Dear Caitlyn Jenner,
I owe you an apology. On behalf of some conservatives and Christian evangelicals, I’m sorry for the way we’re behaving. You see, too many of us have forgotten the person and way of Jesus and we are hurling stones at you because we don’t understand your struggle. Even if we’ve been well meaning trying to share the gospel we are often unaware of our critical tone. Too many insults are piling up from our conservative Christian camp. And I’m sorry we’re working so hard to point out that you’re not a hero and you’re not a woman.
I apologize for our inconsistency. We get riled up on issues of sexuality (just google the response to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act – RFRA) on the grounds that the bible says certain things are depraved (Romans 1:26-27). I’m not going to argue that, but I am going to point out our inconsistency. Where are our long ranting blogs on the most recent Hollywood divorce? Malachi 2:16 says, “‘I hate divorce’, says the Lord God of Israel”. That’s a pretty overt biblical statement. What about Exodus 20:14, “Thou shall not commit adultery”? Again, pretty clear, yet we pass over the tabloids with tell all tales of Hollywood escapades. What about anger (Matthew 5:21-25)? What about lust (Matthew 5:27-30)? What about breaking promises (Matthew 5:35-36)? What about fornication (Matthew 15:19)? What about gossip and slander (Romans 1:29)? What about discord, jealousy, dissension and factions (Galatians 5:19-21)? Why have we abandoned ranting on those topics? Look, I’m not advocating we get up in arms about everyone’s issues, but if we’re going to let’s at least be consistent.
Even if we were consistent and ranting righteously about everything, would it reflect the person of Christ? What did Jesus rant about? Who did he get angry with? Who did he stand up for? Jesus battled with the religious people of his day and was polarizing within those religious circles, but to those outside of religion, he sought, engaged, loved and pursued. He was patient, he was kind, he didn’t boast, he wasn’t proud, he was selfless and he didn’t get angry (quite similar to 1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Caitlyn, are you feeling a Christlike response from us?
You see, we’ve forgotten Romans 2:1-4 where the apostle Paul says to the religious of his day, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
I confess that we struggle with living the way of Christ. Well, I know I do. Just as his early followers did. Even his closest disciples initially wanted a warrior king instead of one who got angry with his own (righteous) and showed grace to outsiders (peacemaker). We want to be able to be Christlike and say that we see your humanity, love you and care about your eternal well being, but our humanity also really wants to tell you that you’re wrong. The latter part of that is for us, not for Christ and not for you. It’s for us. So, we can be both Christian and be right. So I can tell you how much Jesus loves you and how wrong you are in the same breath. That way I can say I spoke “truth in love” making God happy with my Christlikeness and me happy with my rightness. There’s too much tension for me to disagree with your choices and to love you anyway. That’s way too hard. It’s like saying “I’m sorry, but…”. For me, that’s when I apologize to my wife (kudos for being a good husband), but follow it up with all the justified reasons why I did or said what was hurtful (props to me for still being right). That allows me to be both sorry and right at the same time. Well, at least in my head. In reality, it simply says to my wife that I really don’t value her in that moment as much as I want to preserve my own perspective. Some reading this right now are wondering whether or not I think you’re wrong. Unfortunately, I won’t answer that budding question as it’s not the point. And, does it matter?
Some folks in our conservative evangelical camp will say that we’re NOT doing the same things as you, we feel our sin is different and we are justified in our response. But, we’re wrong. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We’re all flawed We all have our struggles. We all have our things to work through. Something we tend to forget when it comes to issues of sexuality and gender.
I’m sorry that we’re wrapped up in condemning your sexuality and forgetting your humanity. I’m sorry that we write and speak with a righteous air, disdain or disgust. I’m sorry that we’ve forgotten that it’s God’s tenderness that leads to repentance not our righteous indignation. I’m sorry we’ve forgotten the way and person of Jesus in our response to you.
I’m sorry for the harsh words that have been said and written. I’m sorry for the subtle undertones you’ll feel in even the attempts at graceful responses and I’m sorry for the many hurtful words that will continue to be pointed your way. You see, we’ve confused ourselves thinking that if we love then we’re signing up for tolerance. We’ve traded grace for judgement. We’ve abandoned kindness in an attempt to preserve of our rightness. We’ve forgotten the way Jesus dealt with those ostracized by the religious. We’ve forgotten who we are and who we’re called to be. I’m sorry.
Will you forgive us? I pray you do.
To the rest of us: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” – Jesus Christ
*Let me rattle off my conservative credentials just so you can’t write me off too quickly. I’m pedigreed a conservative of conservatives. Raised a pastor’s child, baptized as a young teenager, raised in a church that makes Southern Baptists look like raging liberals, trained with Focus on the Family, a graduate of a conservative theological seminary with a second masters degree form another conservative Christian institution, a business owner capitalist and most importantly (to some) voted party line Republican in the two elections in which I voted. Ask anyone I know and they’d laugh out loud if you referenced me as liberal. Well, except for maybe my grandma, but that’s because I wore jeans to church.