“I’m so troubled, always, when I see people who are sure that they know exactly what God’s plan for the world is, what political party God belongs to, what God’s ideology is, and what God’s position on particular cases and controversies might be.”
–Al Gore, VP, statement to civil liberties and religious leaders July 14, 1994
I came across this quote today while thinking about and doing some reading/reflecting on the separation of church and state in the wake of the announcement of the retirement of Justice Stevens. I am a political person; I am a religious person. However, while I think it is my duty to be politically engaged, it is so very difficult to see where so many Christians take their religious and political involvement.
We read the same Bible, but we interpret it very differently.
We love the same God, but if our love of God calls us to action, it is very often a love that looks and acts in radically different ways.
How can this be so? Why is this so? This, to me, has been and continues to be the most difficult question with which I wrestle daily. If I am honest with myself I have a much easier time being open, being accepting, being welcoming to someone of an entirely different system of beliefs or even of proclaimed unbelief than I do someone that claims the name of Christianity and says such foul things as “God hates fags,” or actively stands outside of an abortion clinic, yelling at women on what is no doubt one of the lowest points of their lives to date and adding pain rather than love by calling them murderers, never thinking with any type of sociological imagination that there may be circumstances which they couldn’t think of, nevermind live through. Yet these people claim to have accepted Christ into their hearts? I often wonder if Christ has said after this “invitation,” which is more seeking a religious Corporate Sponsorship so that they can ascertain the affiliation and recognition they need in their like-minded people groups, “Thank you, but no thank you. It’s too dark in here. When there is one sign of life, I will return.”
The hardest thing, I think, about the message of Christianity, is not a virgin birth. It’s not even a bodily resurrection.
The hardest thing to accept about the Christian message is that there is such a thing as unconditional, limitless love. It’s a ridiculous thought. You’re a wretch; I’m a wretch. On my best day, I think terrible things about other people because I know the terrible truths about myself. In this way I understand why people waving the banner of Christianity cannot bring themselves to wave the love of it. They cannot yet accept the unconditional love of it. Projection takes the spotlight off of themselves.
And this brings me back to my struggle with fellow Christians. The ones who say God hates gays, when I don’t know that this is the case. Who am I to say? It doesn’t make sense to me that anyone would choose something so difficult for themselves as a life choice. I will not say one way or the other on things I don’t know, but what I am sure of, because it says so in scripture is that God is love. If God is love, why would I condemn a committed relationship between two people? Why would I call someone a murderer on their way into an abortion clinic, when what is much more affirming of their own personhood, and what I believe is more needed and more Christlike is this: to be there after the abortion and to surround them in love, at that moment when they themselves feel less like a person than ever before. We can talk all day about when an embryo becomes a baby, but I will have no role in denying the full personhood of the woman who just went through such an ordeal. What of the people who still ascribe to the notion that women should not be part of the ministry? This week I found myself in a verbal spar not with a man, but with a woman on this topic. I was stunned. She could not have been much older than I, and here she was pulling out arguments from 1 Timothy. Selective fundamentalists dressed in sheep’s clothing are everywhere. She clearly stated that she takes all of the Bible at face value. I am still baffled that so many people will accept that God can speak through a rock**, but not through a woman.
There are so many in the family of God who would be horrified at these beliefs, and I must honor their opinions and treat them with respect. I ask you honestly – then what?
**Some of this imagery in the Psalms, but Jesus references it in the Triumphant Entry Passage in Luke 19:
19:37 As he approached the road leading down from the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen: 19:38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 19:39 But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out!”