by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
It’s that time of year again. That time to journey home, the place of anxiety, fear, frustration and pain. Home. It’s where the hurt is. Yet again this week, in light of the Duck Dynasty Debacle, social media lit up, and along with it, the renewed call from various folks for the death of Christianity specifically, and religion in general.
Somehow, it’s just easier to believe that Phil Robertson’s Christianity represents all Christians. Somehow it’s just easier to invoke Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ simplistic critique. Religion is the source of evil in the world. Religion must die. QED.
Lord Have Mercy.
Christ Have Mercy.
Lord Have Mercy.
It’s in instances like these that I wonder whether or not we should be relieved that ignorance isn’t restricted to religious fundamentalism.
But there are deeper implications to consider here. As we approach Christmas, it will do us no good to deny the anxiety, fear, frustration and pain that comes with this season. Sure, it’s also about peace, joy, hope and love. But this year, I have on my mind friends whose Christmases will be fraught with difficult conversations and awkward family silences. Whose Christmases will involve familial prayers that they leave the old life behind and return to a Jesus they never left (and who never left them). As if to rub it in, their family will say “this Christmas, we made a donation to Living Waters, on your behalf,” and on, and on.
Each year we celebrate the birth of a misunderstood, deviant Saviour born in the midst of a totalizing empire, in a time of infanticide. In light of all that’s happening today, what do we do with that information?
Earlier this week, Tyler Smither posted these words:
“The current research suggestions that teenagers that are gay are about 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. That puts the percentage of gay teens attempting suicide at about 30-some percent. 1 out of 3 teens who are gay or bisexual will try to kill themselves. And a lot of times they succeed. In fact, Rev. [Frank] Schaefer’s son contemplated suicide on a number of occasions in his teens.”
What does it mean to receive the gift of life, this Christmas? What does it mean to receive as gift, the life whose path, whose call, whose orientation, and whose unwritten story is as yet unknown? Can we receive it with love, no matter what? Or are there qualifications to the love that we will extend in the name of Christ?
While folks like Steve Deace in USA Today style Robertson as a modern-day John the Baptist, he could just as easily be clothed in the Herod archetype. Does Mr. Robertson not, in fact, point out the Herod present in each of us? Does he not, in fact, point out the Herodian impulse in each community that demands the blood of its young in order to preserve its “rightful” hegemony?
Smither suggests we’re past the time for debate. That peoples’ lives are at stake. And that, whatever your thoughts on homosexuality (the issue) the best thing to do is to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sister, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers (you know, the people) with love. Self-sacrificing, vulnerable love for real, live human beings.
And so, while I worry and fret over the prayers being prayed on behalf of my friends, this year, I have my own prayers.
Prayers for new life. Prayers for embrace. Ultimately, I pray for wise men, women, and communities who will steer clear of Herod’s trap. This year, may we find a new way home. This year, may we find a way that witnesses to life.