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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Coming Out as an Ally

photo credit: http://taboojive.com/straight-but/
It hasn't been all that long that I've been publicly "out" as an ally to the LGBTQ community. And I regret that. I've always been in favor of equal rights but I hid. I held my personal views close and kept them to myself, not feeling safe to share. I wasn't brave enough. And for that, I apologize to the LGBTQ community. I missed chances to advocate for you because I valued my "safeness" over you and I am deeply sorry.


I've been thinking about my journey from secretly supportive to true ally. It's been scary. I grew up in the conservative Christian Church (granted, it was in Massachusetts, but it was a Southern Baptist Church in Massachusetts), my husband went to a Baptist seminary and we spent 10 years in ministry in traditional, conservative churches before starting our little church plant, missio dei.

That means that as I have made it public that I not only support equal rights in marriage but have also changed my belief about what the Bible says about gay marriage, I've taken a stand directly opposite many of my brothers and sisters - people I love. It means that some people who love me, people who have worshiped with me, who taught my children, who welcomed me into their lives when their kids were in our youth group have changed how they feel about me.  I've lost some friends. From places where I was once considered a woman with a strong faith, I've been told I'm not a committed Christian, that I've been blinded, that my faith is damaged, that I've elevated my own opinions over the Word of God. I continue to be shocked every time someone assumes I changed my belief because I no longer value the Bible.

I think about my fear the first time I posted a blog post in favor of marriage rights. I was so anxious I couldn't sit still. I almost threw up. I still get anxious sometimes. I added some new Facebook friends recently and as I clicked "add friend," I thought, "Oh gosh, they are going to see my rainbow profile picture!" I still fear. My selfish heart still craves approval from man. It still hurts when I'm told I don't love Jesus enough, that I've thrown out the Bible, when I'm told that I am valuing myself over God. It still hurts to know I'm no longer "in."

But this change - admitting I was wrong about what I thought the Bible said about gay marriage - has come from my love of God's Word. It has come from my love of God's people. The only prayer that has stayed truly consistent in my life has been this: "God, make my heart more like yours." Don't get me wrong - I have a long way to to. I'm still selfish and prideful and quick to anger (just ask my kids). But I also see changes. I feel power to love those that I normally wouldn't. I agonized over walking away from my firmly held belief that God ordained marriage for a man and a woman. I cried. I begged God not to let me make a decision based on what I wanted to see. And yet, as I studied the Bible and saw how gay Christians were in loving, committed relationships, I began to understand just how wrong I was.

I speak out now because of that fear. It was (and is) scary and difficult for me to be out as an ally. I can only imagine just how much more scary and difficult is for a gay person to come out. Can you imagine this? What if the only way for me to be who I am, to be MYSELF with the people I love involved admitting I was gay - risking losing my community, my support system. Risking my life, in some cases. I have a choice here - I don't have to be an ally. I can keep my personal views to myself and leave the LGBTQ community alone. I don't have a dog in this fight. But I can't do it. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, to love one another, to fight FOR (not against) one another. The more I read my Bible, the more convinced I am that I am to put my own comfort aside, to put the needs of others before my own. And if there's ever a time to do so, it's now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Problem with CLEARLY

"The Bible CLEARLY says..."

I have seen these words about 47 billion times since the SCOTUS decision. I'm actually kind of wondering if anyone in my life ever said those words to me outside of the gay marriage issue.

But there's a problem. There's very little that the Bible is truly CLEAR about. I believe the Bible clearly says that Jesus died for all of us because God loves us that much. But there are Christians who would disagree with me even on that (the ALL part).

Here's the deal: As Christians, we believe the Bible is Truth. We use lots of different words to describe that Truth: inerrant, infallible, inspired, Word of God.

I believe all those things about the Bible: it is inerrant, it is infallible, it is the inspired Word of God. However, I don't believe those things about anyone's interpretation of the Bible. Including my own. I hold my theology loosely. The minute I start claiming my particular interpretation of the Bible as "The Truth," it becomes quite a mess.... um, kind of like the one we are in now.

The Bible wasn't written yesterday. There are layers of information to sift through: cultural norms of the time when it was written, the position and history of the writer, the purpose of the writing, what tradition says. We also have to weigh it against new information (for example: the Bible talks about the four corners of the Earth so until science caught up, the belief held that the Earth was flat and had four corners. Now, of course, we consider that passage to be figurative).

So we have to "pick and choose."

Okay, okay. I know that's a bad word in the Christian world. But we really do. We have to choose how we are going to look at different passages. We don't do it arbitrarily - we do it with a lot of prayer, a lot of study, a lot of discourse with others in the Judeo-Christian tradition. We look at what we've traditionally believed and decide if we still think that's right. We also look to see if a particular view is "bearing fruit" - meaning, is the result of this belief bringing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (are you singing the song with me?).

A lot of Christians like to claim that we own absolute truth.

But this is so dangerous. Guess what? The vast majority of us are going to find out one day that we were not right about everything we believed the Bible said. I know for a fact I'm wrong about some stuff. I just don't know which stuff yet. Look at our history. All of these things have been said are CLEAR in the Bible:

  • the sun revolves around the Earth (this is why Galileo got in such big trouble)
  • Christians can and should keep slaves
  • Women should keep silent in church
  • Interracial marriage is a sin
  • Women in leadership positions in the Church is sinful

We've changed our views on these "very clear" issues through much study, discussion, and gnashing of teeth in some cases. Some Christians still believe the Bible mandates a secondary role for women, but now those folks typically say it's "complementary."

I hear you if you believe the Bible CLEARLY says that same-sex relationships are sinful. I've seen the verses. At face value, it appears you are right. But maybe you could hear me too? I've studied, I've looked at cultural lenses, I've looked at the overall message of the Bible as it relates to marriage. Plus I now know gay people who love Jesus and whose relationships are "bearing fruit." And I don't think it's so clear anymore. I'm not going to tell you the Bible CLEARLY affirms gay marriage but I can no longer say with certainty that there's no place for my gay friends' marriages in God's eyes.

What if, as a Church, we took a stance of humility. What if, instead of the bumper sticker above, we said this to the world:

"We have this beautiful book. It's a love story. A story of how the God who created us is both letting us have the free will to mess everything up but also inviting us to be part of redeeming the mess we've created. He loves us so much that he sent his son to die to atone for all the ways we've failed. We are always working together to hammer out the details, but one of the promises in the book is that God says he'll live in you, he'll guide you, he'll start to change your life when you choose to follow him. He says he'll make our hearts more like his: we'll love more, we'll fight for those without a voice, we'll seek to end poverty, injustice, oppression. We will, together, lift one another up by putting the needs of others above our own. You are always welcome with us. Your voice matters to us. Let's read this book together and continue our path to learn more about the heart of God."

That, my friends, is how we cease to "look like the world." It's not about following the right rules. We don't own Truth. But we have an amazing God, one who will absolutely take our lives and turn it upside down for the good of others, bringing glory to himself and pointing others to Jesus. This is why I'm still a Christian: the hope of Jesus, the promise that he's bigger than any mess we get ourselves into. Clearly.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why I stand with Conservative Christians...

photo credit: theblaze.com
I wasn't sure what picture to use for this post: honestly, this one creeps me out, but I think lots 

of folks do link Christianity and Patriotism... but that's a post for another day. 
I've been thinking about Conservative Christians. I was at work so I wasn't at any church this weekend, but I imagined the frustration that some folks must have been feeling in church on Sunday. And I imagined how some church services might have gone this morning. I imagined some of the words that may have been said.

And I want to say something.

To those of you who believe that God ordained marriage to be between a man and a woman: I will stand by you.

I don't think you are right. We may disagree but I stand by your right to interpret the Bible the best way you know how. All of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus are trying our best. In our country, you have the right to try figure out the best way to follow Jesus and I will protect your right to disagree with me about what that looks like.

I'm not a patriotic person, but one of the things I love about our country is our freedom and the way we protect it. This is a place where we are free to believe or not believe, where we are free to worship in whatever way we see fit. America is a place where people can seek to find and be themselves.

While I secretly hope that Christians will find unity on gay marriage and that we'll all suddenly decide to agree, I will honor the right of those who have interpreted the Bible differently from the way I have interpreted it.  Honestly, I secretly hope that everyone I know will fall in love with Jesus like I have... but I will fight for their right to not to. I will honor the right of those around me to worship how they want to worship, even if it's not of my God.

Here's why: Jesus. Jesus came to restore us back to God. He left an amazing legacy and example for those who would follow him: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt 11:40). Following Jesus' "yoke" meant he wasn't a rabbi who piled rule after rule and standard after standard upon his followers. And he, unlike most rabbis of his day, accepted the outcast, invited in the sinner.  Jesus didn't come to force us to follow a moral code. He came because God is working to redeem everything. He's working to make a "new heaven and a new Earth" (Isaiah  65:17) and Jesus' sacrifice is about much more than giving me a "ticket to heaven."  He makes things right. He is justice and goodness and peace. Jesus has room for those of us who believe that gender is not the defining factor in marriage AND has room for those who believe God intended marriage for a man and a woman. We are on the same team with the same goal: to love all with the love of Jesus. And we have no examples of Jesus forcing himself on others when they disagreed. Instead, he laid down his life for them. "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do" were his words from the cross.

And, you know, we are a country. We call ourselves United. Unity doesn't mean "agree." We aren't the "Agreeing States of America."  Instead, we are a place where we honor difference. I don't want to my government to force me to celebrate someone else's faith... and I shouldn't ask my government to force others to honor mine. We have this beautiful separation of Church and State so that our religious differences don't cause too much trouble. At least they aren't supposed to.

If I may offer some consolation to any of you who are sad or scared following the SCOTUS decision: Gay marriage being legal in the US isn't about religious beliefs. It's about securing the same legal rights and recognition for all. It means that all men and all women can be protected by the same laws and enjoy the same benefits, regardless of what they believe about marriage. And, in turn, the same constitution that protects gay marriage protects your belief about marriage. And none of that has anything to do with Jesus. We can still serve him, follow him, and show his love to our neighbors. Our path hasn't changed.

You may absolutely continue to believe that God ordained marriage for a man and a woman. And I may continue to believe God will bless a same-sex relationship. As Americans, we enjoy that right. And I would love to have respectful, thoughtful conversations with y'all about that.

It's not likely that I'll stop encouraging people to re-think their ideas about gay marriage or how the Church treats gay people... but I will defend your right to believe in a "traditional marriage." I promise.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Use the "R-Word"

I get really REALLY overwhelmed when things like Charleston happen. I want to collapse and cry. To ward off completely losing it, I turn to the internet. I read. Articles, blogs, Facebook posts. I try to glean as much information as I can. Not just about what happened, but about how people are responding.

And the biggest thing I noticed last night was an absence. Something missing. I noticed an awful lot of white people are doing a kind of tap-dance to avoid a certain word:

Racist. Racism.

I read fabulous articles about how when the shooter is white, the media is quick to postulate about his "mental illness." Empowering, liberating words for those who suffer from actual mental illness. But even these articles, and the positive responses that followed, avoided calling this event (or the shooter), "racist."

I've seen articles and posts about how this is a heart issue. About how this is evil, awful, terrible. Posts reminding us that it is sin. That the boy who did it clearly had something wrong with him.  Posts about how what happened in Charleston is a tragedy.

Can I empower y'all for a minute? We can call it racism. It's not the "R-Word." We can call it like it is: Racist

All of those things are true: the heart issue is racism. The evil, awful, terrible sin is racism. This young man has something wrong with him: he is racist. Shooting people, killing people, because of the color of their skin is racist. The tragedy that happened in Charleston is racism.

I think I know why it's hard to label it. If you are white, you probably don't have a lot of practice talking about race issues. No one told me what language to use, which words are okay, when I was growing up. I had no models for talking about race. My parents, although not racist people, never talked about it at home except for mild references to how awful slavery was, how being racist is "bad."  And I get it, it's an explosive world out there on social media. Say one wrong thing and a complete stranger blasts you. It's not always a safe place.

Racism is hard to admit. It would be so much better if we lived in a world where racism was part of our difficult past. But it's not. Racism is our clear and present NOW. This week, nine people were killed in their place of worship because of the color of their skin.  We live in a time when this happens. I cried the entire way home after I dropped my big kids off at camp. I was listening to NPR and there was a clip from one of the memorial services of one of the victims. They were singing "We Shall Overcome." That's supposed to be a song from our past. A song from back when people were fighting for civil rights, to be viewed as equals.  But instead, it's a song for today. It's a song for now.

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJUkOLGLgwg 
I want to teach my kids about slavery and racism as if they are part of our nation's past. But I can't. Instead, we pulled the kids together this morning to tell them what has happened, why our hearts are so sad, and how important it is that we stand up against it. Because we have a black child, we need to prepare all our kids for how to handle discrimination. That's part of the white privilege we've lost - we can't choose whether to tell our kids about racism or not. We have to. Because they will experience it. And they need to be ready.

But here's where we need help. If you have that privilege - the privilege of not telling your children about racism... the privilege of not talking about racism - would you give it up?  I know lots of y'all know me and my family personally and y'all love us. Can I ask you a favor? Will you talk about what happened and use the word "racism"? Will you start telling your kids that racism IS and not that it was?  Tell them it's happening, and then prepare them to stand up for what's right. My kids are going to need some allies. We are preparing them the best we can for the day they need to stand up for justice and equality. That day will be a little less lonesome if they have some buddies to stand next to.

Because this morning, we had a family talk and prayed together. Amani and Allyn both sat in my lap. Allyn threw her arms around her brother as we talked, expressing how the news of Charleston scared her because of Amani. And his response nearly did me in: "this hurts my heart," he said and Riley cried.  And as we prayed, my tears fell on my children, white arms wrapped around black. And it felt lonely. I feel unmoored. I don't want to raise my children in a world where this happens. Yet it has happened and it is happening.

We need some allies. And it's long overdue. Will you stand up? Use the word. Let's call racism what it is. And put an end to it, whatever it takes. We shall overcome.

Want to get some discussion started in your family? My friend, Jose, just started a fabulous Twitter feed, Just Consider Alternate Reasons. It's a small series of questions every Friday to ask your children around the dinner table, based on the Jewish custom of Shabbat. His reasons for starting it: "Just Consider Alternative Reasons. A simple request. Why? In hopes that my kids will be better at asking questions than the adults in their lives are dodging them"
https://twitter.com/justconsideralt 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How I lost my Whiteness: thoughts on Rachel Dolezal, Charleston, Ferguson...

I watched the Matt Lauer interview with Rachel Dolezal. And I don't think there are any major take-aways for our culture as a whole. I think she's a person who has done some amazing things for her community but who lost her way somewhere in the process. I know what it's like to want to shut the door on your past, to walk away from your family, to build walls and try to rebuild a life from scratch. When I did it, I started pretending I was from the South (I was born & raised in Boston).  I traveled to Europe with a buddy during college and whenever anyone asked where we were from, I'd say, "Well, he's from Oklahoma and I'm from NC." It was my way of slamming the door on a chaotic childhood and starting anew. Thankfully for me, it didn't last, I got real help and was able to heal and learn how to be myself including my past.  Granted, I think Rachel Dolezal's way was entirely more harmful to others, possibly more intentional, and could have negative ramifications for the good work she's done in her community.

But that's not even really what I want to write about.

The biggest statement that stayed with me from her interview was when she said she couldn't be her adoptive son's "real mom" if she wasn't African-American.  

Would you be shocked if I told you I agree with her?

Okay, I don't exactly agree. Her comment bothered me a lot at first. I was indignant: I am my children's REAL mother, no matter the color of our skin.  However, something has happened to me since I became the mother of a Black child.

I've lost some of my whiteness.

Photo credit: Sarah Leen, National Geographic
You can't see it on the outside. My hair stayed the same, my skin isn't any darker (well, it wouldn't be if it weren't for swim team! I can't reload the sunscreen fast enough!) . I didn't adopt any kind of cultural appropriations.

But inside, my heart has changed. My life has changed. There are parts of white privilege that no longer pertain to me. I think about race all the time. Because now I have to. I used to be able to decide when I wanted to worry about race issues and pick which ones bothered me most.  Now I worry about things like living in a "Stand your Ground" state, about how to handle it when Amani walks too far in front of me and someone assumes he's an unattended child, about how we will handle it when people discriminate against my son, about how much it bothers me that my kids go to a predominantly white school, about how to explain the news to my kids in a way that prepares them for reality but doesn't scare them half to death. I worry about how to prepare Riley & Allyn to be advocates for our family, for their brother, for each other. I fell apart when 12 year-old Tamir Rice was murdered by police. Because he looks like my child, he looks like my heart. The people who were murdered in Charleston look like my family, they look like my heart.

I can't watch news like Charleston, Ferguson, Baltimore without part of my heart attaching to it. I thought I was an advocate for justice before but I didn't realize the extent to which I could set it aside when I needed to. I can no longer do that. I've talked with other White moms of children of color and one of my wisest friends said this:

"I hate that I believed in 'the race card' until I had black kids of my own. I hate that I didn't really understand my place of privilege until I had my kids. And now I hate seeing some of my friends right where I used to be but with hearts that are unable to see what I now see."

I imagine this echoes some of the frustrations of the Black community when people manage to not-see race issues. Being the mother of a black child has given me an entirely different perspective on racism. Unlike Rachel, I'm not pretending to be something I'm not. I'm still White, I still retain most of my white privilege. But, like Rachel, I do understand what it is to be connected to a culture that isn't yours from birth.  While I will never understand what it is to be a Black woman, I do understand what it is to be a mother of a Black child.

And that might be part of what makes me Amani's real mother. My heart changed to make me a better mother for him, a mother of a Black child. Being his real mom makes me lose some of my whiteness. And for that, I'm thankful. I pray every day that it will make me a better advocate. Not just for my children, but for yours too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Where should we stand? It actually doesn't matter.

Life is tricky. Nothing is black and white. I suspect it never has been, but it does seem these days as if there is just a whole lot of stuff going on. So many polarizing issues... and it's not even officially the election year yet. Sigh.

And now Caitlyn Jenner.

photo credit: cnn.com

My ears and eyes are inundated with her. Most comments fall into categories: fully supportive and happy for her, or fully unsupportive and not-at-all happy (and sometimes hateful).  But there's a third category: folks who genuinely don't understand transgender issues and are trying not to judge but feel strongly about standing firm in their belief of what the Bible says about same-sex relationships.

I love those folks. I truly do. I no longer believe the Bible condemns same-sex relationships but I used to. I respect their belief and I feel like I know their hearts: they want to love our LGBTQ community but can't quite figure out how. Because, to some, supporting someone who is LGBTQ seems like an endorsement of something God is against.

I have good news: our responses don't have to be different. We don't actually stand on different sides. I have yet to meet two Christians with the exact same theology.  We all tend to interpret different parts of the Bible in different ways. But there is one BIG thing which unites us: the overall message of the Bible. The Bible is the story of how God gave us full access and community with him and unity with one another and then we broke it. But instead of damning us all, God sent Jesus - he reached out to us and fixed it, at great cost to himself.  Jesus reconciles us not only back to God but back to one another.  Regardless of theology, I'm willing to bet that 99% of Christians will agree with me on this. The Bible is the beautiful story of a gift of shalom (wholeness, rightness, unity) that was broken and brought back to shalom again.

What did God do when we broke the relationship with him and with each other? He stood with us. He sent his son not only to stand with us but to die for us. He wasn't against us. I know many Christians whose standard response to all things LGBTQ is to immediately distance themselves from the gay community by declaring, "I have to stand on what God says in the Bible about same-sex relationships." But what if we are supposed to do what he did? What if we are supposed to stand with his people? What if we are supposed to love them and sacrifice ourselves for them?

When in doubt, I think God says, "Love them." When in doubt, God says, "Get to know them." I think he says, "Stand with my people, be the ones who protect them from hate." If you aren't sure about this whole transgender thing, learn about it. Transgender is quite different from sexual orientation. But get to know some gay people too. Neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is a choice - please believe LGBTQ people when they tell you that about themselves.  The more we listen to one another and learn from one another, the easier all of this gets.  It is a lot less tricky when it's not an "LGBTQ thing" and instead it's the names and faces of people I know and love. And then it's no longer "us and them." It's just "us."

The more I study the words of Jesus, the more aware I am of how he linked our relationship with him to our relationship with others. Following Jesus is only partly about him & me - it's also about how I connect to everyone else around me. Jesus said that loving our neighbors was akin to loving God. When my focus is on me, when I make my theology more important than people, I've missed the point.  When we proclaim loudly that God is not okay with Caitlyn Jenner and then use that to distance ourselves from the transgender community, we've missed a beautiful opportunity to live and love like Jesus.

This isn't about ignoring sin. Sin is anything and everything that separates us from God and breaks our relationships with each other. The best response I can think of in the face of someone else's sin is to draw them closer to me and point them to the one who loves them most.  When I am doing something destructive to my relationship with God or my relationship with another person, the ones who will be able to speak meaningfully to me about it will be those who have pulled me in close, those who love me and point me back to God. I can't think of a single situation in which a stranger or an acquaintance would be helpful in confronting my sin by calling me out or distancing themselves from me, especially not if the sin I'm struggling with has been a hot-topic on social media.  If I'm gay and I hear, "God believes homosexuality is abhorrent," over and over again from people who don't know me and don't care about me, why in the world would I want to seek Jesus? How is that the message that Jesus died for?

When I meet Jesus, I don't think he's going to ask me where I stood on the hard-hitting, controversial issues. He's not going to ask me if I called out strangers on the ways they were failing to live perfectly.  He's going to ask me how well I loved, who I loved, when did I put my own needs aside to serve others. He's going to want to know if I lived like He did, not to punish me, but because he knows that was the best way to have a life full of abundant joy and the best way to point others to him. That's a tall enough order. Following Jesus is no piece of cake. But so far, I've found joy that passes beyond understanding in the process.

Right now, it's not about our beliefs on what the Bible says or doesn't say about same-sex relationships or people with gender dysphoria. Right now, that truly isn't the issue. It's not about where you stand, but who you stand with. Jesus stood with the outcast, the hated, the unclean. He stood with the misunderstood, the powerless and the oppressed. He stood with you and he stood with me. We can do the same.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sin is sin... except when it isn't.

Oh my.

Two big things happening this week: The discovery that Josh Duggar, a Christian and one of the kids of the large (19 kids? 20? I don't actually watch the show) Duggar family sexually molested his sisters and it appears the family covered it up.

photo credit: duggarfamily.com
  and

The NC House just passed a bill allowing magistrates to "pass" on presiding over any marriage ceremony that goes against their religious beliefs. In normal speak: Christian magistrates can refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

photo credit: http://abc11.com/politics/gay-marriage-religious-objections-bill-back-in-nc-house/744684/

Seems totally unrelated to me. And they are. Except that I have seen many articles posted and statements made in support of Josh Duggar, reminding us that we are called to grace and mercy, that we are to forgive. Some articles reminding us that "sin is sin" and that what Josh Duggar did was just that - a sin, something we are all prone to. Articles saying we shouldn't be shocked by this because Josh, just like all of us, sins.

Yet at the same time, Christians just won a heated debate in the NC State House demanding that magistrates be allowed to refuse to marry same-sex couples because it would be "participating in sin."

So what I gather from this is that supporting someone who molested children and supporting the family that covered up the incident instead of protecting the victims is the Christian thing to do. But making sure that a same sex couple is protected under the same rights and legitimized under the same laws as straight couples would be participating in sin.

What the what?  This really needs to stop. Is this the message we really want to send?

I'm not even asking folks to believe that the Bible affirms gay marriage. I'm really not. If you believe that gay marriage is a sin, I'm not worried about that right now. That is a very debated topic within Christian circles. Devout, learned, committed Christians don't all agree on that one. We don't have to agree on that right this minute.

However, we need a little meeting. Can we all get on the same team? Remember that team that Jesus called us to?

The team that fights for those who need a voice,
the team that loves the ones that no one else loves,
the team that values those who society has cast out,
the team that chooses not to be first, so secure in the love Jesus has for us that we can put the needs of others before our own,
the team that stands for justice, no matter the cost.

I want to be on that team.  Here's why we need to speak out AGAINST the Duggar thing:  Yes, sin is sin. Sure - in the eyes of God, he can decide that all sins are equally bad. However, the consequences of different sins are different. There were young girls who were victimized and then not protected by their parents when the truth came to light. Minimizing sexual abuse as "just another sin" is harmful and dangerous. It doesn't protect victims and it doesn't get help for the abuser.  I am heartbroken for the Duggar family - I wouldn't wish sexual abuse on anyone. And I do believe in the power of forgiveness (only as a process that the abused person chooses to go through). Declaring the need to "stand together" with the abuser and the family that protected him isn't grace or mercy. And it doesn't show love for the children who were molested. The best way to love is to say that we stand with the victims and demand justice for them as well as help for the abuser in the form of specialized, court-ordered therapy for offenders of sexual crimes (this is the research-based best-practice for sex offenders). That's about the most loving, supportive stance I can think of for the Duggars.

I want to be on that team. Here's why we need our Christian magistrates to perform gay marriages regardless of their beliefs about sin: this is a very slippery slope. Sin is sin. If magistrates are allowed to opt out of any marriage that is against their religious beliefs they need to opt out of more than just gay marriage. How about interfaith marriage? Interracial marriage? Premarital sex? What about the couple that has been cheating on each other?  Domestic violence? There are Christians who believe all of those are sin.  Magistrates who refuse to perform same-sex marriages should also clarify their stance on those issues 'cause maybe they shouldn't be performing any marriages.  Let's be honest: there is no real way around this looking like it isn't specifically targeted against gay people.

A magistrate is not a pastor. Gay couples who want to be married by the magistrate are not asking for a Christian, religious marriage. They want to be recognized by the state, they want equal protection under the law. As Christians, even if we disagree on whether God would bless a gay marriage, we can still ensure that our fellow humans are treated equally in the eyes of the law. The love of Christ is so powerful that it can give us the strength to stand up for the rights of others, even if we disagree with them.  A magistrate performing a gay marriage is ensuring that all members of society are treated equally. End of story. It's not an endorsement of their marriage or even a commitment to the couple. My husband is a pastor, he has married a lot of people. You know what he does? He invests in their marriage: many weeks of pre-marital counseling together and then he makes a commitment to them for FOREVER.  Couples who have been married by my husband have free access to us for the rest of their lives - we will always stand by them because we are invested in their marriages.  I'm pretty sure that's not what a magistrate does. It's not the same thing. This bill just looks like an excuse to be mean to gay couples. We shouldn't do that.

Let's get back on track, friends. I think we really are all on the same team. We don't have to agree on everything, but let's agree to humility, to not always having to be right, to choosing people over theology, to following the example of Jesus in how we love.