What does it say about our society when Phil's (undoubtedly crass and, I'd say, insensitive) words earn such swift and decisive reprimand, but our pop songs blatantly treat women like animals and practically advocate rape (Thanks Pitbull for the beautifully artful line: 'Face down, booty up. . . She says she won't but I bet she will' or shall I thank Robin Thicke's classic 'you know you want it.'). Yet, there is comparatively hardly any outrage, and such songs even jump to the top of the charts.
(See my previous rant on sexist pop music, here. )
In a world that is 'sexually liberated' and 'egalitarian,' sexual exploitation is yet rampant. Women are still not treated equally in the work place, and are tossed around like sex objects in pop culture.
What does it say when our 'pro-gay' culture is yet full of constant degrading jokes and stereotypical portrayals of gay people on TV, or when reprehensible slurs typically reserved for the dark corners of the Internet appears in our music (or spewing from Alec Baldwin's mouth). I think Macklemore got many things wrong, but he certainly has a point: 'have you read the Youtube comments lately?' And indeed, 'if I were gay I'd think rap music hates me.'
What does it say when I, the Christian, am the one person who doesn't laugh or jeer behind the back of a cross dressing man who comes into my secular place of employment?
Or when young people struggling with their sexuality, if they ever betray to their peers any hint or clue as to their struggle, are bullied - sometimes to the point of committing suicide?
What does it say when gay people are token friends, or token characters in a movie, that makes one 'politically correct'? Or when they are treated as a voting block to be toted around for political points?
I'll be the first to admit that the Church is full of problems, and has made many mistakes on this issue in particular. But this behavior from our society strikes me as the utter definition of a culture of ridiculous hypocrisy. Quite stellar hypocrisy, actually.
I guess we're not the only ones.
I have this radical notion that the Church should be, and is, the one place where LGBTQ people can be treated with dignity in a world that promises to do so, but continues to do the opposite.
There is a growing diversification of views on homosexuality within Evangelicalism - the disagreement over homosexuality, in the next generation, will not be between Evangelicals and liberal protestants but will increasingly becoming an inter-Evangelical disagreement. But I want to be clear that this notion of bestowing dignity does not require one to abandon one's traditional opinions on homosexuality, any more than Jesus gave up his notions of right and wrong to dignify prostitutes, or adulterers; not to mention the pagan Gentiles and the poor. I was blessed by a gentleman from this organization who came to speak at our seminary campus last Fall. He maintains an unapologetic conservative position on homosexuality, that more than a few Christians might disagree with, but whatever your opinion I don't know how you can help but respect that he works tirelessly to equip churches to understand and love homosexual people better. I especially respect that he helps equip public schools to prevent the suicide of youth who struggle with their sexual identity (such suicide rates are astronomically high, the Church has a crucial opportunity here to provide love and support and save the lives of those thrown under the bus of a culture that, really, doesn't seem to care all that much).
I love the story of Wesley Hill, a celibate Christian man. He tells the beautiful story of his life in the book Washed and Waiting. He explains his experience of feeling attracted to the same sex since the day he had his first conscious sexual feeling. He describes in heartbreaking ways how he spent his whole life feeling constantly 'dirty' and utterly despised by God, because of feelings and tendencies he had known since puberty. But how, in the midst of confusion, pain, loneliness, infinite attempts to try different ways to change his orientation, and conflict about what lifestyle to pursue, he came to know (through the love of Christian mentors, friends, and his parents) that in the middle of all these things, God loved him, and saw him as a beloved child. Hill explains gracefully how church leaders can, and must, show the same love and provide the same dignity to people with similar lives and struggles. We can do so because we serve a God of abundant love.
Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of non-Christian people who are loving and respectful of others. Many people, Christian and non-Christian, have raised awareness to the aforementioned suicide issue, for example. Many non-Christian feminists would agree with us in their disgust at the sexualization of women (and men) in pop culture. There have certainly been times in the past when the Church has gotten its act together by being shown up by people outside the Church, and there are some ways that this is the case now. I don't mean to simply portray this as a mere game of 'good guys' and 'bad guys.' But, yet, I remain astounded by the starkness of the 'big picture,' our culture represents a cycle of dizzying futility and hypocrisy.
We offer something none of the rest of the world does - the remarkable message that you are loved by God just for who you are. This is not to deny that we are all sinners in need of radical transformation. But we are loved by God while we are yet sinners, and we Christians owe that same love to everyone around us. We offer a call and a dignity that allows us to be understood as human beings, not a sexual identity, not a nationality, not our failures or our successes.
There is a wide open market for a context in which homosexual people are treated with dignity. Because the rest of the world, while talking big, keeps failing miserably.
The Church is not counter-cultural so much for thinking certain things are right and wrong. We are counter-cultural for doing this very thing the rest of the world has failed to do. That's the trick up our sleeve. That's the punch line to the joke. We can lose the 'culture battle' and still win the war, because we have dared to love recklessly, better than our supposedly progressive society. You think the Church is slandered for her position on homosexuality? Such radical love is what will make us really hated. Such will lead to actual persecution, though it still may take the form of accusing us of monstrosities resulting our 'moralism.' Don't be deceived by the rhetoric, and don't let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don't win by becoming what we are caricatured to be. We win by the utter surprise of being more sincerely loving than the world. This is what worried me about the Duck Dynasty reaction: Phil was definitely treated unfairly, and we should stand up for a society of fair and open dialogue, but we shouldn't be tricked into becoming martyrs for crassness. That's a victory for the world, not for Jesus. We win by not playing the game.
There have been many times in which the Church has inflicted severe and inexcusable pain upon homosexual people, and many others, and it is important that we recognize and own that fact. In fact, this is necessary so that we do not become like the world, or what the world accuses us of being. We offer something our hypocritical world avoids: A willingness to truly and sincerely apologize for our mistakes, because we understand the dignity of humility, and we know the power of grace. We pursue the sincere and meek love we have known in our Lord.
But at the end of the day, our moral opinions or the mistakes that we have made, is not what's really, actually, the most offensive. It's just easy fodder for a much deeper contention. What is offensive about us is our love, and the dignity we dare to bestow to those the rest of the world doesn't seem to actually care about. That is what put Jesus on the cross, marked as a common criminal and branded by the religious authorities as a friend of those they hated: sinners, the poor, Gentiles.
Come to the cross. Come to the place where you are a human being, not your gender, not your sexuality, not your race or nationality, not your mistakes or your successes, not your sins or your righteousness, not your sincerity or your hypocrisy, not your wounds or your woundings, but simply a human loved by a gracious God just the way you are, Who wants to become the only, most central, defining factor in your life. Come bring your pain to Him, who doesn't want to turn your pain into a political agenda, but wants to hold you in His arms just as you are.