John Pavlovitz is my hero. A Christian pastor and father of two, he recently penned this blog post on what he will do if either or both of his children realizes they are gay. He won’t love them in spite of being gay or because they are gay; he’ll just love them for being awesome people and for being who they are. He understands that being gay is not a choice or a thing to cure. He will pray for them not in order to “fix” them or change them, but in the hopes that they aren’t subjected to abuse just for being themselves.
I can’t sum up his words as lovely as he writes them, so you should just go read his blog post.
What’s heartening is that John has seen an outpouring of support since he blogged about this. It was an incredibly brave thing for him to do; he feared the reaction the post would receive.
I was raised a Christian, but I left the church when I was young. I didn’t believe in God anymore. As I got older, I was drawn back to the teachings of Christ, not because I had faith in his existence (or that of his dad, despite the obvious dual miracles of cocoa and coffee beans), but because I liked to think of Jesus as one of several revolutionaries of his time who tried to change how we see the world and how we treat one another.
I was fortunate to grow up with an openly gay uncle and openly gay friends. It gave me early role models, so I didn’t have to overcome any ingrained bigotry. I don’t take credit for feeling this way; I’m a product of circumstance. Others have a lot more to overcome, a much steeper climb. I think that helps me avoid the feeling that I’m anywhere near a moral pinnacle. I obsess instead over this puzzle: What are the many ways in which future generations will look at my supposedly modern views as abhorrent?
Every age likes to think it is an enlightened one, but if history is any judge, we do plenty today that will be seen as barbaric in just a generation or two. Perhaps it’s eating meat (which I do with quite a bit of guilt. I consider myself a Jeffersonian Vegetarian, which is someone who knows it’s wrong and does it anyway. Which is probably a lot worse than doing something out of pure ignorance).
In the near future, a generation might puzzle over the fact that we had the technology to have self-driving cars and could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, but we dragged our feet. Or that we let totalitarian states like North Korea fizzle out rather than rushing to aid the oppressed. Or that we watched a virus run rampant and gave a half-assed effort to put a stop to it. There are probably half a dozen things I do poorly while feeling smug about getting a handful of obvious things right, like loving my neighbor. I’m a troglodyte who thinks the wheel is as cool as it’s ever gonna get.
My view of our religious texts has changed over the years. I now see the challenge as being to somehow unravel what parts are real–in the sense of capturing something deep and meaningful about the human condition–and which parts were just the people of their time being afraid to take their minds and hearts to the next level. Fear and love are mixed in those works together. It takes a deep reading to tease them apart.
Because wouldn’t it be boring if our sacred texts had all the answers, spelled out right there in black and white for us? If we don’t have to do any work, what’s the point? One way to look at the Bible or the Koran or any such text is as a puzzle given to us by a lost time (or a higher power if you prefer). The challenge is to defy our peers, our parents, and our culture to read the work and interpret it with the ultimate in compassion and kindness.
These books aren’t recipes. They’re treasure maps. The goal is to figure out where (and what) the treasure is and how to get there.