A few years ago, a close Christian friend of mine and I were debating about homosexuality and God. She and I were on “opposite” sides with respect to the issue.
At some point in the discussion, she told me about a previous discussion with a pastor friend of hers, in which he’d said, “What if, when I get to heaven, God tells me he made them that way?” It had stunned her out of a close-minded and rather rigid position, and had resulted in a broader capacity for empathy. She’d tried to put herself in a gay person’s shoes and imagine (because that’s all she could do) that homosexuality wasn’t a choice, and once she had, she’d been able to imagine, also, the agony of being rejected on the basis of something about herself that she couldn’t control—like the fact that she had freckles, blue eyes, and auburn hair.
If that had been true, if she’d been rejected on that basis as unworthy because others said she was, she could’ve worn pancake makeup and dyed her hair blonde, but what a sad position to be in—forced to pretend, for the sake of belonging, to deny who she was, how God had made her. Fortunately, Alleyne was never forced to hide her Irish ancestry—her blue eyes and gorgeous red hair, and her raucous laugh were her trademark.
I miss that lady. She’s gone—died way too early 3 ½ years ago. She loved me in a way I’ve seldom been loved, and because her obvious regard for me had nothing to do with anything I said or thought, I was free to allow myself to consider her point of view as well. Let’s be frank—it is equally plausible that I will get to heaven and have God say he didn’t make them that way. So I had to ask myself, “How, if at all, would that change my position on the subject?” And truthfully, “Is it any of my business?”
On this particular issue, my “self-investigation” resulted in a strengthening of my position, but it might not have. I assumed for a moment that homosexuality is a choice, and began to think about “good” and “bad” choices I’ve made and continue to make in my life. (I put those words in quotes because to call those choices good or bad is based on my opinions about those choices and not necessarily others.) I thought about some of those choices and I can’t say that I would defend any of them publicly with the fervor that gay pride groups and organizations do. I’m a smoker, for example, an admittedly stupid choice for a woman as bright as I am, but you’ll never find me supporting or participating in a “smoker’s pride parade” because it’s a choice, not a part of my identity that I can’t get rid of. On that basis, it struck me that no one would subject himself or herself to the persecution, malicious projections, or discrimination I’ve seen those folks experience on the basis of something they had a choice about, unless they were masochistic.
I don’t know what God told Alleyne about the issue when her spirit was set free in September of 2007, or what I will be told one day. And because I am acutely aware that not one human among us, including the apostles (who even Jesus said didn’t always “get it,” even when he spoon-fed them in person) and definitely including me, has “the last word” about what God thinks and doesn’t, I hope to escape the arrogance of being party to limiting the pursuit of happiness of my gay brothers and sisters, diminishing their contributions to the general society, damaging their reputations, or controlling behaviors of theirs that do not impact me.
But Alleyne and I didn’t stop with the gay issue. Our discussions went far beyond it to a host of things Christians believe Jesus said or meant because somebody else said so (especially preachers), without questioning if their interpretation made sense when considered in the context of their own lives. For instance, I suspect that the “Holy” Crusades were anything but holy, that the Salem witch hunts were an atrocity, and that my Confederate ancestors believed with no question that creatures with dark skin were not fully human because their church “leaders” told them so. But they were wrong.
And who was it that said women weren’t holy enough to be ordained as ministers and priests? Couldn’t have come from Jesus—he had the audacity to talk to a woman at the well, which was bad enough, but she was a Samaritan, for God’s sake! Just like that dastardly neighbor guy in Jesus’ story, the one who took care of his Hebrew brother who’d fallen among thieves.
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you, says the Bible in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 4:2).
I find it quite ironic that it’s easy for Christians to dismiss the Koran or the Book of Mormon as being additions or subtractions to the commandments (those Ten Commandments, by the way, that followed in Deuteronomy 5), while at the same time ignoring that there are no commandments that say “Thou shalt not allow women into the ministry,” or “Thou shalt not allow those brothers to the south of you with even darker skin than yours to partake of the blessings of the great I AM,” or “Thou shalt not sleep with thy brother if male or thy sister if female.” All sounds to me like stuff somebody just might have added. The term “false prophets” comes to mind.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
This, which is one of the commandments, has nothing to do with “curse words.” It has to do with claiming we are representatives of God, arrogant to say that our take on the Bible is the end all, practicing all manner of evil against our brothers and sisters while wearing the cloak of God and proclaiming it as justification of our misguided deeds.
If Jesus actually said what he was recorded as saying 40, 50, 70 years after his death, then we can’t escape the fact that the words that kept coming up over and over in his sermons and conversations were “love” and “serve,” not “judge” and “punish.”
And I wonder if when we get to heaven, God will say, “How could you have missed that?”