Why Are We So Different?

umc symbolI suspect we will never agree.

One believes one thing, the other another.

Why?

How can we be so stunningly different? Apart? At odds?

And yet we are.

In this last week, the United Methodist Church joined in a “special session” to discern our denominational policies about our LGBTQ members. Discernment led to votes, led to decisions, led to winners and losers.

Love the sinner, condemn the sin? That’s what some said nearly 50 years ago when the first formal “anti-gay” language entered our United Methodist Social Principals in 1972. Now, these nearly five decades later, the language of separation, judgment, and punishment will be more firmly fixed in our denominational polity.

I don’t get it. But that’s just it. It becomes so impossible to understand, to learn about and learn from, those that have such different views of God, the Bible, Jesus’ path, diversity, inclusion, sin, and a boatload of other words and beliefs.

I have married men and women. Men and men. Women and women. One thing I discovered in my premarital counseling is how boringly alike we all are. We fear commitment. We are foolishly optimistic about the future. Introverts fall in love with extroverts. Two men desperately want to have kids, become fathers. A man and a woman conclude they never want to have children. People argue over money, sex, zip codes, mortgages, toothpaste lingering in the sink, and how to negotiate with crabby in-laws. How alike we are all. Love knows no boundaries.

I will never forget, back in the early 80s, the brief, anguished conversations I had with a colleague. He was a good man. He was a dynamic, thoughtful preacher. He, more than most I have known, was obviously and humbly called to be a minister. But he was gay. Gay in a time it was mostly condemned (which will not be much different now, I suppose). He lived in fear. He lived with a shame culture imposed on him. He was sweet and kind and passionate about Jesus.

He died.

Alone.

Why do institutions and cultures so casually crush people, gay or straight, who are called to the ministry, who long to be the word-become-flesh for Jesus’ good news?

Why do some take those handful of Biblical verses about homosexuality (which are really not about homosexuality in my view), and which can be counted with less than the fingers on two hands, and use those words to destroy and condemn other fellow humans?

I don’t know. I don’t. I do know we seem so filled with self-righteousness, anger, and fear. There are issues which divide, which seem to have no common ground. Abortion. Immigration. American exceptionalism. Sexual orientation. We hold so tightly onto our views, content to despise and/or denigrate people we don’t even know.

Am I right, and you are wrong? Are you right, and I am a blathering fool?

How can we be so different? How can we be so confident about our positions when another caring, loving, tender, wounded human thinks and feels differently?

I suspect my beloved, cranky, old-fashioned denomination will change. Break apart? Claim a different name and polity? But how can those who disagree so much stay together after this week? What new—and hopeful and faithful—will emerge out of this decades-long disagreement that has finally come to crisis point?

But even with something “new” that may “please” my theological views, I remain haunted by the question . . . why are we so different?

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6 Comments

  1. Thank you, we grieved last night too. My wife and I were at an interfaith dinner at our UMC when we learned the news.

  2. I n my thinking I simplify the difference among people who don’t share views about sexual diversity as how I feel about Southern Baptists or other conservative believers. They are simply of a different denomination. Period. I am not going to change them and neither will they change me.
    I now think our mission is to be the New Methodist Church and get on with including all for Christ.

    1. Thanks, Karen! Yeah, I think it’s likely, after all these decades of minds-not-changing, that we need to move to the “New United Methodist Church.”

  3. I am angry that someone is sooo interested in sexuality or what’s going on in the bedrooom with no reason or Biblical grounds. Not about love or genetic structure.

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