me and encouraged with flare, "This is a petition for the State Legislature. It's to sway them from passing a bill that gives the same rights to homosexual partners as married couples. You do know this bill is a step toward legalizing gay marriage? Sign it and have all your members sign it!"
I didn't sign it and I didn't announce it from the pulpit. I simply put it on the Church tack board, another minnow in a parchment sea. My refusal to lay down my John Hancock was no attempt at a political statement. I don't hope in politics and I don't believe in legislating morality or Christianity. Legislation targets behavior, like training a dog. I can get my dog to quit peeing on the carpet by slipping him some baco-fake every time he tinkles outside and by scolding him, "Bad dog!" every time he waters the carpet. It may get the behavior I want but it doesn't transform the pooch's desire - dogs love peeing on carpet. The difference between the human species and the canine is that most people are smarter than dogs. People find ways of conforming to the imposed behavior while at the same time scouting out large enough cracks in the system to still fulfill their desires. My refusal to sign the petition was not a political ploy; it was the influence of stuff lik Mark 2:15-16:
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Since Mark clearly identifies the Pharisees as the antagonist of his gospel we Church people tend to read this passage and give Jesus a fist bump, "Yeah Jesus, stick it to the Pharisees!" But Jesus' actions and the company he kept was offensive not to the world but to the religious. To put it in perspective, I believe if Jesus were here today we would find him engaging people in gay bars and being present, although probably not marching and definitely not picketing, at the gay parades strolling through Washington. Jesus always engaged. He never built walls or fortresses. When churches rally the troops and actively protest gay rights through legislation, etc., we build walls, create gaps, and push the gay community further away and in so doing hinder our ability to embrace the "engaging" strategy of Christ. I believe that introducing the gay community to the upside-down way of Christ through genuine, caring relationship is far more redemptive than ANY legislation.
- To non-christian individuals and communities actively, even flamboyantly, living out the gay lifestyle... why not? If you are not a professing follower of Jesus Christ, then why would you submit to the way of Christ. We cannot hold a non-believing world to a believer's worldview. And yet openly homosexual individuals are STILL people. Therefore, the next time you come across a same-sex couple or an openly gay guy, instead of crinkling your nose, or giving the raised-eyebrow-big-eyed-"He's gay!" glance toward your neighbor, or starting a little gossip party remember that that person or that couple desires to be loved, fears loneliness and rejection, needs affirmation and encouragement, and deserves dignity and respect. We, of all people, have an underground storm shelter stocked with an arsenal of love, affirmation, encouragement, dignity and respect...so lock and load!
- To Christians struggling with same sex attraction... those of us who don't, need to identify and step into the great suffering and isolation many of them face on a daily basis. Many of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have no idea how to overcome their feelings and fight to stop their homosexual activity but feel the church is the last place on the globe where they can honestly express their struggle. I could imagine that many individuals struggling with same-sex attraction live tortured lives of guilt and frustration with God. Several years ago I was at a Christian camp of 1000 high school students. Two nights in a row, two different keynotes delivered jokes with a "homosexual punchline." The audience roared with laughter. That moment, that moment that cannot be taken back, did more damage than we far could imagine. For a crowd of a thousand, dozens of students must have at that very moment been struggling with same sex attraction. Perhaps they had come that very week to find a listening ear and a compassionate heart but what they found was roaring laughter at their most difficult and confusing and deep battle. They would have to turn elsewhere for the compassion they desired and needed. The Church cannot laugh. We must declare, "You belong here! We love you! We want to understand your battle, your pain, your failures, your successes. You are one of us. We long to walk with you in the messiness of it all, to walk acknowledging that there is a Friday of struggle, pain, death and sin but to choose with you to live in the hope and in the New Creation of Sunday."