The Way Ahead

It’s been days now since news spread that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 in favor of same sex marriage being the rule of the land. In the hours and days following the decision, social media was full of memes, pictures, and posts from everyone on every side. Both love and hate were prevalent on my walls. Harsh words were exchanged, lines were drawn, and there was both rejoicing and lamenting.

For those who were pleased by this decision, this was a decision that was a long time in the making. They were pleased at how it felt like the beginning of equality to them. They were glad to be recognized rather than marginalized. They were grateful to be able to share things together that had once been reserved for others.

Now, I get this, and to be honest, I am grateful that the way has opened up for people to share things and benefits together, primarily in difficult and stressful moments in life. In situations at end of life and other significant moments along the way, everyone deserves to be able to share moments together.

Aside from this, my heart was still heavy after the SCOTUS decision.

I have friends who are gay, I have friends who are straight, I have friends who are liberal, I have friends who are conservative, I have friends who are Christian, I have friends who are atheists. Somehow, through it all and despite our disagreements, I have managed to stay somewhat connected with all of them. With so many differences, there have been times that I have felt hate, from all sides. Chances are that there were times that I came across with a less than stellar and Christ-like attitude and approach. When there were points of misunderstanding, I did my best to address them with my friends personally, privately, and appropriately. In fact, some of the dialogues that came out of those disagreements stand among my favorite of the past few years.

Despite my friendships and associations, my beliefs and convictions stand in opposition to this decision. In this, I understand the anxiety and even fear that has risen up among many conservatives. You see, for some reason, my disagreement and division over the definition of marriage has always been labeled as hate, it has always been interpreted by those with whom we disagree as bigotry. This saddens me greatly. How is it that we have come to a place where anyone with whom I disagree is labeled a bigot, a racist, a hate-monger, or worse? How has this language arisen from a situation in which we simply don’t see eye to eye?

As I reluctantly continued to maneuver through the vast waters of social media, I began to realize just how deep of an issue we have. We have begun to operate in generalizations rather than in facts and real information. We have ceased to have dialogues and conversations and have exchanged them for digital hand grenades, hurling them at one another with no consideration for feelings and emotions other than our own. We have not sought to find out what lies behind the labels that we place on each other but rather have swallowed whole those generalizations, assuming that the ugliest and most extremes of those generalizations are representative of the entire group.

We assume that the labels we hold to and the labels which we use are all encompassing and that they define a person. But labels don’t define people, people define themselves, but they can only define themselves when they are given voice to express their beliefs, their opinions, and even their reasons for disagreement.

As we come to situations in which we find ourselves at odds with each other, in which we are in disagreement, we need to answer some fundamental questions. Is it possible to disagree with one another and to still love one another? I certainly hope so, otherwise, I would be at odds in every single one of my relationships in life. Can I disagree with you and not hate you? I certainly hope so, otherwise, this world would be an incredibly hateful place. Jesus disagreed with many people. He spoke his viewpoint and spoke truth and then let it go from there. He did not hate to the bitter end of his life on earth, even when those with whom he disagreed nailed him to the cross.

We need to ask ourselves how willing we are to engage in intelligent and respectful conversations with those with whom we disagree. Are we willing to engage in those conversations even when they’re messy, even when they’re tough, and even when we come to the end of them and still don’t agree?

There is still fear and anxiety over future possibilities. There is still fear among those of us who hold to specific religious convictions that the religious freedom on which this country was formed and created may be stripped away from us simply because we cannot agree. It will be stripped away from us as a freedom to be able to disagree. It will be stripped away unless there is compliance, removing that very freedom which has just been provided and afforded to so many others. There is fear that the freedoms in our country to voice our opinions and to hold to varying and diverse viewpoints will be stripped away in the name of freedom and justice. It’s not a guarantee, but it certainly stands in the minds of many who fear what may take place in the future.

Despite these fears, I still find hope and I still have faith. I don’t find my hope in people, in organizations, or in decisions, but rather in Christ and Christ alone. I find faith. Some of that faith is in humanity and my fellow human beings who, regardless of their beliefs or our disagreements, are created in the image of God. My faith remains in Christ and his promises.

My hope and my prayer is that we can, in this country, fully understand, appreciate, and practice the idea of bi-partisanship and that we can do it with grace. We need to find a way forward where it’s acceptable for us to disagree but we can do so while still loving each other and working on so many of the ills of society together. That is a fundamental ideal on which this country was founded, the ideal of freedom. Freedom to think. Freedom to choose. Freedom to disagree.

It seems possible to me, but it’s not going to happen if we continue to generalize, judge, and hurl digital hand grenades at one another. I’m hoping we can do this one conversation at a time.

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