Thursday, August 2, 2012

Letter to a Christian friend: Gays, and gay marriage, and (yes) Chick-fil-A

A good friend of mine from my Christian days emails me with some heavy queries: 
What would you say are the most important values everyone, regardless of belief, should pass on to their children? What would you want a Christian parent to teach their children that would be in line with Biblical teaching of Jesus Christ?  
What do you believe the appropriate Christian response to the Chick-fil-a ordeal would be? How should a Christian owner of a business conduct their business? What mistakes do you think the owner of Chick-fil-a has made?
Going beyond Chick-fil-a, what do you believe the appropriate Christian response to be to homosexuals? same sex marriage?

If Jesus is God and the Bible is true, and you were committed to live under the authority of Christ in all areas of your life, how would you respond to these questions? Do you think your responses would be different?
My response, edited and modified for the wider audience:
I really do respect and love my Christian friends, and my 30 years in the church informs much of who I am today. When I've been critical of Christians, it's often been noting the variance of their actions and political positions with what I understand the Mennonite understanding of Christianity to be; I've attempted to resist judging them against a secular standard. And I've resisted telling my Christian friends who are against gay marriage that they're wrong, because I think that it's perfectly legitimate as a Christian to read scriptures and see condemnation of homosexual activity in them. My sympathies are more with liberal Christians who have come to a different conclusion, but with my distance from the church, it all looks a bit like an argument over the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin; I don't share enough of a theological foundation to tell my brothers and sisters what their attitude toward same-sex marriage should be. 
Let me say this, though. 
Mennonites, I think, should step lightly on this topic--if only because they have a long history of being at variance with the culture, and having to flee country after country because of it. There's a history of exile because their beliefs and practices seemed odd and alien to their neighbors. And I guess it might behoove Mennonite Christians, in particular, to contemplate that history and what it says about the power of the state and if they'd want that power used to help or hinder their own relationships.

But I'm not Mennonite, not Christian, and my opinion doesn't count. 
What should Dan Cathy have done differently? From the perspective of his theology, I'm not sure. If he believes that gay marriage is wrong, and that he's called to witness that belief, well. You do what you gotta do. If he's obeying the dictates of his conscience--and I have no reason to believe otherwise--then, well, it is what it is.

His business does exist in secular culture, or at least a culture more secular than the circles he moves in. If he wants to use his business as a tool for evangelism, he should realize that it will limit his business. Certainly, I can't imagine my family choosing Chick-fil-A over the Wendy's next door, probably ever again. If he's comfortable with that tradeoff, that's his right and his choice to make. I can't tell him to do things differently, but neither do I have to support or accommodate his choices. Just as he doesn't (I think it's fair to say) support or accommodate many of mine. (To clarify, again: He has the First Amendment right to his beliefs and expressions of same; government shouldn't punish his business because of those expressions.)

I don't expect Christians not to be Christians, in other words.

How would my answers differ if I was, essentially, Christian? I don't know, though I have my suspicions. For a variety of reasons, I'm not Christian anymore; it's been a conscious choice, one that has some attendant pain. But I worked to make my last church open and accepting to gays, not as subversion, but as an expression of the values that I and others felt, well, called to at the time. It's possible I was never a good Christian. 
At the very least, though, I'm pretty sure that Jesus would've hung out with gay people. Had dinner with them, that kind of thing. I'm not sure where he'd find himself in a church I've long thought--since our college days, at least--emphasizes the supposed "evil" of homosexuality to an outsize degree. As always, the church is urging its neighbors to pluck the cinder out of their eye while failing to notice the beam in its own. It was ever thus. 
That said, you and I differ--value-wise--on this, and maybe only a few other things. The things I teach my child, I expect, are pretty much the things you teach your child: To be honest; to be kind, especially to those less fortunate than you; to treat others as you'd have them treat you. The lessons aren't terribly complicated, but they're awfully tough to live, aren't they? I know I continue to fail.

Thanks for your continued friendship. And thanks for listening.

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