Leading up to – and in the immediate wake of – the SCOTUS decision in support of marriage equality in all 50 states, a number of religious and faith community leaders contacted me asking, ‘how should we respond?’
The majority of these requests came from pastors and churches who are currently unable to support same sex relationships, based on their conservative biblical interpretation and theological perspective – yet almost all recognize that their religious communities have historically not been very welcoming to the LGBTQ community.
They also realize, along with many others, that the journey of faith is a matter of being willing and open to having a relationship with God – and that each and every person is welcome under the banner of the unconditional love and radical hospitality of Jesus Christ.
This tension in which many religious folks live is a real one – and has been heightened by the culture war rhetoric reaching an almost fever pitch in the anticipation and aftermath of this weekend’s ruling.
Many evangelical leaders quickly took to the interwebs to rally the troops in the wake of the decision. at Christianity Today, the headline read, ‘Outrage and Panic’ Are Off Limits, Say Evangelical Leaders on Same-Sex Marriage while simultaneously posting this declaration of dissent from approximately 100 evangelical leaders.
Franklin Graham declared God had more reason now to send his judgment to America (despite apparently ignoring these atrocities in our nation’s past), and self-proclaimed conservative theological ‘expert’ on homosexuality Robert Gagnon promoted this fear-mongering piece in which the first line declared the date of the ruling to be a ‘day of national tragedy.’ Social media outlets followed suit, and the praise of likeminded believers linked hand-in-hand with the dehumanization of those from an opposing perspective.
There is a better way.
Living within the tension of acknowledging it is possible to engage in community with those we may have disagreements with – even on matters of theological perspective and conviction – a number of churches and pastors are seeking a path of reconciliation. They acknowledge the landscape has shifted – marriage equality is now the law of the land – and the calls to battle for traditional marriage have been muffled by the majority view and legal ruling that same sex couples deserve the same legal protection in marriage as their heterosexual counterparts.
These pastors know they’re living into a new reality.
Of course, being unable to announce from the pulpit this weekend that their churches are now open and affirming, these churches sought my advice on how best to diffuse the online back-and-forth polarization, and encourage community within their own congregation despite knowing that many in the pews have varying opinions concerning the compatibility of same sex relationships with their own faith tradition.
These churches desire not to draw battle lines and fight for a particular dogma, but rather desire to love God and others in the example of jesus found in the gospel narratives. They acknowledge that members of their congregation venting their fears and frustrations on social media, using bible verses as ammunition is not only unhelpful, but actually harmful to the cause of reconciliation.
One church put it this way ::
Church Name is a very diverse church. When it comes to the decision of the Supreme Court this week to overturn the ban on same-sex marriages, we know that some of our people will be celebrating a victory for civil rights and others will be mounting what they perceive as a loss of morality in our society.
We as Church Name leadership, now more than ever, ask followers of Jesus on both sides of the discussion to remember that the highest call for our lives is to love as Christ has led us. Rather than participating in hateful and dehumanizing speech or tossing single verses from Scripture at each other to prove our position, Jesus has called us to love on another and to treat each other with the love and grace that Christ demonstrated to those that disagreed with, fought against, and eventually killed him.
This is the way we intend to move forward after this decision, just as it is the way we have strived to live as disciples of Jesus prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
What about you?
How did your church respond?
Did your pastor(s) address the SCOTUS decision this weekend? were you satisfied? Dissatisfied? Why?