Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Here’s Why Your Pastor Didn't Say Anything About the SCOTUS Gay-Marriage Ruling

Three days have passed since the SCOTUS same-sex marriage ruling and the bloggers are a bloggin’ and the preachers are a preachin’.

Just not yours.

Sunday came and went at your church with nary a word about gays, marriage, SCOTUS or anything associated therewith. Pastor didn’t ask you to pray about the ruling, and there was no surprise homily from Romans 1. You keep checking the church blog and clicking on his Facebook page, but there's neither a rainbow filter on pastor’s profile picture, nor handwringing about the church losing its not-for-profit status.

Just silence.

It isn’t because he doesn't have an position. Trust me, he does. He has a carefully thought out opinion that he can persuasively articulate. Nor is it because she doesn’t study her Bible. She has. The fanciful theological convolutions that some scholars “recently discovered” - your pastor thinks them hubris. For recently minted seminarians to jettison two millennia of theology? The arrogance is offensive.

So why the silence? If your pastor has yet to articulate his or her thoughts on the subject, here are six reasons why your preacher might be sitting this one out.

Because she cares more about making a difference than making a point. 
Here’s the deal: your preacher really loves people. She believes that people matter to God - all people. And when someone is far from God your pastor wants - more than anything else - to help that lost soul find his way back to Jesus. Jesus is at the center of your preacher’s faith, and someone’s sex life - while not exactly peripheral - is something she’s willing to trust to the Holy Spirit. Not wanting to alienate someone who already thinks Christians are judgmental, your pastor trusts the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sexual sin because that’s His job, not hers. So rather than risk pushing someone farther away from God, she just shuts up.

Because he genuinely loves people and doesn’t relish the thought of hurting them. 
He doesn’t think about "the gays"; he knows gay people. He shuts up because he doesn’t want to hurt his college friend that has been in a committed relationship with her partner for the last ten years. He thinks about the two guys he met at the barber shop that have been together as long as he and his wife have been married. And while he doesn’t quite understand why some people experience same-sex attraction, he doesn’t hate the people who do, or think of them as perverts and degenerates. He cringes when he hears Christians use gay slurs, identifies with the pain that his gay friends have experienced, and chooses to show up as loving, not condemning.

Because he has dual citizenship in Heaven and on earth. 
Your preacher recognizes that, in a plural society, not everyone believes what he does. Because of that he is genuinely okay with two US citizens sharing property, making end-of-life decision for each other, and reaping the benefits of a lifelong commitment. He just doesn’t think it should be called marriage. For him, marriage is a word that is defined by a Deity in a throne room, not nine justices in a courtroom. The fact is, he was hoping that SCOTUS would find some third way; that the justices would recognize two persons’ rights to form a civil union while retaining the definition of marriage that has existed since it was instituted by God: the spiritual covenant between a man and a woman when they stand before God to commit to a lifetime together.

Because tension is hard.
It’s hard to wrap his brain around it. And it’s hard to talk articulate it. Your pastor recognizes the tension in grace and truth; that they are two sides of the same coin. Here's the truth: homosexual behavior is sin. Here's the rest of the truth: so is greed, selfishness, hate, lying, oppression, gluttony and on and on. Grace is bigger than all of that and your preacher knows that her sin is as revolting in God’s eyes as anyone else's. That’s why she clings to grace and that’s why she proclaims grace. For some, preaching about grace comes easily; for some, preaching about truth comes easily. But talking about grace and truth? That's hard for every preacher because it feels, sometimes, like they are diametrically opposed forces. Jesus was “full of grace and truth,” but your pastor feels entirely inadequate to proclaim them in the context go this subject.

Nobody wants a nuanced conversation anymore. 
Your pastor knows that most of the people he talks with about this don’t want a conversation; they want to conquer. They don't want to continue the discussion; they want to end it. They don’t want to talk about the social and spiritual implications of the ruling. And they for darn sure don’t want to recognize that “the other side” might be right - even if just a little. Dialogue means listening. It means hearing with the heart and the brain. And only then -  after really hearing - speaking. But this isn’t the time for that. This is the time for winning and that means someone has to lose, and since your pastor isn’t about people winning and losing, he just clams up.

Because he is grieving. 
Paul told the Romans “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” If your pastor is one of the majority of evangelicals that believes homosexual behavior is wrong, he mourns this decision. He grieves as he sees Americans, including many in his congregation, celebrating what was once thought to be immoral. When he sees the White House bathed in rainbow floodlights he aches. It feels, to him, like he is sitting shiva in the parlor, while there is partying in every other room of the house. When Facebook and Google are awash with gay pride, it feels like someone has died and he is expected to "just get over it!"

What now?
Truth be told, If your pastor is like me, I'm not entirely sure. Still, the path forward must wind its way through Paul's encouragement from Romans 12:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (vv. 9-13)
Disagree. Debate. Vigorously, even. But love each other, always keeping Jesus at the center.


Rqbd said...

I did talk about the decision Sunday morning, but experienced all six reasons in framing my response. Thanks for articulating them so well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Frank. This encapsulated a lot of my thoughts and feelings. I also find publishing my thoughts on social media to be an invitation to impersonal debate. I gladly welcome discourse, but civil discourse is rarely found on a venue like Facebook.

Buffybear said...

You seem like a very confused pastor. You, along with so many pastors, have forgotten where your loyalty lies. You are supposed to be committed to God and His Word, not to the whims of people. Pastors are supposed to be representatives of God on earth and speak out on His behalf. If you truly love people, you would tell them the "truth." God''s stance on homosexuality is completely clear in the Bible. There is no ambiguity, whatsoever. But, because you are sympathetic to gay people, you remain silent because you do not want to offend someone or hurt their feelings. Let me share a quote from the movie The Patriot: Reverend Oliver says, "A shepherd must tend his flock... And sometimes, he must fight off the wolves." This is not the time for passivity. Now is the time for people (especially Pastors) to be Christian soldiers and defend God's stance instead of remaining silent. Time to separate the sheep from the goats. Draw a line in the sand and let people know where you stand. And, Preach it from the pulpit! Will you continue to be silent in your effort to appease people, or will you do your JOB and tell people what God's Word says on this issue! If pastors won't love people enough to tell them the truth, who will? The Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage was a huge blow to Christianity and families. If the only one left on your side was God Himself, wouldn't that be enough? Don't you want God to say to you one day, "Well done, my good and faithful servant" ?