Today I want to write in defense of my conservative friends and family. I know over the last year my Facebook feed has gotten more and more liberal. Sometimes, to be honest, it’s like living in an echo chamber. I think we all acknowledge that phenomenon. So really, today I’m writing to my liberal friends. I know many of my conservative friends will read these words too, and I hope and pray that I represent them fairly. It’s my desire to help people understand each other and AT THE VERY LEAST give each other the benefit of the doubt. I feel like I’m qualified to write about this, because I have genuinely, sincerely lived in both places. I’ve been a tried-and-true, bonafide right-wing Republican, “same-sex attracted” fundamentalist Christian. And now I’m a liberal Democrat progressive gay Christian.
I know that it’s been painful for many of my conservative friends and family to read my words and see the way I’m living my life. They wish I would just be quiet! They don’t understand why I have to talk about it so much or so publicly. It is not my intention to hurt them. But I truly believe that to stay silent is not an option for me. I think it’s vital to be out and proud and say what I believe to be true. Tomorrow I’ll write about why, and I’ll share some of the powerful and poignant messages and validations I’ve received just in the last week that I’ve been writing these reflections.
I constantly hear two things from my liberal friends about conservatives: They are stupid and they are evil. And while I believe that some conservatives (and some liberals) *are* stupid and/or evil, I don’t think that we can paint with such a broad brush. The reality for me is that some of the people I love the most in the whole world are fundamentalist Christian, Trump-voting Republican people, and when I see them slandered and misrepresented, I cringe. First of all, it’s simply not true. And second, it does no good! And I know, liberal friends, we’ve had the same thing done to us, but the thing is, resorting to the tactics of some on the right is not helpful. As Mama Michelle so eloquently states, “When they go low…” You know the rest.
The thing is, most of my conservative family and friends are sincere, loving people. They have a deep love for God and for other people. They have a genuine concern for the well-being of others. They give generously to their churches and other charities with their time and money. They want to see God’s will be done, on earth as is in heaven. When they “take a stand” against gay marriage or abortion, when they vote for people like Donald Trump or Mike Pence, when they repost things by Franklin Graham or Pat Robertson… They are doing it because they genuinely believe it is the right thing to do. They sincerely believe that God wants them to do it, that it is the best way they can show love to their follow human beings. Most of my conservative friends and family genuinely believe that I am sinning grievously. That to “act on” my homosexuality, or even to believe/teach that homosexual behavior is not sinful is to shake my fist in God’s face. They believe that I am terribly deceived and that this could very possibly end in my burning in hell forever. No wonder they are concerned for me! Their love compels them to try to get me to change my beliefs and behaviors. They pray fervently for me. They agonize over what to say to me and when. They want to show me love and acceptance without somehow “approving of” what they consider to be my sin.
And I have found, after studying, thinking about and living this journey for so long, that it really all comes down to one thing. The Bible. It’s all about the Bible! Conservative Christians take the Bible literally. They have a doctrine called “inerrancy,” which basically means that every single word in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, “is without error or fault in all its teaching”; or, at least, that “Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact”. And even if conservatives don’t affirm inerrancy, they take the bible very seriously. I mean, let’s face it. The Bible *does* seem to be pretty clear about same-sex relationships. The “clobber passages” exist, and conservatives take them very seriously. And the thing is, for every scholar we can produce who can deconstruct and re-interpret the scriptures, they can produce a scholar who can convincingly speak about the other perspective. Reputable scholars disagree. For every James Brownson, there is a Robert Gagnon. Pastors/lay people disagree. For every Rob Bell or Stan Mitchell, there is a Preston Sprinkle or John Piper. And what divides these scholars and teachers? On a very basic level, it’s about the Bible. How to read it, what authority it holds in the lives of believers, and how we determine what it actually teaches.
I had a conversation with an old friend the other day. We were trying to find some middle ground, some place to even start a conversation. But he can’t give up the concept of inerrancy. And I can’t accept it. We’re stuck. What do we do? Our only option, short of convincing the other of our perspective, which is not likely to happen, is agreeing to disagree. And that’s a difficult and awkward place to be. I know a denominational leader in my former church, the Evangelical Covenant Church, who desperately *wants* to be LGBTQ-affirming, but he simply can’t get around what he understands to be the clear teaching of scripture.
I’ve been writing this post for way too long today. I feel like I’m not really making the point I set out to make. I just want people to try to see each other as people and not as caricatures. My conservative, non-affirming friends are doing what they believe they are called to do, what they genuinely believe God wants them to do.
I think they’re wrong. I think their sincere, deeply-held beliefs still harm people. I think they are misguided. I want them to change their beliefs and behaviors, just like they want me to. But I know the vast majority of them do not have evil motives. I don’t think they’re stupid people. And I think we liberals have got to stop saying it. We’re not helping anything.