Tyler Clementi, Doctrine, and InclusivityPosted by Anamchara Books on October 26, 2010
Ellyn Sanna is the Executive Editor at Anamchara Books.
Does what we believe matter? Yes, I think it does. Are there absolute rules of morality we must define and to which we need to commit ourselves? Again, I think there are. But will we disagree on what some of those rules are, for a whole host of reasons, including our varying faith traditions, our politics, our beliefs about Scripture, our cultural backgrounds? Without a doubt.
So where does that leave us when it comes to being inclusive? I grew up with the belief that the Bible (as interpreted by generations of Protestant conservative believers) is the absolute standard for human behavior. Tolerance of other viewpoints is condemned because it implies a permission to sin, and "inclusive" is seen as being against the biblical injunction to be set apart and pure. In an attempt to reconcile this perspective with Christ's command to love others, my faith background espouses: "Love the sinner but hate the sin."
Unfortunately, I don't think this works. Christianity is full of paradoxes, and the Gospel seems to constantly ask that we live in the tension between two contradictory statements -- but this attempt to reconcile purity with love fails. Instead, it leaves us pointing fingers. It accepts that we can define others' sin for them. And I think it encourages us to focus on the specks of dust in our brothers' and sisters' eyes (whether or not those specks even exist), while ignoring the two-by-fours in our own. Directly or indirectly, I believe it leads to prejudice, discrimination, and cruelty. And it isn't Christ-like.
The two young people who thought it was funny to invade Tyler Clementi's privacy may not be Christians. Whether they are or aren't doesn't get Christians off the hook. By encouraging a culture where homosexuality is considered sinful, abnormal, and dangerous, those of us who think of ourselves as followers of Christ have created an atmosphere where young people grow up believing that homosexuals are "them" rather than "us," "weird" rather than "normal," and "outsiders" rather than "insiders."
Forget whether you believe homosexuality is "right" or "wrong," a personal (and possibly sinful) choice or a biological fact of life. Those beliefs are your business. We live in a country where we're entitled to believe anything we want. And as people of faith, we are called to examine our own behaviors and determine what God is asking of us. What we're not entitled to -- either as Americans or as Christ's followers -- is to judge others so that we feel justified in drawing boundary lines that exclude certain groups of people.
If sin is what separates me from God, then I must search my own heart for wherever sin exists. Other people's sin, whether it exists or not, is really none of my business. To make assumptions about the state of another person's soul is a little bit like thinking you have the right to video tape his private moments.
Christ asks us to love others, no matter what. To accept them, to welcome them, to include them. To recognize that we are all one in God's eyes, that we are all beloved.
And to do our absolute best to make sure that another young person like Tyler Clementi doesn't feel so alone and ashamed that suicide seems his only option.
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