Sunday, February 3, 2013

Ouch...It Still Hurts

I'm going to get really personal. I'm going to tell the story of my breakup with a good friend. It's a hurt I just haven't been able to really let go of, and I'm hoping maybe working through it in this way will help. I think this friend subconsciously represents fundamentalism in general to me. She's one of a few people that when they come to mind...I hate to say this, but I feel a sort of disgust. I know this is because I'm not relating to them as people, but instead as a belief system and mind set that I want nothing to do with; that I can honestly say I hate. But feeling disgust towards another person...well, it's really wrong. "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness." (James 3:9) I'm hoping that if I define the belief system I hate, I can view it as separate from the people I need to love. And so, here it goes.

I took a long time (a couple years) to tell my more conservative friends that my daughter was gay. I didn't decide to tell them so that I could convince them or even discuss with them my views on the matter...I completely understood that was pointless. But, if I was going to be around them, I needed them to know so they wouldn't talk about how wrong and sinful gays are in my presence. (Which they did more than I think any of them realized.) I told myself that as long as the subject didn't come up, then we would be just fine. I underestimated, though, the damage that had already been done in my heart. With one friend in particular, I wanted to get these hurts out in the open so that maybe they could heal. That's what I told myself, anyway. But if I'm really honest, I have to confess I didn't expect there to be any healing. If I really thought the friendship could be saved, I would have spoken to her directly. Instead, I sent an email. Here it is:

Dang, I've been sitting here for the last 10 minutes just trying to figure out how to start this. I'm sure it's no surprise to you I've been avoiding you. I've been telling myself I'm not responsible to try and mend the friendship, because your not trying either.  But I'm the one with the bitter heart, and so I'm the one who needs to confess.
It started when you told me your son had refused to play at a church, and you were proud of him because he was upholding his values.  I figured it was because the church accepted homosexuals...and it hurt.  I know you see those churches (and myself) as not taking the Bible seriously...and that hurts too.  Just because people don't agree on what the Bible is teaching doesn't mean they don't take it seriously.
Then, I saw a Facebook post where you said you were disappointed in the Washington legislators.  I knew that was also about the gay issue, and sure enough someone posted "Romans 1", and then another "the ungodliness".  That just pushed me over the edge...I still get angry when I think about it.  I honestly wanted to tell all your "godly" homeschool friends where they could shove it.  I almost posted this link to your wall, but thought better of it. (I gave a link to my "here comes the hammer" post, that deals with Romans 1. It's in Sept. 2011 if you want to read it, but I can guarantee you that she didn't)
I'm sorry I've held onto this for so long, but I knew it was nothing you could apologize for--so what was the point?  But, it seems the point is me not being a big fat phony, and pretending I'm OK.  I'm not...and I know you think I should be able to just accept your views and not be offended by them, but that is a lot easier said than done .  I do love you, and I regret that our friendship could not survive this controversy...I will always hope and pray that maybe someday things will change.  

Her response didn't shock me -- it was just what I expected. It was a very detailed explanation for why I was wrong to feel the way I was feeling; and who knows, maybe I was. But the part that really bothered me -- the part that I knew was true but didn't want to know was true -- was her beliefs about hell. 

This friend was one of only two people who would dare to read the book "Hope Beyond Hell" at my urging. (Well, she said she read it. There is a good possibility she read very little of it.) The book explains very clearly that the word 'eternal' is mistranslated in many places in the Bible, and most importantly in the scriptures that reference judgement. It gives a very good argument that God's discipline could never go on forever, because that would be pointless. (Unless your point was to torture someone without end.) So, here is my friend's defense for why it's wrong for me to be "unconditionally accepting"of my daughter's unrepentant sin:

My guess is that you feel conflict over how God can be what you were taught about Him and yet still be a loving God.  I believe that hell is real and that discipline does not make Him an unloving God; not exactly sure where you are on all of these beliefs, but just stating where I am coming from. God clearly defines sin and how he will deal with it; and absolute truth and holiness do exist.  Therefore right and wrong and morality clearly exist.  We just can't make up morality relative to what seems right to us.  In reality, true love separates.  It has boundaries.  It hurts and it heals and when we step outside of His perfect plan for our lives we do not feel peacefulness in our lives and this is one of his ways of bringing us back to a right relationship with the Father.   I also believe that Jesus is God's son and that He came and surrendered Himself as payment for our sins.  I believe that if we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins and follow him, that He will cleanse us and be our advocate before God and redeem us to Holiness and eternal life.    I believe that if we live in any type of unrepentant sin and try to find ways to justify that sin (by being unconditionally accepting), it doesn't change the absolute definition of it as sin.  I have to always be praying for myself and my family as we grapple with our own areas of sin. It is always evident that we are not pleasing Him when we are feeling the void of His peace and blessings in our lives. Thankful for much grace and guidance and remembering that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  

I want to point out some things here. First, did I ever say discipline makes God unloving? I said discipline that HAS NO END is unloving. She says God clearly defines sin and how He will deal with it. So, she's saying God said clearly, "No same sex relations" (along with not eating pork...just saying) and if you do, He's going to deal with it!! How does God deal with sin? By rejecting you forever, of course!... UNLESS you are "in Christ". If you're "in Christ" then God deals with your sin with grace and forgiveness. If you're not "in Christ" then he deals with your sin with eternal hell. That is her belief about God. Here she makes that even clearer:

I am concerned that you have allowed teachings of people who have adapted their definitions of truth to their ideals to filter into your belief system because it is more soothing for you. I understand your heart to protect you daughter and to understand her.  My understanding of the bible seems quite different from yours, but I hope you remember that I did spend a lot of time reading a lot of literature that you asked  me to read and to have an open mind toward it. I found it interesting and challenging.  The spirit of God did not lead me to accepting those writings, especially when taken in the context of the totality of scripture.   I do appreciate that you helped me to go through an exercise to seek the bible more and to gain deeper understanding about why I believe what I believe.  I just can't let go of my belief that God is exactly what the scripture says.  If I am wrong than I will meet your definition of God one day and he will love me unconditionally into heaven.  There is no risk for me.  If you are wrong, you may be jeopardizing a lot more and may be responsible for that outcome.  That is a heavy burden and a huge risk that I wouldn't take on the opinions of these people you are following.  Ultimately God will judge and we will both know the truth.  I am at complete peace with my belief and where I am. It is ok if we do not agree as each person must be completely convinced that they stand on a rock.

And so, because she believes the right things, she is safe. I am not safe, because I'm not believing the right things. (Because I listened to "those people," who I might add are all Christians...just not the right kind of Christians, who follow the right rules and believe the right things.) That is the rock that all fundamentalists stand on. How can that not cause me to feel disgust?

I don't know if this exercise has helped...I feel just as troubled as the first day I read her response. But it does help to think maybe someone will read this and think, "Do I really think God can only accept those who believe the correct things?" In the meantime, I pray God will use all this turmoil to show me what it means to be "in Christ" -- because I believe with all my heart he loves my daughter unconditionally and always will.