Friday, November 18, 2011

Understanding our Differences

Desensitization of homosexual behavior seems to be the goal of a number of images I have observed of late, most recently a series of ads put out by the Benetton clothing company depicting religious and political leaders in homosexual embraces. That'll go over well, I thought to myself, shaking my head, when I saw the one with the Pope and a leading imam.  I think Benetton needs a class in worldview relations and to demonstrate what I mean I'd like to use a little analogy.

Imagine for a moment that we have two groups of people, the bacon-eaters and the non bacon-eaters.  I hope I'm not offending anybody with this analogy.   The bacon-eaters believe right down to their core that they were born to eat bacon.  They insist on it. It is how they define themselves individually and collectively. The non bacon-eaters believe right down to their core that eating bacon is down right wrong. They insist on it too.  It is how they define themselves as individuals and collectively -too. The bacon-eaters as a minority feel discriminated against, in a majority non bacon-eater world and feel the need to convince the non-bacon eaters and everyone else that their anti-bacon stance is discriminatory and proceed to place images of people eating bacon in key places in hopes to influence people for the better they figure.  They call the non bacon-eaters names like baconophobe, saying you are anti-bacon, you hate all bacon-eaters!  You are bad you non bacon-eaters, you need to change and accept all people whether they eat bacon or not! How well do you think that's going to work?

So continuing with the analogy, we have two people, one is a bacon-eater, we'll call him Frank.  One is a non bacon-eater, we'll call him Dan. Frank is very mad at Dan because he knows he is an ultra conservative non bacon-eater and he himself is a bacon eater activist.  They happen to work at the same grocery store and have lunch in the same lunch room.  Frank decides that he is going to convince Dan once and for all of his need to accept bacon whole heartedly and proceeds to put posters of bacon all over the lunch room, on the walls, on the fridge, and in Dan's sandwich.  Okay I'd better stop now.  How do you think this is going to make Dan feel? Oh, and did I mention that Dan's family hasn't been eating bacon for 3500 years? Hmmn. And then Frank proceeds to be upset when Dan declines to lend him 20 bucks. Anybody see where I'm going with this? What makes the bacon eaters so convinced that if they put up enough posters of bacon that the non bacon-eaters are going to start eating bacon after 3500 years?  Just asking.

But I do have an idea, what if Frank, rather than trying to change Dan's mind about Bacon, went to Dan and said " Dan,  I understand that you can't eat bacon, because that is your personal beliefs, that is how you identify yourself, but can you also understand Dan, that I was born to eat bacon! That is how I define myself.  That is how bacon-eaters define themselves. Can we respect our differences Dan, you're right not to eat bacon, my right to eat bacon, and agree to disagree here?" Would that work better?

I don't know.  I can't speak for other people but I can tell you as a theologically conservative Christian and a social conservative at heart, that debasing my deepest beliefs and convictions just leaves me feeling hurt and angry and frustrated.  It doesn't change my mind about anything.  It just drives a wedge.  For me, what got me thinking about this issue in a different way, was when I began to understand my own religious history, and how it was foundational religious concepts, followed by religious wars between Catholics and protestants in Europe that ultimately paved the way for the development of human rights and minority rights in the western world.  Speaking to religious minorities here, what if we were to think of gay rights in the way that we think of religious rights?  That we as Christians or Jews or Muslims have deep differences between ourselves and yet we respect each others right to disagree, to worship differently.  Yeah I know, we're all afraid of that slippery slope (when everything becomes an issue of individual rights), but I just don't see this culture war leading to anything good.  I see it dividing people.  And let me say as an evangelical Christian that contrary to what the mainstream media might think, I know the heart of evangelical Christians.  The deepest desire of serious Christians is to reach out to people with the Gospel, to love people, it's not to hate anybody.  So to my brothers and sisters in Christ, what better witness to the gay community, than to let them know that we love and accept them as people, to support gay rights, as a way of supporting the person firstly. 

The Jews were a tiny minority in a sea of polytheism historically.  Historically the early church was revolutionary because it stood in such sharp contrast to the culture and the social conditions of the Greco-Roman world.  Do we? When I read the Bible, both Old and New testaments, I don't see a God that is about forcing people to behave morally.  I see a God that is about transformation from the inside out.  We're human beings, as human beings God gives us the ability to make choices, he doesn't force those changes from the outside in.  He invites us into a relationship, and we're changed by that relationship. Why are we forcing people who aren't Christians to act as Christians?  How well is that going to work?  Why not instead support the basic human rights of people firstly, so that they can believe it when we tell them we love them, and invite them into a relationship with us?

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