a couple of conversations
this morning kellie told me that she would be returning from work later than usual because she has an appointment with galadriel* to get her eyebrows waxed. since galadriel is a trans-gendered person, i made some throwaway lament about her “leaving me for galadriel,” and thought that was that. but it wasn’t.
a couple of hours later, one of my co-workers, a Jew who married a Catholic and has a sister that is borderline fundamentalist Evangelical, dropped by my cube to talk about her sister’s friend who is a former methodist minister. the former qualifier was stamped upon this woman because she recently married a trans-gendered person. of course, the full story is more complicated than that. it almost always is. the reason the former methodist minister married the trans-gendered person is because she was widowed by her methodist minister husband who struggled mightily with chemical depression and ultimately decided to take the short road home. Apparently, a few years into her widowhood the former methodist minister found a nurturing relationship with this trans-gendered person – according to my co-worker they both have kids, love God and are a perfect match – and they decided to make their union official. my coworker unraveled this rather confounding narrative to me because she is distressed that the trans-gendered woman, who is married to the former methodist minister, is going to take her life because she feels almost completely alienated from society and the church. apparently the pastor of the methodist congregation that the couple attends recently barred the trans-gendered individual from receiving communion and my co-worker fears that rejection might become a tipping point. confused yet? i was.
after my co-worker finished telling this story i almost trotted the one thousandth variation on the “God loves them just the way they are, but too much to leave them there” soliloquy. my co-worker knows that i am some stripe of pastor, so i felt somewhat compelled to provide the evangelical position on this issue. but i didn’t.
instead, i sat back and thought about how proud i am of my wife, who knows how important it is to love and leave it to God to judge. i hail from a culture that often sets that equation up quite differently. back home, in the spit shined buckle of the Bible belt, it often seemed like our Christian duty was not to engage homosexuals, adulterers and addicts with the love of God, but to disengage from them, lest the merest hint of their sin stain our souls. as i reflect on my experiences in that place and culture that I dearly love, it seems that we often twisted paul’s admonition to “judge those in the church,” for those who sinned outside the church were usually the objects of our snide comments or malicious disengagement, while those who “stumbled” within the church were showered with unconditional love.**
where am I going with this? places i don’t yet understand and have doubts about my ability to find.
here’s what i can tell you, one of the greatest gifts that my wife, the sinners and saints community and the emergent conversation has bestowed upon me is the ability to love others and leave the judgment to God. does this mean that i am “soft on sin?” i don’t think so. i actually take the life-threatening consequences of my sin, the shortcomings of our community and the systemic sins that plague all institutions really seriously. does this mean that i’m a proponent of trans-gendered marriage or think that the methodist pastor’s decision was completely out of bounds? i’d have to answer both questions with a slightly qualified “no.” i think the marriage issue is a really tough one because it is a referendum not only on our morality but also upon our understanding of church and state. moreover, i am quite sure that the methodist minister has struggled mightily with his decision and is probably between a denominational rock and a personal hard place.
in sum, all i’m saying is this: Jesus said that he did not come for the healthy, but the sick, not for the righteous, but the unrighteous. moreover, Jesus never side-stepped the eventuality of judgment, but he led with love.
he led with love.
i think it’s best that i follow his lead and leave the judgment to Him. and i am so deeply grateful that i have a wife, a community and a conversation that is helping me to do just that.
*her name has been changed to protect her anonymity. but rest assured, the nom de plume does reflect her incredibly unique name.
**james ault summarizes this tendency quite well in his spirit and flesh: life in a fundamentalist baptist church. if you haven’t read this volume, you should.