This past week, I sat down with my friend Luke Norsworthy for his podcast to talk about this blog series. Luke is a great interviewer and I highly recommend subscribing to his podcast. He has interviewed Scot Mcknight, Shane Hipps, Ian Cron, and every week has a great new podcast.
For those of you who don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, there’s a couple of stories from it, I’d like to share with you.
In his great book, FutureVille, Skye Jethani tells about participating, a few years back, in two days of talks with religious leaders around country and leaders in the LGBT community. The meeting was off the books and so people were able to talk candidly with their feelings toward each other and their perceptions. One side envisioned a future of traditional marriages and re-inforced traditional values, and the other side envisioned a future where the idea of marriage expanded to include same-sex couples.
And here’s what he said about those two days:
The anger and wounds displayed by both sides at the off-the-record gathering were not merely a result of holding different convictions on a complicated issue. The worst damage was the result of seeing the other group as the barrier to creating the “right” future for the country. It was never said explicitly, but the message was clear: the future of our society would be brighter if you were not a part of it….Words like bigot, ungodly, depraved, and homophobic were mentioned as leaving deep and lasting wounds by both sides. Decades of anger and scars came out into the open… The name-calling and dismissive labels used by each side were deemed justifiable because those on the other side were the “enemy”; they were to be defeated with overwhelming political, cultural, and economic force to achieve a “greater good.” After all, if the other side won, progress (however each side defined it) would be lost. What both sides of the culture war forget is that when we label another person or group as the “enemy” because they oppose our vision of the future, we also reduce their value. We diminish, at least in our eyes, some of their God-given worth by viewing them as objects to be removed rather than people to be loved. Whenever we diminish the value of people created in God’s image, we cannot be moving closer to Shalom.
The most heartbreaking sentence in there is “Both sides believed that the future would be brighter if the other group wasn’t a part of it.”
But there is another way.
People of Reconciliation
Remember last year when the Chick-Fil-A “event” happened? The founder and C.E.O. of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Kathy, had made a comment in an interview supporting the traditional definition of marriage. In a matter of a few hours, the world had been divided up into people who were for love and people who ate at Chick-Fil-A, or we carved it up as people who stood for truth and wouldn’t eat there.
We carved up the world into the question, “Which side of the Chicken biscuit are you on?”
But that didn’t work for Dan Kathy or Shane Windmeyer.
In the middle of all the controversy, Windmeyer received a phone call from Dan Kathy. He took the call very cautiously, sure it was going to be some tactic to escalate the situation. Windmeyer, an openly gay man and founder of the LGBT program “Campus Pride” found himself talking to a man who was kind and curious about his perspective.
Before the phone call, they each were enemies, and a few weeks later they both found themselves as friends. Both men, at great risk to their reputation in their respective communities, reached past the talking points and sound bytes and found a way to re-humanize each other. They found a way to realize how much they have in common, without pretending like they didn’t have significant differences.
Windmeyer wound up saying that he started to see Dan Kathy the way he does his own uncle, the Pentecostal Preacher. He knows his religious views aren’t supportive of his lifestyle, but in all his years he’s never doubted his uncle loved him. And so when Dan Kathy invited Shane to the Chick-fil-a bowl a few weeks later, he went.
And a few weeks later, he came out of the closet as Dan Kathy’s friend.
In his wonderful article at Huffington Post, Windmeyer says this:
[We were] sitting down at a table together and sharing our views as human beings, engaged in real, respectful, civil dialogue. Dan would probably call this act the biblical definition of hospitality. I would call it human decency…
I would call it being like Jesus.