Trend-esday: Special Edition - ERLC and the stories we share
Note: Today I’m taking a break from my usual Tren-esday format to comment on something that’s been trending in my Twitter TimeLine. #ERLC2014
This week the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has been hosting a national conference in Nashville, TN geared to address “The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage.” The ERLC is the social and public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). They’re headed up by President Russell Moore and, all in all, I think they do good work and are good at what they do. Their conference began back on Monday and continued into today.
I follow a pretty wide array of people on Twitter, people who plant their flags on all kinds of ideological hills. This being the case I’ve seen a lot of varied responses to the ERLC conference flying around under the #ERLC2014 tag. Everything from:
And everything in between.
One reoccurring theme I’ve seen is the idea that no good conversation on the topic of homosexuality should or really can be had without including actual homosexual people. Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans was particularly vocal about this point, decrying the lack of what she considered authentic LGBT voices at the conference while also offering space for those people to send her their responses to #ERLC2014 for her to share to her very substantial audience. Through it all one word kept reoccurring at a very significant rate.
Over and over again I saw people like Justin Lee and Matthew Vines assert the idea that if those Christians who view homosexual activity as sinful would just listen their stories and the stories others in the homosexual community, that the wide gap that exists between people like the ERLC and people like Lee and Vines could be bridged. Trust could be established, relationships could be forged, things could be set aright.
I do think there is great value in sharing stories, in listening to the journeys of others. I think the church has made a mess out of the way they’ve responded to so many things, homosexuality included. Much good can be accomplished when we stop seeing people as opponents and see them as people. Stories have a great power to humanize and create empathy.
We create a very real problem, though, when we move from the idea that “stories matter” over to the thought that “stories matter the most.” Our stories are important and they have and bring great value, but they’re not what matters most. They’re not even close to that. Personal anecdotes and experiences is far too shaky a ground on which to build the community that is the church.
Stories change with each new telling, or have different nuances depending on who tells them. Case in point, in the midst of the #ERLC2014 firestorm Evans mentioned the World Vision debacle of recent history in this Tweet:
She tells the story, best she can in 140 characters, as she sees it, assigning blame to those sponsors who dropped their support after World Visions ultimately temporary shift on homosexual marriage. I could just as easily tell the story by saying:
Our unity has to be built on and around something much more foundational than malleable stories. It has to be built around the unchanging and uncompromising nature and character of God. God reveals this character to us through the person of Jesus Christ who Himself is inseparable from the context of the Holy Scriptures, which are also divine in their origins. Begin divine, both the person of Jesus and His Scriptural context serve as fixed points of navigation for us in our journey through life. Any other rallying point will prove to be a poor compass.
So when we talk about matters of right and wrong, or of redemption and restoration, it would be a mistake to begin with our stories and personal experiences. We must begin with the concrete reality of the Law, the Word, and the Cross and then bring that reality to bear on our stories. It’s not so much “what do our stories tell us about the Gospel?” but “what does the Gospel tell us about our stories?” How does it change us, transform us, move us beyond what or who we are without it? The fact is that if the Bible condemns a certain act or lifestyle, then our stories are an insufficient challenge against that and to think that they are is to either have a low view of Scripture or an inflated view of ourselves.