Well, I never would have thought the discussion of nasal refuse would resonate so closely with readers! I guess I learned something new! Fortunately, I have yet to receive a nastygram from my employer telling me to remove the post assaulting their restrooms.
I know you’re mumbling under your breath as you begin to read this: “This is a two-part post and he’s going to get graphic again.” Don’t worry, I’ll avoid such ill depiction in this post. While a disgusting image, the issue of the restrooms highlighted something significant that I’m finding as I span the gap between my communities.
As the maintenance staff evaluated the problems in our restrooms, it was clear that their laser-sharp focus on the minuscule hygiene infractions of nose-stuffs caused them to bypass the numerous, more significant issues in our restrooms. Additionally, their lack of familiarity with our company and its personnel enabled them to choose a sign-based solution that, honestly speaking, had a very low chance of being effective.
See, simple understandings don’t always lead to good institutions.
I used to pastor a church. I, alongside one of my best friends, replanted a small church and attempted to nurture a congregation into existence. As we approached the community, suddenly the city’s issues began to reveal themselves to us. It was clear that our surrounding community was overrun by poor health, poverty, limited education and widespread addiction. Early in our ministry efforts, it became clear to us that we couldn't aid the community’s issues without a true understanding of the issues themselves.
We had both grown up with a middle class mind of ministry and we realized that our ideologies wouldn’t work effectively in our lower class surroundings. As we reorganized our efforts, it was obvious that we’d have to get our hands dirty in the city. We would have to get to know the community's individuals on a deep level in order for us to truly understand their challenges.
Over the course of a few months, we spent countless hours at lunches, in homes for evening dessert, and Sunday afternoons in bars to really understand the people in our city. After this calorie-filled field research we realized that a significant attitude of apathy was consuming many of the peoples’ hearts and minds. Others hadn’t given this community much of a chance and the people didn’t give themselves a chance.
As we moved closer to the people affected by these issues, we quickly began to re-strategize. We decided to throw away our former playbook of understanding and chose to rewrite how we did church. Amusingly, our efforts didn’t really faze the individuals in the congregation—no one around us really noticed our change, much to my chagrin!
Instead, our efforts radically uprooted the beliefs that my co-pastor and I held on a personal level. We started to change. We started to become deep a part of the community. When we did this, things began to change and we began to find ways to get through to our people. We found (and my friend continues to find) creative ways to nudge people toward better lives. It’s quite beautiful, really.
See, simple understandings don’t always lead to good solutions.
Importance of a Belief
I’m coming to this epiphany as I approach the middle ground between the gay and Christian communities. Unfortunately, my epiphany comes on the heels of seeing simple understandings in the lives of those in both communities.
I’ve had multiple Christians say to me in various ways, “I don’t know what I believe about same-sex relationships, but I just love people, so I’m good.” Bluntly, I think that this posture falls short. Additionally, I’ve found many Christians who do not support same-sex relationships on any level. This is fully acceptable to me, but I see that, they too, are losing to their own simplistic understanding of the matter.
I’m trying to find my new place within the Christian Church. In this process, I’m finding that I’m just not sure how to go about this when Christians (both pastors and laypeople) maintain one of the two viewpoints above. In my experience, each of these ideas generally ends where they begin. They don’t go deep enough. The ideas often aren’t supported with practical actions. These ideas don't answer the real questions:
- Can I serve in your church if you don’t know what you believe but are only called to love others?
- If so, where can I serve in your organization?
- Can I lead anything (on any level) or am I only allowed to contribute minimally?
- Define "minimally."
- Can I attend your small group with my partner?
- Will your friends respectfully disagree with us or will they find it impossible to connect with us because of our belief?
- Can I pray for someone in your church?
- Can I pray for multiple people at a time or does that make me a “leader?”
See, in order for gay people (Christian or not) to find any place in the Church, we need to know, not only what we believe, but what our belief means in practice. I’m thrilled that some Christians see it as their duty to love me and care about me on a level deeper than my sexuality. However, what precisely does that mean when I show up to contribute to the ministry they’re a part of?
See, simple understandings don’t always lead to good resolutions.
As I’ve grown closer to the gay community, I’ve interacted with many gay individuals who find themselves frustrated at the Church because they “…don’t like us gays.” When I dig deeper into their frustrations, I find that some simply wish Christians would “get over it.” Some believe that all Christians want nothing to do with them and resent them accordingly. Some think that the Church is, in large part, a hypocritical failure because they don’t accept or love gay people in the way that the gay person thinks they should be loved.
Just like my Christian friends, these people over-simplify the gay-Christian tension in their mind and they generalize Christians and their issues. They succumb to simplicity and short-circuit the reality of what the Church is going through as an institution.
See, simple understandings don’t always lead to good conclusions.
I’m starting to see that life is more about intimacy, about intimate understandings.
What I believe has practical implications that I cannot ignore. What I know about a people group affects how I think about them. When I choose to disregard my need for understanding, I risk failing the people involved.
It’s quite a simple epiphany, really. See what I did there? *Doubles over in hysterical laughter*
Simple understandings can hygienically destroy a restroom, they can estrange people from finding help, they can disconnect us from the people who need us and they can disconnect us from people we need.
In the gay community, in the Christian community, in the workplace, in a person’s approach to a people group, simple understandings can hurt us and they can hurt others.