Or so concludes my friend Craig Detweiler on his blog, A Purple State of Mind. My favorite part is at the end when he states, “Jesus always sided with people rather than principles.” I couldn’t agree more and that to me is the test of true Christianity– to love one another.
The gay issue has become the ‘big one,’ the negative image most likely to be intertwined with Christianity’s reputation.” At a time when Christians are nervous about an overly sexualized culture, we’ve focused in on one form of sexual expression as the most repugnant to God. Rather than getting our own house in order, we’ve insisted that others cease and desist.
How could Jesus, the great lover of others, have become associated with such isolating, unloving behavior? We’ve applied standards meant for us to society at large (thereby ignoring Paul’s clear instructions in I Corinthians 5:12). Biblical verses intended to provoke introspection have been turned into deadly weapons in the culture war. (Romans 1 is merely a set up for Paul’s main point in Romans 2—which warns us, “Do not judge.”) Our actions parallel Jesus’ enemies in scripture—the sincere followers of God who sought to preserve their fading cultural power. My fear is that the Christian community will end up on the wrong side of history (again).
Once upon a time, we used the Bible to justify slavery. God-fearing Christians bought and sold slaves without a crisis of conscience. What seems so egregious today was viewed as a biblically sanctioned reality in its day. Were the scriptures contorted to justify the slave trade? Not by much. Paul’s instructions about master/slave relationships were seen as sufficient proof that God condones slavery as part of a natural order. Less than two hundred years ago, serious Christian discipleship only required masters to treat their slaves well. Baptists in the South were so convinced of their ministers’ rights to own slaves that they formed their own denomination. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in Augusta, Georgia in May 1845. Civil war eventually followed. Selective interpretation of scripture fueled a tragic chapter in American history.
Over time, an alternative reading of the Bible held sway. We discovered overlooked passages about freedom in Christ, about setting captives free, about our new reality: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Such revelations were always available, but people either refused or were unable to listen. As recently as 1968, a survey by Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention found that only eleven percent of their churches would admit African Americans as members. Despite their high view of scripture, most Southern Baptist churches were still grounded in racism. One hundred fifty years after forming for racist reasons, the Southern Baptist Convention of 1995 adopted a resolution apologizing for its past defense of slavery. We still have much work ahead, with Sunday mornings still amongst the most segregated moments in America.
God blessed the SBC despite its lamentable heritage. The Spirit can work through our sinful ways, slowly calling us toward wholeness and integration. It takes time, but we eventually discover where we have erred. Lawsuits and injunctions and referendums like Proposition 8 will continue for another decade. Arrows and accusations will fly (like in the comments sure to follow below). Many people will be offended and hurt in the process. Eventually, love will prevail. So before the conservative Christian community makes amendments against gay marriage their last line of defense, I suggest we step back long enough to gain some historical perspective. Jesus always sided with people rather than principles. Or perhaps we can conclude, whenever principles were erecting barriers between people and God, Jesus torn them down.