Tonight I had another Christian tell me on social media that he was okay with Josh Duggar fondling young girls “because he repented”, but has a big problem with Caitlyn Jenner, who he said was willingly sinning and being “sexually deviant.” The former he sees as a typically flawed believer restored and deserving of our forgiveness, the latter as an unrepentant, dangerous presence in the world who needs to be condemned and called out.
As we talked more, my virtual friend’s comments clarified the duplicity of his position: a child molester is excused because he’s said sorry to God (even though he and his family concealed the activity until recently exposed), however a transgender individual is clearly immoral by openly seeking to be the most authentic version of herself she believes is possible. One engages in criminal activity and still gets the benefit of the doubt, while the other operates completely within the law and is still vilified. One exploits their family and their faith on a reality TV show and is revered as a religious role model, the other lambasted for leveraging her own story for publicity and personal gain.
And we wonder why Christianity is leaking so horribly from every crevice, why so many churches are becoming barren ghost towns and dusty museums, why organized religion is on virtual life support in America?
Thinking like this is why intelligent, thoughtful, rational people are finding it harder and harder to want to be associated with Christians, and why faith seems less and less an option for so many of them. The Church is heading off a cliff and it’s we who are actually in the back, pushing the hardest.
People are watching and worrying. They see it from a mile away, our vacillation. They see the inconsistencies of our outrage, our selective sin policing, our schizophrenic moral stands. They notice how often we can defend one person’s deplorable activity just because he or she is a professed Christian, while simultaneously demonizing another outright the moment the discussion turns to the “naughty body parts.” In examples like this week, we’re content to ignore and overlook the scarred, flesh-and-blood victims of a sexual offender because he claims to have repented, yet we can somehow manage to manufacture untold invisible, theoretical victims of someone seeking to make their own peace with the mirror, on the other.
Sadly it seems to all come back to sex.
Our religious panic buttons are so easily pushed by gender identity and sexual orientation, that when the topics surface so many of us stick our fingers in our ears and run around the room like embarrassed third graders, yelling “Nah nah nah, I’m not listening to you!” In times like these, we knee-jerk our theological responses out without bothering to wrestle with the complicated, nuanced aspects of the situations, let alone stopping to consider the deep humanity of the people involved and how we may be trampling over it.
This is a problem, friends. In fact, it could be a near-fatal blow to our faith tradition outside our walls and maybe it should be.
We who claim Christ can no longer be people who abandon logic and decency and compassion for the sake of religion and get a pass. No one is buying that anymore thankfully, and so we need to fight to transform our faith from the inside; those of us who believe that Jesus is better and more loving and more beautiful than the bitter, judgmental junk that’s been representing him lately. I know I do. People outside of the faith may indeed eventually reject Jesus, but I’d rather them do that than reject the bastardized, counterfeit version of him that they getting far too frequently from us.
I’m not sure exactly how we can recover a corporate faith that consistently does more good than harm in the world, but it seems like the thing is upside down right now and that grieves me terribly. I want people to receive the best of this faith from us. I want a Church that accurately represents Christ to the world. I want a Christianity that defaults to compassion not contempt when it sees people from a distance. I want one that purposefully removes that distance and steps into other’s stories to find the inherent goodness and to remind them of it. I want that for both Josh Duggar and for Caitlyn Jenner because both are equally deserving of that as they are.
Some might contend that bringing up my online friend’s commentary is just a noisy, massive straw man designed to distract, but I’ll argue that it’s our great religious blind spot, made crystal clear in real-time.
You may choose to see my conversation with my friend as an isolated, anecdotal event without a larger meaning, but I view it as a telling symptom of a bigger sickness.
The bottom line, is that this week too many Christians are far more outraged at a person altering her own body, than one assaulting another’s.
I’d say that’s a shame.
Actually, I’d say it’s more than that.
I’d say it’s a sin.