kids

Kim Davis, Smoking, and Spoiled Children

I’m a few days behind on the times, it seems, since I don’t read a lot of American news in Spain, but I did just finish reading up a little on the Kim Davis situation and just wanted to give my take really quickly, because I do plan on keeping up with this blog (both fun Spain things and things like this) while I’m gone. In case anyone reading isn’t super familiar with the situation, what’s happening is basically this: a county clerk (or something along the lines of that; she’s a government employee, which is the point) was taken into custody earlier this week for refusing to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court ruling earlier this summer. Her defense was that her religious convictions prevented her from participating in or facilitating sin, and she now faces greater charges and possibly prison time. Needless to say, people have gotten pretty riled up on both sides of this debate.

My take?

Well, actually, my initial reaction to this whole entire thing was sadness. I obviously don’t know Kim Davis, but I’m sure that she’s actually a really nice lady, even though she’s sort of refusing to do her job (which the government pays her for by the way) right now, which isn’t okay. But what occurred to me secondly was this: I think that a lot of Christians are still really confused about how they’re supposed to navigate situations like this, and I think that confusion and lack of understanding causes them to create situations in which there appears to be a great deal of animosity between Christians and LGBT people. And right now, my prayer is that we would learn quickly so that conflicts and situations like this stop happening.

Now, some people may argue back that Christians aren’t confused at all and that people like Kim Davis are doing absolutely the right thing for “standing up to legalized evil” or something of that sort. Well…I would disagree.

Here’s the thing (and something that I’ve probably said a lot of times on this blog): there’s a grand difference between actually having religious liberty and using religious liberty as an excuse to be the god of your microcosm.

The problem is this: Kim Davis isn’t losing any of her own religious liberty. She has the right to believe whatever she wants and no one can tell her otherwise. She can refuse to attend an LGBT wedding. She can refuse to be friends with LGBT people. She can basically do whatever she wants in that sense. However, she cannot use religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate against people by refusing to do her job, which happens to be that of a county clerk (or whatever the official title of that position is). That would actually fall under the category of imposing on their religious liberty by attempting to force her own religious beliefs on them. Just because she believes that same-sex couples shouldn’t get married doesn’t mean she’s allowed to use her government job to prevent them from doing so, and that’s why she’s currently facing prison time.

Regardless of whatever side you may take on this, (hopefully) I think everyone can agree that the situation is complicated. So let me say this: in my ideal world, Kim Davis wouldn’t go to prison for this, and I’m sorry if that angers any LGBT people. I just don’t. Rather, I think that this could be used as a learning experience for all Christians, and especially for those who still aren’t sure how they’re supposed to navigate these types of situations. My reasoning for this is that I’m sort of viewing ultra conservative Christians as children who don’t know any better in this sense, and I’m sorry if that angers any of those people.

Again, the problem here is that some Christians are acting a little like spoiled kids, and again I’m not hating on Christians, I promise. I am one, and I’m proud to be, but I think that the vast majority of conservative Christians aren’t quite used to not getting what they want in terms of laws and legal arrangements. Thus, like any child, they start to lash out, crying that the system isn’t fair and that they’re being persecuted, just because they haven’t yet learned how to live in a world where they don’t get everything that they want. I understand that my analogy might sound a little derogatory, and again, I’m sorry about that, but it does seem pretty apt for the situation, doesn’t it?

What people need to learn is this: you can disagree with people and stick to your own beliefs without creating a scene or throwing a fit (which refusing to do your job fits into in this analogy). The world is changing, and we need to learn how to adapt to it in order to keep up and stay relevant.

But let me be clear here: for those who aren’t going to be shaken in what they believe, that’s totally fine. You may continue to believe whatever you want. I’m not arguing for relativism. In this case, adapting means learning how to retain those beliefs while continuing to treat others with respect and dignity so that they don’t dismiss you as being some sort of backwards person who just believes in myths and stories instead of a real, powerful, loving God. That’s what I mean by adapting and staying relevant. It’s not at all a call to discard your beliefs just because the world doesn’t agree with you. It’s a call to behave and conduct yourself in such a way that people might not necessarily know that you disagree with them and in such a way that they might actually want to hear what you believe.

For example, some people choose to smoke even though it’s been scientifically proven that it’s bad for your body and leads to cancer in the long run. That’s just scientific fact. However, some people still choose to smoke. That doesn’t mean that those people are evil or bad; it just means that they’ve taken their American liberty and acted on it. Most people can continue to believe that smoking is bad for you and abstain from it without constantly reminding their friends, family, and acquaintances of that fact. Moreover, people can also work in stores and sell cigarettes to people even if they don’t smoke and continue to believe that it’s harmful to your body. Thus, their personal beliefs don’t affect the way they treat other people, and they can continue to treat those people with respect and dignity regardless of their decisions.

Though that comparison isn’t perfect, I think that it can be applicable to this situation as well. People can disagree and believe that same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships are wrong without discriminating against people and without compromising their own personal beliefs. Just like a non-smoking person selling cigarettes because it’s their job, people who don’t necessarily believe in same-sex marriage can still issue marriage licenses without having to feel like they personally endorse that union.

That kind of grace and tolerance/respect is my hope and prayer for the future, because we need to start learning how to adapt in these ways so that people will stop calling us bigoted and hateful and start seeing that we (hopefully) do love everyone unconditionally, regardless of our own personal beliefs, because again, that’s what we’re called to do, isn’t it? We’re not called to try and conform the world and the government to the Bible and its teachings, only ourselves. Our primary calling is to love.

So let me end with this.

I think that what Kim Davis did was wrong.

And I think that conservative Christians need to change some of their attitudes and actions in order to better serve and love people while we’re here on this earth.

But I also think that what she did doesn’t necessarily warrant jail time, at least in my own personal opinion.

And I also think that we’re (the church) in a transition period right now and that LGBT people and the rest of the world should have a little grace for us, just like we’re (LGBT people) asking for some grace from the church.

So that’s my take on this whole messy situation, and unfortunately, I don’t think that cases like this are going to stop popping up any time soon, at least in the near future. Like I’ve said a couple times in this post, we’re in a transition period right now, and times of change and transition are incredibly hard sometimes, let me tell you. But that doesn’t mean that you give up and stop. From what I’ve been learning this past year, I think that while these times might be some of the most uncomfortable and painful that we go through, in the end, they result in a lot of growth for all parties involved, growth that couldn’t have happened without going through all of those experiences.

So that’s what I’m hoping and praying for, that these times of trial and awkwardness for the church will lead to a time of renewal, revival, and nuance where we become relevant again and known for our love rather than for our political stances.

p a r e n t s

So, I realize that I haven't written a whole lot of original content thus far, just commenting on and responding to various articles. I promise I will get to that. I've just been reading a lot of things leading up to and through the process of starting the blog, and I have encountered a lot of different people writing a lot of different things that I both agree with and disagree with. I think it's a good description of someone's beliefs when they articulate what exactly they believe and what they do not, which is what I have been doing so far. So today, I have another post which stems off another article that I just read recently. This post is addressed to any parents that might be reading this blog or this post. The article that I'm going to link to below is one of the best that I've read. It describes one pastor saying all the things that he will do if he has gay children, and I think that it's heartwarming and encouraging for all of the LGBT Christians out there. I think that it provides a nice contrast to all of the straight, Christian parents and pastors who would love nothing more than to continue to berate Christian young people for simply being the way they are. And yes, the comments at the bottom of the post, if you choose to read them, are disheartening and difficult to read, perhaps even angering, but I think that the point is that this pastor and dad is willing to speak up about this even though he knows full well that his opinion will probably not be received well, which is precisely why I'm sharing this with you. I'm all about people speaking up for what they believe, especially if their beliefs aren't popular. Here's the link:

http://www.faithit.com/gay-children-4-promises-christian-parent/

Alright, this article is pretty short, so I'll try to touch on at least the four points that are brought up as well as some other things that caught my attention while I was reading. The first thing that I want to mention is that I'm very thankful that this pastor has had many interactions with LGBT people in his life. I think that's incredibly valuable for anyone who is in a leadership position in the Christian sphere, especially when those interactions are with LGBT people who have had bad experiences with the church. I really appreciate that he addresses the fact that it's difficult to be a gay Christian kid in the church, because it is! There are a lot of different opinions on whether or not being gay and being a Christian can coexist, and many of those opinions are not positive. I'm just really glad that he acknowledges the struggle that gay Christians have to go through even while they're trying to be a part of the church.

It's difficult to be a gay Christian kid in the church.

For his first point, the biggest thing that stands out to me is that fact that he promises not to be ashamed of his kids, at least that's what he seems to mean at the core. He states that having a gay child won't be the dirty little secret that his family guards above all else, and I think that's incredible, because it reiterates indirectly that being gay isn't something to be ashamed of, something that's important to remember, especially in Christian circles. Just like him, my opinion probably won't be very popular, but there's nothing wrong about having a homosexual orientation. God doesn't love you any less because you're gay, and He certainly didn't make a mistake in the fact that you're gay, and it definitely isn't a choice that you can be ridiculed and torn apart for. I'm so glad that this pastor isn't willing to sacrifice his kids for the comfort and acceptance of others. That's parenting done right. How are kids supposed to be able to go out into the world on their own and endure all the hate and criticism that they're going to experience from others when their own parents don't accept them and love them all the same regardless of their sexual orientation that they certainly didn't choose? Just like the Christian community as a whole, I believe that the responsibility of parents is to love their kids unconditionally while pointing them to Christ. God will take care of the rest.

God didn't make a mistake in the fact that you're gay, and it isn't a choice.

Secondly, I really like the intent and the attitude that is behind his second point. The promise to pray for his gay children is an important one to make, even though it seems to be almost trivial compared to what other parents might do when they find out that one of their children is gay. To me, the reasoning behind this is the same as in the other points and the article as a whole. This dad and pastor is aiming and striving to love his kids unconditionally no matter what, and that is his focus. And again, I absolutely love that he isn't praying for his kids to be "normal" or that God would make them straight. This is such a powerful model for other Christian parents of gay children to keep in mind, because when you pray that God would take away or change your child's orientation, what you're really saying is that there is something wrong with them that needs to be changed. What kind of message is that to be sending to your kids, especially kids who are already probably struggling with this identity means for them and what it means for their lives? Again, it's not the responsibility of parents or even Christians in general to try and change other Christians who also confess to being gay. That's not a part of the Gospel message that was given to us in the Bible. Changing of orientation, if that's even going to happen, is only God's responsibility. Thus, I also really appreciate this dad's prayer for protection for his kids, especially the prayer that ungodly treatment from others wouldn't prevent them from continuing to seek the Lord. That is a very real thing that happens in churches all over the country. Gay Christian kids commit suicide or leave the church because they feel so unloved and judged by a community that is supposed to be the embodiment of Christ's love on earth.

He isn't praying for his kids to be "normal" or that God would make them straight.

The third point of his article is the most important one in my opinion, because it encapsulates everything that he is trying to say and also the mission of Christians in general. My favorite idea that he gets across is that the sexuality of his children is basically irrelevant in regards to his love for them. He says that he won't love them despite their sexuality or even because of their sexuality, but simply because they are his. That is a beautiful picture of what parental and also unconditional love is supposed to be. You love someone simply because you do. This also ensures that those children will be open to talking with their parents regardless of whether or not they are gay, and that is an important relationship to have. As he says, his children might doubt a million other things in their lives, but they will never doubt that he loves them, because he will make sure of it. And that's all he is supposed to do, love them and point them toward Christ. Anything after that is up to God. Even if his children walk away from the Lord or live in a way that isn't pleasing to the Lord, he will know that it's in God's hands, that he did everything that he could. And I think that's another good perspective to keep in mind, especially when dealing with older children. It's not the parents' responsibility to control their children and dictate everything about them. As they get older, their parents need to promise to love them unconditionally, but then release them to make decisions for themselves, whether they be good or bad. That sounds like a characteristic of uncaring parents, but in reality, everyone has to learn things for themselves. Everyone has to make their own mistakes and everyone has to encounter God on their own, otherwise their faith will never truly be their own.

Everyone has to encounter God on their own, otherwise their faith will never truly be their own.

Finally, I can't even begin to express how much I appreciate this author's take on homosexuality, because I think that even the idea of being gay is something that most straight people can't even fathom. They don't understand why a boy would be attracted to another boy or a girl attracted to another girl, but that's simply because they themselves aren't straight. An oft asked question, but a good and thought-provoking one at the same time is: Did you choose to be straight? I didn't think so. And I understand that many people will attest to the fact that it seems unloving and highly unlikely that God would create someone and make them gay knowing that it goes against what His word says and the general Christian conventions, but I also strongly, firmly believe that God does not make mistakes. In the same vein, I believe that God is sovereign over all things, which by extension would imply that He does indeed make people gay from the start, and I think that the verse that the author quotes and interprets is used properly and the interpretation correct. The Bible states that God knew every one of us even before the foundations of the world were made, which means that He knew that some of us would be born this way, that we would not choose it, and He made us that way anyway. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, everyone struggles with different sins in their lives, whether that is selfishness, pride, greed, lust, or anything else. For gay people, it just so happens that what they will have to struggle with is their sexuality, which is not wrong in and of itself. The Bible never says that it is wrong simply to be attracted to the same sex. It only states what is right and wrong to do sexually, something that it address for people of all orientations. The reason for this is that we, as Christians, are all called to live holy lives and strive for holiness, and that path is going to look a little different for everyone. No one has the exact same path to follow in their pursuit of God and His will in their lives, and for this reason we cannot expect any two people to approach life and its struggles the same way. And this also applies to gay Christians. After all, I don't recall anywhere in the Bible where it says that holiness entails being straight, thus I don't think that God will "cure" all professing Christians of their orientations that differ from the norm. That's because there's nothing to "cure." Being gay is not a disease, not something to be ashamed of, not something that makes you more sinful or dirty than everyone else. It's another aspect of yourself that you must align with the will of God, just like a straight person would have to align all aspects of themselves with the will of God. It's no different. It's just going to look a little different for Christians who also happen to be gay.

So to any parents reading, keep these things in mind, should the occasion arise. Remember that it's not your responsibility to convince your children of any particular way of thinking and that it's not your responsibility to change them. Your only responsibility, and the responsibility of all Christians, is to love unconditionally with the love of Christ and point them toward Him. After that, it's all on God. It's out of our hands, because we don't control other people. Only God can change their hearts and minds if that is His will, and He loves them to the ends of the earth.

So again, never forget that Jesus loves you, more than you could ever imagine. He doesn't need to change your sexuality or your attractions for you to serve Him. He will take you and meet you where you are, and He will walk alongside you on your path to holiness, whatever shape or form that journey may take.