I have really spent a long time wondering whether or not this post should ever be made public. I know I am opening a can of worms I am, frankly, frightened of even peering in to.
The US supreme court decision to allow same sex marriage in all states has started a viral war and prejudices from all spheres are being exposed. A pastor goes public to advocate for homosexuals and is attacked (virally) for condoning sin. Others, also “Christians” are lamenting the loss of what is seen as a biblical institution that has gone to the dogs.
Gays are not the ones who’ve destroyed marriage.
I am going to speak as plainly as I can here in an attempt to not be misconstrued.
I am heterosexual.
I am a Christian.
I speak in tongues and clap hands in church.
I have dedicated my marriage and children to God before fellow believers.
I wish there was no homosexuality in the world because I do not believe that it is God’s ultimate plan for us.
Same as I wish there was no poverty. No illness. No famine. No starvation. No violent crime. No non-violent crime. No absent fathers. No divorce. No adultery.
I wish we lived as Adam and Eve once lived in the Garden of Eden – faultless and blameless before the Lord.
But we don’t.
Not by a long shot.
I live in a country where people fear for their lives on a daily basis. And I don’t mean suburbia; I mean rough lives in the townships or high-poverty areas where your life is cheap. Where you get an axe in the head for a cigarette. Where abortion is a form of free birth control. Where most children, let alone their mothers, know who their father is.
God is missing in a large section of South Africa. We have some serious problems. But I can't go there. It’s just too depressing.
I don’t even pray for it for too long anymore. It breaks my heart thinking of the children who haven’t had the privilege of knowing that their parents love them. Either because they have been legitimately orphaned, or because their parents haven’t raised them – grandparents have, or the system has, or the street has.
And Christian, when last did you visit a widow, or a prisoner, or the hospital bed of a stranger? As the Bible encourages us to do?
So what does this have to do with same sex marriage?
Well, South Africa is applauded as one of the most democratically tolerant societies in the world. Our constitution was heralded as a document on which all future constitutions should be modelled. We have allowed same sex marriage here for a long time.
And the result? Some same sex couples got married.
The pestilence remained. The poverty remained. The crime remained. The churches didn’t burn down.
South Africa didn’t go to the dogs.
Same as what happened when we allowed black people to vote; after decades of preaching from many pulpits that they were of the devil. Our country, although some may beg to differ, did not go down the tubes.
I remember seeing a posting when Ellen de Generes and Portia di Rossi got married, something along the lines of: “So now we’re married, and your life has been affected how?” And this is the question I wish to raise: Why are we taking the fact that homosexuals want to be married, afforded the legal and civil rights that go with marriage, as well as proclaim an intention to live faithful and devoted lives to one another, so damn personally?
I guess I have mentioned before that one of my dearest friends is a gay man. He has been my friend for my entire life, over thirty years. I was his friend when he had, (albeit very few,) girlfriends. I was his friend when he ‘came out,’ I was his friend when he found it near-impossible to accept himself or feel accepted. I am still his friend. I love him with a depth that is equate-able to the love I feel for my biological brother and that is saying something. He is one of those rare people in my life who I would want to be friends with even if I met him today; which is something one can't always say about life-long friends.
But too much wine could quite easily become a debate between our differing world views. And it has before and certainly will again. He doesn’t agree with many of my life choices, I suppose my religion is one of them. I have also plainly told him that I don’t believe that homosexuality is the way we’re meant to live. I'm pretty sure I used the words ‘sin’ and ‘sacrilege’ and ‘abomination of the natural order.’ So to put it plainly, he knows that somehow, I still wish he was straight. But that’s a selfish thing, based on years of friendship and envisioning our children one day being friends too. It has nothing to do with his sexuality.
I'm ashamed to admit though, that for years I condoned, even applauded, promiscuity amongst my heterosexual friends. Condoned divorce where I have agreed with the wronged spouse. Even turned the occasional blind eye on adultery. These are sins far more widely discussed and warned against in the Bible.
So, like many of you bemoaning the decision for the US to allow same sex marriage, I have an enormous double standard. But the Bible doesn’t and God doesn’t. Sin is sin is sin. Stealing a pencil from your office is the same as robbing a bank. Looking at someone with hateful eyes and wishing them dead is as wicked as taking a knife to their throats and killing them. Watching a movie and fantasising that you are opposite the lead actor in the romantic scene is as adulterous as having a physical affair with a man you met at church. Sin is sin. And God hates sin. ALL sin.
And I, despite being submitted to the Lord and wanting to live the best version of my life to His glory, am a sinner. I fall short. All. The. Time.
So when Jesus walked the earth, for his all-too-brief thirty-three years, he found his disciples in their jobs as fishermen and tax collectors, and convinced them to give it up and follow Him. His actions spoke louder than words and they wanted to be with him. They wanted to be part of his team. I bet each one of them had things in their past that they wanted forgiveness for. I bet they may well have had, amongst them, things they battled to walk away from, like a modern day porn addiction, or gambling problem, or the inclination to imbibe a little too often or too much in the fermented liquors.
Like your friends do.
Like my friends do.
What? I shouldn’t have friends like that if I am a church girl?
You mean like Jesus shouldn’t have befriended prostitutes?
Or tax collectors?
Or wasted His dying breath forgiving criminals?
Ah, but He did.
And just like so many racist Bible bashers choose to ignore the fact that Jesus was almost certainly a man of colour; it is easier to hate a gay man than consider the possibility that sitting around his table of friends and devotees, alongside the prostitutes and criminals, may well have been a homosexual.
I might need to step on a few toes now when I mention that homosexuality is what I refer to as an “open sin” whereas so many people have numerous “secret sins” or sins we prefer to not talk about or acknowledge openly as what is Biblically considered sinful. A divorcee who has remarried; a Christian who drinks alcohol or smokes, polluting the temple of God; a man who thinks lustful thoughts over a woman appearing in a television advertisement while his wife sits holding his hand. What about those people who are puffed up with pride or self-righteousness or doubt or racism or judgementalism?
If you speak to folks living in South Africa during Apartheid you will hear horror stories of how some of the guys with the biggest Bibles were also the ones abusing and defiling their black staff to the worst extent. So often, we hear stories of “men of the cloth” who are evil personified when the robes come off. I wonder what we can make of these men and women, what we can say, as Christians, of their “secret sin”? God knows their hearts though, and that’s the most important thing.
What about completely messed up heterosexual marriages, some of which happened in church involving a white dress, a Bible and a pastor or priest? The ones where the husband is the pimp and the wife the pro. Or where their main source of income is the porn they film (or star in) in the basement? Or where they – the happily married couple – are actually swingers, committing adultery every weekend with other consenting married couples. Marriages where one spouse needs an extended Visa and marries the first person willing to sign the papers in order for them to live illegally in a country in a loveless marriage. These are considered innocuous, marriages where we turn the blind eye. Like those where we know that a spouse is being abused and yet we do nothing. Or the marriage where one of the spouses is a transvestite, or into S&M, or dealing drugs, or molesting the children… these are all seemingly more acceptable simply because they are marriages that take place between a man and a woman. Perhaps, not more acceptable, but would certainly not cause a viral stir until the ugly truth is revealed. Not like a simple act of same sex matrimony between a couple who have dated, fallen in love, pledged faithfulness and commitment, become engaged and then married. No, that is definitely far worse.
I am sure that God has given me a heart for gay people. Not because they’re gay, but because they're His children too. I never feel revulsion or condemnation when someone confesses their alternate sexuality to me and often only feel admiration – not for their ‘sins of the flesh’ – but for their bravery and acceptance of what is clearly, sadly, a controversial and difficult way of life. But when church-goers speak of how we can't welcome gay people through our doors or how we should try to change them I feel saddened that I wear the same banner of Jesus as they do. I can't believe that Jesus would react with the same vehemence so many of my fellow believers do.
Why are there gay people in the world? I don’t know. Do I believe it’s a genetic thing? Not really. But do I acknowledge that most people who are homosexual admit to feeling these urges when the rest of us heterosexuals were having our first crushes on the opposite sex? Yes. And most importantly, people who are gay truly believe that they can live no other way. Which, rightly or wrongly, is something that we should all respect.
Gay marriage has been legal in South Africa for almost a decade. Our country has fallen to ruins in many areas, but I assure you that the fact that homosexuals are allowed to marry is not what did it. We still have widows who are uncared for once bereaved, we still have orphans, the pestilence of HIV and the scourge of violent crime. If we want to talk about areas in which the church is failing, these are amongst the forerunners. Your Sunday service may be filled with people lifting their hands and worshiping but our government is still corrupt, our streets are still dangerous. We have amongst the highest statistics in the world of rape, child-rape, abortion, murder and child-headed households. Go into any township and you will find mothers as young as twelve and thirteen years old. Venture into Lesotho and you will see babies who are raped beyond the possibility of ever being able to walk again as some stupid attempt to cure the rapist of AIDS. And we honestly think that our biggest problem, the war we should wage, is against homosexuals getting married?
I can't sugar coat it. Nor will I. As I mentioned earlier – I don’t believe God makes people gay. When one considers the amount of rejection and condemnation that is often associated with this 'lifestyle', I honestly can't fathom that the God of Love would want his children to ever experience that. I also believe that God designed marriage with the ultimate idea that the married couple would have children and raise them with godly principles and values.
It’s a rocky road, as Scripture tells us that God gives us a mother and father to show us two sides of His nature. Hence the fact that churches feel that same sex partners cannot provide the ‘correct’ image of God. Two arguments here though: 1) what about all the children living in single parent homes, church-going or not? We don’t condemn a widow who never remarries, do we? And 2) God, first and foremost, is Love. If the option is to be an orphan living in a loveless system, fearful and uncertain, for most of your life, or an adopted child living with a set of parents who love and respect one another, I am almost certain God would choose the latter for the child. But that’s just my view.
Whether King James was a homophobe or closeted homosexual, I'm not sure, (please read up on this before you lambaste me – there is a lot of evidence to suggest both theories) but I know that the translation of the Bible does raise some questions of the exact semantics when it comes to the idea of ‘brotherly love.’ Unquestionably, sexual intercourse between two people of the same sex is considered a sin. And here, I do submit myself to the Word and agree. Still, it is not the biggest sin, or the worst sin. It is a sin. And in the same Bible, we read that ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.
And we read, woe to those who call evil good and good evil. So I walk a precarious line writing this post.
The Christians who read it may think I am backslidden, misguided or not a real Christian. I have friends who will probably avoid speaking to me after reading this, at least for a while. Some that will send me ‘helpful’ article to sway me to a different view.
The gay people who read it may well think I am offensive and confused. A lot of gay people will feel – as is sadly the case – they don’t actually care what I, (a Christian,) or Christ feels about them. They’ve distanced themselves so much from the church and prejudiced religious folk that ‘our’ opinion means little to nothing to them. But the divisive and hurtful judgementalism associated with Christians and this issue is something I find about as un-Christian as it gets.
The Bible states that we aren’t the final judge of ANYONE. I know we can point out sin in a fellow believer, but this is not the case here. There are so many implied or explicit verses that state that God sees the heart of man and judges his motives, his intent and his character. By standing, metaphorically or (God forbid) literally, at the doors of our churches banishing gays to hell, I feel we, as Christians, are failing in the task laid out for us by our Lord: to love one another.
Countless Christian men and women have felt so convicted for homosexual tendencies that they have gone to extreme measures to try to free themselves of their urges. Unlike drug rehabilitation, more often than not, the results are questionable at best. I can't explain that and nor can they. They still crave the love of the same sex, and some completely leave the church at that point, while some commit themselves to a life of (homosexual) celibacy.
In my experience, people who have once been Christian or raised in Christian homes, experience a serious crises of faith when they start to realise that they are homosexual. They’ve been raised to believe that being gay is wrong and that – rightly or wrongly – God ‘hates gays’. Sometimes it leads to suicidal thoughts, or worse. Sometimes it leads to self-loathing. Most of the time, it leads to leaving the church and God altogether. This, to me, is the greatest tragedy in all of this.
Is it God that drives these people away? No. It could well be the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which is actually evidence of God caring and fighting for them. Generally, it is the condemnation they receive or fear receiving from the Church – the people in the pews. We don’t admit that sitting in the same pews are adulterers, fornicators, racists, domestic abusers, child molesters… because they're ‘decent enough’ to keep their sins under wraps. Heaven help you if you're open about your sin and arrive holding hands with a person who is the same sex as you.
We don’t want to admit that God meets us where we’re at. And in some cases, as was certainly the case for me, where I was ‘at’ when God met me was a very dark and dangerous place. We choose to tolerate Muslims or Hindus, whose faith is directly contrary to ours, but banish homosexuals openly to hell. How dare we?
Heaven forbid though, you fall in love with someone you shouldn’t. God is waiting to meet us ALL where we’re at. That includes - dare I say it??? – gays. Just as He meets the broken hearted where they're at. The lost, where they’re at. The adulterers where they're at…
I wish to express, in all humility, that I am not asking believers to be accepting of a lifestyle our churches have taught against for decades. I am not, for one second, saying that being gay is part of God’s genetic mysteries; like hermaphrodites or why we are 98% chimp. One of the many questions on the list for when I get to heaven is that of why there are gay people in the world. I am hoping that God explains it with a little more science or evidence than the statement that ‘it’s a symptom of the fallen world.’
But I stand by the belief that no one, in their right mind, would choose this for themselves. It is not a lifestyle choice, like cutting your hair short or getting a tattoo.
I also earnestly wish that my friends, all of them wanting to get married, can experience the security and unconditional love associated with marriage; the incredible blessing of parenthood and the legal protection for choosing to share your life and belongings with another person.
Personally, until we live in a world where poverty, abuse, violence, slander, rape, incest, molestation, illness, injustice and fear cease to exist, I can't fathom how two people who love one another and want to live in partnership for the rest of their lives can even come on our radar as a problem worth any of our time. Our prayer, certainly. But not the vast amount of time and anger directed towards this law (allowing same-sex marriage), its endorsers and its beneficiaries.
Christians cannot live in a holy bubble excluding all those who outwardly fall short of our doctrine. We should not keep our faith, or our testimony to ourselves. We should follow Jesus’ example and welcome ‘them’ to our table, as we should all people, not knowing what their sin may be.
Our doors need to be open.
Our hearts and minds need to be open.
God will push us out of our comfort zone – that’s just what He does. In some cases it may be to befriend someone whose culture you believe is anti-Christian. For some, showing kindness to the beggar on the street corner, shoe-less and filthy, is as ‘out of our comfort zone’ as it gets. And then, for some, accepting homosexuals as perfect and simultaneously perfectly flawed children of God, as we all are, is where we need to up our faith and walk in love.