Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Peace, Peace, When there is no Peace

I’ve noticed a lot of people on Facebook sporting the red logo with the equal sign in it. It seems to refer to marriage as an equal right for all.

I’ve written on this topic before, confessing my view that marriage is the recognition of a pre-existent, committed relationship and a privilege recognized by a community rather than a right. But that’s another discussion.

The debates I’ve listened to regarding same-sex marriage assume something similar on both sides of the issue: That on the preferred side, everything is okay. Everything is good.

On one side, the argument claims that heterosexual marriage is okay, good, and a proper standard. On the other side, the claim is made that homosexuality is also okay and good, and should be afforded the same rights granted to heterosexuals.

Both sides claim that, in their respective camps, everything is good. Everything is okay.

But what if they’re both wrong?

I argued yesterday that we heteros (what an awful label!) need some rethinking about how really okay we are when it comes to marriage.

This challenge needs to reach across all the arguments. We’re not okay. We’re all a mess. And to say that gay marriage is a good thing strictly on the basis that everything is great and we just need to get a long and let each other have whatever it is that we want is insufficient. The broader culture is prone to that form of resolution, but we who follow Jesus need to dive a little deeper in that pond than everyone else.

If we say that our side is good and the other side is bad, or if we say that everything is good, we may be crying out with the screwball prophets of Jeremiah’s time whom God critiqued by saying, “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

We are a wounded people, gay and straight alike, and we dare not claim peace, peace, when there is no peace. We dare not insist that all is good when all is wounded. We need to treat our wounds with care. To do otherwise is to risk spiritual malpractice.

I have worshipped with gay friends who sought after sacred space that, rather than focusing on being gay, focused on Jesus. I found that I could stand side by side with those friends in my own brokenness and seek the One who heals our wounds, numerous as they are. Maybe all wasn’t good, but we could affirm together that God is good, and together we threw ourselves on his love and forgiveness, and sought for a way that we might live in his grace.

I don’t know how churches and denominations are going to resolve the gay marriage issue (and how gay people might connect in the life of the Christian community), at least in this generation. It may not be seen as such an overwhelming issue a generation later. We’ll have to see.

But in the meantime, if I can’t stand next to my gay brother or sister as a broken child of God, then I probably can’t stand next to anyone, nor can anyone stand next to me. We need a new starting place in this conversation. If we start with rights then the contest will be won by those who wield the greatest power. If we start with everything being okay, then nothing will be okay.

But if we begin as co-humans, broken and wounded, yet made in the image of God, then perhaps the conversation will change.

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