Living a Theology of Contrast Instead of Opposition

When it comes to gender and sexuality, we can live at peace with our faith without living in animosity to those who are different.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “positions” lately and what it even means to hold a position.

When people ask about my “position” on “homosexuality,” it’s rarely in the interest of broadening their own perspective, understanding my own, or (God forbid) adjusting their beliefs. Instead, it’s usually because they’re looking for a category (“I’m side a” or “side b” or “affirming” or “celibate”) that allows them to quickly box me away into one of two teams: the good guys or the bad guys.

But what if I don’t want to play for a team? What if I’m tired of the good guys and the bad guys?

I think part of the problem is that we’ve allowed ourselves to become unable to conceptualize a belief system different from our own that isn’t also antagonistic to our own. If it’s different, it must be a threat. 

As a result, “positions” become increasingly defined not by the personal convictions that permeate how we live and think and hope but by the battle stance we take in a never-ending war to protect ourselves from “them.” The discourse is not so much about growth and understanding as it is about winning and losing. And if that’s the case, then it makes perfect sense to sort people into the good guys and the bad guys. 

Now granted, good guys and bad guys really do exist. But a lot of times “good guys and bad guys” are just people who happen to see the world differently. And should difference of perspective really be the deciding factor in who becomes the enemy?

Working Towards a Humble Theology

It seems to me that we’ve lost the ability to believe what we believe with humility. Too often, we treat our own viewpoint as though we see through the eyes of Jesus Christ himself. So when people disagree, we act as if they differ not with us but with God. We might as well make ourselves out to be God. 

But the only person who knows how God views the world is God himself. There’s a reason we call our beliefs “beliefs” instead of “knowledge.” We don’t know. We engage the mysteries of life in faith, not certainty, and we trust that God’s grace will redeem our plentiful blindspots, because if it doesn’t, then all of us are doomed. 

Embracing a Theology of Contrast

So I guess I’m tired of living in a world where, “I’m right; you’re wrong,” determines the nature of discourse. What if I’m wrong, and you’re right? Or what if we’re both wrong? Or even more radical, what if we both have a piece of what’s right?

There’s a time and place for telling people they’re wrong, don’t mistake me. But there’s also a time and place for admitting that we could be wrong too. And quite frankly, I see far more of the former than I do of the latter in theological discussion.

My good friend Mary Sue Dauod put it to me this way: at some point we’ve gotta learn how to live in “contrast but not in opposition,” to borrow her language. We don’t always need to oppose perspectives that don’t fall in line with our own. Living at peace with our faith doesn’t require combat. We can choose to live in contrast instead of conflict.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and place for opposition. But there’s also a time and place for cooperation. And when it comes to gender and sexuality, I think it’s time we learned how to cooperate. We can live in diversity without living in animosity. We can do our best to be faithful to the witness of Scripture while, dare I say, affirming the best efforts of our siblings in Christ to also be faithful to the witness of Scripture. Their best is no better than ours. All of our works are like filthy rags.

Letting Go of Battle Positions When it Comes to Gender and Sexuality

So I guess I’m saying, at least when it comes to gender and sexuality if not for a great many other things too, that it’s time to put aside the “I’m right; you’re wrong” nature of discourse and pick up humility instead. Certain things are definitely worth fighting for, such as the ancient creeds of the Christian faith, but other things are worth adopting a posture of humility for. And I’ve become more and more convinced that gender and sexuality are among those things that require grace, not warfare. 

So here’s to living in contrast instead of conflict. Here’s to living at peace with our faith and not casting suspicion upon those who live differently. Here’s to becoming a conscientious objector to the battles we’ve been told to fight and honoring God’s grace as it falls upon all of us. I’m tired of insisting that I’m right. I’m ready to acknowledge that my best is no better than yours. 

Divorced and Celibate: Reflections from the Other Side of Marriage (Guest Post)

Christian attitudes toward divorce and remarriage have been largely redefined in the past century. Historically, Christians were never permitted to remarry with the church, even in the case of a lawful divorce, even if you were the innocent party. Divorced people were expected to remain celibate. More recently, however, many Protestant denominations have abandoned this position. Guest writer Darla Meeks is one person who swims against this current, having chosen celibacy following her divorce rather than getting remarried. 

I encourage you to read her reflections below with an open mind, regardless of where you stand on the topic of divorce and remarriage. There is much to learn from individuals like Darla who choose the path less traveled today.

Jesus' commands regarding divorce, marriage, remarriage, and celibacy are clear.

 

I am a divorced Christian woman. I’ve been divorced for 10 years now, after a 17-year marriage to an unbelieving, chronically unfaithful spouse. Now in my fifties, I have a life that doesn’t include a mate, and I have no children. My parents have passed on. My brothers live in other states. The same is true of my extended family. I don’t see any of them much, except during brief out-of-town visits. I keep in touch by phone, text and social media, but that’s about it.

I’ve had two relationships since my divorce. One of those men rejected me; the other, I rejected. I didn’t have sex with either of them while I was seeing them. In fact, I haven’t had sex in a very long time.

So, my life has little or nothing to do with the traditional, nuclear family.

What say you, Christian family? Am I a sad woman? Am I alone and lonely? Is my life over? Am I depressed and on the verge of suicide?

Even worse, am I a degenerate, profligate, back-sliding individual who has lost God’s greatest blessing (marriage & family) forever?

I say to you, no to all. In fact, by the very grace of God, I am happier than I have ever been as a celibate, single person. more “Divorced and Celibate: Reflections from the Other Side of Marriage (Guest Post)”

A Celibate Lesbian’s Cold Hard Look at Sexual Immorality in the Church

What I’m saying in this post regarding sexual desire is pretty simple, but it’s difficult for people to swallow. I’m saying that sexual fulfillment does not come through a sexual relationship but instead through sublimation to Christ. It’s astonishing to me that this needs to be said, but it does. Christians will accept the fulfillment of virtually every single other desire through satisfaction in Christ and Christ alone, but when it comes to sexual desire, they stop short. Suddenly, we’ve got to find satisfaction through something else. Sure, they say, fulfillment comes through Christ. But sexual fulfillment? That comes through a committed, monogamous, heterosexual marriage. If we ever hope to create an effective response to our culture’s rampant sexual indulgement, this absolutely needs to change.

Sexual immorality runs rampant in the church because it forces its gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer members to follow the traditional sexual ethic but no one else. A celibate lesbian's take.

LGBT+ people aren’t the only ones who need convincing about celibacy. And yet the conversational burden largely falls upon gay people in the church. Let’s face it. It’s easier to talk about what “they” need to do instead of what “I” need to do.

So let’s shift the conversation and talk about the collective Christian us. The church.

About 80 percent of evangelicals have premarital sex, and 1 out of every 3 born-again adults get divorced (which is the same statistical rate as unbelievers). Christian men of all stripes view pornography to the same degree as the outside world (in some cases even more), and roughly 60 percent of pastors use or have used pornography. We’ve become so calloused to the repercussions of sexual immorality, that even when a major evangelical leader admits to sexually assaulting a minor, his entire congregation gives him a thunderous round of applause.

The latent hypocrisy behind these statistics destroys the believability of Christianity. It burns a hole through the heart of whatever relationship the church pretends to pursue with the queer community. And it reinforces the idea that celibacy does nothing more than cover up a deep-seated homophobia in the church.

Like a foul-mouthed parent who expects their child to quit cussing, the church overlooks its own promiscuity while condemning its homosexual members for theirs. But it’s time for this to change. more “A Celibate Lesbian’s Cold Hard Look at Sexual Immorality in the Church”