I had an hour-long discussion online with one of my college friends the other night.
It was an amazing exchange. I think I cried the entire time.
Maybe my friend did, too.
You see, I am a fundamentalist Christian. A Baptist. I believe God inspired every word of the Bible, in its original languages, and that God never changes.
My friend Scott, while having been married to a woman in a relationship that produced four children, now identifies as a gay man and is in a gay marriage up in Canada.
Our conversation, carried out in public on his Facebook page, concerned the issue of states trying to pass laws to protect business owners from being compelled to serve as photographers, florists, or bakers for gay weddings.
We differed on that issue. However, the amazing aspect of our conversation that I haven’t seen in any other exchange thus far is that we both understood the viewpoint of the other and could explain it, while disagreeing with it.
That, and the fact that we held our entire exchange with the respect due between old friends, never once slipping into snarkiness to score a cheap shot, as such public conversations always seem to do eventually.
Scott was once a pastor. He can explain many of my theological points just as well as I can. He just has different beliefs now.
And while I could explain that Christians cannot be separated into parts so that they can leave their beliefs about gay marriage at church and live out another reality during the week, I also could totally understand that Scott cannot be separated into parts either.
He perceives that a company refusing to photograph his wedding earlier this year would have been exercising discrimination against a relationship that he regards as just as legitimate as a heterosexual marriage. Even if it were my company and he could understand intellectually why I hesitated to photograph his ceremony, the refusal would still hurt him.
In fact, when he saw my original post about photographers who only wish to shoot heterosexual marriages, it distressed him so much that he was distracted at work for the rest of the day.
And that made me sad at such an elemental level that I not only cried as we communicated, but I felt as though I were going to throw up. I would not hurt a beloved friend like that for any amount of money.
Only I did.
We went through a lot of theological scenarios. And I reiterated that, just as I cannot be divided into parts, and Scott cannot be divided into parts, so the Saviour and His Scriptures cannot be divided into parts. It would be so much easier if we could just do that, or if we could de-emphasize the parts of Scripture with which we have a hard time.
But such is the integrity with which man and woman have been created, modeled on the integrity of God Himself, that we cannot be divided. One part of us, whether sexuality or religious beliefs, can’t be given a lower priority than another part.
They all make up the essence of who we are. Therefore, it feels like a wrenching inside of us when someone else, even a beloved friend, would suggest that we can just leave an essential part of ourselves behind.
There are no easy answers here, folks. I know that Scott and I are both still works in progress. God never changes but we are undoubtedly not now the people we will be when we die.
In the meantime, however, I believe we are the very best kind of people to talk publicly about this issue because we love someone deeply who is on the opposite side of the issue.
I would say this discussion needs to be conducted with tears running down both faces. Until that happens, we are not truly listening, we are not truly understanding what that other person, also made in the image of God, is trying to convey.
There are no easy answers here. I understand that, by the mere suggestion that a gay friend would consider celibacy to honor God’s image in him, I have asked of him one of the hardest things to do and one that would be nigh on impossible for me as a married woman.
If I don’t see that, I could be guilty of the most obstinate hypocrisy—expecting others to obey God on a much more elemental level than I myself am willing to do.
What hard things am I willing to do to honor God? It is a fair question and one I hope gay people will feel free to ask of their fundamentalist friends.
May we long continue this conversation as a respectful and loving dialogue.
I love you, Scotto.