I am a listener and a synthesizer — a “P” in Myers Briggs terms. This means I like to hear all sides of the story, get all the data, and take my time processing and making decisions. I’ve been trying to listen to people on all “sides” of the debate raging now in America: Straight conservative Christians, gay conservative Christians, progressive Christians, agnostics, the politically conservative and the politically liberal. I’ve been trying to resist the temptation to let my own leanings prevent me from really hearing people who I disagree with. It’s hard. There are a lot of hurting people in this debate. There has been a lot of collateral damage. I think Jen Hatmaker summed it up really well in her recent post, Where I Stand:
As I lay in bed, it was instantly and perfectly clear that the gay community has been spiritually beaten, stripped of dignity, robbed of humanity, and left for dead by much of the church. You need only look at the suicide rates, prevalence of self-harm, and the devastating pleas from ostracized gay people and those who love them to see what has plainly transpired.
Laying next to them, bloodied and bruised, are believers whose theology affirms homosexuality and allows them to stand alongside their gay friends. (Again, you don’t have to agree with this, but there are tens of thousands of thinking, studied people who hold this conviction.) The spiritual gutting of these brothers and sisters is nothing short of shameful. The mockery and dismissal and vitriol leveled at these folks is disgraceful.
Also wounded on the side of the road are Christians who sincerely love God and people and believe homosexuality is a sin, but they’ve been lumped in with the Big Loud Mean Voices unfairly. Painted as hateful intolerants, they are actually kind and loving and are simply trying to be faithful. The paintbrush is too wide, the indictments unfounded.
Jen is drawing, of course, on the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the parable, a group of robbers fell upon a traveler and beat him. Two respectable, religious men walked by on the other side of the road, ignoring the injured traveler. It was a Samaritan, an outcast and spiritual heretic who came along and helped him. I would suggest that the three groups above: the gay community, progressive Christians, and conservative Christians are not only the wounded travelers in the parable: We are also those called upon to help each other.
It’s hard when you yourself have been a victim of brutality, to realize that you actually have another role in the story. It’s hard to reach over from your place of pain to offer succor to the broken person next to you. It’s especially hard when he’s wearing the same clothes as the men who who beat you. But, here’s the thing: You’re wearing the same clothes as the men who beat him.
For what it’s worth, I just wanted to take this little post on my little blog to say: I hear you. All of you. Within all three of those groups listed above, I have friends and acquaintances who are sincere and loving and feeling brutalized. I feel it myself. I don’t quite know how to reach over and offer comfort yet, but I will do what I can for now, what I know how to do, and that is to listen. Thanks for reading.