Author: Rev. Greg Weeks, Pastor Manchester UMC, Missouri Annual Conference
Earlier this year, the writer of a Wesleyan Covenant Association blog counseled his readers to stay “rooted” and “grounded” in God’s Word when considering LGBTQ issues. I took that to mean that you were rooted and grounded when you understood the biblical restrictions on homosexuality in a literal manner. Truth is a clear, black-and-white thing.
There are several responses to such a literalistic understanding. However, one thing particularly bothered me.
It’s the assumption that a person can grasp the unqualified truth in the first place.
When you assume the role of sole arbiter of right and wrong, whether you’re progressive or traditional, you have forgotten who you are.
In reality, we are creatures totally incapable of a broad, objective, unbiased view of things.
Our genetics, from the beginning, greatly determine our outlook. For example, you’re born an extrovert or an introvert, patient or quick-tempered, feeling or fact-oriented. You will naturally see life a certain way, then not understand why others don’t see things as clearly as you.
Our environment will shape what we believe. Family, education and experiences all play a role. If you grew up on the red clay of Georgia, the odds are that your view of things will differ from that of someone slogging through the rainy season of Washington.
Our age governs our beliefs. What you believe at 15 will differ from your belief at 35, 60, or 90.
And let’s not forget our big brains. You are ruled by your subconscious, whose job is to keep you alive. It’s safer if you have clear-cut, right and wrong outlook on things. So, it will drive you to latch onto such a belief system, then deceive you into thinking that you’re right. It will also drive you to seek people whose brains have latched onto a similar belief system. Together, you can imagine you have a corner on the truth.
When you think you’re standing on that truth-corner, you’re not going to cross the street to meet someone who views things differently.
This is why, especially with the fever-pitch of social media, we can’t just get along. If you believe you are absolutely right, it is impossible to relate to someone who disagrees with you without judging them. In the case of the LGBTQ issues, it’s easy to assume that those who disagree with you are not just unrooted and ungrounded; they are misguided at best and non-Christian at worst.
None of us is capable of having the last word on God, the Bible and church. The louder some may preach, the more they may be masking the fear that they suspect this vulnerability and don’t want to admit it.
The corollary is that instead of drawing battle lines and catapulting flaming balls of doctrine at each other, we need to be erasing those lines and withdrawing the catapults. If we admit our limitations, then we’ll also admit our need for others to help us broaden our vision.
We ARE better together because it’s better to see through multiple sets of eyes, and hear the reflections and prayers of people with different voices. The more folks we welcome at the table, the better we’ll be able to recognize the One seated at the head.
Honesty and humility are two virtues sadly lacking in this bitter war raging within United Methodism. The more we seek them, the better our chances will be of moving forward, side by side.
We will have done our Christian duty when each of us, traditionalist and progressive, can say, “This is what I believe, but there could be more to the story!”
In the end, reading the Bible with that attitude may be the best way to be rooted and grounded.