Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Helping the chicken get to the other side
I’m not eating at Chick-fil-A.
My decision isn’t rooted as much in the company’s decision to oppose gay marriage. I’ve decided to avoid all things in the fast food box. Every now and then I will backslide and pick up a few pieces of chicken from Mr. Bojangles or that dude from Kentucky, but I care too much for my health to pour that stuff into my body on a consistent basis.
So, I’m not participating in the chicken war. I understand those on both sides of the battle. Those on one side want to protect Chick-fil-A from attacks from the LGBT community. Those on the other side of the fence are furious that the company funneled millions of dollars into fighting gay rights. The slugfest has gotten nasty after the CEO of Chick-fil-A warned that God is judging America because of gay marriage.
Over the past few years I’ve called for a cease fire. This battle is getting worse with each development, and I’m concerned that no one is capable of listening beyond their own position. Black pastors have gotten into the hate fest by forming a coalition to dispute President Obama’s support of gay marriage. Some have argued that Obama isn’t a real Christian or that he should have received approval for black clergy before affirming gay marriage.
Can someone say, that’s gangster?
As a minister, I find myself in a unique place. I represent a faith that compels people to love others devoid of conditions. I’m even challenged to love folks who hate and abuse me. I’m told to turn the other cheek when a person slaps me in the face. That’s a tough one to abide by when everyone seems to be throwing punches. Trust me when I say I’ve received my fair share of slaps and punches due to my support of the LGBT community.
I’m still a man of faith.
Views change over time. As much as we promote a truth that never changes, it has numerous times. The Bible has been used to endorse the enslavement of black people. It was also used to subjugate women by minimizing them as no more than the property of the men they were chosen to worship. The Bible has been used to legitimize the elimination of Native Americans and wars against anyone who is not Christian.
We wave our flag and sing “God bless America,” while invading countries where men, women and small children are killed. We claim it all as the will of God despite words that challenge us not to kill the innocent. A study of the history of faith will uncover a consistent pattern. All forms of sacred text have been used to validate the claims of those who hold power.
I remember my first battle with Biblical interpretation. In 1985, I was a young pastor in Columbia, Missouri. There was a controversy erupting in the Mt. Carmel Baptist Association. A number of women challenged the group’s exclusion of women ministers. The old guard stood firm against those promoting the legitimacy of women in ministry. Their weapon was the Bible. They claimed the Bible clearly states that God only selects men to preach the Gospel.
Although young, and, at the time, lacking theological training, I failed to see why God would exclude based on gender. I was able to read the Bible within an historical context with men dominating over women. I was unable to concede that God is male, and considers men better than women because of their gender.
My position caused a rift among the men holding the scripture as a weapon against women. Those who supported women were deemed incapable of reading the Bible in a way that reflected the true will of God. We were called liberal. We were told God’s judgment was upon us for failing to abide by the will of God. I simply didn’t understand. I still don’t understand.
My issues go deeper than the positions people take. It’s with how those who stand on the opposite side of those positions are discounted for refusing to follow the views of those on the other side. Is it necessary for us all to think the same? Is that what it means to be Christian? If so, there is a serious problem with the walk of faith. It offers no place to consider how we have failed to listen to the voice of God. Rather than hearing God, we are listening to the rule of tradition.
If not for those who spoke from the other side, black people would still be cursed due to the sin of Ham. Women would still be limited to sitting in the pews while wearing head covering. There would be no space in worship for the blind, the lame, the deaf, the mentally ill, those with skin conditions or those not born Jewish. We would be forbidden to eat shrimp, lobster and pork. The faith has changed from what was presented on page one in a book called Genesis.
There has to be space for a conversation regarding the need for ongoing change. Or, maybe we should challenge people intent of remaining faithful to the Word of God to take that more seriously than they have.
Tell me how that works for you after you discover how much you have failed to fulfill.
It’s more than chicken, but we need to talk about the chicken who tried to cross the street.
Maybe then we will get to the other side.