Friday, May 24, 2013

Ordinary people

The culture war is getting kind of lop-sided these days. President Obama has announced he is in favor of civil same-sex marriage. The military has dropped Don't Ask Don't Tell. A conservative lawyer has led the challenge against California's Proposition 8. Alan Chambers has backed away from Exodus's former claims that gay people can "change." And a veteran NBA player has come out as gay. All this may be an indication that saner minds are finally starting to prevail on this issue. Or it could mean that Satan is implementing a grand plan to blind weak and faithless minds through cultural influence and the secular media.

For a conservative Christian like myself who supports the more open stance society is taking toward gay and lesbian people, the issue is not about whether I believe or disbelieve the secular media, or whether I am choosing to go with or against the flow of our cultural times. I was in favor of civil same-sex marriage, critical of ex-gay therapy, and wanted the abolition of DADT all the way back in 2000, before our society and secular media were entirely comfortable with those ideas. So it wasn't that I capitulated to culture, society and media, but rather it feels like those entities, over time, became weirdly in sync with where I'm at on those particular issues.

Basically, what I believe has happened is that most of the younger generation (and many in the older generation) have become persuaded by the same observations and understanding that persuaded me some thirteen years ago: that being gay isn't a lifestyle choice, political ideology, or consequence of rejecting God. Being gay is something that people find themselves to be--and as a result some gay or lesbian people may have to make choices about their politics, religion or lifestyle that may or may not be in step with those who have never wrestled with having a minority sexual orientation.

My view used to be that perverts are gay, the immoral are gay, the rebellious are gay. The difference now is that I think people are gay. By "people" I mean the "people in your life" people. People that life insurance ads appeal to. People who buy Coke instead of Pepsi, or vice versa. The people we mean when we say, "people like convenience" or "people want a president who cares." Once you see that people are gay, that changes everything.

But the fact is, you can't see gay people as people unless you come to realize it for yourself. This is not something you are convinced of by simply reading a blog post. For instance, back when I still had the idea that only rebellious, perverted child molesters were gay, I would "push back" in my mind against anything I encountered that seemed to contradict my view. In early 2000 when my thinking was still in transition, I once saw a story about a high school kid, the quarterback and team captain of the school football team, who came out to his teammates as gay and was well received. I was annoyed that the secular media didn't highlight the moral issue of being gay and simply presented it as a touchy-feely, triumph-of-the-human-spirit thing. I pushed back at the story with my mind because it wasn't a Christian presentation, and I ended up rejecting the whole thing.

But upon later reflection, I realized that I missed the whole point of the story. Sure, there are moral issues about being gay when you approach it from a Christian perspective. But the more foundational question is, who is this person to begin with? Your standard issue pervert? Or just a high-school kid, feeling like he needed to be honest with his teammates, so scared he was shaking when he stood in front of them in the locker room and came out, finding relief once the truth was out and his family and friends accepted him.

Whatever moral journey that high school kid might take from that point on in his life, you have to recognize that it is a person who is going to make that journey. You have to ask yourself, what you would do if you were in his shoes? It is a question you only ask when you recognize that he is someone just like yourself.

And that circles us back to approaching this boy's story, and everyone's story, from a Christian moral perspective. When Jesus says "love your neighbor as yourself," he is saying that in order to fulfill our primary moral obligation to another person, we must first put ourselves in his or her shoes, so that we would know how to love them. We must first treat them like people. Because even Jesus recognized that neighbors are people.