- December 16, 2013
Post submitted by Sharon Groves, former HRC Director, Religion and Faith Program
For LGBT folks and allies the holidays are often rough. When we’re least expecting it – while watching a football game, opening presents, preparing a meal – the insults come seemingly out of nowhere. “That’s so gay.” “He throws like a sissy.” “What a freak.” And so often, we shy away from responding because we know the retort will invoke God and the Bible.
Even if we don’t believe our God or our Bible gives license to that kind of vitriol, we’re not biblical scholars. We don’t have expertise – or energy – to thoughtfully engage. We won’t change their minds.
So we envision running from the room, throwing grandma’s best china or burying our heads in a book pretending not to hear.
This year can be different.
This holiday season, I invite you to not give up the “Bible ground.” Try to engage in a real conversation from a place of confidence, integrity and even, if you’re not feeling it, from a place of compassion and love.
HRC’s Religion and Faith program is proud to launch a weeklong blog series to help you navigate the sometimes-difficult holiday season.
Today we begin with a few ground rules.
What Not to Do:
Don’t disrespect someone’s religion. It is right and reasonable to disagree with someone’s interpretation of the Bible but you want to do it without calling their beliefs, religious practice, or their worship into question. While religious interpretations have been used in deeply homophobic and transphobic ways, people are not religious because of homophobia or transphobia.
Don’t assume strong arguments will win the day. If all we needed were good arguments, we would have won equality a long time ago. People’s beliefs are rarely based on rational argument alone. People turn to religion for complex reasons: an experience of the Divine in their life, family connection, a desire to connect with the mystery and wonder of life are just a few reasons. Respectful discussion about the biblical text is important but you should never overlook the emotional weight that faith carries in people’s lives.
What to Do:
Have an honest discussion. Remember, it’s about a conversation not a debate. You can (and I believe should) make strong biblically-based arguments for equality, but think of these as offering invitations to deeper conversations, and not to “winning” a debate.
Be courageous. It is your Bible too! For too long those who opposed equality for LGBT people have claimed to be the religious authorities. The fact is that the Bible is a complex document that has been translated numerous times and has been interpreted and reinterpreted throughout the ages by people longing for scriptural guidance. The most moving uses of the Bible are always by those who have felt unloved, alone or desperate and have found in it the salvation to not just transform their lives but the lives of those around them. You have a right to your reading and a right to your faith.
When in trouble, apply the Compassion test: Remember that this was a book that has brought solace, inspiration, and purpose to people for thousands of years. If you find yourself caught in a corner, try to apply a compassion test to the situation. Does the reading presented reflect the actions of a compassionate loving God? Is your response compassionate to yourself? To the person you’re in dialogue with? To those you care about? To those who anger you? If you start a biblical discussion with a loving and compassionate heart, you are doing Holy work.
For more resources from HRC’s Religion and Faith program, visit http://www.hrc.org/issues/religion-faith.
Though this series is intended for Christians in anticipation of Christmas, HRC's Religion and Faith program will be bringing you more series surrounding other religious holidays in 2014.