A reader (and old friend) writes …

“… I confess that I don’t keep up with your personal life as much as I’d like to … I was surprised indeed to learn that your son is gay and that you participated in the wedding ceremony. That has to have hurt your credibility! In my own family, there are many who sincerely believe that there is no way to read the Bible except as a condemnation of homosexuality. I have always been unconvinced of that, and learning this about you has made me examine the issue more closely. I conclude that there is a very simple way of handling the issue — which, I suspect, is the way you handle it: The Bible does say very clearly what is the core of Christian faith. Most of that is in Micah 6:8, Luke 10:27. and the sermon on the mount. Any doctrine that does not contribute directly to the Christian life that Jesus, himself, actually spoke about (and those are the primary things he spoke about) must be considered secondary at best — and maybe an “adventure in missing the point”. Is homosexuality a sin? As I read the Bible, I should decide whether it’s a sin for me do it. That’s an entirely different question than whether it’s a sin if somebody else does it. My responsibility (Micah 6:8) is to humbly walk my own road to God, choosing my own actions carefully. I am not expected to judge the way others walk that road (“thou shalt not judge”). I am not permitted to disfellowship anybody because they have a different roadmap than I have. Any “Christian” whose primary goals (as evidenced by what he actually does and says, rather than by the list of doctrines to which he assents) include vilifying others for their behavior does not seem very Christlike.”

Thanks for your note and your thoughts, old friend. On the subject of credibility, you and I grew up in a world where one’s credibility is always on trial. Gatekeepers (official and unofficial) look for differences to condemn, and they quickly and decisively banish those who differ. All that happened to me quite a while ago – really, it began with the release of my book A Generous Orthodoxy. Once I had been banished, I realized that there is a big world “out here” where people are less interested in banishment and more interested (as you said) in doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God, and less interested in fragile “in-group” status, and more interested (as you said) in Christ-likeness … which, as we know, is not obsessed with status, but with self-giving.
This theme of self-giving vs. status really hit me hard when I was working on my upcoming book. The book includes a simple, one-year “introduction/overview of the Bible” lectionary … and there were only 2 passages (as I recall) that I felt needed to be repeated in the course of the year. One was the parable of the Good Samaritan and the other was Philippians 2. Both are about the choice between status (“saving face”), it turns out, and self-giving.