Sometimes I feel like all I do is complain about how bad things are and how nothing ever changes. As I was making notes of different topics I had been thinking about in the past couple of weeks, I was struck by how some things have changed. Specifically, we talk about things openly and publically in ways I certainly wouldn’t have envisioned thirty years ago. Here are some examples of recent public conversations along with my longings for how we might further the dialogue even more.
Last week, Inside Higher Ed.com posted a story about Grace University’s (Omaha) expulsion of a female student for being lesbian and the subsequent demand that she reimburse the school $6,000 for scholarship monies she received for the semester in which she was expelled. A very interesting story and much to think about; you can read more at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/13/student-expelled-being-gay-and-charged-6000-back-tuition-protests-online-petition#ixzz2WtC1PNaS
One quote in particular from the young woman jumped out at me, however. The former student, Danielle Powell, stated that she didn’t intentionally set out to deceive the school about her sexual orientation. In her words, “No knowingly gay person would ever go to this institution.” She is also quoted in the article as saying, “I don’t identify as being a lesbian. I love who I love based on my emotional connection with that person. It has nothing to do with gender.” Powell is now married to her then girlfriend and living in Nebraska.
Isn’t God-given human sexuality really about intimate connection? We are often so busy trying to categorize people that we can’t hear or see what is really important. What if we could talk about sexual identity without the need for putting people into boxes or slapping a label on them?
Exodus International, “a controversial Christian ministry devoted to changing people ‘affected by homosexuality’ announced Wednesday night that it was shutting its doors after operating for more than three decades.”
The decision to close its doors came on the heels of a public apology by its current president of eleven years, Alan Chambers. In a statement from the organization, Chambers apologized to members of the gay community for “years of undue judgment by the organization and the Christian Church as a whole.” In the statement, Chambers acknowledges the need for a public apology because the work of Exodus International was public. He does not apologize for his theological convictions – they haven’t changed:
“I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could encounter each other across the boundaries of our otherness with love and not fear? 1 John 4:18ff states: There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because God first loved us.20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. 21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.
Rachel Held Evans was a guest blogger on Tony Jones’ blog this week. She wrote an elegant piece about the weight she carries for representing her gender every time she shows up whether in person or on paper. She gave voice to the angst of many women in ministry (and in other professions as well). http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2013/06/14/rachel-held-evans-a-womans-voice/
She notes her commitment to, as much as possible, set aside the burden of speaking for her gender and endeavoring to speak in “Rachel’s voice.” I applaud her in that commitment. She writes: “(b)ut more and more I’m learning to let go, to quit this fool’s errand of proving to the world that women have what it takes, and instead to go about the hard, unglamorous work of just showing up…as Rachel.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could celebrate the gifts we each bring to God’s table? Wouldn’t it be delightful if the planners for a ministry conference or church leadership workshop didn’t need to scratch their heads in befuddlement to come up with a handful of excellent speakers and presenters who also happened to be women and/or people of color?
Things have changed, but the old adage also still holds true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. I will continue to long for something more until the cows come home. Or, maybe until kingdom come.