Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pouring My Heart Out (about Same-Sex Marriage)

Last night, in New Zealand, the same-sex marriage bill passed its third and final reading. This means that as of August this year, the legal definition of marriage will change to allow gay and lesbian couples to get married. Needless to say, in the past year there has been a lot of heated debate around the subject. It seemed that everyone everywhere was talking about their views on whether or not the bill should pass. And last night my Facebook newsfeed exploded, as my friends in both camps expressed their joy or their distress at the outcome.

For the most part, I kept quiet on the subject, thinking it was most likely inevitable that it would go through, and that I didn’t feel strongly enough about it either way to really take a stand anyway. To me, there were bigger and more important issues to concern myself with.

When the bill passed its second reading, I felt stirred by the massive amount of discussion going on about it. It became clear that as a mother, and as a Christian woman, my children would be waiting to see where I stood, and how I would respond. So I prayed. I prayed a lot. And as I did, I read, and I talked. I read my bible, and I read essays, articles, blogs and pages and pages of comments and discussions people were having on Facebook. I talked with friends and family who had views on both sides of the debate. It didn’t take long for me to find where I stood, as it seemed there were snippets of conversations and articles that jumped out at me as though highlighted by God himself.

What I saw so clearly in all of this, was that there seemed to be two camps. Those pushing for “equality” and declaring the need to “move forward” and legalise same sex marriages, and those against it, mostly Christians quoting scriptures and declaring the move a sinful act that was “anti-family” and “cultural vandalism”.  Both camps expressed a lot of anger, even hatred, towards the other. Both camps made a lot of assumptions about the other’s mindset. Both camps were extremely passionate about their belief in what was “right”.

Then there were the messages that really stood out to me – those expressed by people who lived homosexual lifestyles. Their message, whether read between the lines of what they were saying or stated outright, was common and strong and very, very clear. They felt hated and judged by the church.  They had heard what Christians had been saying about their lifestyles, and it hurt. Even those of us who choose to be kind by saying it is the sin, and not the sinner that God is against (“I’m not saying God hates you or other gay people, it’s the sin of homosexuality that he hates...”) have caused these people pain. They see their sexuality as a big part of their identity, and so they believe we hate who they are. The real tragedy is not that same-sex marriage has been legalised, but that there are people within our reach who have experienced years and years of hatred and judgement from the church, when what they should have experienced was Christ.

The first time I walked into a church I was an unmarried teenage mother. That was my sin. I know only too well how it feels to walk in seeking answers to something bigger than yourself and to find judgement. Nobody talked to me, though a lot of people looked my way. I saw it all on their faces, and I don’t blame them really. I know what I must have looked like. The only thing worse than the looks I would get, was the terrible hurt of not being seen at all. As though I was somehow so beneath them that I didn’t even come into their radar. Eventually one girl did talk to me, and though I knew it was forced and we didn’t have anything in common, I clung to her. Because I needed to feel accepted, despite my sin, and something in the music and the atmosphere told me that God was real and that when he looked at me he didn’t see my youth, or my social status, or the state of my finances, or even the fact that I had being sleeping with my boyfriend and we’d had a baby. Somehow I felt that despite the indifference of the people, God saw me, and he loved me.

As I sat and read, and watched and listened to the hearts and words of gay and lesbian people in New Zealand I could relate somewhat to their hurt. When I saw their pain, suddenly my views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage became less important than listening to their views and their experiences. I knew exactly how I would respond, and what I would choose to pass onto my children, who will in a big way, whether I like it or not, become the adults I shape them into. On the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, I will allow my children to make up their own minds. Showing love and respect for others is an expectation. That is what I will pass on.

I do not feel any distress at the passing of this new law. I feel distress at the hurtful things that have been said and done, and at the absolute loneliness and isolation that people are living in. I feel sad that these people feel their freedom has now come, through the law, and not through Jesus Christ.

What have we done?

I have been accused of diluting the message of the gospel. I have been accused of jumping on the latest bandwagon, of going with the popular trend, instead of what is right in the eyes of God. I have been told I lack faith, or lack strength to stand up for God’s word, that I need to read my bible properly. Well, I have no time for those accusations, nor do I feel the need to address them. I want to address their pain instead, and show them there is a God who loves them – not in spite of, but because of who they are.

 I remember a day, when I was seventeen, standing in the Square waiting for a bus. I remember it so well that I even remember what I was wearing – a tattered black woollen jersey stretched over my very pregnant belly. A woman came up to me and said very loudly “I need to tell you that Jesus loves you...ok?” and she smiled a big smile and walked away, pretty satisfied with her brave efforts. I could imagine her going off to one of her coffee groups later that week and “casually” slipping into a conversation her story about the poor young pregnant Maori girl in the Square, and how she told her about Jesus’ love.  I know she meant well. I also know that what she felt was pity, not love, and that she clung to the belief that if only I knew Jesus, He would fix me, and then I would look more like her.

I have four very strong-willed children. Believe me; sometimes I have whole days when I am gritting my teeth in frustration. But when I look at them, I know that I don’t love them in spite of their behaviour. I completely love them because of the amazing people that they are. I believe it is the same when God looks at all of us, and we need to focus a whole lot more on sharing that with others, instead of sharing condemnation. 

Stand up for what you believe is right. But find a way to do it without tearing a person’s world apart and making God look like something He is not.

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