Over the past couple months, I had the privilege to help plan a wedding and reception for some good friends. As the event approached, the excitement, anxiety, and anticipation grew until finally, about a week ago, the time had come. The day of the ceremony started with a too-early chair and table delivery, late groomsmen, furniture re-rearranging, lots of helping hands and few mishaps. Pictures were taken, formal clothes donned, and seats filled. Simple and elegant decorations framed the couple beautifully as they pledged their love and merged two lives into one. Joy imbued the room as guests returned for the dessert reception, ready to eat, drink, and dance. Love was palpable and embraced those present like a warm blanket on a frigid morning. Guest trickled out, the night eased in, and wedding party members grew scarce as the clean-up began. Everything was executed without incident. The whole day passed with incredible peace.
The fact that it was a wedding of two men made no difference to me except that I didn’t have to hide in the bathroom during the garter toss.
I’ve long avoided speaking on this topic due to the visceral reactions it triggers and the realization that one person’s opinion ultimately does not matter; no one needs the approval of another to live their lives as they wish. How I conduct myself in accordance to my beliefs is what matters. Our presence, absence, support, abandonment, humility, and pride say more than we ever could with our words. Witnessing the entire wedding planning process and execution first-hand has reminded me of how often we let fear rule our thoughts and our actions. What should have been an incredibly joyous process had the potential to be dampened by the wet-wool blanket of self-righteousness and loveless “correction.” Fortunately, those who could have darkened the day did not, and the event was a bright and shining example of love in its many forms.
I’ve long clung to the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” As an introvert, much like an island, a vast majority of my substance is unseen. I’ve lived a thousand lives in my head, winning debates, falling in love, slaying my enemies, and comforting others through their hardships all without the slightest outward sign. Silence is easy for me; it gives me control and protection. But silence is also dangerous—especially when it is offered in place of aid. While I control my actions and do little to harm others, I am guilty of doing nothing when I could have done more. Having experienced silence while needing help myself, I will no longer allow myself that comfort. I need to exercise my voice and inhabit my truth. In confident humility, I speak.
Why do we feel the need to approve or disapprove of someone’s lifestyle? Rearing children with correction is one thing and offering sought-after counsel another; but what right do you, as an independently-thinking adult, have to disapprove of another independently-thinking adult, as long as no one’s freedoms are being infringed upon? Regardless of what you think, or what anyone thinks, people have the right to love and stand in unity with whomever they choose, as long as both parties are willing and of age. Your social, religious, political, and ultimately personal beliefs are your own and not to be forced on someone else, whether or not you agree with their behavior. You can make your own choices and no one is responsible for those choices but you. Pursue your happiness, your calling, your life, and invite counsel when you desire it. I will do the same.
That being said, here’s what I believe.
We are called to love and serve. So let’s love and serve.
I do not understand the Christian vigilante mindset. I don’t understand how people have time to focus on other’s perceived sins. I can’t seem to consistently manage my own struggles to have enough energy to point and jeer and threaten with fire and brimstone. I am not the Holy Spirit and won’t pretend to be—the Spirit is much better at its job than I could ever dream to be, so why would I assume its role and responsibilities?
One of my closest friends recently told me that she does not speak on this topic because she does not know where she stands. She is trying to reconcile her strict, Puritan-esque upbringing with the freedom and love she’s come to know God to be. While she considers these warring theologies, she says she does know one thing for sure: it deeply saddens her to see how Christ-like the world can behave to the marginalized in comparison to the legalism and hatred many Christians eagerly offer.
Everyone has to come to their own conclusions if they are to truly and authentically believe in something. She’s in a humble, accepting, receiving place in her journey. We are all at different places and need to respect each other’s progress. What beauty there is in the differences of our paths!
God loves us all the same, regardless of our behaviors, predispositions, pasts, and struggles. This bothers many people, as it reminds them that they cannot earn their salvation, as hard as they try. Fear propels these atrocious behaviors; the fear of the other, the fear of losing control, the fear of accepting grace and living by faith instead of a scriptural checklist. So much attention has been paid to something that seems like such a non-issue to me. I wonder what could happen if all the energy that the church has expended on same-sex relationships was focused on feeding the hungry, healing the sick, clothing the naked, and visiting those in prison; energy that could be spent working to provide shelter for the homeless, asylum for the displaced, and escape for those being sex-trafficked; energy spent on aiding those whose freedoms have been stolen, with no advocate, instead of concerning itself with the bedroom habits of consenting adults—many of whom don’t even claim to live by the standard the church imposes on them.
Since my time in a Christian school, I’ve wondered about how the “homosexual sin” was the only one that seemed to be rooted in selfless, sacrificial, consensual love. It made me uneasy to think that monogamous devotion to another could be “sinful”—especially since monogamous devotion, or marriage, is what many Christian institutions seem preoccupied with cultivating in their young people. I was given scriptures on Sodom and Gomorrah to contemplate. The sin that was evident to me was not homosexuality, but rape. I was given scriptures in Leviticus to contemplate, next to scriptures stipulating what fabrics couldn’t be mixed and how menstruating women couldn’t approach the temple. I was given scriptures in the letters of Paul to contemplate, alongside scriptures condemning divorce and outlining the limitations of women in the church. I was not given the words of Jesus in the Gospels on the subject, so I looked them up for myself:
Settled in the context of the culture, place, and time, the scriptures supposedly condemning homosexuality don’t hold up to that interpretation for me. I don’t see where monogamous, homosexual relationships are condemned in the Bible, but I do see a lot of time, energy, and potential wasted on this debate throughout Christian history. Scriptures plucked from context here and there used to justify the persecution, torture, and murder of many in the name of the church, not unlike how the Bible was used as evidence to support slavery before and during the American Civil War. If you could feel a fraction of the amount of guilt, loathing, self-hatred, and confusion present in an individual caused by such rigid interpretations of scripture, you would weep; the sharp, leaden words hurled your way would render you inconsolable. You would feel how empty a church full of people could be. Each joke would stick you like a jagged blade, each slur a hot coal heaped on your chest. Your eyes would sting with the sorrow of a future of isolation. You would feel the ice buried in the embrace of a bigoted family member, weekly rewarded in their bigotry by an institution that claims to be the way and truth and life. You would feel the weight of a secret deformity, the knowledge that all are sinful but especially you, for the love and understanding you desire most is the height of hubris and depravity. You would feel the exhaustion of sleepless nights pleading with God to fix you or take you away. You would seek comfort in the places you could find it—rarely religious and seldom spiritual. You would wonder if the Creator of the universe could really love you, given its most devoted followers would crucify you if they truly knew you. And you would see “the other” as yourself, and false images perpetuated in fear and ignorance would crumble.
Some of the greatest examples of Christ-like love I have encountered have been by and between same-sex couples, largely because of the self-acceptance and hatred they have struggled through simply to exist. In that light, tragedies aren’t as heavy and triumphs more sweet. Just as I do with anyone, I rejoice and celebrate in their joys and hurt in their sorrows. I love them not simply because I am called to, but because of who they are! We are all created in God’s image. We are connected by a bond that goes much deeper than race, religion, political affiliation, ethnicity, gender, or sexual attraction. I love them because I am them; there is no us and them. There is only us.
And here’s the best part.
If I’m wrong, and I’m humble and open to guidance from the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit will not hide the truth from me, in any situation or circumstance. It may not be in my timing, or in the way I anticipate it, but I won’t be left blind if I’m looking for truth. I am acting out who I believe God to be based on how I’ve encountered God so far. I want to personify God as much as I am able. I want love to emanate from me wherever I am and love however I can. If God is who God says, I won’t be kept from this in its fullest expression. I won’t be kept from truth and beauty. I will be corrected and the greater truth will be revealed to me to enact and embody.
So there is no fear in love! There is no fear in humble adherence to God’s greatest commandments! To love God and love others is to be who we were created to be. I will love and be loved without fear. I am not afraid of loving too much or in the wrong way—even in correction, there is only room to draw closer to Love itself.
Thank you, dear friends, for allowing me to hear and engage God through your wedding. Thank you for reminding me that love overcomes fear, ignorance, pride, and hate. Thank you for allowing me to have a part in your day that will impact the rest of my life. Thank you for examples of how to unashamedly and unabashedly step into who you were created to be.
Thank you for giving me a fuller voice for loving others and loving myself.