Speaking up

I care far too much of what people think of me, and perhaps this post is one of the first public manifestations of a long string of minor subterranean adjustments. That finally I am willing to bare my soul on this subject, knowing full well that people will read this and will disagree, and may feel compelled to tell me in no uncertain terms.

To that, I say I hate arguing. I refuse to engage in a passive aggressive Facebook-comment-esque fight over politics and ideologies. But I do want you to think. To extend a possibility that some of you might not have considered.

I only ask that you make no quick judgments as you read this. Not for my sake, but for yours, and for the sakes of the marginalized. For this whole battle of technicalities we are engaged in, which is pulling us further and further from the real focus.

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Society is changing. Some aspects for the worse, and some for the better.

I personally consider the feminist and LGBTQ movements to be among the better.

Why?

Because, man or woman, straight or otherwise, we are people. Human beings. As a culture, we are moving to find and embrace whatever we are, whoever we are. To get to know ourselves and assert our value despite being misunderstood. We do not fit in a preconceived box or align well with dominant culture. And that is valid. We are valid. Because God says we are.

Believing it for ourselves is harder, though, and that is why I think the major social movements of our era are so incredibly important.

Because God cannot be contained in a box. Should not His people also transcend boxes?

But we are warned about being like the world. Left to our own devices, humans tend toward destructive behavior and we must not compromise ourselves and blend in too much with the dominant culture. But, to some degree, sanitized, Christian, evangelical culture has become like a secondary dominant culture.

And the dominant cultures are still unaccepting of marginalized groups (which isn’t a new phenomenon). We still tend toward forming sanitized, gated communities and wondering why the outliers are so averse to that. We get so stuck in our ways of thinking and doing things that we get too comfortable and stick to what we know, to the detriment of those our systems don’t take into account.

But where is the line between compromising our moral standards and being even remotely relatable to real people? How much is our in-group mindset and how much of the alternative are we better off embracing?

Isn’t lifting people’s spirits good? Isn’t convincing them they matter good? Isn’t it good to fight against cultural and racial and ideological barriers that tell people they should be who they clearly are not, and whose persistent denial is serving no productive purpose?

That is not to say we are to baby people and only tell them what they want to hear. Because that isn’t loving. That’s lame and patronizing, and counterproductive. I’m not saying we should avoid setting people straight when necessary. But we must really think hard about what we’re trying to set straight and decide before we hurt someone whether it is something that really needs to be fixed.

“What feels right” is a term scorned by the conservative, evangelical community I grew up in. But there’s a lot of truth in it. “What feels right” is a valid starting place. Follow your heart, your head. But follow God. He’ll work with you in the spots He’s not cool with.

Learn, grow, keep an open mind. Dare to be wrong for a little while in search for what’s really true. Because I know for a fact that God is very much not cool with stagnancy and marginalization.

But am I getting desensitized? Desensitized to the blatant depravity of the world and its devices? Buying a lie? Slipping to the dark side?

The Holy Spirit lives in me. God guides me, and watches out for me. And right now, I see our sticking to our guns—our conservative, men and women have their places, gays will tear the world apart mentalities—as doing so much more harm than good. It is divisive, and smells too much of “I know your place. Here, let me put you in it.”

The territory’s uncertain, so of course we’d be apprehensive, but we’ve come a long way as a species. And maybe the world will come to ruin. In fact, unless drastic intervention takes place, I believe it will.

Because I see the signs everywhere:

Violence, dehumanization, objectification, and abuse.

No desire to understand, no empathy, no selflessness. No care, no time,

Addiction, destructive sexual habits, destructive relationships.

Unspeakable things done to other human beings out of greed.

Ignorance, arrogance, spite, entitlement, exploitation of the defenseless.

I don’t see self-acceptance, validation, empowerment, protection, or equality fitting into that list.

Anywhere.

If anything, the very social movements I see pushback against are in part solutions to the problem—persistent humanization and validation of people as people, and support as they search, as we all are, for our identity.

In my ignorance, I once invalidated the very people I now defend. And I regret it. I pray that I never do that again. That I never be the person to tell someone their feelings and experiences are invalid.

I pray that I will be open-minded, patient, flexible, and brave. That I will be able to distinguish the key components of my moral compass at all times—that God’s business is God’s business, and love trumps absolutely everything.

I pray that we not become, or remain, “Pharisees,” freaking out about doctrine and technicalities so much that we miss the point and reduce people to mere problems. To poor, misguided souls.

I follow God. The wild, confusing, benevolent, persistent God.

I believe technicalities are not nearly as important as a person, and I will always do my best to keep my current biases and prior conceptions out of the way.

I believe the push for gender equality is so incredibly necessary. For the sake of everybody, not just women.

I believe the LGBTQ community needs to be welcomed, respected, and embraced. They are not a threat to the world order, or to the human race. In fact, we could learn so many things from them about honesty, identity, courage, and self-acceptance.

I believe the American church has some wires disconnected, but that they are beginning to reconnect. I believe we can repair this ostracization.

I believe that men and women are different only in genetics—and the physicality and hormones that arise from that—but that the differences have no bearing whatsoever in their roles as human beings. Biologically male or female or in between, we can be whatever the heck we want to be.

I don’t doubt I have more to learn. I will have more to learn until the day I die and then some, but for now I don’t want to be right.

I want to be real. I want to be useful and nurturing and understanding.

Because maybe all those prayers that this generation would open up their eyes are working.

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I know for some this must be extremely uncomfortable to read. By now, you may be feeling an odd twisting inside your chest, a direct challenge to what you thought was cut-and-dry, a discomfort with the subject and a temptation to retreat and hold to what you’ve already figured out. I have felt it many many times along this journey. We just want things to be black and white, right and wrong—but there are far too many factors rendering such simplicity impossible.

So thank you for making it to the end of this piece. Even if you ultimately don’t agree with what I have said, I appreciate your time, attention, and your willingness to think about this.

Because in such a revolutionary time, there can be no complacency.

There can be no “us” vs. “them.”

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