This weekend is Twin Cities Pride Weekend, a celebration of LGBT stories and rights in my home of Minneapolis, and one that will probably blast away past previous attendance records given the Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage. I am not in Minneapolis this weekend.
Instead, I am in middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania, attending the world’s largest Christian music festival to work at the booth of one of our authors who writes biblical fiction and runs a men’s ministry.
It doesn’t get more stereotypical-Christian-culture than that.
On the way to the event, we passed four billboards in the King James Version, 69 American flags, and several dozen Christian radio stations playing very similar songs. Once inside the gates, we looked down on a sprawling temporary ghetto of 30,000 people camping on the muddy ground, sectioned off with dirt-and-gravel paths named “Hallelujah Highway” and “Rapture Road.” But before that, we encountered the sign-holders. They had stationed themselves at the entrance to the campground, holding up double-decker cardboard signs with slogans like, “Turn From Your Sins” and a verse about hell. The woman wore a long jean skirt and a cheery smile. The man wore a handmade T-shirt that said, “Repent or Perish” in neat black and red letters.
They were waving energetically to all the cars that went past that morning, like some sort of ironic welcoming committee. Their spirits hadn’t flagged when my supervisor and I left again that night. (I hoped someone had at least brought them Chick-Fil-A and Scripture Mints at some point during the day.)
“I kind of want to talk to them,” I said as we drove by. And the whole way back to the hotel—an hour drive…I told you it was the middle of nowhere—I thought about what I would say. The one thing that kept coming to mind, over and over again, was, “I’m interested in hearing your point of view. We probably disagree on a lot of things, and chances are neither of us will change our minds after this conversation—but I think I can learn from your perspective.”
It struck me that this would be a great way for Christians to approach basically anyone they disagree with. This is not a post about how if we just loved each other, the issues wouldn’t matter and everyone would just get along and there would be sunshine and rainbows. That is ridiculous and not helpful. The issues still matter. There is still plenty of room for critical thinking and serious debate and conflict and disagreement and strong opinions.
Instead, this is a post saying that attaching #LoveWins to an event doesn’t mean that it actually does. Love does not win if you are not treating people who disagree with you in a loving way. (This applies to both sides, of course.)
So, to my friends celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision, this is a gentle reminder that you represent your view better when you’re open-minded toward others. Don’t shut down people who disagree with you, even if you’re sure they’re wrong, even if they are less than gracious. Try to listen to them, learn from them, and love them.
And to my friends saddened by the Supreme Court’s decision, this is a gentle reminder that you can have counter-cultural convictions on this issue without striking out with hasty comments or unhelpful overgeneralizations. Don’t get defensive when reacting to those who disagree with you. Try to listen to them, learn from them, and love them.
And to my friends who aren’t sure what to think about the Supreme Court’s decision, who are confused by details like legislating morality and how active Christians should be in politics and what happens when a secular government makes laws that have both civil and religious implications…well, here we are. There are lots of us. Like the firefly that bumped into me after spinning dizzily away from the Skillet lightshow, it’s okay to be confused. But let’s try to think and talk about this in a helpful way.*
I already know my opinions and beliefs on this issue, and why I hold them. If you don’t, that might be where you need to focus instead. But here’s the question I’ve been asking myself this weekend: Do I love people enough?
Whether they’re the people sitting beside me on an airplane or stopping to chat at my booth for a few minutes, do I care enough to think of them as actual people? Do I really believe that everyone—the rude flight attendant, the woman two rows away with the yippy dog who doesn’t like turbulence, the lip-glossy tween pop star in the booth next to us, the guy who claims to have died twice in a way that was “exactly like Heaven is For Real”—is loved by God and made in his image?
And, maybe more importantly, does this belief change my actions, my words, and my attitude toward those around me?
The people I mentioned are strangers. Most of us don’t live surrounded by only temporary people, by tired airport travelers and sweaty concert-goers. We have time to really get to know the people around us, hear their stories, and love them, not because they’re always the easiest people to relate to, but because God loves them.
Remember that, whatever side you take. Think well, have good reasons for your opinions, don’t be afraid to have beliefs and express them. Do so in a gracious way, and we’ll get through whatever new crisis or celebration or confrontation we might face in our newsfeeds and our lives.
(Also relevant: a post from a few weeks ago, “How to Have Opinions Without Being a Jerk.”)
*Stuffy Footnote for the Dedicated Reader: In case it gives you context for what I say, I can’t reconcile homosexuality with God’s plan for marriage, and I believe that acting on homosexual desires is a sin—not a sin worse than other sins in some way, but something that is outside of God’s original design. I have heard the arguments interpreting Bible passages on homosexuality in a way that permits same-sex marriage, and I don’t find them very convincing. What is harder for me to decide is what happens when the government gets involved, because then you add in civil rights and secular values and a whole bunch of other factors. I’m still trying to form an opinion on this, but since the decision has already been made, I think the way we respond to it and to each other is more important at the moment.