Like it or not, the Equality Ride is coming on April 24 to Eastern. And, clearly, the stage has been set for a confrontation-filled day where only bad feelings are created. But that is not how it has to be.
According to the plan, the Riders – a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians and their supporters – are coming to dialogue with Eastern community members about the possibility of being homosexual and Christian. They see Eastern’s policy as discriminatory and hope to help change it.
Essentially, they intend to try to convert those at Eastern who believe that homosexuality and Christianity cannot coexist. At the same time, those more conservative people will try to convert the Riders and the people who support them to their own point of view. And those who are uncertain to any degree will be caught up, confused, in the ruckus.
It’s an unfamiliar feeling for people who generally see themselves as missionaries to suddenly be a mission field for someone else. That’s a large part of why homosexuality is such a big issue for the conservative side of the Church right now, and why the Church is such a big issue for homosexual-rights activists. Both groups have a set of beliefs and are not happy unless other people come to share it, and right now those sets of beliefs clash. Neither group thinks it is acceptable to “agree to disagree.”
But April 24 does not need to be ugly. If we all act rightly, it can be productive and everyone can learn – even if nobody’s minds are changed and nobody is converted to a new way of seeing Christianity.
The first concern of any Christian has to be to love every other person. On both sides, the people who will be involved that day claim to be Christian, so this concern must come before the desire to convert.
This means that people on both sides of the debate cannot yell, spouting off views about why the other side is wrong. That will do nothing to convert anybody. It is just what will make the day ugly.
Instead, everyone’s first priority should be to listen, not to convert. This applies to both the Equality Riders and supporters and those who think that Christianity and the practice of homosexuality cannot coexist, as well as those who don’t fit neatly into one of these boxes.
What do we mean? This: Don’t start by explaining your own beliefs. Instead, start by asking the people you talk with what they believe. You need to fully understand and sympathize with the other people’s beliefs, no matter how wrong you think they are. They are people too.
If there is any way for all of the people who will be here to come to any sort of agreement at all, this is it.
But even if there isn’t, just loving each other and coming to some understanding of why we believe what we believe is a noble goal.
Inquiring Minds is the collective opinion of the editorial staff and not necessarily representative of the entire staff. It is written by the managing editor and the editor-in-chief.