Posted by: minnow | May 14, 2017

Stuck in the Middle

Once again I stand on a seemingly deserted island.  Fundamentalism to the left of me and extreme LGBT advocacy to the right.  I wish I knew how to build bridges, how to blow away the chaff of offense and present the hurt and anger to God so God could saturate the situation with grace and peace, healing and comfort.  The mom who wrote this post agonizes because her religion demands she sever all ties with her son and she thinks she must “turn him over to Satan” in order to comply with what she’s been taught.  The woman who wrote this post thinks the author of the first post is heartless and deserves to be ridiculed, based on what her post does.  To me, both stand lost and clearly in pain.

I do not believe issues like who started it or who is hurting more or even who is right and who is wrong about the fate of the young man in the story have a whole lot to do with what is so grievous about these two posts.  But, let me be clear before I talk about that: the adult son of the first poster has been wronged.  His mother’s rejection of him may have been prompted by her religious conviction, nevertheless those convictions are grounded in a faulty understanding of scripture, an authoritarian manipulation of emotion, and a misguided, if not overtly damaging practice of one’s faith.  She (and supposedly her husband) have harmed a child God placed in their care. I pray the injury can heal and the damage undone, though in all likelihood we will never know how those prayers are answered.

I don’t know the woman who wrote the second post.  I don’t know where she identifies on the gay-straight spectrum.  I don’t know if she’s married, has her own child or children, is supported by her family of origin, or had to manufacture a family from friends because hers rejected her. The words in her post are biting.  I believe they spring from a place of personal pain and not simply empathy for someone else.  Their force has venom and claws and I feel myself recoil when I read them even though I am not their target.  I want to reach out to her, to hold her, and to let her know she’s not alone.  I sense her pain; hurt people so often hurt others. Yet, I also want to stop her, to caution her not to make the same mistake that so offends her.

In part, the second blogger wants to shock the first out of the vegetative state in which her unquestioned belief system has placed her.  I, too, wanted to scream–“Wake up!”  Still, battering those who have been battered rarely gets the results one wants.  In general, a public flogging rarely results in private reflection, though it often makes us better at hiding.  Believe me, I understand the temptation; I have spent far too many arguments parroting tone and words in a desperate attempt to force the person I’m talking with to understand how receiving hateful words feels.  But these battles spiral. The self righteous indignation and vicious retorts returned to me exposed my failure to make the enemy feel my pain.  Sometimes when those who have damaged us are no longer around we take our anger out on others.  Perhaps the mom from the first post is a surrogate for the second.  Whatever the case, I choose to believe her passion stems from a desire to defend a young man who has done nothing to deserve the abusive punishment which has been brought against him.  If this is true, her motives are good even when her methods are unhealthy and unhelpful.

My years under the influence of multiple fundamental Christian fellowships helps me understand the dual agony of the first women as much as my freedom helps me understand the purposes of the second.  A warped version of a once loving religion has manipulated a loving mother into thinking her son must quit being gay if he is to escape hell.  This same religious spirit threatens her own salvation if she shows sympathy toward her son.  It has deceived her into believing rejecting him could somehow lead him to a repentance he doesn’t actually need.   Instead, we–in the Church–are the ones who need to repent.  In countless ways  we have separate ourselves from God. We do so every time we judge, abuse, condemn, and reject others and every time we judge, abuse, condemn, and reject ourselves.

All through the Gospels we witness Jesus opening His arms to others–to those eager to learn, to those hurting and afraid, and to those floundering in the limits of their own thinking.  The New Testament tells us repeatedly to avoid the judgement of others because it will mess us up; we will end up bringing judgment on ourselves. If I am angry at anyone in this whole scenario, I am angry at those who highjacked the Gospel, who have replaced its message of love and hope with fear and condemnation.  The Mother and the Advocate in this story both want to love the man at the center of their posts but they are each blind, unable to see their own salvation in the love of Christ.  What Christ asks of us with His out stretched arms is not easy but love is the answer for both these women, just as it is the answer for us.

Jesus rejected injustice.  He entered the courts of the powerful, denied their authority over His life, and gave Himself up.  He did not quit loving His Father when he sat with sinners, dined with the Pharisees, or broke bread with His disciples. He walked out His love for the Father. We may be guilty of either or thinking but Jesus never was.  “My ways are not your ways,” declared the Lord and He sent His Son to show us what He meant.

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