Disclaimer: I debated long and hard about writing this post. I tend to keep my mouth shut on many 'social' religious issues, because no matter what I say I'm going to make someone mad. Conservatives Christians: because I'm too liberal and don't give the Bible enough credit. Non religious folks : because I give the Bible ANY credit. English and Philosophy Majors: because my arguments always have holes (and grammatical errors) in them. But this post wouldn't leave me alone. I have to write it. I'm going to say up front: you don't have to agree with me. In fact, you are welcome to think I am wrong. HOWEVER, if you DO think I'm an idiot, please refrain from trying to convert or change my mind, from belittling me, and from judging my character based on a hurridly written blog post.
In case you are unaware, the 2012 United Methodist General Conference is meeting in Tampa Florida this week. For those of you who do not have an entire section of your brain
The local church is overseen by an appointed pastor who is assigned to his charge one year at a time. All of the churches (and ministries such as campus ministry) in a regional area are grouped together as a "district" and overseen by a district superintendent. The districts of a larger area (typically as a whole state, or part of a state) are grouped into finite conferences. For instance, the majority of Florida serves as the "Florida Conference"; however some smaller states may be grouped together, while other states (such as North Carolina) are broken up into two conferences. Each conference is primarily sovereign and overseen by a "Bishop". These conferences each hold annual meetings to discuss pertinent issues, assign pastors to new charges, work on overseas ministries, etc.
The Methodist church as a whole is encompassed in the greater United Methodist Church Every four years each conference elects delegates to attend the General Conference. The Methodist Church is governed by the Book of Discipline although each conference has it's own set of rules that coordinate with the BOD . Every four years at General Conference different conferences can petition for changes in the BOD. The attending delegates discuss, debate, and ultimately vote on how to address these changes. Sometimes they are dismissed, sometimes the BOD is actually rewritten. This is how the church adapts to meet the needs of its people in modern times.
Wow long winded.
Tomorrow marks the conference vote on the Methodist Church's stance on homosexuality. I won't get into all the details, but this has been a long debated topic in our church... in every church. (and yes despite my personal issues with organized religion, and my current affiliation with a presbyterian church, I apparently DO consider myself a Methodist). Essentially, several conferences are petitioning to remove condemnation in our book of discipline to reflect the conflicted nature of the church, and to readdress the current ban on ordination for non-celibate gay ministers (and ban on performing same-sex marriages).
It's an interesting topic, and one I've avoided coming out (hah pun intended!) officially as either pro or con on.
I grew up in a Christian Community. A very open, loving, and welcoming community, but one with fairly conservative values. I was taught (by my family, my church, my teachers), that homosexuality itself is wrong, but that we should still love everyone. "Hate the sin, Love the sinner" mentality.
It's a great mentality to have, it truly is great. None of us are perfect; we all have flaws. If we are going to ostracize a group of individuals by one choice they make, to define them entirely by a single flaw, then we have to turn that thought process on ourselves. We all make mistakes. We all have behaviors we continue to engage in even though we may know they are wrong. My problem with this thought though is that more and more as I aged I began to question the designation of "sin".
Why is homosexuality such a problem? Why are we so quick to chastise people for these behaviors.
An individual posted this article on the conference webpage and I found it highly intriguing. If you haven't had a chance to read it, I hope you will. NOT because I am trying to change people's minds or force my agenda, but because I believe the only way we can truly know our mind on a topic is to study all sides of the discussion. If you read this article and find issues with the logic and thought process, ok. I just hope you will keep an open mind.
But back to my question. Why do we take the topic so personally?! How does the behaviors of an individual in the bedroom with another consenting adult affect us. Why do we get so defensive about promoting our own beliefs on the topic (either way)?
|Another pastor's daughter... who kissed a girl and liked it? ;)|
In my experience (25 years as the daughter of an ordained (and soon to be Ph.D) clergy member), people take their faith very seriously. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, the concept of religion provides a significant foundation for a person's identity. Even those who dismiss belief in God are defined by THAT fact; I've met many an atheist who has become very angry and defensive when someone talks to them about God.
God (or lack there of ) defines us. Perhaps my next blog topic will be a discussion on my personal theories regarding organized religion, and the need to apply concrete rules and thoughts to an abstract and intangible topic. But regardless, criticizing an individual's faith is to demean that person's entire being. Unfortunately, many of these social topics have become heavily influenced by religious (or secular) thought. When the beliefs that abortion is wrong, homosexuals are going to hell, and birth control is immoral become entwined in one's concept of God, suddenly the private life of another DOES become personal.
So where am I going with all of this?
People take their religious beliefs seriously. With the upcoming vote on the Methodist Church's stance I have seen the best and worst in my fellow Christians. My thought process keeps coming back to this one thought:
Why is our purpose so focused on telling people what they are doing wrong with their lives instead of sharing with them the love of Christ?!
We have become so intent on spelling out all of the reasons people won't go to heaven instead of telling them the reason that they can!! What is wrong with this picture? How can we possibly look at a person and condemn them to an eternity of misery and pain based off one lifestyle choice. I certainly hope God is not so blindsighted when he looks at me to focus in on my perchance for gossiping, or my temper, or my condescending attitude, and think "wow... this girl so does not deserve heaven."
Because I don't. And neither do you. None of us DESERVE anything. We are given it because God is love. It is about his love for us, THAT is the message of the gospel. In my opinion, this obsession with homosexuality, with abortion, with ANY social issue, is just masking our true purpose. God didn't come to condemn. He came to save. (John 3:17).
I am going to stop this post here, as my brain is slowly turning to mush after a very, very long day. Rest assured, there will be a part two, and maybe three; continuation of this thought as I hammer out my own personal beliefs. In my experience, God won't let me rest until I've given this topic its due focus. However, I'd like to end with an excerpt from an email (and fb posting) to a friend who had messaged me, quite concerned about my beliefs on homosexuality:
But in essence, I have to ask... why does it concern you what they desire? If their homosexual beliefs are distressing to them, something they wish to shed, then absolutely seek treatment! I would say the same to any heterosexual struggling with their sexuality and expressions there of. However, for someone in a committed, happy, monogomous relaitonship with a person of the same sex? Why does it matter to you? How does it have any impact on YOUR life? Because you don't think God can save them? We all sin. All of us. Every single day. I believe God doesn't care so much about the issues we make to be such a big deal as we do. In my experience, God wants us to be fulfilled, and content, in a life with relationship through him. Unfortunately modern organized religion, and our well-meaning, but often misguided, attempts to change people to make their lives more "moral" push people away. People equate God relationships with Chrisitanity and because they can't 'buy' into the doctrine that we pound into their heads, they assume that means there is no room for spirituality in their lives.
My point in posting was to present an interesting take on a very controversial issue, and to remind people that our two greatest commandments are to love God and to love each other. I personally think we spend too much time trying to understand the rules and regulations and teaching others how to behave (or how not to behave) and WAY too little time on sharing God's great love. THAT is the message of the gospel. That despite (all of) our sins and mistakes, God still cherishes us and was willing to do whatever it took to prove it. After we've got that part straight... THEN we can take the time to figure the rest of it out. You don't have to agree with it, but all I have to say is regardless of whether or not you believe homosexuality is wrong, God calls us to love ALL his children. Not just the ones we like; not just the ones who believe the same things we believe. None of us are perfect, and it's time the church (universally, across denominations) starts sharing that love instead of using it condemn and belittle each other. John 3:17.