(TW for spiritual abuse related to sexual orientation)
Today I'm linking up with this synchroblog on Ordinary Courage.
For a while I was stumped about what to write about that wasn't cliche. As the prompt says, what Brené Brown calls ordinary courage -- being vulnerable, taking a risk, speaking up -- manifests in a myriad of ways every day. And I think you know that already. That's like every commencement speech ever, right?
But then I read some things that got me thinking about the opposite of ordinary courage. Sometimes because this kind of courage is so ordinary, it goes unnoticed. But you can recognize it in its absence.
First was in the book Does Jesus Really Love Me? in which Jeff Chu travels across the United States to interview people and capture the spectrum of ways Christianity and homosexuality can interact.
Throughout the book he shares parts of an e-mail exchange he had with a young man who is gay, Christian, and closeted at the start of the book. One of the most difficult parts to read was when this guy, Gideon, goes to talk with a Christian counselor, and the counselor keeps twisting his words and asking him the usual cringeworthy questions about his relationship with his parents. Then the counselor pulls out his Bible and starts rapid-fire going through the "clobber passages," as if he assumes Gideon hasn't read them and if there could be no other possible interpretation to them than his own.
We moved on to the verses in Leviticus that state "lying with a man as with a woman is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22-24 and Leviticus 20:13). He began to talk about how holy and perfect the union between one man and one woman was. I agreed, but said, "This is not a verse about homosexual love, or being gay. This command is there with all kinds of connotations of adultery, promiscuity, and idol worship from the surrounding nations."
"Let's move on to 1 Corithians 6:9-10," he said, the passage which lists the types of of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, the "unrighteous, sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, or men who practice homosexuality."
Once again I asked to bring the context and cultural influences into play, but he interjected, "In every instance of scripture, homosexuality is spoken of in a very disapproving way. There is no 'good' homosexual mentioned. If we let ourselves think that way, does that mean there are good thieves? Good liars?"
Then this past week I read Registered Runaway's posts about how his mother wanted to meet with the pastor who had opened their church service by attacking same-sex marriage. The pastor refused and told them to read a book on homosexuality.
He did not want to sit face-to-face with them and listen to what they had to say.
In these instances, where people respond to disagreement with an attempt to silence others' voices, I see a lack of courage. I see people acting out of fear, doing the equivalent of putting their hands over their ears and talking louder so they don't have to even acknowledge that they could possibly be wrong. They are afraid of what they might hear, afraid of finding a crack in what they call truth, so they take the coward's way -- they refuse to even listen.
Listening with the honest possibility that you might be wrong takes ordinary courage.
Courage because it's difficult.
Ordinary because it should happen every day.
You don't need to change your mind to demonstrate this kind of courage. You can walk away from a conversation without the exact same views you walked into it with. The part that shows courage is really, truly making space for another person's words, and making space in your mind for the serious consideration of their perspective.
I struggle with this, and that was actually one of the best things I got from reading Does Jesus Really Love Me? -- not the part about the "Lalala I can't hear you" pastor, but the part where I actually heard the stories, in the own words, of people who were content in their decisions to be in a mixed-orientation marriage or live a celibate life. I might not have said it before, but I didn't believe in my heart of hearts that those were the right decisions for anyone to make.
Now, having taken the time to read and consider these stories, I can at least say, "I truly believe that you have chosen what you think is best for your life."
So I'm grateful to everyone who takes the time to listen with an open mind. It may be a small, everyday thing, but it takes a certain amount of courage. And for that I say thank you.
When has someone shown ordinary courage to you by taking the time to really listen?
Check out the other contributors to the synchroblog:
This Is Courage by Jen Bradbury
Being Vulnerable by Phil Lancaster
Moving Forward Takes Courage by Paul W. Meier
How to Become a Flasher by Glenn Hager
Ordinary Courage by Elaine Hansen
Courage, Hope, Generosity by Carol Kuniholm
The Courage to Fail by Wendy McCaig
The Greatest Act of Courage by Jeremy Myers
Sharing One's Heart by K. W. Leslie
All I See Is Rocks by Tim Nichols
I Wonder What Would Happen by Liz Dyer
What is Ordinary Courage? by Jennifer Stahl
Loving Courageously by Doreen A. Mannion
Heart Cry: The Courage to Confess by Elizabeth Chapin
The Act to the Miraculous by VisionHub
the spiritual practice of showing up & telling the truth by Kathy Escobar
It's What We Teach by Margaret Boelman