This week, I've felt the need to write about something that is probably not in my best interest to write about. One, writing it will likely eat up a large chunk of my day, and it's not like I don't have a million other things to do. Furthermore, my words will do very little to settle the growing angst I feel over this topic, or bring any sort of civilness to a war that is in my estimation approaching the peak of Mt. Irrational.
I had coffee with a good friend Friday. I like bouncing ideas off her; she is incredibly insightful and honest. We began discussing this topic that had been weighing on my mind. She actually brought it up in response to a story she'd seen on the news. I told her I was inclined to write a blog post about it. She warned me - don't go near there. You've got plenty else to write about.
When I left her, I left the idea behind. But then it showed back up the next morning. Right there in the same corner of my mind it showed up in the day before. It seemed to warn me, until I put it down on paper it's going to harass me. I knew, like so many ideas before it, until I did it wouldn't leave me alone.
So here I go.
Putting those two words together in a blog guarantees a spike in visitors to my site who have never visited before, and who will likely never stop by again. Outside of some possible competition from Barrack Obama and George Bush, gay-marriage may be the most divisive two word combination in the history of man.
The division, as best as I can sum it up, goes like this. Homosexual people fall in love and would like to have the opportunity to have their relationship recognized in a way that many heterosexual people who fall in love have their relationships recognized. They would like the chance to get married and receive the benefits received by those in heterosexual marriages. Many in this country support their wishes.
But there's a side that doesn't support that idea. That side is almost solely rooted in Christianity and various other religions that believe homosexuality is a sin. To condone same-sex marriage would somehow make them complicit to sinning, as their side sees it.
I get where both groups are coming from.
Although I've never been homosexual, I have fallen in love. I don't know exactly how that happens between people of the same sex, because I've never experienced it. So I simply choose to look at it through the eyes of the part I do understand - falling in love. And so on some level I get it.
On the other hand, I am a Christian. I spend considerable time in the bible. There is no argument that within the pages of that book, listed among the things that God finds unfavorable, is homosexuality. Be sure, though, there are many other things listed. I can't deny that every time I've rooted one of the things on that list out of my life, my life has improved. I also know this; there are many things on that list I have not rooted out of my life, try as I might or might not.
So this is what I've come to conclude about the bible and sin as it applies to me. Until I've got the list perfected in my own life, I should probably stay focused on my list and nobody else's. In the areas where God has helped me conquer my sins, I sing his praises high and proud. In the areas where I continue to struggle, I continue to ask God to help me. Those two burdens God has placed on me as a result of my own sin leave me zero time to assess the depths of someone else's sins, or to encourage them to live a life more in line with my sinful life. So please don't ask me to do either.
That doesn't mean I don't think I or other Christians don't have an obligation to be involved in and influence other people's lives. We do, but in a way that shares love without dictating its terms. In fact, one of the questions I've asked over and over of Christians who amplify this debate over gay marriage: Where is this kind of passion we have for lovingly suggesting how marriage should be defined when it comes to lovingly reaching out to starving and dying babies in this world? Granted, only 6 million of them die each year, but I still think it's a cause worth our attention. I mean, have I completely lost my mind because I consider the fight for someone's right to eat a more productive advancement of Christ's idea for our lives than fighting against someone else's idea of how our government should define marriage? Can't we fight for both, one might ask? Well, that would be a credible question if it didn't appear we've narrowed our Christian attention and fight to a single issue, no matter what the expense.
There has been no stronger proof of that to date than the events of last week.
Last week, one of the largest organizations in the world dealing with hunger and poverty and sex trafficking, and one who does it incredibly well - World Vision - made a hiring policy change. They decided they would hire employees who were involved in legally recognized same sex marriages. Within hours, some of the most outspoken and powerful evangelical leaders in our country offered their disapproval.
Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said this:
"World Vision has made a decisive difference in millions of lives around the world. Its humanitarian work is urgently important in a world of unspeakable need. Last year the organization had a total financial reach of almost $3 billion. Its scale and expertise are unprecedented in the Christian world. That is what makes this policy shift so ominous and threatening."
It doesn't take much to read between those lines.
John Piper, Chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary and author of over 50 books said this:
"World Vision has aligned itself with liberal Christians who choose not to renounce homosexual practice. Culturally, historically, and biblically this is a huge step toward the powerlessness and growing irrelevance of the mainline liberal establishment. You cannot undermine biblical authority, and trivialize perdition and its blood-bought remedy, and expect to maintain a vibrant spiritual base. It isn’t going to happen."
"This means that, without repentance and change, World Vision will go the way of worldliness and weakness. A great superstructure will remain for a season, but the Christian soul will disappear. And who will suffer most? The poor."
George O. Wood, on behalf of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, encouraged his folks to remove sponsorships from World Vision and move them elsewhere:
"Because of this policy change and the need to maintain continuity of care for the people who most need our help, I encourage Assemblies of God churches and individuals to begin gradually shifting their support away from the U.S. branch of World Vision to Assemblies of God World Missions and other Pentecostal and evangelical charities that maintain biblical standards of sexual morality."
But here's the thing. Those World Vision sponsorships are attached to real children. It's not like they were threatening to pull money out of an undedicated big bucket of cash to fight an unknown poverty. There are kids already eating on sponsored money. Kids who've grown favorably accustomed to the idea of eating breakfast. I know that to be true because we sponsor 3 kids through World Vision. They send us letters. They thank us. They've come to depend on us. I share what we're doing as the strongest way I know how to say the attempt by some Christian leaders to leverage the generic poor to get World Vision to change their mind about a policy, was actually a threat against some very real faces that look like these:
Nonetheless, their threats worked. World Vision changed their mind. They reverted back to their original hiring policy, which left me with some troubling questions.
How did the president and board of an organization as large as World Vision make a decision to change their hiring practices without anticipating this particular response from some powerful evangelicals? How could they have possibly been blindsided by it? And didn't they prayerfully consider the change? If they did, was their investment in God's guidance on that decision so weakly attached that they could abandoned it at the sounds of voices like Albert Mohler and others?
Of the outcries of ordinary men like Mohler and Piper, men who are intelligent and hold many moral positions I respect, I'll say this. They make no effort to hide their general disdain for same sex marriage. But as their voices grow louder and more public, I'm having a hard time separating their disdain for the sin from their disdain for the sinner. Let there be no question now, though, there is power behind their views. They overturned an unprecedented decision by one of the world's largest charity organizations with the single push of the publish button on a blog post.
I think about God a lot, but this week I've found myself pondering the devil even more. If I was the devil, and I wanted to thwart the Christian movement in this world, I would be frightened of that group's potential to eradicate poverty. He knows as well as I do that Christians have the resources. If they ever chose to part with their almighty dollars, if they ever chose to respond to Christ's call to downsize their own lives to upsize the lives of others, that if they ever rallied and unified around the poor the way they've rallied to influence what the government thinks about marriage, the greatest and most enduring oppression known to man - poverty - would be eradicated in a year. Completely gone. And if they were ever to do that, the world would receive a Christ-like message unlike any since Christ himself walked the earth. The devil, he's not a big fan of the world receiving Christ-like messages of that magnitude.
So what would I do about that if I was the devil? I'd keep the Christians rallied around a cause that - even if they were successful - would work against them. Like the defense of marriage. Because don't be fooled, the devil is the master of bait and switch. Distracting us away from issues that advertise love for one another while pointing us to issues that promote disdain. And oh, the brilliancy, if in the midst of the distraction the devil could coordinate a take over of an organization like World Vision that directs a few billion dollars of nourishment each year to babies who would otherwise have none. That would be quite a bonus.
I don't know. Maybe the devil has nothing to do with it. I suppose it's possible continuing to fight a battle all reasonable scientific polls indicate will be a battle lost, maybe that really is God's plan. If so, I have to admit, that's one thing I don't get. But if that is indeed the case, my prayer is we lose that battle sooner than later. Because I'm afraid only then will we have enough time and undistracted energy to unite our efforts around feeding starving babies. In the meantime, 6 million babies will die this year waiting on us.