I am not the Judge nor the Jury. I am called to LOVE.

Lovestillwins.png

My heart is heavy as I sit down to write this article, which is sometimes the best time to write and sometimes the absolute worst.  We'll see what happens. In the past week, I have seen some of the most hateful, closed-minded, judgmental, ostracizing comments paint the landscape of social media, all in the name of Christianity.  I have received all sorts of texts from friends, offering their very strong opinions and asking for mine.  I have creatively responded in a myriad of ways, all in an attempt to avoid giving my opinion.

I used to think it was because I live in the Deep South that I was surrounded by folks with such strong sentiments, but I am realizing this week, that it's not just the Bible Belt, where people hold love in their right hand and keep certain people at arm's length with their left.

I've had a crazy busy week at work, so this morning at church was the first time that Lindsey and I have hardly made eye contact in seven days, much less talked about removing flags and the whole "gay" issue: two issues that just simply weren't issues to me until this week.  I definitely never woke up with thoughts of the Confederate flag on my mind (and neither did at least 90% of the people who are posting about it at present, if they would be honest), and while I have more than a handful of gay friends, I still never really focused my energies on their relationships.  I have posted bits and pieces of my opinion on "the Christian response to homosexuality" for years, but I guess I have never come right out and made a clear-cut, defined statement on the matter.

Here's a few posts from the past:

As we sat together in church this morning, I mentioned to Lindsey that I thought Bishop Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church put out a very tasteful and appropriate message, concerning the Supreme Court's Decision to legalize gay marriage. You can view her statement here.  Somehow we made it to church early enough to discuss our feelings and opinions on the matter for about ten minutes before the service started, and I am always thankful for the very candid, wise, and compassionate way that my beautiful bride approaches matters of such a serious nature.

For Lindsey, it's a matter of loving our neighbor, a matter of keeping our noses out of other people's business, and it's a subject we just don't care about discussing via public forum nearly as much as so many folks seem hell-bent on doing.  For me, it's a mixed bag.  That's sort of how I roll.  While I have very strong opinions about most things, I usually struggle a great deal with "big issues" because there are typically points from each "side" that I can agree with.  I made points to Lindsey about my concerns that the Federal government has become far too powerful and that I feel that issues like gay marriage and gun control should be left up to the States, which I do very strongly believe.  It worries me that so much power resides in the hands of just a few.  On the other hand, I have to honestly admit that I smiled a little when I heard the news of the decision this week.  Go ahead, stone me.  I smiled for my friends who can now have their marriage recognized, just like mine.  "I cannot imagine how it would feel if someone said that I couldn't marry you," I told her.

I made the point to my Momma today that I think this week's issue regarding gay marriage is the same as the issue of desegregation from fifty years ago.  Whites no longer use the word "nigger" (or shouldn't) and we have now learned that we also shouldn't say "fag" or "queer", but fifty years ago, we wouldn't drink from the same water fountains as a "darkie".  Was it because we thought we might become black? Did "porch monkeys" carry around some disease that we might attract?  We'd send a "blue gum" around to the back door of the restaurant to pick up their "to-go" order, but they sure as hell wouldn't sit at the table next to us.  How is the gay issue any different?  And why is it even an issue?

And now, as I sit in the kitchen, fully aware that I am typing out a blog that really doesn't say anything new or earth-shattering, I am sitting next to my precious little boy.  Ben Thomas is hilarious, brilliant, strong-willed, compassionate, and inherently curious.  I try to fast-forward twelve to twenty years and imagine how I would respond if my teenager or young adult son (or either child at any age, for that matter) came to me and confessed that he loved a boy instead of a girl.  I think of how much I absolutely adore this child and how I would walk across burning coals to ensure his happiness.  I think about how I wept uncontrollable tears of joy the moment he was born.  I think of how upset I was when he broke his foot as a toddler.  I think of how I could barely hold myself together the day he was dedicated in church.  I have built a solid and lasting relationship with this child that nothing can come between.

Would I willingly choose for my child to be homosexual? Absolutely not.  I see my precious gay friends and how they have had to constantly struggle to be seen as equals.  I have seen some be pushed away from the faith.  I have seen others willing walk.  I have seen their tears.  I have heard their sobs on the phone.  Selfishly, I would never choose such a struggle for my child, but my love for him would never falter or fail.  I would support him, without question, and ruthlessly defend him from anyone who would try to cause him harm or shame.  It's the same way I feel about him at this very moment.

For me, it's an issue of love.

IMG_7827It is extremely disheartening to me to see churches that will allow those who were once caught in adultery, now allowing those same people to sing on the worship team or lead a Sunday School class, but if an openly gay guy approached church leadership about starting a dance troupe, they would be laughed right out of the pastor's office.

Some of these same women who are posting such right-wing, ultra-conservative posts on social media are the same ones who will have a "girl's night" for the release of the second "Magic Mike" movie and sneak in mini bottles of liquor while they watch a young stud gyrate and strip on the big screen.  The same ones who plaster social media with anti-gay messages have a tingle in their thighs on Friday night but raise their hands in worship on Sunday morning, after they have taught your child's Sunday School lesson, with the title "God is love".  I don't care if you go watch the movie any more than I care if you've read "Harry Potter" (remember when that was questionable?), my point is that when we go to extremes about anything, we are hanging ourselves out to dry.

You are not the Judge, nor the Jury.  If it's not your cup of tea, don't drink it, but if that's the case, just keep your foul, vile, mean, hateful words to yourself.  We have become such staunch supporters of our "sides" that we have dehumanized the issue and forgotten that these are people we are talking about.

Now, I don't care to know about what you do in the privacy of your bedroom, or wherever it is that you and your significant other take a trip to "funky town", but it is not my place to tell you who you can or cannot love.  Love is a powerful force and if you find someone who will be with you in sickness or in health, in lack or in abundance, who will love, cherish, and respect you, until the day that you die, how could I possibly presume to know better than you?

I have never taken the time to write out my feelings on this matter and I still think it is sad that I feel obligated to now, but now that it's done, I can see that while I am able to have a respectful conversation with respectful parties from either side, the issue for me is definitely black and white.

Love is a black and white and white issue.

You either love or you don't.

Grace is messy,

Steve Austin

P.S. Please, spare us from ignorant, insensitive, disrespectful comments.  Let's follow the lesson we were all taught in kindergarten, if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.