Is it safe?

I’ve been noodling on a twitter exchange last night.   John tossed out this question to the twitterverse:

How do you accept Fundies AND support LGBTQ? Is such a thing possible?

Followed by this expansion when I asked for more context:

2 B “radically inclusive” means we accept everyone on their disparate journeys. Some people’s journey causes them 2 hate LGBTQ.  and I am a cis male, but I imagine being forced 2 b w/ some1 who thinks my very existence is an abomination would be, well, abusive.

I replied that grace for all means grace for all. So yes, we accept both our LGBTQ sisters and brothers as well as those who oppose homosexuality based on their understanding of sin.  But we also don’t have to put up with abuse (well, I said crap, but abuse is more precise).

John: Ah, setting boundaries… What if I’m called upon to facilitate a space where all may be present? How do I make it safe?

This is so key to so much of the world we walk in, isn’t it?  We are called to be people of peace and to be peacemakers.  That means that we must find ways to be at peace with those we find to be abusive as well as those we see being abused.  And we must help create safe spaces for their reconciliation.

My reply was short (because I had to play taxi for the kid yet again).  But here is what I’ve been contemplating during and since that all too short conversation.  How do we make specific spaces safe?  Which points to the bigger question of how to be in peaceful disagreement with other followers of Christ?

0.5 Pray for all involved, including yourself.  Ask others to cover the conversation/venue in prayer for eyes and ears to be open and hearts to be softened.

1.  No one person can “make” a place safe.  We can certainly facilitate and moderate conversations that happen in quasi-formal settings.  And in informal conversations we can make sure that people know where we stand by calling out particularly hurtful statements.  But we cannot make others play nice, even when they know the rules and expectations for big people in sandboxes.

2. Everyone needs permission to disengage.  When things go sideways, which they can and do, then the hurt party needs to be able to walk away.  Sometimes, that person is the one you’d least expect to feel injured, but we’re talking about people with very deeply held beliefs being challenged to change.  That is never easy.  And we are talking about people who are way too well-acquainted with the dangers of being open and honest about themselves among church-folk.  Honor the need for self-preservation, but try to encourage honest dialogue about why leaving is the best option (at the right time).

3. Don’t heal one leper by throwing the disease onto someone else.  Jesus didn’t cause everyone else to have leprosy, paralysis, continual bleeding or a withered hand so that the ill and unclean, the outcast and despised could be part of a community.  He healed them and restored them.  He made people mad, and he had to talk them off the ceiling and out of their narrow views, but he persisted in saying that all belong.  All are loved.  If we love like Christ, we love all.  You can’t be an ally to the LGBTQ community, which has been so marginalized only to seek to marginalize those who pushed them to the edges- any more than you can minister to the homeless and forget that the rich are in desperate need of the gospel as well.

4. Answers are easy; living the answers is hard.  I parent a queer child, am married to an agnostic and have adopted all sorts of atheist, same-gender-loving, anarchist, you name it friends into my “family” along the way.  And I work at an international mission agency that is what Brian MacLaren would call big-C big E.  My home church has become more conservative in the past decade.  Depending on who I am with on any given day, half of my universe is being mocked or abused.

And God has made it clear again and again that I don’t get to choose who to love.  I must love them all.  That means I have chewed off a lot of the inside of my mouth and a fair portion of my tongue.  I have also had beautiful heartfelt conversations.  I have maintained perspective when I wanted to lash out.  But I have also been the mama bear when someone needed to be protected and claimed.   I am not proud of the times I have been too silent.  Nor am I proud of the times I have been too harsh.

I am learning to pray more, lean harder into the Holy Spirit and trust God to provide the right times and places to speak, or hug, be silent or remove myself from the situation.   To me, this is how we make spaces safe… by committing to being safe ourselves and encouraging others to do the same – no matter the difficult issue (and there are plenty in this broken world).


3 thoughts on “Is it safe?

  1. Thanks John & Brian. One thing I didn’t include is the fact that there are people and situations that are just flat toxic. it would be naive to think that these ideas apply to those people who want nothing more than to verbally and emotionally abuse others.

    Do you love and pray for these people from a distance? Yes.
    Do you attempt to correct and discipline in some way? Yes, as much as you have power, credibility and authority to do so.
    Do you invite those they would seek to abuse and oppress into their presence (come into my parlor said the spider to the fly)? No.

    Nor do I advocate swimming in a tank with killer whales or hanging out in a tiger enclosure.

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