What Strengthens my Christianity May Surprise You

I was raised Presbyterian USA. Well. It was just Presbyterian when I was a child but then the denomination splintered into different Presbyterian pieces. My family decided the USA was a better fit for us instead PCA, OPC, BPC or Cumberland.  My husband was raised Methodist. They don’t have as many different belief spinoffs but what they do have is their own Mecca. Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Danny was born in Lake Junaluska so when I say, he’s Methodist, I mean it.

 Credit: Rawpixel.com/Bigstock

Credit: Rawpixel.com/Bigstock

When we were engaged, we attended Christian counseling classes to make sure we knew what we were doing and our churches would agree to join us in holy matrimony. As part of the counseling, we were asked to take an extensive written test which would illuminate our individual perspectives in all areas of marriage. To understand each other’s point of view on spouse responsibilities, work load and how these jobs would be divided. Who manages the money, who will be the primary caregiver for the children, who will do the housekeeping, shopping, yard-work, etc.. But the one section that stood out was our compatibility for spiritual and religious beliefs.

“In the last 20 years,” the counselor chuckled and shook his head, “I’ve never had a couple score 100% on the religious and spiritual section of the compatibility test.” He eased into the chair next to the small sofa where we were sitting in his office.  “Ever.  You two are the first and if you weren’t in separate rooms while taking the test, I would’ve wondered if you cheated. His eyes crinkled in the corner and another breathy chuckle puffed out.

So when I say that Danny and I are in sync spiritually, I mean it. We are Christ followers and send our children to a private, christian school. I’ve given you this background for a reason. I want you to understand that I don’t take what I’m about share with you lightly.

LOVING OTHER PEOPLE FOR WHO THEY ARE DOES NOT WEAKEN MY CHRISTIANITY, IT STRENGTHENS IT.

Who other people are and how they identify themselves doesn’t change my values or affect my core.  Shocking information, I know. Hard to explain that isn’t it? Let me try. I am confident in my beliefs but understanding other people’s ideology helps keep my heart soft and love people for people. People live their lives. My family lives ours. But it’s undeniable that we have so many things in common simply because we’re human. All of us have beautiful, red beating human hearts, no matter what color our skin, or who we love.

Last week, I went to a friend’s book reading. Out of respect for the author, her privacy and to protect her from any backlash my post may receive, I am not sharing her book details here. However, if you are interested, send a private message to me and I will give you the link to her painful yet brave work about being gay and Christian. But fair warning, if the Harry Potter series offends your beliefs, this is not your book.

At the book reading, there were literally every type of people in attendance. Straight, Gay, Lesbian, bi-sexual, pansexual, transgender, cisgender and gender fluid. There were couples. There were singles.  There were couples and singles raising a family. There were Christians and people who said they were recovering Christians. There was a pastor, a chaplain and a few students from a University Theology department. There were young, old, yellow, black and white and they were all precious in His Sight.

Do you know what happened? This too, will shock you.

We had a beautiful, safe conversation on the most ordinary Wednesday in March.

Scandalous.

Everyone there was free to speak their views or sit quietly and listen. People were wearing what made them feel comfortable and most like themselves. For me it was elastic. We discussed society, religion, spirituality, tolerance and the different levels of acceptance.

The writer in me was having an explosion of ideas and passion listening to these stories and experiences.  I wanted to interview all of them. Find out what made them feel the way they feel. Ask them about their background, their parents, their friends, their jobs, where they like to travel. I wanted to soak in every bit of this raw, honest beauty uninhibited by typical society influences. It was an open, free space where everyone could share what they wanted without being pressured to share what they didn’t. I had to stop myself from asking too many questions. I was fascinated.

I wasn’t interested in what I believe - because I know what that is. I was enthralled by what the community that attended this meeting believes. How they identify with others and how their individual pieces fit into the world’s puzzle. How their life intertwines (or doesn’t) with society. My questions. My earnest expression reading their faces. My nodding.  My notebook and writer’s cramped hand wanted to take all of it in and commit it to my journal.

But there was one thing that I took away that impressed me more than anything. One magical sliver out of all of our collaboration of color. Our stained glass personalities shone bright on the most ordinary Wednesday evening in a family’s home somewhere between here and there. Everyone there managed to enlighten my dulled senses. It was something so obvious but completely oblivious to me until that night of my friend’s book reading. No one wants sexuality to be THE MAIN topic of conversation. You can talk about intimacy as long as it’s not the ONLY thing. And this part is important, if you haven’t established a closeness or bond, it’s not an appropriate discussion anyway. Let’s talk about everything else that’s human, but not that.

I’ll describe it another way....Would you only talk about Jesse Owens or Rosa Parks with your black friends?  Would you only talk about the rain or the Space Needle with people from Seattle?  Would you only talk about sexuality with someone who does not identify as heterosexual?

Nope.  Nope and nope. You’d talk about other things.  Human things.

Dolly Parton is a Tennessee girl from way back and one of her many famous quotes is “everyone should be with who they love.”  Then jokingly she went on to say, “I think gay couples should be allowed to marry. They should suffer just like us heterosexuals.” What Dolly is suggesting in her delightful southern way, is that it’s okay to normalize love because we all need to experience love, together in our own relationships.

We humans are a curious bunch, but the one thing that makes us the same is the thing that makes us so different. How we do life. *People* want to talk about where you go to the gym. A babysitter recommendation. What’s a quick meal idea and do you use coupons to save money? Do you have a mechanic you trust? Or an electrician you’d recommend?  *Humans* want to know the best place to grab a bite before a movie or where you go to church. The most mundane and ordinary tasks of life are what connect us. We are so busy focusing on how people love one another in the privacy of their home that we forgot how to love people because they like coffee, or bike rides or trips to the beach.

Sexual preference does not change the basic human need for food, water, shelter or a good accountant. Everyone needs companionship, good advice and a good dentist. What I’m saying is that when you set aside who people want to lie beside on a picnic blanket, you discover that everyone wants answers to basic questions. Like where to board their dogs when they go on vacation, how to get a wine stain out of carpet, the best books on child-rearing or a good suggestion on what to binge on Netflix. Humans are humans.

It’s not about acceptance or tolerance because honestly, who’s really tolerating who? If someone’s life has a shred of difference from what’s considered the norm, they must develop deep patience and tolerance for the rest of us ignorant to their lifestyle. Jesus meets people where they are - no road is too bumpy, too far away or in a bad part of town. And one more take away - you can’t use the excuse, I don’t know anyone like “that” because I’ve never been around them - Yes you have.  They’re at Publix.  At your favorite restaurant. And they’re sitting beside you in the car repair waiting area. They’re in line at the post office.  People who say they’ve never met a gay, bi or trans person who identifies as Christian is fooling themselves into a padded up sense of security. You don’t know what you won’t acknowledge. Jesus loves everyone. We need to love everyone. It’s not about AGREEING.  It’s about LOVING people and finding common ground. Focus on the human standing in front of you housing a red, beating heart.  They may only want to know where to get a good deal on a hot water heater or a give you a great recipe for pot roast.

It’s a human connection, not a homosexual one.