On her blog yesterday, the Rev. Susan Russell announced a Celebration of Equality. It is a really special event in the life of her Pasadena congregation and I’m sure is going to be an awesome sight. In the midst of this celebration is a “sneak preview” of a new documentary about the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, whom she describes as “the first openly gay bishop in the high church traditions of Christendom”. The film is called Love Free or Die. It says on the poster:
LOVE FREE OR DIE is about a man whose defining passions the world cannot reconcile: his love for God and for his partner Mark. Bishop Gene Robinson will not give up on either.
I for one am eager to watch what is certain to be an engaging documentary with a subject that is so close and relevant to our recent Christian history. But the film brings up a greater question to me than simply how does Bp. Robinson reconcile what he has been taught with what he feels, which makes for an engaging film, but there is something more fundamental than that. How do we reconcile being taught things that are in conflict with each other? In this case, the specific teaching by modern churches of the incompatibility of homosexuality with the conviction of loving anybody generously as demonstrated frequently in the form of loving those we’re taught (often by society, but also often by our church) to despise.
The wholly inadequate response of “love the sinner / hate the sin” shows neither such a clear division of action or any of that supposed “love”. Similarly, the drive on the part of many to ignore one teaching while supporting the other rings hollow and false to most people, Christian and non-Christian alike. In my own sandbox of Christianity, the supposed “listening process” that was begun in the late 1990s to determine the mind of the church on homosexuality was a farce. Not because there weren’t a large number of Episcopalians and other Anglicans wrestling with the theology of homosexuality (as many did), but because this was a political attempt to sweep it under the rug and stop the rising tide of support for equality; and therefore not listen.
My own views on this have evolved over the last decade, and thankfully continue to evolve. But this can only happen if we engage the challenging bits of our faith. Like not necessarily reconciling two teachings that are at odds with one another. Perhaps one of our teachings is wrong. Perhaps one of them is less right than the other. Perhaps one is for us to worry about and the other is for GOD. Perhaps we should take a more mature reading of Scripture than we normally take. Perhaps Scripture shouldn’t be used as a dividing line in any event. Perhaps it isn’t GOD that screwed up, but us. Perhaps current teaching is based not in good exegesis but in faulty human tradition. Perhaps Scripture never actually said what we think it says.
That is where Christ meets the world, after all. In those spaces of human abuse and rejection of our brothers and sisters is the place where Jesus appears, feeding, clothing, comforting, liberating. And where we, in our ivory towers of certainty, erected by a self-righteous belief in our own systems of separation find ourselves further and further from those in greatest need of Christ like a Babelish tower reaching toward GOD and departing from the people GOD calls us to serve. From this spot, we wrestle. Wrestle with these great questions of our faith. Or like Jacob, we wrestle with the very figure of our God.