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Christian venom

Fellow Redbud Writer Halee Gray Scott has a very interesting and controversial post up on the Christianity Today women’s blog. It’s generated a flood of comments, many of them simply mean.

Of course, she picked a controversial topic, gay marriage, to write about. I’ve been invited to a gay wedding this fall, and plan to attend. More on that on another day. (Um, if you want to hate on me for that, I won’t approve your comment. Just warning you now.)

Understandably, the mean comments come from people of a wide variety of orientations and beliefs. But my question is this: why do Christians, whom Jesus said should be known by the LOVE, act so hateful? I don’t think Halee’s post is hateful, it’s very respectful, thoughtful, and honest. But the comments in response to it are a bit much. And the moderators have jumped in a few times to say they are deleting the worst of the comments. Which means that what’s left are the not so mean ones, which are still pretty awful.

As writers, we feel compelled to try to make sense of the world, to figure things out, by writing about them. Doing so requires courage–because people will attack you personally simply because they disagree with you. I just don’t get that.

Most people who comment on blogs feel emboldened to write comments they would never say to someone’s face, which is unfortunate. But is that the only reason for the venom? Or are Christians mean people? While no one is perfect, wouldn’t you expect Christians to state their opinions in a loving, dare I say, sanctified, way?

What are your thoughts? (Not on gay marriage, but on why Christians are so dang mean! to people both inside and outside of the church.) It’s an incredibly frustrating part of identifying myself as a Christian. Jesus envisioned a movement and community of love, but instead we are known for being hateful and divisive. Why? Could it be because we are just as sinful as those we condemn?

9 Comments

  1. I have no idea. We are, more than anything, called to love. Where did the church go so wrong?

    Of course the culture is very divided, and conservative evangelicalism has latched onto some subjects that have become the litmus test for “christian” like abortion, LGBT, certain social issues, which are covered only in limited ways in the Bible (it seems to me.)

    I’ll check out her essay. Haven’t had the heart to read it yet, but it’s time. No one should get bashed around for speaking their mind and heart.

    I wrote something a few weeks ago on being an LGBT ally and a Christian. http://wp.me/ploAe-2bj Just my experience.

  2. Right, Keri. It makes me so sad that God’s children treat each other in such mean and destructive ways.

    It reminds me of what happens in Christian families when one goes “astray.” I am involved in a prodigal prayer ministry. I recently wrote a post for them on The Voice of Grace. Though it is directed at those who love a prodigal, it speaks to all of us–and how God would have us speak to each other.

    http://inkindle.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/the-voice-of-grace/

  3. The way I’ve usually seen it go — not necessarily with Christians, but when people in general clash over same-sex marriage — is something like this. The supporters identify same-sex marriage as a civil right based on a fundamental and unalterable characteristic, and so then, no matter how respectful, thoughtful, and honest the opponents may try to be, many people have already lumped them into the category of Those Who Oppose Civil Rights. And then all hell breaks loose because “How dare they oppose civil rights!? How dare they judge someone based on their very identity? How backward and oppressive and totalitarian can someone get, anyway?”

    I don’t know if this is helpful because, as I said, this is what I’ve seen in general, not specifically in the church. But it’s how these things have tended to play out, in my own experience.

    (As someone who agrees with Halee, I’d like to thank you for your gracious handling of the issue!)

  4. When I was growing up, the village darling in our small East Texas town was a girl people said was closer to Jesus than anyone they’d ever seen. She was at the Southern Baptist church four times a week. And she was mean. Junior high girls would camp out crying in the bathroom over something she’d said to them. But she was just emblematic of a larger problem in the South.

    In the South, there is no real relationship with God, only a religion that had little to do with daily life. For many Southerners, being a Christian means that you go to church on Sundays and sometimes pray before meals. Christianity doesn’t involve a life-transformation or a close, growing, intimate relationship with God. It’s just gloss. That’s where I think a lot of Christian meanness comes from. It’s just so jarring because we *expect* them to be different.

    In the case of the commenters, I think they obviously haven’t had the deep transformation that comes from a close relationship with God, but I also think they’ve suffered so much. When I read through their comments, it was so clear they weren’t talking to me, even though they addressed me. They were talking to their parents, their siblings, childhood friends, bullies–they people that had never understood them and rejected them from the get-go.

    Great question, Keri. Looking forward to what others think.

  5. Keri, this post is a wonderful way to support and encourage not only Halee but all believers. I agree with Halee that the longer I’ve been around people who lash out (whether in blog comments or in person) the more I’ve come to wonder what it is that they are going through. When I write a post that gets one of those attacks, I wonder whether the venom is more a product of what’s going on in their own lives than the perceived difference between me and them.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean the comments don’t hurt. Words mean something, and mean words can hurt. I’m glad Christ is The Word, and that he heals all my hurts.

    Tim

  6. Every one of us can be mean when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly, from little kids to big old adults.

    Remember, Halee began her post by stating that she voted to overturn gay marriage in California, an act which made many gay people (and their allies) feel they were being treated unfairly. Very unfairly.

    How unfairly?

    Well, in his movie, “Unforgiven” Clint Eastwood’s character expresses it very well:
    “It’s a hell of a thing killing a man. Take away everything he’s got, and everything he’s ever gonna have.”

    That is how very deeply hurt gay people felt when they saw their chance at a loving family life snatched away from them in California by voters like Halee. In an instant, what they cherished most in this world was gone. We can all feel some compassion for anyone who has lost everything.

    I’m also going to a gay wedding next week. The couple are two of the most loving, sweet and spiritual women I’ve ever met. They have three children between them. They have already adopted one another’s offspring as their own, and bought a home together.

    If I voted, or did anything else to snatch their happiness and their family away from them, I would not expect their priority would be, as Halee asks, being nice to me about it.

    I would expect to remain unforgiven.

  7. Helga,
    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate hearing how you feel. But I’m just curious–did the vote on Prop 8 actually “snatch away their chance at a loving family life”? Really?
    Did the vote make gay couples “lose everything”?

    Your quote from Clint Eastwood puzzles me. he’s talking about actually killing someone. I don’t think the state of CA went out killing people after that election. As far as I know, they didn’t go busting into homes and arrest gay couples. I realize that the feelings of loss were painful, but…
    Please don’t misunderstand–I would have voted differently than Halee did. But I respect her right to vote her conscience. If we preach “acceptance” than we must accept all viewpoints, not just the ones that we agree with. I think her post was NOT trying to tell people what to think, but sharing her internal struggle.

    You’ve just told us of a gay couple you know–you didn’t mention if their home state allows gay marriage or not, or if they live in California. But even if they live in a place where gay marriage is not recognized by the state, they do have a loving family life. The state does not have the power to take that away–unless that state has laws to break up families like theirs–which no state does.

    They are legally allowed to adopt children, buy property, live together. And that doesn’t sound like someone who has “lost everything” and has no chance of a loving family life. it sounds like a description of a loving family who own a home together. As 21st century AMericans, we take those rights for granted but they are no small thing.

    I really do understand that there’s more at stake than just those rights, but those rights are significant. Just a generation ago, this couple would not have been able to do what they’re doing–adopting, buying property, cohabiting. in fact, even an unmarried heterosexual couple would have had a hard time doing that, say, in 1950.
    The wedding I’m going to this fall is in a state that has a law on the books prohibiting gay marriage, in fact has language similar to Prop 8 in their laws. But my friends are still holding a ceremony. And they own a house together, and want to have a family. Which they can do.

    I’m honestly in need of educating–I realize there are financial and tax benefits to being married–which are huge, and the whole question of whether a partner can make health care decisions or even be in the hospital room if their partner is sick. And that would be enough reason for wanting the state’s legal recognition. But help me understand–are there other reasons why recognition by the state so significant?

  8. “did the vote on Prop 8 actually “snatch away their chance at a loving family life”? Really?”

    Yes. Really. Having your marriage voted away overnight shows you beyond doubt that any rights you thought you had were ephemeral. What other rights might be taken away next? State-granted rights are hollow, because they can be snatched away by political whimsy at any time. You can’t build a life on whimsical rights. You need Constitutional rights, like heterosexual people have. Otherwise, it’s all play pretend, playing house. Not marriage. Not a family.

    We were laughing about this in my classroom the other day, about something Mark Twain said, “No Man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” To straight people, this comes across as a jest with a sharp edge of truth in it. To gay people, this is no joke. It is their daily life, and it is terrifying. If Pastor Worley had enough votes, the ‘gay fences’ would already be going up in his state. Until such time as enforcement of our federal Constitution stopped the project.

    Living as a family, mutually owning property, mutually adopting children (if allowed by law) still leaves out the huge financial advantages of buying insurance as a family (the costs double or triple if you must buy separate policies), and hospital visitation rights for spouse and children, and employment benefits and protections, and making medical decisions for your spouse (may not be allowed) and it also leaves out the whole legal concept of “in loco parentis.”

    Unless you are legally recognized as a child’s parent, legal guardian or blood relative you cannot pick them up from school, talk to their teachers, talk to their doctor, or approach or touch them in or out of school. You’re a legal stranger. These are all very real hurdles that gays must overcome to have even a semblance of the rights, benefits and privileges any heterosexual American family enjoys automatically.

    It’s expensive to get power of attorney for a spouse’s children, or to adopt if that’s allowed. It’s a nuisance to have to carry proof of that legal status around with you at all times. If you cross the border into the next state on vacation, any civil union and non-discrimination laws you enjoyed at home vanish. What family wants to live like that?

    Did the vote make gay couples “lose everything”? Yes, in the sense that they were made acutely aware that they were living under temporary, phony rights. It’s all hollow, compared to all the benefits and protections any heterosexual family is guaranteed under the Constitution. Who wants to live a pretend life?

    Naturally, gay people’s reaction to this situation is to shout, “This won’t do! I want the exact same Constitutional rights my heterosexual neighbors have!”

    “Your quote from Clint Eastwood puzzles me. he’s talking about actually killing someone. I don’t think the state of CA went out killing people after that election. As far as I know, they didn’t go busting into homes and arrest gay couples. I realize that the feelings of loss were painful, but…”

    The quote was to viscerally convey the psychic impact of having what you cherish most forcibly taken away in an instant. That’s how deeply hurtful it felt to the people that Halee (and others) took marriage from. If you truly grasp how devastating this theft was to them, then you caught the point.

    “Please don’t misunderstand–I would have voted differently than Halee did. But I respect her right to vote her conscience. If we preach “acceptance” than we must accept all viewpoints, not just the ones that we agree with. I think her post was NOT trying to tell people what to think, but sharing her internal struggle.”

    Halee can write and say and believe and vote what she will, as a free American citizen. We all can. But when Halee willingly acted to forcibly take away rights — that she happily enjoys — from fellow Americans, from her peers, from her equals, then she was not being nice to them whatever she thinks, and she cannot expect their response to be nice or “sanctified.” Nobody eats mud against their will and then thanks you for the meal.

    “You’ve just told us of a gay couple you know–you didn’t mention if their home state allows gay marriage or not, or if they live in California. But even if they live in a place where gay marriage is not recognized by the state, they do have a loving family life. The state does not have the power to take that away–unless that state has laws to break up families like theirs–which no state does.”

    That’s exactly the power states do have, and do use — to discriminate and restrict and separate gay people from “regular citizens.” Legislators (or voters) can make it illegal or effectively impossible in their state for gay people to have a full, normal family life. And they do so every day, all over this nation. Only when gay people enjoy the same civil rights under the Constitution as heterosexual people already do will they be out from under the whims of state voters and state legislators. Only then can they laugh along with Mark Twain’s humor.

    The current situation is in no way different from the “separate but equal” status black people were held under until 1954. “Separate but equal” is a hollow practice. Right now, most states are grudgingly allowing a few non-discrimination laws, and here and there the right to civil unions, but nowhere the full package of privileges, tax benefits, insurance benefits, employment benefits and legal protections from discrimination that straight people get without a struggle.

    “They are legally allowed to adopt children, buy property, live together. And that doesn’t sound like someone who has “lost everything” and has no chance of a loving family life. it sounds like a description of a loving family who own a home together. As 21st century AMericans, we take those rights for granted but they are no small thing.”

    Sure, it sounds like the real thing. But it’s ephemeral and hollow. These things they have right now can vanish at any time, by a majority vote. By a referendum on Election Day. So they are pretend things. Hollow marriages. False families. Not permanent, like Halee’s family. Her marriage is protected by Federal, Constitutional rights and laws that no state may interrupt or snatch away. Yet she chose to pull the lever that took away what she enjoys from thousands of her peers in California.

    “I really do understand that there’s more at stake than just those rights, but those rights are significant. Just a generation ago, this couple would not have been able to do what they’re doing–adopting, buying property, cohabiting. in fact, even an unmarried heterosexual couple would have had a hard time doing that, say, in 1950.
    The wedding I’m going to this fall is in a state that has a law on the books prohibiting gay marriage, in fact has language similar to Prop 8 in their laws. But my friends are still holding a ceremony. And they own a house together, and want to have a family. Which they can do.”

    Sure they can — until such time as the laws change, by majority vote, and then they might be subject to arrest for what is now perfectly legal, or at least not specifically illegal. Our Constitution was written to protect minority populations from majority opinion. You can’t single out a certain class of citizens based on some innate trait of theirs and then treat them differently than any other citizen because of that trait.

    “I’m honestly in need of educating–I realize there are financial and tax benefits to being married–which are huge, and the whole question of whether a partner can make health care decisions or even be in the hospital room if their partner is sick. And that would be enough reason for wanting the state’s legal recognition. But help me understand–are there other reasons why recognition by the state so significant?”

    It’s about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Whatever moral, spiritual, religious, financial or ethical issues surround the question of gay people having full Constitutional protections, it has now matured into a core civil rights struggle, to be fought in the Congress and the Federal courts. In our nation of laws, it now comes down to one simple legal question, the same question at the heart of the Brown v. Board of Education case back in 1954.

    Back then, the question was, “is a black citizen a full citizen?” A real, regular American? Or is she a second class citizen, allowed whatever rights her state may be pleased to allow her? Does she have fifty differing rights, according to what state she is in at the moment, or is her status the same as a white citizen. The exact same rights anywhere in our nation?

    Today we ask, is a gay person a full citizen? Does she have fifty differing rights, or the exact same rights any American has, anywhere in our nation?

  9. I have been trying to figure out this for a few decades now! We are not supposed to judge, however, I find most people judge everyday. Where I grew up is the land of the gay relationships. I personally wish everyone would just leave each other alone. If they are not personally bothering you (and I don’t mean being bothered by their lifestyle) just let it be. I like to watch a Catholic women’s show (I read and watch many other denominations other than my own) and it was blasting Girl Scouts for their very small involvement in Planned Parenthood. All of this based on abortion. My mother was a Girl Scout a long time ago and I think that the organization does good things for young girls. Being part of an organization when you are young usually fosters good adults. So, it just seems that everyone has something to say about something. There are few Christians practicing the beliefs that Jesus was trying to instill.

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