I’ve made some progress on my post about last night’s meeting, but I’ll probably need a few days to finish it. It always strikes me how you and I can think so alike in many ways but come to profoundly different conclusions because of our differing views on scripture’s authority. I think we probably agree in more areas than we disagree, but we never talk much about the positions we share. The only time you and I ever interact in a non-professional setting seems to be when we’re arguing—you could not possibly like me (Russell agrees that I make it difficult for you).
I like you. I like that I can still respect you even when we disagree. I can’t do that with some people, and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way—I used to be a person that the current me couldn’t have respected in debate, and I am likely currently a person the future me would not respect in debate. You ask such thoughtful questions, and you give thoughtful responses to mine. Your reason for your position last night (based completely on the authority of scripture) is honest and consistent with who you are, and that’s an issue we’ve spent enough time arguing about already.
Why did I argue with you last night, knowing that we disagree on such a fundamental level? It’s because I know what could help me return to faith, and the issue of homosexuality highlights it well. I feel like I keep hitting a wall with the authority of scripture, because it seems to conflict with another Biblical principle—that I am made in God’s image. If I’m made in God’s image, what does it mean if my heart tells me “This is not from God” when I hear it said that obedience requires gay people to either have their sexuality “reformed” or be celibate—and any time I think about hell? If I’m made in God’s image, what does it mean if my heart tells me it doesn’t matter who we love, but how we love? I’m not gay, so it was easier for me to just keep proclaiming the authority of scripture than to feel this overwhelming burden for gay people and this uncomfortable sense that we’ve been wrong all along. I find no personal benefit in advocating for the gay community, and I cannot relate to their type of sexual attraction—so why does this fuel passion within me? When I read scriptural references to homosexuality and pray about them to whoever is listening, I feel this sense that God says, “These are the words of men. You have my heart.” I would be wary of accepting words like that if I were using them to justify my own behavior—but I’m not.
You seemed to feel like my views are unique. If I deny scripture’s perfect authority regarding homosexuality, much of the church won’t agree with me. If I believe in the concept of sexual immorality (defined not by loving the wrong person, but rather by loving the wrong way) even without faith and take a position against it, much of the rest of the world won’t agree with me. These two coordinates mark exactly where I am, and it’s lonely sometimes. Perhaps this is actually the road less traveled. What if this is where I’m meant to be? What if this is the answer to the prayer “Break my heart for what breaks yours”? Could it be that the boundary-breaking love of God endures beyond ancient words? Could it be that he reveals himself to me in the heart that he gives me, even if that heart is offensive to those who give scripture ultimate authority in their lives? Is there any chance that we have had it wrong? Is there any chance that with my love of scripture, I missed out on knowing God and sharing his love?
Those are the questions I’m really asking when I argue. I want to believe that my heart might be from God, even if it means denying the full authority of scripture. I want to believe that a living God isn’t leather-bound with black and white pages. Just like a gay Christian would want to feel that there’s room for him as an active participant in the Church without a requirement of celibacy, I want to believe that there’s room for me without having to proclaim the authority of scripture and lay down the passions and burdens in my heart—passions and burdens that I have hoped might reflect the heart of a living God.
As I have before and will again, I apologize if I argued too aggressively. You and Russell are the only people I ever apologize to for that. I speak up louder with you for a different reason than the one we discussed last week as a possibility—I feel safe and comfortable, not insecure. Of course, you can rest assured that my workplace interactions will look different.
Thank you for coming last night and two weeks ago—this week ended the series on hard questions. I’ll miss the discussion with you that I have valued so much through these two weeks and through Détente, but I hope that you and Russell continue to write.
Friends even if we disagree,