I responded to a blog on a Christian website about Compassion without Compromise. I praised the writer for keeping the conversation going and admonished her to take other people’s experiences at face value. I shared a little of my story and someone responded to my post with this:
“Christ gave you his life, maybe you can give him your all, take up your cross, and make Him the real king of your life- instead of a relationship that He deems is sinful, when you are hurting Him. We all have things that are hard to not do. Many people decide to not fight it, many people say it’s just who they are, etc… Jesus says He will give you the strength to fight, and the Spirit will be with you. He said to go and sin no more. Yes, He loves you very much, but if you choose an earthly relationship over a relationship with Him, that is your choice- and unfortunately, you are creating a wall between you and Him. He loves you more than your partner. Don’t put Him second.”
In essence, she’s saying, “You’re just not trying hard enough,” and dismissed years of struggle with just a few words, in the few minutes it took her to write her thoughts, with a single paragraph. Did she think the light would suddenly turn on for me and I would say, “You’re right! Why didn’t I think of that?!”
Years after my divorce I told my ex-wife I never understood how she so quickly moved on. She said, “I had emotionally disconnected from our marriage. In my mind our relationship was over long before I met the other person. I didn’t just wake up and decide to be with someone else. I had already gone through a painful separation process.”
The church is still in love with idea that homosexuality fits neatly in a black and white Biblical context. The answer, to someone who has never gone through the struggle, is simple. It’s so easy to see. The Bible is clear and the discussion is over. Like my ex-wife, I did not come to the place I am today lightly. There were plenty of tears and torment, especially for someone like me who has always tried to “do the right thing.”
The pithy statement church goers like to make, “compassion without compromise,” is a misnomer. It ends the discussion before it starts. It assumes, like the lady who responded to my post, that the church is right and everyone else is wrong. It doesn’t require any deep thought, nor does it take people’s stories into account. It’s answering a question that hasn’t been asked yet; solving an equation without knowing the problem. The frustration from the gay community is that they, we, are not being heard. I did it, too.
I met Tony at work around 1991 while I was in the Love in Action live-in program. He wasn’t as secretive about his sexual identity as I was about my involvement with ex-gay ministry. When I realized Tony was gay I worked up the courage to talk to him. Besides, with all I’d learned I knew I could help turn his life around. “You know you don’t have to be gay,” I told him.
“Excuse me?” He was lighting a cigarette and my statement caught him off guard.
“The reason people are gay is because of poor relationships with their father or traumas that happened in their lives. It is possible to change,” I said with as much compassion as I could muster. And I meant it.
“Um.” He looked confused. “I had a great relationship with my dad. Unfortunately, he died when I was a teenager. We used to play sports together and I helped him in our family business. He knew I was gay. He didn’t care. He loved me anyway.”
“Well, something must have gone wrong,” I insisted. “Think back. What do you think happened to you?”
“Nothing happened to me,” Tony said. He was clearly irritated with my insinuation that the relationship with his father wasn’t like he said it was. “Listen, no offense, but I hope you find what you’re looking for. I’m happy the way I am.”
I walked away feeling pity for Tony. Obviously, he didn’t know what he was talking about. He was suppressing memories and was in so much pain even he didn’t know it. As long as I was right and Tony was wrong, there was no reason to have a discussion. I could show compassion without compromise…without thinking, without questioning what I believed to be true, without coming to different conclusions, without making Tony human and accepting his experiences at face value.
True compassion gets dirty, asks the tough questions, makes compromises when necessary, and shows integrity.
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