As a pastor near the country’s largest Evangelical MegaUniversity, I live in one of America’s most interesting subcultures. Waco is arguably, the buckle of the Bible belt, rivaled only by Colorado Springs and Grand Rapids. But those two cities lie with in the cultural trappings of the pagan North, so I’ll go ahead and declare the Land of RG3 the official victor!
As a result I get to, with students, rehearse again and again the emotional milieu that goes into de and re constructing a worldview, particularly, a Christian one. In those rehearsals I’m constantly running into the questions about the moral and ethical nature of homosexual practices from a Christian perspective. Because it’s the most important issue in the ethical world? No. Because it’s the medium that culture is currently using to gauge America’s religious standing? Yes.
So as a shepherd I watched yesterday as digital sheep heads popped up on facebook/twitter and as is often the case, my interest was not in their moral opinions, but rather ecclesiology. I thought about their relationships. About their particular moral opinions and about how in many cases yesterday some discovered that others do not think like them on this issue that we believe matters so much.
And I’ll tell you, that’s a frightening experience. It’s startling to discover that someone you thought you knew well, maybe shared a meal with, a small group with (for years) even traded confessions with … believes something different than you. Especially when that someone claims to be Christian and, you thought, follows Jesus in the same way you do.
“How could she not see that the Bible clearly cares about equality and that its restrictive voice on this issue is culturally conditioned?”
“How could he read the same verses I do and not see that this is clearly wrong?”
I guess Paul was right. We see dimly. At least some of us. Maybe even half of us according to most elections. (insert smiley face emoticon here)
Let me share something I read with you. A few years back I digested William Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. Webb’s hermeneutical conclusion, on the issue of homosexuality, was that scripture consistently speaks against this issue. The church must judge it as sin. Yet despite that he says this on page 40,
“Within a pluralistic society, such as we experience today, Christians should actually defend the rights and freedoms of homosexuals to live out their beliefs. We should not legally impose our sexual ethic on others.”
Isn’t that strange? A guy who lives under the conviction that homosexuality is wrong morally, argues that Christians ought to lobby for the rights of homosexuals politically. I use Webb’s book and quote because it shows that this issue is not clearcut.
As facebook profile pictures were converting by the masses today a friend remarked that he wouldn’t change his because it (profile pictures/facebook/twitter/digital representation/symbols) cuts off conversation. I thought that wise.
The Real Issue Before The Supreme Court
In my sophomore year of college I read Thomas Friedman’s book The Lexus and The Olive Tree. I think it was here that I first discovered the phrase, “the death of distance.” It’s a feature of globalization that is made all the more true each year with the increasing sophistication of the telecommunications industry. The distance between me and the engineer in Germany or the kid in India is dying because of skype, twitter, facebook, or any number of social media devices. We live in a global community.
Consequently the world I grew up/am growing up in is much different than my parents*. My sense of national identity is starkly different than my parents. The way I see China, India, Germany, Iceland Vietnam, and Iraq is different than the way my parents see China, India, Germany, Iceland, Vietnam and Iraq. And the way I see America is different than the way they see America.
I remember very little of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Consequently, I know very little about Jerry Falwell, the rise of the moral majority and cultural circumstances that made that feel like a good idea. Had I been 25 in 1980, I might very well see the world the way the baby boomers do.
The America I live in knows very little of Christian forefathers. It knows of deist forefathers, who put together a great constitution and government that has championed a slew of democratic ideals that has provided space for an amazing country to spring up. The America I live in though predominantly Christian (at least statistically), is not a Christian nation. It is a nation that from its start has been a melting pot, not just of ethnic backgrounds, but also of cultural and religious presuppositions.
The America I grew up in does not share borders with Mexico and Canada. It shares borders with the entire world. And through conversations with the whole world I’ve come to learn that the world I see looks like it does through my eyes only.
I confess I like this America. With all of its problems, I still think it does some good. A lot of good. Or at least its people have done a lot of good. I like this America, among other reasons, because if Islamic Fundamentalists became the new majority, the constitution would protect me from Sharia law. It would protect me from a caste system if a Hindu became president.
But I sense that not everyone does see America this way. Let’s remind ourselves that the issue before the Supreme Court is not whether or not the church should count same sex unions as a Christian marriage. The issue is what America has to say about same sex partner unions, benefits and what individual states can say about that. The church is not being challenged, Christians aren’t being challenged, the state is being challenged. I suppose that only problematic if you have trouble pulling apart America and your church.
* read as metaphor for baby boomers (my parents and i actually see eye to eye on everything)