Judgement in LGBT Debates
I am just concluding reading Generous Spaciousness by Wendy Gritter, Executive Director of New Direction ministries in Canada, which works on helping sexual minorities within the Church and who will be featured soon on a MennoNerds podcast. Over the next week or so leading up to that podcast, I’d like to give a few quotes that stood out to me as I read.
In this section, “The Journey of Discipleship,” she employs a common statement – what if the church talked about greed the way it did about same-sex marriage – but the way she fleshes out what that was more potent than any other I’ve read:
When we read accounts of gay, celibate Christians, deeply committed to the self-denial such commitment entails, and stories of gay Christians who are affirming of gay relationships, it can cause a great deal of confusion. Inevitably, we may find ourselves asking, “Who is really committed to Christ?” But this kind of convenient external analysis perpetuates a system of striving and pressure that negatively impacts gay Christians. Imagine if we created such a system around issues of finances. Some Christians sold everything they had and went overseas to live among the poorest of the poor. Anyone who did not make this choice of stewardship and sacrifice with their finances was viewed with suspicion and judgement by other Christians as who was just living selfishly. If a person owned two cars, their very faith was viewed as counterfeit. Many of us cannot imagine trying to serve God and neighbor in the stifling pressure of the scrutiny of our every financial decision. We cannot bear the thought of feeling judged and guilty when we look in our closet and see not only two pairs of shoes, but many pairs. Many of us do wrestle with God to grow, mature, and become more fearless and generous in the arena of our financial resources; but we all need grace and need to know that we are loved unconditionally in order to be able to take risks and make sacrifices that aren’t motivated by guilt or fear.
[She also includes an analogy of issues in opposite-sex marriages as well]
The point is not to call for a watered-down discipleship. The point is that we all need generous spaciousness in our walk with Christ. We all need room to live in the tension of the call to virtue and the longing for happiness. And we all need to find safety and grace in our friendships and community so that we don’t try to figure this out alone. The truth is, different people with different personalities, backgrounds, experiences, and capacities will navigate this paradox differently. The amazing good news of the gospel is that God is rich in grace and lavish in mercy. He knows us by name, he counts the hairs on our head, he knows our weaknesses and our strengths, he knows our frame and that we are dust, and he knows our heart. In him we are set free from striving, set free from being motivated by fear, guilt, and shame. In him we can rest. (pp 105-106)
That’ll preach. For me, reading that analogy of finances hit home a little more than usual. I gave myself a few minutes to imagine what that was like, having every decision and every material good questioned. I am sure I would quickly be a depressed wreck. That’s what many of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters experience every day of their lives in large part because of the church not only making it clear they think they are sinning but usually with much more aggression and exclusion than anything else deemed a sin.
It applies to both sides of the debate, too. We’ve built up this culture war where being right about the issue is more important than helping real people who love Jesus experience that love. We need to learn to set aside our judgementalism and create space to experience that radical grace of Jesus.