Gay Marriage, The Supreme Court, and the Church: The Losing Side of Winning

Sometimes being a winner feels shitty. If we cut down the two binaries, I join the statical majority of the country celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage (what a funny phrase, legalize gay marriage). Even as I log on to write this post, my WordPress template now includes a rainbow. I am, abstractly, thrilled. But spiritually, and concretely, my joy is hollow. As a pastor, more than ever I am in the thick of addressing gay and lesbian issues from  a theological perspective. I am in the middle of hard, hard conversations that are neither clarified nor helped by today’s ruling. To put it less-than-pastorally, more than ever I am aware that being a pastor means walking through a lot of shit with a lot of different people and the road is long and filled with idiosyncrasies.

A couple of weeks ago, I preached a sermon where I shared my own convictions with my congregation. As honestly, as humbly, as I could I shared the theological journey that leads me to do no other than affirm gay Christians. More honestly, more humbly, and much more challenging, I shared the theological journey that leads me to do no other than to learn from and pray with Christians who find gay practice to be a sin. Some people felt profoundly affirmed. Some felt damaged, wounded. As I absorb the emotion of my congregation, as I put an ear to their worlds and pray with and for them, it feels like my whole week has been a long dialogue–with GLBTQ Christians, with other pastors, with conservative voices inside and outside my own church. It is Friday. I am raw and tired. I have been holding a tender, scarred congregation in prayer all week as I prepare to gather with a tender, scarred church next week in the national Mennonite convention. I don’t know how to give this struggle any more into God’s hands, I don’t know how to hold my own role any more lightly, I don’t know how to pray any more sincerely.

I don’t know what else to do but to keep offering these heavy hearts back to God.

The government has rarely changed the church. The church moves in its own realm, at its own conversations, at its own convictions. Today’s ruling hardly changes the church. It doesn’t change that my friends are all posting their Internet-approved-license-to-marry and my honor and ability to marry, although bestowed by the church after eight years of study and two years of employment, still does not extend to LGBTQ couples. In that spirit, I rejoice with the Christian voices who say this is also a victory for theological marriage; that finally, we have an impetus in the church to clarify the difference between a government license to certain legal rights and a theological promise before all the powers of Creation and the gathered community who upholds you. This is a long overdue conversation and in that, I’m grateful to find common ground with those who I disagree with on this topic.

But largely, this ruling does not change church doctrine, does not change church debates. If anything, I fear, it raises the anxiety, so that at least in the Mennonite Church, those hoping to conserve marriage will walk into next week’s convention more tense, more tired, more defeated, and more looking for a place to take out their anger.

I don’t want to be a winner in this. I want to support and love GLBTQ Christians, but I don’t want to do so at the cost of some straight Christians becoming losers. I don’t think God works in an addition-subtraction mentality. I don’t want to be a winner when others are losing–losing their faith, their generosity, their ability to keep praying alongside me.

I remember the often trite adage, “What would Jesus do?” My answer, first, is who fucking knows but underneath that I do know: Jesus would stick around to hear out every last word you have to say about to day. No matter who you are, Jesus would hear you out. Then tell you what’s up. But first, Jesus would hear out where you are in your faith.

Every way we go is going to be the hard road. Let’s take it, and let’s take it with all the humility, sorrow, and faith that we can muster. Faith that the God who led us through all other struggles will, also, lead us through this one.

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