What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage?
The question caught me off-guard. It’s a question I’ve done a pretty good job of avoiding, honestly, over the last number of years. I remember engaging in conversation only once on this subject, years ago, with a friend to whom the question was personal. I stumbled my way through some thoughts that I’m sure left her feeling confused and me feeling crumby. True to form, in an effort to avoid a debate I did the most non-confrontational thing I could think of, answer without really answering. Excellent, I know. Confession: I struggle with anxiety. I try to avoid disputes not just because it’s uncomfortable to disagree with someone, but because my stomach gets all in knots and I get diarrhea. I avoid confrontation so I don’t get physically ill. Gross, but true.
I stared at the computer screen for a couple minutes, started to type an answer, erased it, tried again, deleted it again and then… four words.
[SPOILER ALERT] “I’m not for it.”
I recognize that mine isn’t a popular opinion to go public about, especially not in my own family – a large group of intelligent individuals who are much better debaters than I am, often smarter and faster on their toes with a passionate answer. I’m more of a sit by the computer and map-all my thoughts out kind of person. I’m seriously not interested in a debate, to gain cheerleaders or raise the ire of an angry mob.
So why this post?
I’ve been thinking deeply the last few days about my hesitation to engage in this conversation over the years and think I’ve landed on an honest conclusion. I’m posting this because I’m uncomfortable with the assumptions people may have about me because of some of the titles that describe me: Christian, Pastor’s wife, Conservative, Evangelical, Pentecostal etc… (sometimes read as: Old fashioned, brain-washed, closed-minded, intolerant, hateful, homophobic etc..) Thinking that people who have known me for years may think these things of me because of my faith is very upsetting. I’m hoping that sharing these thoughts may help us to view each other with a little more compassion and grace, whatever your stance may be.
Anytime the subject of same-sex marriage arises, it seems as though we are all quick to shove each other into one of two camps. One is seen as accepting, loving, and tolerant, and the other as hateful and homophobic. Therefore if you want to be seen as a kind and loving person, you can really only have only one option. I’m less concerned with the popularity of my stance than I am with being forced to stand in one of these two camps.
Is it possible to step away from these battle-lines? Are kindness, love, respect and compassion possible even in the face of such an important disagreement?
I’d like to introduce you to some beautiful individuals I’ve had the joy of sharing life with over the years.
Meet Martha*, a friend from my Dawson City YT days; a proud lesbian and a talented singer songwriter taking some much-needed time away from her uber-conservative Christian parents. I consider it an immense privilege that I was able to share living accommodations, employer, and friendship with her that summer. When she first discovered that four of her new housemates were Christians, she left the house upset, and didn’t return for three days. When she finally appeared she courageously set aside her preconceived notions about what being a Christian meant, and decided to give us a chance. I’m so thankful she did. We had an intense and honest conversation. She shared what she believed with us, thanked us for listening and told us she would be happy to hear us out too. We told her that probably anything we had to say she had heard before and we really just wanted to be her friends. She got choked up and left the house again, but came back within a few hours this time. The rest of the summer we hung out a lot, often the two of us sitting in the little communal kitchen, guitars in hand, strumming and singing taking turns improvising song lyrics about the cave man across the river. Her talent inspired me; her honesty gutted me. We approached life with different worldviews and were able to navigate a wonderful friendship in the midst of it. I’m a better person for knowing her.
Meet Annie*, a former colleague of my husband’s before his pastor-ing days: fun and artistic, a painter, a wonderful momma to three and an unashamed lesbian. We weren’t shy about sharing about our faith, she wasn’t shy about sharing her views on life, which we often did over delicious food and chocolate. Our conversations touched on faith, food, parenting, sexuality, her artistic pursuits, etc…she not been out of the country when Sophie was due, we would have asked her to be our doula. Although we’ve lost touch, I’m so thankful for those conversations and the chance we had to be friends.
Meet Carol* an energetic, joyful schoolteacher I met in our running group. We’d run together a few times a week and as we huffed and puffed all over Guelph she shared with me about her struggle with fertility treatments.
Meet Matthew*, a University friend of mine who was debating ‘coming out’ publicly; he lived in my residence on the same floor. We had a night class together so once a week he would wait to walk me to class and always accompanied me after class in the dark so I’d feel safe. I’m so thankful for his kindness.
Meet Jasmine* and Ashley*: two women from my university days, who were dating when I first met them but who are married now. One of my first hangouts with them was shortly after the unexpected death of friend. They came with a pile of other young women, way too many for my small basement apartment, so we could all grieve together. That night there were more than 15 of us on our knees singing worship songs, crying out to Jesus for her family and weeping together over the tragic loss of our friend. What a beautiful and powerful moment. We were able to experience something so important together, grieve together, and comfort each other despite our world-view differences: a difficult but beautiful evening. I’m thankful for that memory.
So, no, I’m not for gay marriage, but I’ve found in my own life it has been possible for me to carve out deep meaningful relationships with a foundation of mutual care and respect with a number of beautiful individuals who happen to be homosexual in spite of a difference of opinion.
So, I’m going to remain a comfortable distance from either camp. I don’t care for a fight. I’ll probably never march in a Pride parade, and I will DEFINITELY never hold up a sign in a turn-or-burn campaign focused on homosexuality. But I promise to be a safe person to disagree with. I promise to not let a difference of opinion determine whether or not someone in my life is treated with kindness, friendship, love and respect. Can this not be considered a beautiful place to stand as well?
* All names have been changed to respect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.