Being for or against (or neither)

by Kristin on November 7, 2013

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by European Parliament

My joy at hearing on Tuesday that same-sex marriage legislation had passed the Illinois house (61-54) was cut short by good-old balanced media reports.

To be clear, I am well aware that there are always vocal, extreme opponents to controversial measures like these. I’m also well aware that even my liberal public radio station has a responsibility to report those opposing views. So I’m not surprised when people disagree nor upset when the media reports opposing views.

What really gets to me, though, are statements that disregard logic.

The first time I heard this quote on the radio Tuesday afternoon, my brain hurt in a general, throbbing way, as if it was spinning its wheels in an effort to find some traction on solid ground.

The Illinois Family Institute’s David Smith said the vote by the Illinois House to legalize same-sex marriage in the state marks a “sad day for religious liberty.”

“Illinois just took a terrible step to remove religious liberties for people of faith, and to punish people for their religious convictions,” Smith said.

I tried—I really did—to understand how anyone’s religious liberties could possibly be at stake here. I could imagine many people feeling sad, scared, and angry by the legislation, but to interpret the legislation as a punishment for their beliefs? That I couldn’t get.

The second time I heard the quote, I keyed in on the irony of Smith’s use of the word “liberty.” I stomped around as I cooked dinner, muttering about how inconsistent it is to be a champion of liberty while picking and choosing who gets liberty, and in what areas of life. You’re not going to hear me reciting it regularly, but I do know my Pledge of Allegiance: “…with liberty and justice for ALL.” (Yes, emphasis mine.)

By the third and fourth times I heard Smith quoted (this was big news around here, so the story got a lot of play), my brain had completely closed itself off to Smith’s logic-void, inconsistent jumble of words, and I just felt like punching something. I felt an urge to find someone who saw things the way Smith sees things so I could take them to task—I was ready to have it out with every Christian who doesn’t see things the way I do. I felt the way I tend to feel when things happen that don’t make sense, and therefore fail to inspire responses that make sense: I felt desperate. Lost. Wild.

In other words, I had become illogical. And inconsistent. And not very Christian.

Which is why I’m back to this annoying and familiar place, where I wrestle with my extremely mixed feelings about other Christians and start questioning the”Christians Against Christians” blog series concept I developed a few years ago. Here’s how I described this inner struggle in this post (a reflection on the type of unity Paul writes about in Ephesians 4):

I want to believe that approach—my own humility about my stance, and being more patient with other Christians—can change things more than my outspoken frustration and anger. But sometimes it’s really hard to imagine.

And at the same time, I feel called to speak out—not to condemn Christians who anger me as much as to open the minds of those who don’t believe. But maybe my Christians Against Christians approach isn’t quite the right way. Maybe there’s an approach that blends the speaking out with the humility and patience. In fact, it seems to me that’s what Jesus modeled.

It appears the time has come, once again, for me—and any of you who would like to join me—to grapple with what speaking out with humility and patience looks like in our lives and world today. Who’s in? And who has an idea or a story—a place where we can meet and begin?

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  • Bethany Suckrow

    Love this post, Kristin. That quote from Smith really aggravated me too. And I’ve been really struggling with this idea as well. My opinions about different issues have grown and changed a lot over the last couple of years *because* there are people speaking out and expressing frustration. And now I oscillate back and forth between having compassion for those who want to grow but have a lot of questions that others might find obvious or imprudent (example: the post I wrote a few weeks ago about using explicit language to talk about abuse) and being annoyed and exhausted over their limited views of personal liberty. I also get really frustrated when smart people with good ideas that resonate with me communicate them in a way that is mean or condescending. There has to be a balance somewhere, right? I’m interested to see where your series goes. If I think of a topic, I would love to contribute.

    • kt_writes

      Thanks for your comment, Bethany. It’s a really fine line, isn’t it? Being neutral enough to not turn people off and shut down possible conversations, yet being strong enough to speak clearly to your convictions, in a way that cuts through the white noise created by so much media. Hmm… Now to think about how a blog series might be framed… :)

  • EnnisP

    What’s missing is dialogue and what actually passes for discussion is more like throwing rocks, pelting each other with immovable ideas. Inciting, yes, but it doesn’t do much to clarify the issues or find an acceptable middle ground.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how to feel about the actual issue (same sex marriage). Most of my thoughts happen on the fly. No in depth research. I hear an idea, file it away and revisit from time to time. Haven’t heard anything yet, however, that convinces me gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry and I’ve always wondered why we make such a scene. Jesus didn’t mention it and there was plenty of that in New Testament days. I do think it is safer and more decent to let it happen than create the ruckus. The gay life style is prevalent. Disallowing marriage wont stop the trend.

    And, if the object is to transform every gay person to a straight orientation then the question to ask is, “how can we do that?” I’m exploring here, not saying but it seems like that is what conservatives ultimately want. I believe they also want to protect people from the lifestyle and I guess they believe disallowing marriage is the best approach. I’m not so sure.

    I don’t think either side will fully grasp the issue until they understand what the other side wants and that will take dialogue, which is quite a bit different to verbal stoning.