There are some days that I am embarrassed to be a Christian. Yesterday was one of them.
I made a mistake yesterday—I logged on to Facebook. I’ve been trying to wean myself from the disastrous effects of the “social” media site, but it is an easy temptation to give in to when logging long hours on my online coursework. So, yesterday, I found my news feed exploding with the fireworks of people on both sides of the issue arguing and fussing, triumphant and assured over whether or not to eat pieces of fried chicken between white-bread buns.
And I melted.
Let me go ahead and be up front right now. I have gay and lesbian friends and family members. I have friends and family members who believe that people identifying as LGBTQ are living in sin and need to be restored to the order ordained by God. I have no interest in deciding the honest, empathetic, and serious conversation that needs to take place surrounding these questions. Just because I have access to the internet and free blog to advertise my opinions does not entitle me to broadcast those opinions with no thought to the consequences. This is a conversation that cannot take place where individuals are walled behind computer screens and hearts and minds guarded by firewalls.
But yesterday, I melted.
Now, I generally dislike strong political opinions. The world is complicated and more or less a complete mess. I find most political stances to be oversimplifications of this reality. I usually prefer not to speak up or out. I prefer to think, to weigh the options, to ask questions rather than to give answers. Then I got on Facebook yesterday.
And I melted.
To hear some Christians, eating fast food fried chicken is a defense of the basic American value of freedom of speech. Never mind that the freedom of speech is not the freedom from criticism. Never mind that the mayors of Boston and Chicago found themselves immediately chastised by the ACLU for their ill-thought statements. Never mind that the freedom of white Christians to speak has yet to be meaningfully restricted in any way in this country’s history. Never mind that eating fast food fried chicken is worse for those Christians than for the LGBTQ agenda.
To hear other Christians, that restaurant chain’s president spat forth vicious hate speech. Never mind that he was asked about the issue directly. Never mind that his organization has supported such causes and been reported on for years, has partnered with conservative Christian organizations for decades, and has always been closed on Sundays in accordance with its beliefs about Sabbath observance. Never mind that no one has yet to demonstrate discrimination or that the company has long worked to make the lives of its employees better through college scholarships and community support without seeking to draw attention to those initiatives.
Mostly what I saw yesterday was the worst of Christian triumphalism. People lined up—some literally, some metaphorically.
That is what makes me melt.
One of the things that I find most fascinating about the ministry of Jesus—one of those things that keeps me coming back to the gospels year after year—is the itinerancy of his ministry. He wasn’t the first healer or teacher to make the rounds. They were actually somewhat common (at least by today’s standards). But the tradition was that a miracle-worker would set up shop somewhere, expecting the people to come to him. The place itself would be imbued with the magical and the spiritual, becoming the seat of power.
But Jesus didn’t do that. Instead, he stayed moving—refusing to prop up any ideology but the deep love and compassion of God, refusing to let any place become holier than the people it served. It’s no accident that he is always in between one place or the other, in between one religious ideology or the other, in between one judgment of the other.
So when it comes to the two camps—eat fried chicken for freedom’s sake and boycott eating that fried chicken—I melt.
I am stuck in the abandoned spaces between their polarized flaming and trolling. I won’t stop telling people that I am a Christian, but I am tired of telling them that I am not with them.