Monday, December 23, 2013

A Guide For Liberals: How To Have Anti-Gay Friends

Act #357:  Let their actions speak.

Like most Americans, I have close friends and family members who are gay.  Heck, my son might turn out to be gay one of these days, who really knows.  One thing I do know for sure is that I love them - not despite that they are gay - but because they are gay...and compassionate....and funny....and have shared history with me....and because of all the other characteristics that collectively make them the type of person I want to keep in my life.   I hate it when people say they "don't judge", because over the years I have judged the heck out of all of my friends, gay and straight - when they attempt to drink and drive, when they are tempted to look outside their marriages, when they distance themselves from me over a guy.  I judge, I support, I advise as needed, because that's what friends do.  But I do not judge any of my friends - gay or straight - when they date, break up, fall in love like I do/have.  I do not judge them when they settle down, go to potlucks, think about having kids.  Or when they turn me down for Sunday brunch because they have to go to church (something my close gay friends do to me regularly.)  But this is not about me.  If you read my blog, you already know that I'm an "ally", a word I'm not too keen on either because honestly and selfishly, I'm not some martyr social activist for the LGBT community. I simply just love my friends.  And that's what friends do.

So as I've gotten older, it's gotten increasingly easier for me to  distance myself from people who do not share this mindset with me.  It's really easy to unfriend and stop inviting people over when they have blatant disregard for the people I love.  It's too painful, it's too draining, and quite frankly, it feels like a betrayal to those I care about.  Imagine this:  having a friend who constantly publicly denounces your wife or child as sinners - you know through Facebook posts, boycotts, the frequenting of different retailers just to make a point.  And so I choose not to spend my time around these types of people - and usually that's not hard to do.  But what about those people in your life that you connect with, that have extended kindness to you over the years, that you actually like and even.....respect?  What if they also happen to be evangelical Christians who believe that homosexuality is an abomination?  Here's where I draw the line between cutting (walking away from constant unkind banter for the sake of holding a personal conviction true) and keeping (investing in compassionate complex conversations about love and religion and how the world chooses to interpret both.)

Case in point, I have a dear friend who, while he has never verbalized this to me, probably believes that homosexuality is a sin.  I know this because he has openly shared his faith with me on many occasions.  But while scores of people flocked to Chick Fil-A to support Dan Cathy's position to fund anti-gay causes, he stayed away.  And when the whole Duck Dynasty fiasco ignited a social media firestorm of support, he remained silent.  Now this is a man of deep, deep, conservative Christian faith.  This is also a man who has mentored and supported a gay student when he came out a few years ago.  What gives?  Well, my friend believes in the kind of Christian love that accepts.  The kind of Christianity where homosexuality is irrelevant, because genuine love towards your fellow human overshadows (you know, Christ-like love) any need to be "right".  Because what does "being right" really even matter when you have your door closed to everyone outside your church anyway?  It's way beyond "not judging" or "loving the sinner, but not the sin".  It's seeing everyone as fellow travelers and seekers on our collective journey to be whole, and to have a meaningful connection with a higher power.  And my friend has never acted in a manner - publicly or privately - that would ever make anyone feel unworthy of sharing that journey or seeking that connection.  So he foregoes the occasional juicy chicken tender sandwich at Chick Fil-A, and the camouflage Duck Dynasty stocking.  Because his views on homosexuality don't matter quite as much as his views on the impartial love of Jesus.  And he remains a dear, respected friend despite and because of this.

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