Saturday, June 27, 2015

An Open Letter to My Gay Friends

(for those friends from childhood to those who’ve attended the church I serve as pastor)

I've noted much talk ABOUT, AT and PAST people in social media today. I’d like to add a little variety and speak TO some friends of mine.

I can’t imagine the elation you feel today as this historic day unfolded. For many of you, I assume you feel a slight sense of relief from certain stigmas that are all too often inappropriately thrust upon you (not that there will ever be a shortage of mean spirited people hurling insults). Others, might be happy about the financial benefits that have for too long been withheld from you and your significant other. For still others it might simply be a sense of ease at the rendering of equality delivered from the nation’s highest court.

Knowing I’m the pastor of an evangelical church, I’d imagine you have an idea of where I stand on a number of social issues. However, I’m afraid that some of you might assume a certain characterization of me that might not be accurate. I would hope those of you that know me would corroborate my love and compassion for all peoples of all backgrounds and all worldviews.

With that said, I wanted to expand on a few statements I made on social media today. My tweets (and one rather lengthy Facebook post) were primarily geared toward the church and in particular the faith family that I shepherd. Here are those tweets in their entirety (the Facebook message will be later in this post)

The postmodernity in which we are deeply submerged will continue to lead into further & further confusion. Of this we ought not be surprised

An important reminder from @drmoore.

Remember that the church, from its conception, was the awkward & ostracized voice faithfully defending truth in a difficult cultural milieu.

Just had a long, involved conversation w/my 10 yr/ld about modernity, postmodernity & their structures (or not) & implications #payattention

If Love "winning" is what matters I'm just wondering when it be true that for plural & even paedophilial marriages? #notaboutlove

The last tweet was more of a rhetorical question regarding the interesting use of the hash tag #Lovewins. Admittedly, it might appear to be a bit argumentative but that wasn’t my intention. I do wonder however if the philosophical implications of simplifying the understanding of marriage to the "emotion of love" itself has been fully plumbed by those using that tag. But alas, I’m not here to debate the merits of the topic with you. Our differences are deeply held philosophical differences and I won’t insult you by trying to engage in such an exercise today.

Rather, I’d like to make sure you understand what I am NOT feeling/saying to you today (or any other day for that matter).

Granted, I have read a number of mean-spirited, “the-sky-is-falling, the world’s going to hell” posts today. I regret that… and for what it is worth, I would like to apologize for those confused and misinformed people. I can only comment tonight on where my heart is. With that spirit allow me to share what my concern is NOT about…

My concern…

1.      … is not about Hate. A few friends have posited today that those who oppose gay marriage are full of hate and wish ill toward the gay community. Although the sin of hate is prevalent in a number of persons and perspectives, I can assure you, friends, there is not a bone of hate in my body toward you. Surely I have shown that to those of you who know me. That two people disagree on some important and even philosophically foundational topics does not mean that one must hate and belittle the other because of the differences. I’ve never been able to understand why this argument (and logical fallacy) is so often utilized. Part of growing in maturity means being able to rein in one's feelings in order to have reasonable, civil and even loving dialogue about serious concerns. In fact, while writing this document I’ve just had civil discussion with an old friend about this very issue. Although we disagree on a few things, we also agree on a few. Sure there are (and will continue to be) those on both sides that will be irrational and will eschew civility while continuing to spew vitriolic speech… but how about we just ignore those folks? I will not participate is such action.

2.      … is not about Homophobia. Another charge I’ve noted which has been leveled today is that those who oppose gay marriage are afraid of homosexuals and their efforts. Again, and I can only speak for myself, I am not afraid of you nor will I ever interact with you with fear or trepidation. You come visit NOLA and Michelle and I will pick you up, take you to dinner, enjoy time together and wish you well with hugs and kisses in the exact same way we do for all our friends (and even some strangers). Some of you can verify this statement to be true. I love you and “perfect love casts out fear.” I will not fear you and I ask you to not fear me.

3.      … is not about “keeping” the Christian worldview as the only or even primary worldview. The church, especially in America, has functioned under false pretenses for far too many years. Although this country was clearly founded on Judeo-Christian principles, it has never been a “Christian” nation. Sure, it has paraded around as one. But Jesus himself noted that those who follow him will be in the minority. He even warned those who would dare follow him to first count the cost, because following him will likely lead to ostracization and possibly even martyrdom. It was like that in the first century and it has been like that ever since for the true church. Thus, I have no expectation that the laws of my country and lifestyles of my fellow countrymen should be in line with my own personal walk, in fact, I'd believe just the opposite. My view has rather quickly been identified to be, not only in the minority, but odd and increasingly irrelevant. I’m not terribly happy about that but I’m more ok with it than you might think I am. I’m even strangely at peace about it.

4.      … is not about being against equality for everyone. Making this an issue of equality, although profoundly successful in terms of defining the popular argument, is not how I understand the issue. For me, it is first and foremost a foundational question of logic and ontology and not that of a comparative analysis of two subjects. Let me see if I can explain. Are my children and I equal? Are my wife and I equal? Am I equal to one who is of another ethnicity or from another country? Am I equal to a fighter pilot? How about a police officer? A stay at home mom? The President? Supreme Court Justices? Absolutely! We are all equal… in every way a human being is equal to one another in worth, value and the love of the Creator. However, because of backgrounds, circumstances, citizenships, training, biology and a host of other determining distinctives there are numerous way in which we are not “equal.” I’ve visited France a couple of times but I do not have the right to vote there. I ride along with the police as a chaplain but I do not have the right to carry a side arm on those ride-alongs (even though I am certified to carry a concealed weapon). Sure my wife and I are equal, but due to my biological make up I am not able to carry a child to term, nor can I know a mothers love for her children (nor, for that matter, can I even get the reduced insurance rates my wife does, because I am a male and apparently the girls drive better than the boys do). I do not have the right to climb into a jet and fly into battle. I do not have the authority to pass laws or enact judgment regarding those laws. You see, for me these are not issues of equality… they are issues of ontology. The equality of the worth and value of every human life are not in question here nor should they ever be in question!

I hope you see where I am NOT coming from. Now, if I may, allow me to share with you that about which I am concerned…

Some might not believe this will be an issue over which I should be concerned. In fact, I have seen my concern specifically mentioned today as something those who are opposed to gay marriage should not be concerned about. However, common sense and history itself might suggest the contrary. Specifically, this is the question of what will be expected of churches such as mine that, due to deeply held religious beliefs, will decline to host and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. You know, maybe better than most, that humans don’t often treat those in the minority with the compassion and tolerance each person deserves. As my worldview becomes increasingly at odds with the culture around us I wonder how our religious rights will be treated. Will we be forced to adhere to what the culture (government) says we should believe rather than be allowed to live out our faith life?

Because of these questions and the litigious nature of our culture (as already noted in the courts regarding this very issue) churches feel it necessary to act with compassion, faith and determination to prepare ourselves for what is not only likely to come, but what is philosophically bound to come due to the continued “postmoderization” of our culture and current trends. It is from this context that, in July of 2013 after reading the majority and dissenting opinions of the Supreme Court upon the act of striking down DOMA, I authored and submitted to our church the following resolution. I also posted this on Facebook today, not to be a provocateur but in response to questions I have received from churches and pastors from around the country regarding what we might do to prepare ourselves for what is next. Here again is the text.

        "Because of our exegetical interpretation and subsequent understanding of the biblical testimony, upon which our church was founded and functions, First Baptist Church, Westwego makes the following clarifications regarding the church’s policy on the performance of marriage ceremonies and recognition of marriages.
        Whereas, First Baptist Church of Westwego (FBCW) is an independent congregation of believers, who voluntarily associates in mission endeavors with the Southern Baptist Convention, but who is completely unfettered by any denominational hierarchical structure,
        Whereas, FBCW is not beholden to any outside ecclesiastical jurisdiction but is self-governing and sets its own policies and procedures regarding aspects of church life,
        Whereas, functioning within this autonomy we do accept and adhere to the traditional understanding of a complementarian marriage passed down through orthodox Christianity as being between one man and one woman,
        Whereas, the biblical testimony of Ephesians 5:22-33 clearly shows that the relationship between Christ and his church is pictured in the relationship between a husband and wife, in which, as the husband is the head of the wife so Christ is the head of the church, and as the wife submits to the leadership of her husband so the church submits to the leadership of Christ,
        Whereas, scripture clearly presents the tenet that a romantic relationship alone is not a sufficient condition for marriage but that the marriage relationship, of husband and wife, is the foundational unit of the family structure and in biological terms is the base unit in which natural conception might happen begetting human life,
        Be it resolved, that FBCW laments and seeks to correct the low standards to which marriage has been held, even among evangelical churches, in recent years,
        Be it further resolved, that FBCW does not recognize same-gender, polygamous, or child marriages as valid forms of biblical marriages (as is testimony from the New Testament),
        Be it further resolved, that FBCW does not permit its facilities to be used for these types of ceremonies,
        Be it finally resolved, that although the pastors of FBCW have the autonomy to set their own standards for their acceptance or rejection of an invitation to officiate a wedding ceremony (be it that of a member of the church family or a couple from outside the church family) the Pastors of FBCW are not permitted to participate in same-gender, polygamous, or child marriage ceremonies."

Presented and adopted on this 14th day of July, 2013.

In the end, I want you to know that I recognize that you have felt ostracized and that even this wording/action from our church might not set well with you but I drafted this resolution to protect a deeply held foundational truth for me and those I lead, not because I hate you, or am afraid of you, or that I expect everyone to think like me or that I am against equality for all people. The difference is about our philosophical worldviews and competing ontologies. My view has been born out of a relentless heart for the work of the Gospel and the hope of the reconciliation of all men to our loving God. Jesus Christ came to set the captive free and with Paul, I can say that I am the “chief of all sinners” and in my adult life have tried to devote my life to one of peace and faithfulness to Christ as Lord. I wish that same peace for all who read this letter today.

I am ready and prepared to be in the minority. I just hope my increasingly extraneous worldview will be as tolerated as you’ve always hoped your’s would have been (and so often was not). I will always and unashamedly love you and continue to consider you a friend.

In the Love of Christ,