I was hoping to post this right after I finished school (about two-and-a-half weeks ago), but my thoughts have been so disjointed, I just couldn’t get anything up to publication standards–impressive, since the standards aren’t particularly high to begin with. Ergo, an segmented post of all the stuff that’s been running through my mind. One day, I hope to do each item on the list justice with its own post, but for now, I haven’t got the patience nor the time for that, as I’m trying desperately to stick to my self-imposed at-least-one-post-a-month quota.
I (finally) finished my freshman year at university and am so thankful to be home. The past two-and-a-half weeks have literally been some of the best weeks of the past year. I’m trying so hard to enjoy my time in college and not rush through it, but it’s hard because so often I don’t enjoy where I am. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life right now: I’m content, but not happy. I love being able to dedicate my life to learning (the not necessarily the system of learning: high school sometimes felt like a rat race, but the university system–and the subsequent medical/graduate school admissions process–sometimes seems like a crap shoot). I love my job. I love coming home.
So why am I not happy? I suppose I’m increasingly disillusioned with my peers. (Do I sound like a hippie yet?) For some reason, it seems that the majority of people at my university are narcissistic, superficial, entitled, egotistical rich kids. Now time for the disclaimers: 1) I know not everyone is like this, duh 2) I know I’m probably one of “them” in a lot of ways 3) I know I thought some of the same things about my K-12 school while I was in it, but eventually started changing my mind as I got to know people better, as well as the fact that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I was warned that the university I am attending has a lot of Ivy League/Ivy peer (e.g., Stanford and Duke as well as D3 schools like Hopkins and MIT) runoff: kids who are smart enough and rich enough and talented enough to go to an Ivy, but for whatever reason–demographic quotas, one bad class that “bombed” a GPA from 4.0 to 3.99, an admissions officer being in a foul mood because his or her car battery died the morning they read that kid’s essay–didn’t make the cut. And so, I think a lot of kids seem to feel the need to promote themselves even more than is warranted for their admittedly high levels of intellect. One unfortunate result of this is that students tend to look down on their peers who attend “lesser” colleges. Another is that they (myself included) often forget what a privilege it is to attend college, especially an (expensive) private university. Sure, all the homework can be a chore. The tests and curves and grades can be frustrating. Trying to get where you want to go in life (namely, medical school) is a stressful, competitive, and cutthroat where every last thing you do in your four years at college matter. But college. People don’t realize what a blessing it is. I know this clip is an advertisement; let’s be real–it’s commercialized propaganda. But it has a valid point, a point that I think a lot of students at the university I attend need to consider more frequently.
Yesterday in church, the pastor spoke about the relationship between husbands, wives, their children, and most importantly, Christ. (See Ephesians 5:21-6:4). His explanation was honestly the most nuanced, carefully crafted argument I’ve heard on the subject, and this is coming from someone who has been raised in the church. I don’t even want to attempt to paraphrase what he said, because really, you can’t justly paraphrase a 52 minute sermon in a few sentences. Thus, I present to you a lovely link to the sermon in its entirety (video or audio-only, in-browser or for download).
What I was wondering is how this corresponds with the fact that many Christians accept this view (or something similar to this view) of husband/wife//male/female relationships, and yet also accept women in leadership roles within the church. Note that I’m not arguing against any of these things; I’m truly just curious. If we can’t throw out Paul’s description of distinctly gender-specific husband/wife relationships as archaic/culture-based/misogynistic, as so many are apt to do (even if they won’t admit it openly), then how can we throw out Paul’s clearly gender specific instruction to elders and deacons of the church? (If you’re losing me here…go listen to the sermon.) Of course, the matter of homosexuality is a whole other matter, but assuming the somewhat stereotypical “evangelical” (sorry for the loaded term) position of opposition to homosexuality, my point about women in church leadership roles still stands. I recognize that many evangelical churches also oppose women in church leadership positions, which would stand in accord with the archetypal view of husband/wife relationships and of homosexuality, but for those that do permit women in leadership roles and yet hold the traditional view of marriage, I do not understand how this apparent double-standard is reconciled.
Homosexuality, conveniently enough, was the last thing I wanted to discuss briefly. Growing up in a conservative, evangelical environment, I was raised to think that homosexuality is a sin. I don’t know what I think now. I suppose you could blame the proverbial liberalizing nature of the university system, but honestly, I don’t think that it’s entirely to blame for my current state of questioning. You might note that I actually know more LGBTQ people from my relatively conservative Christian K-12 school (and from cross country…the percentage of gay men who run cross country is, anecdotally, higher than that in the general population) than at my relatively liberal university. (To be fair, I don’t know all that many people at college.) But as such, I don’t think we can say that going to college has been what has pushed me towards questioning what I, not what my family/friends/church/school (high school or college), believes about homosexuality.
One belief I am somewhat confident in is that the Christian community, no matter how right or wrong it is about the sinfulness of homosexuality, cannot impose its moral structures on the secular world. The Bible does not hold us nor call us to that standard. It is ridiculous to attempt to do so and is viewed as such; I believe that this is part of the reason the secular world has such a negative view of the church, of the evangelical church in particular. The secular world has its own values and morals; of course some of them are in accord with those of the Bible (e.g., murder and stealing are wrong), but to attempt to force, artificially and arbitrarily, non-Christians to live according to Biblical standards is a hopeless battle in so many instances. Gay marriage is one of those instances. The church should choose its battle wisely, and I’m not sure if this is a wise battle to fight. Men will continue to love men and women will continue to love women, regardless of their legal statuses. If the church thinks this is sin, it will still think it is sin whether it is legal or illegal. All we do by vehemently opposing gay marriage is antagonizing the secular world. Yes, Jesus said that He came to bring not “peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Yes, we should stand up for what we believe in. Yes, God condemned entire nations (in the Old Testament) for their immorality (Sodom and Gomorrah is probably the most often noted in this debate). Even if legalizing gay marriage should be something the church opposes (I don’t know if it is), I’m pretty sure that I don’t think that it should be the key issue the church focuses on. Marriage is the end result; homosexuality is the real issue at question. You can’t make homosexuality illegal.
As for those who focus on protecting the “sanctity” of marriage; I would ask, Is marriage really sacred anymore? Certain celebrities go through spouses like disposable napkins. Divorce rates hover somewhere around 50% (granted, those numbers are probably skewed upwards a bit by serial divorcees). Christians get divorced, mind you, even though many also consider that sin. Not that protecting marriage is a lost cause, or that the church shouldn’t discuss gay marriage’s role in the overall institution of marriage, but I’m not sure that gay marriage in particular is the worst thing allegedly assailing the institution of marriage right now. And as an aside, I personally think that civil unions do the exact opposite of protecting the sanctity of marriage. They’re basically a watered-down version of marriage: marriage in everything but name. How does that “protect marriage”?
I know the above reasoning makes it sound like I should at least vaguely support gay marriage, and maybe I do. But before we draw any conclusions, we need to discuss homosexuality itself, which, as I mentioned before, is the root issue in this debate. Do I think homosexuality is a sin? Guess what? I don’t know. I do know that that statement makes absolutely nobody happy: a little more than half the country wants me to shout, No, it’s not a sin; a little less than half the country wants me to scream, Yes, of course it’s a sin. Sorry guys. I can think of good arguments both ways.
From a Biblical perspective, is it fair to throw out the passages in the Bible (particularly those in the New Testament) condemning homosexuality as a sin? As I wrote above, is it safe to disregard these passages while affirming those regarding the relationships of husbands/wives? What about women in church leadership roles? Many churches do disregard those as culturally charged. So why can’t we do the same for those regarding homosexuality?
On the other hand, for all the evidence that proves that little kids can have homosexual tendencies and/or that people who are homosexual are born that way, I don’t doubt you. I don’t happen to be particularly LGBTQ, so I can’t fairly deny or affirm the experiences of those who are. I’ve seen convincing evidence, however, that very young children can indeed demonstrate such characteristics: proof that homosexuality, indeed, is not a choice, but a predetermined state of sorts. (Read that last clause again: that’s probably the only thing in this entire section which I can declare with anything near certainty). But drawing from this the conclusion that homosexuality is not a sin is a step beyond my (current) comfort level: fom a strictly Biblical perspective, after all, humans are born with a sinful nature. Yes, even that cute little baby, still attached by its umbilical cord: it suffers the curse of total depravity. Don’t believe me? Have you ever watched babies fight with each other? If you haven’t, stop by a nursery sometime, and observe.
What do I conclude from this? I think I vaguely support gay marriage. I am extremely unclear about what I believe about homosexuality itself. Sorry to trouble you with my ramblings, but I just wanted to put my thoughts out there. Ya’ll can have a comment war if you wish, but I probably won’t respond. I’ve read enough angsty threads on reddit/CNN/Facebook/everywhere on the internet to know not to get involved 🙂