[As with all blog entries, the views expressed below are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Safety Net as a whole or its affiliated groups. ]
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed [that person];
if [that person] is thirsty, give [that person] something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on [that person’s] head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21, NIV)
Last week was very difficult for LGBTQ & Allied Christians, particularly for those of us with deep roots in Evangelicalism, as Evangelical leaders successfully pressured World Vision to drop a new HR clause that permitted the employment of individuals in same sex marriages (one should note that they never budged on hiring trans* persons). As others, including Safety Net board members H. Adam Ackley, Jeffrey Hoffman, and A.J. Mendoza, have discussed, the choice by over 2000 Evangelicals to drop their support for the children they were sponsoring sent the LGBTQ communities the message “we would rather a child charged to our care starve than work alongside you to address poverty” or perhaps worse “we would rather our child starve than allow you to feed her brother.” Whether or not you are invested in World Vision’s HR policies, it is hard to argue that this attempt to use impoverished children as pawns in a cultural war is morally defensible.
I will leave discussion of the impact of this gambit on Evangelicalism, World Vision, the LGBTQ communities, and the children caught in the crossfire to others (I highly commend the articles linked above). I would rather spend my energy writing about where we can go from here. In the face of such evil, it is easy to become overwhelmed. For many in the LGBTQ & Allied communities in particular, this comes as yet another slap in the face, and it is easy for us to find ourselves lost in the grief and confusion that comes from an ongoing pattern of rejection by those who have chosen to define themselves, at least in part, by their opposition to our lives and our very existence. By now, we can predict that we will experience this rejection again in our personal lives, in our social lives, in our communities, and in our nations. In order to keep ourselves healthy and moving forward with our lives, rather than caught in the unending pain of victimhood, we must learn to survive and rise above our wounds.
I believe the way out of this pain involves moving beyond our anger and into peacemaking. The twelve-step tradition once put this rather graphically, saying that “resentment is when you drink poison and wait for the other person to die.” Anger is meant to catalyze us for action not to become our daily bread. The question for us is: can our actions in our anger promote healing and hope, or do they just wound us and those around us? The section of Romans I quoted above offers us a way to move beyond our anger into work that transforms our enemies into human beings who share with us, and the children they were ready to abandon, the same human needs for food and water, for love and for hope.
It is incredibly difficult to find the humanity in actions as extreme as the threats of certain Evangelicals to cut aid through World Vision. Over the past twenty-four hours, I have spoken with friends and colleagues trying to understand the perspective of those who made this decision. Ultimately, I have not yet found that understanding, and I may never be able to understand the perspective that could allow for such an extreme move. In considering this today, I wonder if I have been looking in the wrong direction as I try to make sense of the senseless. Perhaps this was simply another human instance in which passion overtook reason. As a human being with my own ego, flaws, and a knack for speaking before I think, I can empathize with those who say and do things that don’t make sense from an outsider’s perspective. From this perspective, I can offer forgiveness not by excusing those actions but rather by accepting that the events of this week are in the past and do not have to hinder my present and future ability to respond with compassion to those who have chosen to oppose my communities.
Along with offering forgiveness, I can continue in actions that bear the fruit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control into the world. I am inspired by a number of LGBTQ and Allied friends and colleagues who have reaffirmed their commitment to supporting their foster children through World Vision. In particular, I am mindful of a trans* friend with uncertain income who put himself out on a limb financially in supporting a child through World Vision in trying to help make up for the gap in lost sponsorships and who continues in this commitment despite the added emotional and financial burden that this week has placed on him.
Likewise, I find hope in LGBTQ Ally Kathy Baldock’s call for LGBTQ & Allied people to share meals, conversation, study, and life with those who are not yet able to affirm LGBTQ identities. While I am mindful that not all people are able to safely enter into these conversations due to their own unhealed wounds, or a difficulty in self-regulating to the point where they can hold conversation without a violent debate, I agree with Kathy that the hard work of building relationships is vitally important. As we break bread , and share life together, we come to see each other in our full humanity. It is hard to reduce one whom you know personally to an issue or political enemy.
In this spirit, we should also remember the power of living as an out, proud, loving, and faithful LGBTQ person. Every time we contribute to the health, beauty, wholeness, and peace of our communities, our workplaces, our families, our states, and our nations we disconfirm the stereotypes that paint us as an inhumane other. As more and more people are able to truly know us as valuable contributors to their lives, it becomes harder for them to devalue us in their politics.
Today, I commit to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which I have been called – to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God.