Monday, May 18, 2009

A Work in Progress--Stop the Hatred!

I dedicate this post to the memory of Matthew Shepard, and to the family and friends he left behind. I pray his story is never forgotten.

Lately I’ve felt very hopeful about life. For the first time in a really long time, I feel as though my life is going in a really good direction. And I feel as though I’m letting go of some of my past. I’ve been able to shake off some of those old wounds and some of the things preventing me from moving forward, and I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of things I doubted I would ever be able to accomplish. I feel free. And I have God to thank for all of this.

Sometimes I have a hard time understanding God. There are times when I feel so close to Him, as though he’s a part of my every being. Other times, I feel as though He’s a stranger I only barely knew, but who no longer comes around. I wonder why He continues to be so good to me. I’ve done so many things against Him. I think that’s part of the beauty of God. He’s always working on me, always with me, always paving a way for my life, even if I don’t recognize it. He always loves me.

I am a sinner. I sin in some way or another probably every single day. Sometimes I sin intentionally, and sometimes it’s unintentional. Regardless, I sin. But God still loves me.

I don’t understand people who claim that God hates. Most of you who regularly read my blog know that I am gay. I am sexually attracted to other men. I try hard not to act upon my attractions, because I am a Christian and I believe homosexual activity is sinful. But I will admit, sometimes I do act on those attractions.

Some people in the church would say that my sins are worse than the sins of others. They look down on homosexuals and treat us with a certain air of disgust or unconcern. I don’t understand people like this. I don’t understand how someone can claim to be a Christian but believe some people are better than others, and believe that some aren’t worth saving or knowing, or worth the love of God. It bothers me greatly whenever I hear somebody say “God hates fags”. That statement is a lie and demeaning in so many ways. It is equally demeaning to hear phrases like “That’s so gay” or “What a fag”. I believe Christians should know better. Everyone sins. No sin is worse than another. True, some may have greater consequences than others, but all are equally offensive to God. But despite that, God loves us. How do I know this? Because he came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ and died for each and every one of us so that we may not perish on account of our sins. God took the punishment upon himself that we each should rightfully bear on our own. He didn’t do this for only a select few sinners. He did this for every sinner. What greater message of love could there be? And what right does any of us have to deny anyone the experience of knowing that love? As Christians, we should never be exclusionary of anyone. We should strive to love every single person of the world in the same fashion that Jesus loves. We should reach out to them, befriend them, and help bring them into the fold. And oh what a difference we could make if we would all do that!

It also bothers me to see Christians stand on the sidelines when others belittle or mistreat people. Too often I’ve seen fellow Christians do nothing to help the person being mistreated. There is no excuse for this. Now, I’m not tooting my own horn here, because I have certainly been guilty of this myself, and I pray God forgives me for this, but we should never allow our fears or prejudices keep us from doing what is right. No one deserves to be abused. When we Christians see that happening to someone, we should do everything in our power to help stop that abuse. If we do nothing, we send the message that we condone what is being done. What a horrible message to send to the world! We should be teaching ourselves and others to stop this sort of thing, and to speak out against it whenever we see it happening.

I feel sorry for people who hate. They wreck their own lives and the lives of others through their hatred. And what good is that? A young man in Wyoming named Matthew Shepard was beaten to death a few years ago because he was gay. I wonder why? What fuels that sort of hatred in a person that they would take someone out to the middle of nowhere, tie them to a fence, beat them within an inch of their life, and then leave them for dead? I don’t understand something like that. I don’t understand how someone could allow their hatred for something to build so much that they would brutally attack and kill a person like that. I don’t know if Matthew felt as I do, but I don’t look at myself only as being gay. There is so much more to who I am than what gender I find sexually attractive. I am also a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, an uncle, a friend, a Christian, a teacher, a writer, an environmentalist, and so many other things. My identity is not solely wrapped around the one thing that so many people seem to hate. When you kill or abuse a person out of hatred, know that there is more to that person than just the thing you hate. And know that despite your hatred for the person, there are others who love them. Know the loss and the sorrow that you cause them because of your actions.

I support hate crimes legislation for homosexuals. I haven’t always, but as I’ve aged and developed in my faith, I see no reason in the world now not to support it. I do believe the legislation should be written fairly and just, however, protecting the rights of everybody involved. I say this because some pieces of past suggested legislation has been written in a way that would punish a person because they believe homosexuality is wrong. I believe a person can believe this without hating or committing acts of violence, and should be allowed to express their beliefs if they choose. I don’t believe that in particular is criminal in nature so long as it doesn’t lead to harassment or the demeaning of an individual. Regardless, when so many people do hate homosexuals and do discriminate or commit acts of violence against homosexuals because of their hatred, I believe homosexuals should be allowed protection under the law.

As I mentioned earlier, I know there are some people, both Christian and not, who would hate me, or at least dislike me, because of my attractions to other men. I also know, however, how very much God loves me and is constantly working in my life to make me a better person and to lead me to a better place in life. I wish others would recognize this before condemning a person. We are all sinners, but we are all loved by God, can be saved, and have the potential to do so many great things in our lives and in the lives of others around us for the glory of God. When you hate a person, you potentially keep them from realizing these things.

Yes, I am a sinner, but I am also a work in progress, I have value as a human being, and I am loved by God.