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.


23 comments:

  1. Thank you... I haven't made up my mind either way, as much due to the 'pressure' felt as a Christian to be against it. I appreciate your honest post, and the chance to look at it from a different angle.

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    1. There is a lot of pressure...and the confusing thing about it is there are people on both sides of the debate who make good points, and people on both sides who make ridiculous statements.

      Thanks for your comment. I've been expecting nasty comments, but I wanted to speak my heart anyway.

      xo

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  2. Oh Cass, I'm so glad you posted this. This morning I prayed, helplessly, asking for where I should stand about this and other controversial issues. I am so thankful I don't have the dilemma of being a politician and deciding what should be made law or not. I love your post. I have been so torn over this issue, wanting to love people as Jesus would but not condone what they do. And I think of Jesus and the woman who was going to be stoned and I think he would have simply loved people too.

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    1. I so know what you mean, about wanting to show love to others, but not wanting to condone what they do...at the end of the day I believe with all my heart that if we love others, really love them, simply because our God loves them too, we can't go wrong.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      xo

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  3. I too struggled with this until I thought of my friend who is gay but also commits to doing so many christian acts in one day even though he doesnt attend church because of the rections he has experienced. I have yet to meet another loving, caring and giving person. I can only hope that some of his values rub off on myself and other christians who are sometimes self serving when it comes to others needs.

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  4. wow you write so well Cass, I fully agree and have had many of the same thoughts. Great post!

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    1. Thanks hun! It wasn't easy to write to be honest, but I felt it was important to try.

      xo

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  5. Thank you for helping me find the words for what I feel about the subject too. And I agree that I think there are more important things that God is concerned about, such as a persons heart attitude towards Him, and their love for others, especially those who disagree. Bless you heaps.

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    1. All I know is when the day comes that I'm standing face to face with Jesus, it's not anyone else's sins that I'll be thinking about, it'll be my own. I want to have done my best to represent Him well.

      Thanks for your comment :)
      xo

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    2. WOW, that's a statement right there, Cass! WOW! Goosebumps!!! SO TRUE!

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  6. Cass:if i might shed a slightly different light on what you referred to as your 'sin.' you were young, coming from who-knows-what story, and like so many- whether consciously or not, you and the boyfriend resorted to sex because it fleetingly made you feel alive, real, appreciated.
    What I am suggesting is that the bigger 'sin' (your word) is society and the churches who each and all failed to nourish your sense of self, of the sacred uniqueness and beauty of your life:spirit and body, that you and your boyfriend resorted to the oldest and most fleeting substitute.
    At the corse of this 'bigger sin' i sense is the fact that too many religious 'authorities' are resorting to patriarchal injunctions- commands to maintain 'power' and in the process you go unvalidated, unheard, perhaps isolated and definately alienated from your body. Those authorities resorted to the law, rather than nurturing the 'life more abundantly' in you.
    All to suggest that 'sin' is a pretty heavy and archaic word which neither recognizes the insights of contemporary psychology or science. as a Christian sin has been taken up by our living Lord. I might suggest a measure/standard when those around you start flapping then gums about other peoples' 'sin'- 'which option, which take on this speaks to Christ's calling us to live 'life more abundantly'' and don't settle for anything less.
    your gay brother in Christ
    David@Montreal

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    1. Nice to 'meet' you David. And I agree with you, that definitely is the bigger issue, or 'sin'. What they don't know is that 16 years later that boyfriend and I are still together, married now, and have gone on to have three more children. We are sure that the only reason we are who we are today is because of the love and nurture and guidance we received from God, and from other Christian leaders who saw us as God intended, and not as young, hopeless, unworthy of their time. (Eventually we moved on to a different church.)

      Thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.
      xo

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  7. Cass... this is hands down the best thing I have read/heard from a Christian perspective about this new law. It completely resonates with me. The other issues are side issues - without Love we are just a sounding gong - I think I remember reading that somewhere?
    THANKYOU for writing this. I have done pretty much what you did, sat back and not participated in the debate, unsure what I thought or where I stood.
    But THIS post, this is The Point.
    We are not meant to be sitting in judgement on the world outside our church doors. Who are we to decide? Who are we to judge?
    It's Jesus LOVE that will draw people in; our anger and judgement over issues only alienates people and tells them that God is not interested in them.
    Brilliant Cass. xx

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    1. Thanks hun, that means a lot. There is so much writing on this subject, especially online, and I was hesitant to add more noise, but I felt it was important to bring a different perspective. Thanks for the encouragement. :)

      xo

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    2. Cass I shared your post on my Friday "Loving" post... really, really LOVED it.
      x

      http://www.greatfun4kidsblog.com/2013/05/lovin-on-friday-and-dilemma.html

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  8. Awesome! I too have been struggling with this and I love your perspective.

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  9. So pleased to read this. For me I've not spoken about it online but I come back again and again to a couple of things - specks and planks - I have many planks so I am hardly in a place to try and remove (or even decide if they should be removed) specks from someone else's lives that and 'judge not least you be judged, for with the measure you judge it will be measured back to you'. There are none among us whose journey has finished being written and we each answer to God alone. I am not an expert but I am hoping to be more and more a follower of the one who loves me and laid down his life for me and for each of us. UNconditional love is all that will bring wholeness and redemption to any of us. I've been so upset by the haters.

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  10. I'm neither Christian nor gay, but I was surprised by how moved I was by your writing. As with many religions, I have a far greater respect for their fundamental principles and what they represent than the institutions that they have spawned, and I can't help but feel that what your writing shows is the true spirit of what Christianity was supposed to be. I take my hat off to you not just for addressing the topic, but for the clarity and sensitivity of your writing.

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  11. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for posting xx

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  12. I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for posting xx

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  13. Admin, if not okay please remove!

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    www.teespring.com/prostate-cancer-research

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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