Or more specifically, Christian Love.
Or, more fairly, Christian Love as interpreted by a select few.
Over the past couple months I have had a good chunk of conversations about hot-button issues, namely same-sex marriage and trans issues with some of my Christian friends and family. And I have noticed an interesting pattern in the responses from individuals arguing against same-sex marriage or the rights of transgendered individuals.
Its not hate, they insist. Its love. Love is what is motivating them to oppose the civil rights of the above mentioned individuals.
Now here is where I have to take a leap and do some guessing. If I had to guess, I think the argument is that they love these people too much to support them in their “sins”. That they want to ensure these people will not be damned to an eternity in fiery Hell and thus must change their ways in order to experience salvation. I think. That’s my guess.
I know that God.
That’s the God who prompted my church camp counselor to scold me publicly for “tempting” a male during worship. My crime was being present during worship, my appearance causing him to be distracted from God. When I finally found out who the young man was, I had never previously noticed him. I didn’t know his name. I felt quite certain I had never made eye contact with him. But my presence and appearance was so tempting that God was angry with me. God prompted the counselors to call an emergency meeting to discuss female bodies where we were informed that God would only tell us “well done, good and faithful servant” if we covered any part of ourselves that may tempt a male member. In my case it was my arms. My seductive biceps and forearms.
That’s the God who would have scolded me for my first marriage falling apart. Maybe if I had more faith my husband would have wanted children. Maybe if I would have been a more submissive wife I could have saved us from failure.
That’s the God who would send some of the kindest, gentlest, most loving and humanitarian people I know to an eternity in Hell because they had not said a little prayer and raised their eyes at the preacher during service and declared themselves “saved”.
That’s the God who inspired one of the most disturbing sermons I’ve ever seen by a local Pastor where he systematically presented “evidence” of why homosexuality is wrong including a single study from the 80s of gay male life expectancy, anecdotal “evidence” from his one ex-lesbian “friend” that “95%” of gay people have been sexually abused as children, and ending with the insinuation that a gay male ex-co-worker who had passed away missed his chance at heaven because he (the Pastor) never got a chance to “save him” from his sins.
That’s the God who strikes fear in the hearts of His followers. Yes, he “loves” you. But if you don’t obey him, he will be forced to send you to the depths of Hell for eternity. Yes, he “loves” you, but if you aren’t the way he prefers, you are going to have to change.
Except I don’t think that’s love. Not at all.
And I don’t believe that’s really what God is like. Not at all.
And I think that claiming you “love” someone, and then denying them basic civil rights, and cheering on public figures who call such people “sick”, “disgusting”, and “delusional”, well, I think I want absolutely no part of that kind of love. I think I have never seen a clearer flashing neon sign of “THIS IS NOT LOVE” than that kind of behavior. I never want to be associated with that kind of love. If that’s the kind of love that gets you into heaven, I think I will pass.
My beliefs aren’t conventional anymore. They can’t be defined by an ancient book. I don’t feel bound by the stories men (as in humans. As in normal, flesh and blood human men) wrote many many years ago as The One And Only Truth. I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in a literal Heaven and Hell. But really, I don’t know. And I’m ok with that. I know I don’t have all the answers. If you think you do and it brings you peace and helps you to be a loving person – I applaud that. If it causes you to claim “love” while infringing upon the rights of others, I am significantly less supportive. I definitely think there is some higher power, but I don’t know what to call it. There is too much baggage with God or Allah or Yahweh or other culturally charged names. Maybe its science. Maybe the universe. Maybe I’ll call it Melissa. I don’t know. I pray. I meditate. I’m like a mixed bag of spirituality. And I kind of love it that way.
I know better than to believe that I am going to change anyone’s mind when it comes to the topic of religion. The best I can hope for is the minuscule chance that someone might open themselves up to education (the real kind, like the peer reviewed kind by people with actual medical or doctoral degrees in things like Psychology or Medicine or Psychiatry). At the core of these beliefs I believe is a gross miseducation or lack of education. If all you know is what you were taught at church, no wonder you would believe such things are scary and bad. If you studied molecular biology or business or English or mathematics, you probably didn’t receive a strong dose of Human Sexuality in your studies. Different can be so scary. This is coming from the Queen of Wanting To Control and Know Everything. I get it. But its not an excuse. Not when we have the ability to educate ourselves. Not when the internet has opened up a world of YouTube talks from famous scholars and researchers, where the CDC has a fact sheet on LQBT issues, where peer reviewed journal articles are only a click away.
I hold out hope that maybe these people would meet and get to know a real-life same-sex couple or trans individual. Because I can tell you, I have had plenty of contact with white, straight, conservative Christians. I have a feeling they have plenty of experience with each other. Maybe its time to broaden our perspectives a bit. I hold out hope that maybe their hearts would get, as Glennon Doyle Melton writes “a little squirmy. Squirmy is how you feel when your open heart starts to get a little bigger without your expressed permission.” That maybe they would see real human people with hearts and blood and insecurities and senses of humor and struggles identical to their own and would start to THINK and WONDER and ASK QUESTIONS about how their God could want to punish them for who they fundamentally are. For who they love. For the gender they identify with.
To me, the holy kind of love is the kind that sparks your heart up. The kind where you realize WE ARE ALL THE EXACT SAME. Every damn one of us. The good ones and the bad ones and the medium ones and the confused ones and the mean ones and the kind ones – we all are more the same than we are different. Have you taken a peek at Humans of New York? Do we need any further proof that we are all the same than that little piece of holy magic?
Jeff Buckley sings
“Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you”
The holy kind of love that I want to believe in, that I want my energy behind is the love that says I love you messy and I love you at your best. I love you when you are struggling and when you have it all figured out. I just love you.