I haven’t blogged in 2 years. I guess a last minute blog about Amendment 1 is as good of a place to begin again as any. I do not claim to have it all figured out; I have more questions than answers. Please read my thoughts with grace. I tried to write them in that manner. I
have also written them in a verbose manner. Be warned.
have also written them in a verbose manner. Be warned.
Self-Interrogation: Asking Christians Hard Questions Before May 8th
Do you want to see me shrivel up and shrink away from a conversation? Do you want to see me shut down or re-direct a topic? Well, bring up politics. Nothing shoots pangs of discomfort through my mind, and even body, like the topic of politics. Do you want me to talk for hours and never shut-up? Bring up Jesus. Nothing strikes me to the core like the love I feel from Jesus of Nazareth. One can imagine then that in the past couple months North Carolina's Amendment 1 has been pulling me in multiple directions.
Amendment 1 has forced me to think about how my identity as a follower of Jesus Christ informs my identity as a citizen of North Carolina. And through these past couple months I have concluded that the political use of Christianity in creating and supporting North Carolina’s Amendment One is ultimately harmful to both my faith and to my state. This reflection will not be a cohesive or well-developed argument against Amendment 1, and it will not be a presentation of arguments that have been discusses thus far such as adverse affects of the Amendment or the definition of marriage. I do not know what I believe about the homosexuality; therefore you will find places where my wording will offend both sides of the debate. Maybe my view from the fence has helped me to have a different perspective on Amendment 1. This reflection is simply a last minute attempt to raise some questions for my fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am writing to my fellow believers, to my Christian community that extends throughout NC and includes a vast diversity of beliefs. I want to write this blog not out of polemic or judgment, but with a level of concern and care that is sensitive, but still true to the urgency I feel about the issue of Amendment 1. I am trying my best to clothe myself in love for my brothers and sisters in Christ, despite our disagreements.
It matters to me that I work towards unity in the church, even when I must stand appalled or ashamed of another Christian’s actions or choices. It matters to me that I not think lazily about my brothers and sisters, simply discarding them when I disagree with them. That is why I feel it necessary to do the hard work of searching and seeking in the midst of difference and disagreement. And as May 8th barrels towards us in just a few days, I want to ask my faith family to do this hard work with me.
I am not asking for us to all agree, I know that in the end, many believers that I look up to and respect will think I am straying because of my views about this Amendment. Please, before you dismiss me, think and maybe even pray about the questions that Amendment 1 has risen for me. What I am asking is that Christians not blindly accept this amendment as “the Christian thing to do”. What I am asking is for us to introspectively reflect on where our intentions are rooted. Can we please think critically about our role in society and about how we are to form our witness to this world? I am asking that we question the relationship between scripture and secular governing documents. I am asking that we purely and simply ask questions.
I beg that we’d stop assuming that we have everything figured out and that we’d stand before each other with ridiculous honesty and transparency, asking ourselves “Are we acting justly? Do we love mercy? Are we walking humbly with our God?” I ask that we vote “For” or “Against” on May 8th only after we interrogate ourselves in relationship to this amendment.
The following are very short reflections that raise more questions than they answer and are not exhaustive of all the issues raised by Amendment 1. My goal is not to sling scriptures around as leverage, nor do I desire to “convince” or “convert” anybody to an anti-amendment stance with my meager words. My goal is to present questions that we can think about as we walk prayerfully into the polls on Tuesday. Furthermore, my goal is not to present myself as some sort of theologian, ethicist, or political analyst. I am fully aware that I don’t have everything figured out; I am just a young believer who has questions about the kingdom of God. And if you’ve read this far, I thank you for walking along side me in my questioning.
“The Christian Thing to Do”: Is Christianity a Homogeny or a Diverse Family?
I have heard over and over again that voting “FOR” Amendment 1 is the “Christian thing to do.” I’ve been given multiple reasons, particularly surrounding scriptures about sexuality. But my question is—What does it mean to do the “Christian thing”? I have really struggled with this outlook amongst my fellow believers because there seems to be a mass assumption that all Christians believe exactly the same thing or that all Christians interpret all scripture in a unified manner.
Since I have began my studies in seminary, I’ve come to realize that there is a vast, and I mean vast, variety of Christians who live out the work of the church differently and who see scripture differently. While this is often problematic, it can also be one of the most beautiful things about the church. The church is a diverse family; it is not a homogenous clump of people who are the same gender, race, or political party. I have been feeling that as a Christian, I need to reflect on the diversity of my religion and possibly see this diversity as something to respect.
It seems to me that many Christians attempt to ignore our diversity because to assume Christianity is a homogenous entity (typically one that exactly matches your own worldview) is to use the faith as a social force. One can flippantly use the term “Christian” to convince and condemn and to get their way in society. This is at the expense of acknowledging Christianity as a living, moving, body with all its different parts.
What is the “Christian thing to do”? I don’t know, ask two Christians from two different traditions, and you will get two very different answers; both of these answers will be rooted in scripture and driven by a desire to live a faithful Christian life. I exhort my fellow believers to acknowledge the complicated and diverse make-up of the church and to think more deeply about the complicated issue before us as North Carolinian Christians vote “for” or “against” Amendment 1.
We must ask ourselves, “Do I represent all Christians when I say voting for Amendment 1 is the ‘Christian thing to do’?”
The Root of Our Intentions: Fear or Faith?
Amendment 1 is the first time I have ever publicly stood against other Christians. I have been honest about where my vote would be cast and I have been very vocal about how it has been based on my Christian faith. I have done this mostly through the vehicle of facebook (for the good and the bad). This has led to multiple fruitful conversations, which have enlightened my understanding of why many Christians are voting “for” Amendment 1. One particular reason that troubles me is the reason of “protection”. I have heard two different arguments that are centered on “protection”. I want to touch on both of these arguments about protection and ask whether these are rooted in fear or faith.
The first is the political and public discussion of protection. This is the legal protection of the institution of marriage as defined by God in the bible. I have also been told that it is critical to place in legal protections from “rogue” judges that might try to overturn NC’s marriage laws. My question is this: what does it mean that Christians need a constitutional law to “protect” the sanctity of marriage? What does it say about our faith in the church and in the Holy Spirit that we choose to turn to lawmakers to enforce “biblical marriage”?
I don’t know if I have clear answers to this. All I know is that there is a dissonance in my spirit about where our intentions are rooted. They are rooted in fear, fear of the “other”. Humans resort to conscious protection when they are living in fear. What are we afraid of? And what do we have faith in? Christians are afraid of rogue judges, of marriage as an institution being undermined. When one’s Christian convictions are based on fear, I just can’t help but wonder whether faith is truly playing a role. Can we live out of fear of the “other” and simultaneously live out of faith in the God of all creation?
The second type of protection is one with which I am more frustrated. It is a more subversive discussion that has been confined within the walls of some church buildings in NC. This “protection” is the protection of future Christians from discrimination if gay marriage is legalized. Here is a response from a Christian who I truly respect and love as a brother, who I know has a heart for God, yet that I heartily disagree with on this matter:
“If a stand is not taken now, the next step for the LGBT community is to want to have their weddings in a church, and if the church refuses to perform the wedding, then the church will be guilty of discrimination and possibly a hate crime. Pardon the cliché, but with this decision [Amendment 1] we are at the edge of a very slippery slope.”
I grew up in a tradition that preached about the future persecution and discrimination of Christians as our nation slips more and more into the abyss of “worldliness”. I think that I have a lot of issues about how this mentality is rooted in fear. I want to be bold and say that this is a dangerous incitement of paranoia that is causing Christians to not think critically about the issue of Amendment 1. Where in the argument above do we see faith? Where in the argument above will Christians be acting out of love? Self-preservation is not cohesive with the example of Jesus Christ.
I leave each of my brothers and sisters to ask themselves, “Where are my decisions rooted? Fear or Faith?”
Christianity: What is Dual Citizenship?
Another set of questions that has been raised for me through Amendment 1 is the question of citizenship. How do we understand the relationship between our identities as citizens of the Kingdom of God and our identities as citizens of North Carolina? Both of these identities reside within me at this moment, so how to they work together and how do they not work together?
I am only a student, and I have so much to learn, but I do know that my citizenship in the Kingdom of God is eternal and that my citizenship in North Carolina is not. I know that my citizenship in the Kingdom of God marks my relationship with the Creator and that my citizenship in NC marks my relationship to my neighbors.
For me, my eternal identity as a follower of Jesus trumps all other identifiers in my life. Ultimately I do see my state citizenship as a space to testify to Christ. But how do I form this witness? What does it look like for our Christianity to inform our politics? Does it look like cultural power or social power? Does it look like “othering” our fellow citizens? Does it look like villainizing our neighbors? How does creating sub-citizens in our temporal context testify to our eternal context? Maybe you don’t see this amendment that way, but I do wonder if there are other ways to testify to Christianity besides picking one issue (Christian sexual ethics) and driving through the grinder of governmental law.
Can we ask ourselves, “Have I thought critically about how my faith informs my Christian citizenship? What does Amendment 1 do? Does it “protect” holiness or oppress those who with those whom Christ would have sat down to dinner, does it ‘other’ those which Jesus would have ministered to through relationship?”
Christian Banners: Leviticus 18:22 or John 3:16?
How do we feel about the fact that non-Christians of North Carolina are looking at Christianity like they are cultural crusaders carrying a banner that reads “Leviticus 18:22”? If our neighbors see us that way, could it possibly be that our emphases are in the wrong places?
Copy and Paste: Scripture in the Constitution?
My response to this will be very short and blunt. But, where I am right now in how I understand scripture and how I understand the authority of the bible for the Christian life, I find Amendment 1 to be appalling. My question is this: Do we dare copy and paste the Word of God into a public document like it was as article from Wikipedia? Could we possibly be depleting the words of Scripture of their spiritual truth when we alienate them from their genre, context, and audience?
The Bible is a cohesive canon that cannot be pulled apart without disrespecting the Holy Spirit that participated in its formation and canonization. I am seriously questioning the influence that scripture has had in the writing of Amendment 1. I believe God’s word is for all of creation. But, I also believe that the truth of the gospel as communicated through the Word of God must be lived out in the context of the Christian life, lest is be distorted. I question whether a governing document is the correct context by which the word of God will flourish.
So I ask my fellow believers to ask themselves, “What is the Bible to me? Where does the truth of the scripture flourish? What is a constitution? Is it the right place for scripture to be communicated to the world? Could this amendment be distorting the message of the gospel?”
I have presented only a few of the many questions that have been raised for me by this Amendment. As frustrating and confusing as the past couple of months have been to me, they have also been a journey of learning. I have been prompted to think critically about Christianity and myself as a believer and about how I should faithfully live out my Christian life in a changing world. I have been pushed to reflect deeply on what it means to vote as a Christian.
This is what I desire for my faith community, for you, my brothers and sisters: not that you automatically agree with me, nor that you be manipulated into voting one way or the other, but that before you go out to polls tomorrow, that you ask yourself some hard questions. I beg for some self-interrogation from the body of Christ here in North Carolina.
So I ask my fellow North Carolinians who have been washed by the blood of Christ, who live in this broken world to testify to the redemption brought to us in Christ’s death and resurrection to ask themselves, “Have I asked myself the hard questions? Before I choose between two short but momentous words, FOR or AGAINST, Have I interrogated myself?”
Thank you for your time. Even if you stand on the other side of the issue from me, I thank you for walking along side me in my questioning simply by reading this reflection.
“This isn’t an issue about Christians defending the gospel or campaigning against sin. This is about mercy, this is about grace, this is about decency, this is about humanity. Treat people like human beings and have some compassion. That’s what it’s about. The law is such a blunt instrument for dealing with things like this…” - Sam Wells