I have come to realize lately there are underlying assumptions prevalent in this country when it comes to religion. I can’t even say what these underlying assumptions are because they are such a part of my world that I don’t even notice them until I disagree with them. For example, that evangelism is the highest calling of the church. Didn’t notice that one until I started questioning it. Recently I ran up against another one when someone called me a universalist. I was offended for a brief second and then I thought, "why is that a bad thing?” It depends on how you define universalism, of course, but if I can be called a universalist for believing that God’s love will ultimately prevail then I will wear that label with pride. In this same conversation I found myself wondering if this person realized that he was arguing passionately for the belief that God really wants some people to go to hell. Doesn't seem like something someone should cheer for. Yet, one of the underlying assumptions in this country when it comes to Christianity is that people who do not believe certain things about Jesus are going to hell.
These underlying assumptions are powerful and sometimes the consequences are horrific. I recently read this article http://rachelheldevans.com/win-culture-war-lose-generation-amendment-one-north-carolina . Here is a startling quote from this blog:
“When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers.”
That’s what the message of God’s love has become? Holy Scriptures have become the anti-gay book? An underlying assumption in American Christianity has been that the bible is “clearly” against homosexuality. Even if this were true (which I believe it is not) why do we want to pour so much energy into fighting against someone else’s sin?
The same article also reported that in the author’s (Rachel Held Evans) experience people under 40 tend to feel differently about homosexuality than older generations.
That is because they have friends who are gay. They know good people who are gay and therefore their hearts have been broken open.
It happened to me once. I already believed that homosexual people needed to be fully welcomed into the church even including ordained leadership but then something happened that opened my heart even further. One of my kids told me he was gay. I don't mean one of my biological children. I was working as a pastor and if you are a pastor with a heart for young people the young people you work with find a special place in your heart. I think of them as "my kids". So, when one of my kids said he was gay and that he had nearly killed himself because of it, my heart was broken open. This beautiful child of God was so surrounded by judgment and hatred that he couldn’t come to me with this news until years later. Maybe I hadn’t made my stance on the issue clear enough. Or maybe it was just too hard to open himself up, too hard to risk judgment again, too hard to believe amidst all those hateful messages that someone could love him and not judge him. Maybe he was just too depressed to find the energy to speak.
The thing is this is my kid. So my heart was broken open in a new way. Now when I hear messages of judgment toward homosexual people it hits my heart. Don’t tell me my kid is worthy of condemnation any more than the rest of us. Don’t tell me obscure references to same sex intercourse carry more weight than the many many scriptures that call us away from our greed. Don’t tell me my faith in a loving God has anything to do with judging my kid until he doesn’t want to live anymore.
That’s how my heart was broken open. An open heart is a valuable thing. This upcoming generation will have that experience more and more often because homosexual people are finding their voices. And if those voices will break open hearts and challenge underlying assumptions then I guess that makes homosexual people a tremendous blessing to our world.