Okay, here I go. Can I be honest with you? I've been reluctant to plunge into the subject of the GLBT community for several reasons:
1. The enormous heat present among Christians. It's an issue with intense emotion on both sides. The minefield of language, rhetoric, arguments, debates, makes it exceedingly difficult to simply carry on a conversation.
2. I did not want to draw attention away from the issue in my current book, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions. The gay issue clearly is drawing much more interest and energy in our culture than the complex issue of intimate male-female friendships. I think cross-gender friendships are an important issue though.
3. I have good friends on both sides. I don't want to lose any of them. I have conservative friends who support SUSP and "progressive" friends who support same-sex mariage who also support SUSP.
I've already stated in a previous post that I believe that I believe marriage between a man and woman is an expression of authentic sexuality. I believe that male-female bodies matter when it comes to authentic sexuality. Male-female married sex means something. I don't believe that same-sex marriage means the same thing as male-female marriage. But, before I lose my friends on the other side (if there is any from the other side reading this), I ask for your patience and read on. I don't fit into Dave Fitch's three categories.
Let me explain just a little bit further.
Selmys has an important chapter on vocation. She does a pretty good job of explaining the GLBT culture. When they hear slogans and soundbites from conservatives like "love the sinner/hate the sin" they get defensive and pushed back into a corner. Why? Because immediately following that slogan is a demand for them to leave their deepest relational attachments. Conservatives are not just asking them to stop having sex, no. With it comes the demand to leave deep, intimate friendships and community. Of course, conservatives themselves, do not put too much weight into this for they live in a culture that doesn't value deep friendship. Mark Vernon, in his book The Meaning of Friendship suggests that the real issue behind homosexuality is that of friendship. Modern society has a problem with friendship.
But before I proceed with that, let me just affirm this perceptive observation by Selmys. She asks those who disagree with the same-sex partners and marriage to imagine how they would feel if the most radical feminists who want to destroy family-order had political clout and pressure to "lovingly" demand a conservative spouse to leave their family. How would you react if you're a conservative? Would you respond with gratitude for being led to the light? Chances are you would become defensive and fight for your deepest relational attachments. You would not surrender to such a radical demand of upheaval. Now, here's the kicker. It's not the point that conservatives can quote Bible verses and then statistics saying that gays/lesbians are promiscuous and don't have authentic deep attachments. We either move forward in understanding or rhetorical stalemate and political posturing emerges here: we have to understand that from their story, the way that gays perceive themselves they don't identify themselves as promiscuous or running around from partner to partner. With their deep attachments and identity firmly into place, if you adopt a posture of just throwing statistics at them in order to prove your point and win an argument at this point, you've lost them.
I would like to suggest this is where friendship comes in.
Friendship like Christ demonstrated. How many social barriers did he crossover? How many people did he anger by crossing over those barriers? As I see read Christ in the Gospels, he did not have narrow boundaries of love and friendship. He wasn't comforting and consoling towards those who sought to narrow friendship. Christ loved sinners. He hung out and ate with them and associated with them. Consider the words of Paul Wadell: "Through their love for others, even their enemies, friends of God show the world how God has loved us." He states, "The conventional understanding of love is that we restrict our love to people we like and enjoy, and especially people to people who love us in return. The problem with practicing such love alone, however, is that it lacks the power to change anything; it cannot make anything new" (Happiness and the Christian Moral Life).
Well, I am not even into reviewing Selmys book yet, and I am 742 words. I know I am bound to make some people unhappy or dissatisfied but I want to suggest the missional power of authentic friendship between Christians and beyond. Are we limiting our friendship and love to those who see eye-to-eye with us? How is that kind of friendship going to change the world?
I am looking for those who want to build bridges and friendships beyond the intense rhetoric, statistics, demands, arguments on this contested issue.
I will dive into her book in the second post.