My dad has a collection of Southernisms that he uses from time to time, idioms handed down from his deep-South sharecropper grandfather (or maybe that my dad just made up and we all just assume they’re from his Southern roots) — like saying someone is “On it like a duck on a june bug,” or calling eggs “cackle berries” and grits “Georgia ice cream.” (As for calling lighter fluid “Boy Scout water”: Dad, we ALL know you invented that one.) And when we were kids and one of us tried to jump into a conflict between two other people, my dad would hold us off by saying, “You don’t have a dog in this fight.”
That phrase came back to mind for me this week after I read Emily Wierenga’s since-removed “letter to gay Boy Scouts” blog post: she doesn’t have a dog in this fight. The blogger from Registered Runaway has done an admirable job of interacting with Emily and her commenters in the wake of this post and seeking reconciliation with Emily while still standing up for people who were wounded by her post; he has a summary of the events here, so I won’t try to recap.
I didn’t comment on Emily’s gay Boy Scouts post, but later I saw that she had since published a post about her experience seeking God’s approval for getting a tattoo, in which she discusses the difficulty of applying a blanket formula for interpreting the commands in the Old Testament and her experience of seeking God’s will about something that was meaningful to her — getting a tattoo — and how God led her in that situation.
And I had to comment on it. Because in the comments of Emily’s post about why she pulled her letter to gay Boy Scouts, the Registered Runaway blogger was still asking for people to consideration that the issue of the “biblical view of homosexuality” was complex and subject to a wide range of opinions from scholars, theologians, and lay Christians, and in turn being hit with statements from commenters that this was in fact “a simple matter of the truth” and “not open to interpretation or opinion” — that we just have to accept it “whether you or I like it or not.”
Yep. Right next to a post about the difficulties of interpreting how to apply Old Testament law and the experience of understanding God’s will in a unique, personal, Holy Spirit-inspired way, someone is arguing that there is only One True Way to interpret and apply Old Testament law.
So I commented on the tattoo post. And I’m reposting my comment here, not because I want to call out Emily or because I think my comment was JUST THAT AWESOME, but because I intend to come back to this issue again in future posts — this issue being that privileged people have a responsibility to listen humbly to the experiences of oppressed people rather than telling them about what their experiences are, or should be. Here’s the comment:
One of my favorite scenes in the gospels comes at the very end of John, where Peter has just been reinstated by Jesus after betraying Him, and Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me!” Peter turns and sees that John is also following them, and he points to John and says, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answers, “[If I have other plans for him], what is that to you? You must follow me.” I love this scene because as a mom, I’m constantly having to tell my kids not to worry about what their brothers are doing — that they don’t need to get involved in how I parent their brothers, but only worry about whether they themselves are doing what they’re told. That’s the tone I read from Jesus in this section, and I think it’s tremendously applicable in conversations like this one, too: Don’t worry about what Jesus is doing in the lives of those around you. Work on cultivating your relationship with Him, and let Him work in their lives as He will.
Emily, I feel like there’s some pretty major cognitive dissonance here, both in this post and in comments, given your “the Bible clearly says” talk about LGBT+ folks lately. You have written here — beautifully, as always — about how God deepened and changed your understanding of what seemed on the surface to be a straightforward commandment in the scriptures; you experienced an extended Spirit-driven conversation with God that went beyond the letter of the law and made you understand how God wanted you to honor Him with your body in a new, more beautiful way. Even though there is a straightforward command in the Old Testament about not getting tattoos or cutting your flesh, and plenty of mentions in the New Testament about honoring God with your body, your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, not conforming to the world… you saw past the surface-level interpretation of those words and instead experienced the beauty and intimacy of having God change your understanding of the scriptures.
And you experienced this because this was an issue that affected YOU. You, Emily, were trying to make God-honoring decisions with your own body. And as you sought God’s will for you, you experienced leading in that area.
Can you not see that this is the same experience that many, many, many LGBT+ Christians have had as well? Can you not see that the scriptures that seem at first glance straightforward could also be shaped by God into something different, new, by the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives? Can you not see that you are not qualified to try to speak louder to them than the voice of God in their lives — to quench the Spirit that is working in them? You are so determined to “speak the truth in love,” but the Spirit is already doing that in the hearts of the believers who are directly affected by the truth of these issues — which is to say, *not you,* because you are not an LGBT+ person (to my knowledge — if I’m mistaken, my deepest apologies). Just as God wouldn’t have a heart conversation with my grandmother, who hated needles and would never have even considered getting a tattoo, about whether or not it would be sinful for her to get one, so He likely isn’t having a heart conversation with a straight person about whether He approves of gay relationships.
I hope you’ll back away from this topic. I hope you’ll spend some time listening to the stories of people who *have* had these conversations with God, and who have had these experiences play out in their lives. Just as you wouldn’t want someone to show up in the comments of this post, unbidden, and preach to you about how The Bible Clearly Says that tattoos are always sinful period the end, I hope you’ll consider whether you ought to speak those same words into the lives of LGBT+ Christians who are in communion with God about their own choices.
And if He wants to be glorified in the relationships of same-sex couples, “what is that to you?”
When it comes to how Jesus is working in the hearts of LGBT+ Christians, we straight folks don’t have a dog in this fight. This isn’t something that we have to come to a moral conclusion about, because none of us straight people are going to be having same-sex relationships. And we can’t understand what the experiences of LGBT+ people have been unless we humbly listen to their stories — and even then, our privilege may stand between us and truly understanding.
We don’t have a dog in this fight, and we need to trust that those who do — our LGBT siblings in Christ — can make the decisions for their lives that honor God as best they can, without our interference.
RR has collected a handful of other supportive comments from allies in a blog post, and I highly recommend you read it. For that matter, I highly recommend that you read and subscribe to his blog; he’s an excellent writer, and the grace that he has demonstrated this week in dealing with some very painful topics has bowled me over. He has a list on his page of LGBT resources for Christians. And if you’re wondering how it’s possible to reframe the way you think about LGBT+ people in the family of God, I recommend this post, “The Accidental Oppressors”:
Look to the Bible and you will find a rich history of marginalized people who were not ostracized because they were sinful, but simply because they were different. Step into these stories and I promise you will see a redemptive and breathtaking circle growing wider and wider to make room for those that want to love Jesus, and that, to me, is one of the reasons I love the Bible. It is the story of God stepping in for the marginalized when man turns his back. ….
Now, am I asking you to suddenly be affirming? No. What I am asking is that you be curious. That you stop being lazy. Stop dwelling by the woman at the well and consider that we might be Cornelius. You have to reclaim that Holy Curiosity. You have to be intentional. You have to break your own rules.