Let’s Not “Agree to Disagree”

agree to disagreeI’m taking an interfaith conflict resolution course at my seminary. Tonight, the professor briefly touched on the difficulties experienced by religious people when attempting to solve problems within their own faiths.

During her lecture, a certain student raised her hand to share that in her opinion, one example of internal religious conflict occurred several months ago when Chick-Fil-A’s CEO expressed that he felt the “institution of marriage” should be “protected” by reserving it for heterosexual relationships. She felt the backlash from the public was wrong– and that in our country, religious people who express their opinions on issues of “morality” are often unfairly targeted, unheard or misunderstood.

The professor (whom I actually interpret to be rather liberal) attempted to move on by inviting another student to speak. An older gentleman raised his hand and said that he believes some conflicts require us to “agree to disagree” because that’s the more peaceful thing to do.

Everyone nodded along, but this bothered me. A lot. So I raised my hand.

I explained that in my opinion, there are times when justice requires us to stop “agreeing to disagree”. Inaction and complacency can in themselves become forms of violence. My comments seemed to make the students uncomfortable… After all, the topic of same-sex relationships is one that has been inflammatory in other classroom settings, and is intentionally avoided by the faculty. I think the professors are instructed to stay away from the topic because they scurry like hell to change the subject when it rears its head. The students often avoid it because they’re worried that their comments might cause division.

The truth is that I’ve grown very weary of the “agree to disagree” policy that is so often applied to issues surrounding same-sex relationships. The phrase “agree-to-disagree” implies that both positions (for and against) have merit– but in the case of civil rights, I don’t believe that’s possible. I simply do not believe that a person’s right to oppress is as valid as the rights of those experiencing the oppression. And I think we become complicit in oppression when we buy into the myth of the oppressor’s rights.

Christianity is a privileged group in this country, and at many times throughout history (including today) its religious leaders have been guilty of oppressing people whose humanity (as found in their religion or lack thereof, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) they haven’t understood. This has happened in nearly every generation in which Christianity has existed– and in every case, there has always been some faction of people who said, “Those who wish to use scripture to marginalize others are entitled to their opinion.”

I can’t say that anymore. Even if it’s popular. Even if it’s politically correct. Even if it’s touted as the “peaceful” thing to do.

Those who use scripture to belittle, marginalize or discriminate against other people are NOT entitled to do so. There is no merit in a position that minimizes a person’s worth based on his or her sexual orientation– even if he or she believes God has given him or her the divine right to carry out such discrimination. “Agreeing to disagree” is not the helpful or peaceful thing to do in a situation where oppression is the problem. The helpful and peaceful thing to do is to call oppression what it is: Bigotry. Socially violent. Absolutely and totally wrong.

So here are the unintended lessons I learned at seminary today: That we all have a limit. And that I’ve finally met mine. And that I don’t want to play the “we-both-have-valid-positions” game when it comes to issues of equality or human dignity. And that I need to start admitting that, at times, I am tired of Christianity’s institutions– for a variety of reasons– but most recently because they often ask us to affirm the oppressor’s rights.

And now I must go to bed. After all… I have class again tomorrow.

75 responses to “Let’s Not “Agree to Disagree”

  1. Sometimes you do come to impasse. Presumably, if you feel strongly that someone is totally wrong – i.e. expressed or upheld a discriminatory point of view – you don’t just pipe up and agree to disagree right out of the box. But eventually you might well (or not so well) come to an impasse. Isn’t there a way to “agree to disagree” without the implication that you concede that the discriminatory view or action is valid?

    • I think the word “impasse” implies that a discussion has taken place. My frustration here is with the refusal to even discuss the issue because both parties are presumed to have valid points. I do think it’s possible to exit a discussion with someone without giving the impression that you agree with their position. If we didn’t, these conversations would never end. But I can no longer support the culture of quiet, tacit approval that exists in Christian institutions. I think it’s important to speak up, or things will never change.

      • Your write, “My frustration here is with the refusal to even discuss the issue because both parties are presumed to have valid points.”
        Yes, I would agree with you on this.

      • You said exactly what I wanted to say. Before you can “agree to disagree”, you have to actually disagree. AFTER you disagree, you don’t have to make a blood feud out of it; then (depending on the setting) I think it’s fine to say, “Well, we’re not going to solve this here. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.” But “agreeing to disagree” without voicing the disagreement is a form of tacit agreement.

  2. I think your use of the term “oppression” is what people need to hear. Many people don’t view their actions as being oppressive when clearly it is. Could you explain more about the comment “Christianity is a privileged class in this country,” I’m not sure I agree but want to understand what you mean by that comment. Thanks.

    • I can’t tell you what the author means by “Christianity is a privileged class in this country.” but I can tell you what I think she means.

      -The majority of our elected officials swear their oath on the Christian holy book–the Bible, it is expected and assumed that they will do so because the assumption is that they are of the Christian faith. It is considered surprising–even worrisome in some circles–if an elected official chooses to make their oath on a different holy book.

      -In our Pledge of Allegiance, said across the country in most schools, we use the words “under God” and it is heavily implied that it is the Christian deity that those words refer to. They certainly do not refer to the deities of any of the other major world religion, such as Buddha (yes, I am aware the Buddha is not technically a deity, but I’m simplifying), Allah, or the Hindu pantheon.

      -Except for New Years, all of the major universal holidays in this country that are not directly linked to historical figures or events coincide with Christian holy days. It does not matter that we call them “Spring Break” or “Winter Holidays” they are Easter and Christmas. We do not have holidays dedicated to any other religion’s holy days.

      -In nearly any city in the United States, Christian churches out number those of any other religion. I would speculate that in most places, Christian churches outnumber all other religious buildings combined.

      And those are just a few of the readily observable ways that Christianity is absolutely a privileged class in this country. If you disagree, ask yourself if you would feel comfortable taking time off for Good Friday, when your Jewish co-worker gets a week off for Passover. Ask yourself how you would feel if the majority of your elected officials made their oath on the Upanishads instead of the Bible. Ask yourself if you would be comfortable saying the words “under Buddha” instead of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Ask yourself if you would find it intimidating to go into a city and see Churches on every corner but not a single Mosque. We take Christian privilege for granted because it is what we know, but that’s not what it is like for members of other religions in this country.

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  4. Really great points you’ve made, Crystal.

    These two in particular:
    “Those who use scripture to belittle, marginalize or discriminate against other people are NOT entitled to do so.”
    and
    “The helpful and peaceful thing to do is to call oppression what it is: Bigotry. Socially violent. Absolutely and totally wrong.”

    When you point out to those people that they are bigots, then the tables get turned and they claim they are being oppressed or attacked. Why? Because what they regurgitated from some backwards preacher (not original thought) has just got them handed the bigot card and they know it’s an ugly label and they know they are one for holding those opinions. Yet, it’s popular with the televangelists or the Mark Driscoll’s of the world so it MUST be okay. Everyone’s doing it, right? The irony in their claim that they’re being oppressed is just so funny. The other day someone claimed that I was oppressing them by taking away their FREEDOM to have a different opinion. I said no, “You’re still free to have that opinion, but I’m free to say that opinion is stupid or bigoted.”

    The other thing is, “those who use scripture to belittle….are NOT entitled to do so…”. This gets me twisted up some. See, at one point I thought fundamentalists were reading the Bible wrong. That’s why they were so hateful, right? (And by them, I mean formerly me, since I was one.) It starts getting really complicated here. Yes, there are wonderfully progressive Christians and ministers who are intelligent, thoughtful, kind people I respect and love having in my life. It’s interesting though, that they are NOT considered Christians among fundamentalists. Perhaps this is why modern fundamentalists teach their members to “go deeper” and be “pure” and “sacrifice” because they can then claim superiority and isn’t that what we see so much of in modern fundamentalism? Superiority. The “we are elite Christians and no one has us beat on our devotion to God.” I know. I was in an elite training program for young, Christian adults for most of my twenties (as you know). But because of my background as a LITERAL Bible reader, not a progressive one, I have a hard time saying the Bible isn’t oppressive and these people don’t have the right to use scripture to belittle, because if you do read the Bible literally and at face value, you have the right to use scripture to be VIOLENT, insane, murderous even. And that is where things get complicated-because although the Bible is in many ways violent and perhaps one of the more violent texts, people SHOULD know better. They should know right from wrong simply because society (not necessarily religion) has permanently branded that concept in us, but they do what I did–they lay down their right to think for themselves. They ignore their conscious. They begin to accept the ‘group think’ and popular arguments without analyzing them or debating them, and that’s partly because the modern evangelical church is set up to be hierarchical (and you could argue this for every major religion), and even further, we have a deeply rooted authoritarian culture in modern Christianity. God is an angry Father and so is your pastor, type of thing. In my experience, and from observation for the past three years, many of the fundamentalist churches nationwide have more similarity than difference. Their core values are all rooted on similar ideologies that are not necessarily UNIVERSAL to Christianity, but they are common in US evangelical ‘theology’. Terms like shepherding, discipleship, accountability, purity, manliness, gentle spirit, servant, etc. all stem from this ‘theology’ and it all comes from somewhere. Historically speaking, I think it comes from the Puritans but has gone through micro-evolution over the years with prominent Christians like Smith Wigglesworth, Oswald Chambers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pat Robertson, Bill Gothard, the whole TBN crowd, dozens of “prophets”, Billy Graham, David Wilkerson, James Dobson, etc. (obviously, there are plenty of influences in the early 1900’s and even 1800’s that I can’t name off the top of my head at the moment). Evangelical preachers have plagiarized these men’s sermons for decades and decades, sometimes adding to it, other times taking away, but essentially leaving the core values and ideology in tact. It’s no surprise that there’s a lack of diverse thought within US Christian culture (at least the most outspoken culture, ahem, fundamentalist), then. But further to that, there’s a hostility toward original thought and a fear of taking away their faith, because the minute you use logic and reason or call them a bigot, it calls into question their faith and beliefs and makes them question whether their is a God. (got to stop the rant for now…)

    On a personal note, I’ve tried to become more diplomatic and less argumentative because I wasn’t getting anywhere with some people. So, I think it’s important to point out that as much as I hate to admit it, you win more bees with honey. (I truly hate to say that, but I’ve learned the hard way.) I also feel like people know who I am and what I believe, and it’s a lot like being a Christian. I wasn’t the type to shove Jesus down someone’s throat, but if they wanted to know, they would ask. I’m still outspoken, but I don’t expect anyone to change. I just want to point out facts.

    When it comes to, say, my family, we have to agree to disagree but not because I think their point is valid. It’s because I respect them as my family members and love them. I know that they are smart people and are very informed, though they disagree me on with major social justice issues.

  5. I find myself agreeing with you, and yet I want to qualify that agreement. Your points are all valid; I, too, am tired of the way we use “agree to disagree” as a tool to avoid very difficult and uncomfortable discussions. That said, I think that, as Christians, we are also called to disagree out of love. Christ was very clear on how we should treat not only our neighbors but our enemies, and that the command to love of one-another is second only to that of loving God. When we confront someone whom we truly to believe to be in error, we are called to do so compassionately. This means, to me at least, that we at least use tact as well as consideration of the time and place of the conversation and the other person’s state of mind/beliefs.

    However, the expectation placed upon Christians is to stand firm against error and hatred. We can speak out with love and compassion and still be a prophetic voice of justice and tolerance. You are correct that ‘inaction and complacency can themselves become forms of violence,” and I would add silence to that as well. I’ve come to believe that the greatest heresy that we can indulge in is to co-opt the Word of God so that it is made to support our sinful natures.

    The point that I find myself using more and more is that as a Christian I am following the teaching of Jesus, who is the fulfillment of The Law, the New Covenant between God and humanity. The vengeful God that one finds in parts of the Old Testament is not the Father that Jesus showed us. When someone can point out to me that Jesus said gays are abominations, or that women are of less value than men, or that wars of aggression are perfectly okay, or that denying health care to the poor, or that accumulating great wealth at the expense of others is moral, then I’ll begin listening seriously to such arguments. Until such time, though, I’ll remain a follower of the Christ of the gospels.

    • Excellent response, Andy. I am a Christian too, and do my best daily to adhere to the Gospel message, and because of that, I fail to understand how anybody could ever think of themselves as Christians, and simultaneously assume that “standing firm against error and hatred” means the oppression of their gay brothers and sisters. Again, you are certainly welcome to your opinion. You are NOT welcome to make your opinion into laws that the rest of us must follow.

    • So you essentially ignore what God did/says in the OT and keep the NT to what boils down to it makes you feel better? The OT God and the NT God are supposed to be one in the same. BTW the OT ‘vengeful’ God didn’t discuss burning people for eternity. Hard to see the difference in your stance when that fact is included.

      • Hi Jim C. Your comment doesn’t seem to match the context of this article. Did you mean to comment on another post? I would love to engage you in discussion, but don’t quite understand what you mean.

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  7. “I explained that in my opinion, there are times when justice requires us to stop “agreeing to disagree”. Inaction and complacency can in themselves become forms of violence.”

    Then I guess you will just have to agree that the inaction and complacency towards clergy misconduct of all kinds on the part of the Peter Morales UUA administration (to say nothing of previous UUA administrations) and the UUA Board of Trustees is form of violence. . .

  8. Crystal, Thanks for saying this! It is something we need to hear often. I’ve been thinking about my frustration with more conservative denominations – specifically those who don’t allow women to preach. I want to address them without anger, but right now, that’s kinda difficult. At the Emergence Christianity conference in Memphis a couple of weeks ago, Phyllis Tickle asked this question… (paraphrased) How do we embrace and love these brothers and sisters in Christ, for that is what they are, and yet not seem to approve of the oppressive theology to which they subscribe? I don’t know that I can compartmentalize them outside of my Christian family any more. Yet, I cannot confront them at this stage of the game – too new to do more than sabotage my ministry or to have the credibility built up to address these wrongs. It is something I struggle with and will continue to do so. I wonder, have we created a new “other” by compartmentalizing the fundamentalist conservative Christians? To what extent to we attempt to stifle their voice? Am I guilty of doing that which I hate in others? probably…

    Thanks for making me think, Crystal!!

    • Shirley, I appreciate your sensitivity and attempt to be both inclusive and consistent as a “liberal” (not meant as a label, but a stance relative to those less inclusive). Supposed liberals (or progressives, as I identify myself) sometimes have pretty illiberal attitudes and manner, and conservatives are quick to note it.

      That being said, it IS tricky, challenging to not make certain people “other” than us. What tends to help me most is to realize that everyone IS in some process of change (even in actively resisting it, often). To the extent we can identify where and how a person (or group) IS open or questioning, and support or gently nudge them in that direction, I think we are serving both them AND the larger cause for important changes. Believe me, what has happened with the Emerging “movement” is way beyond what I (or I think about anyone) could have imagined as a young Evangelical in ministry training in the early 70s. I’m also encouraged with certain movement within the liberal side of “mainline” denominations, which grouping has had (and still does) its own blind spots and stuck points.

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  11. Well said, Crystal… and I agree. And defending or supporting someone being oppressed is a “higher” thing to stand up for than one’s opinion on some abstract or personal concept. And it is still important that respect and non-inflammatory language be used as much as possible. Not the absence of calling something what it is, but avoiding insults, name-calling, and other demeaning approaches. Unfortunately, the “defending” ones can be guilty of this as well and it tends to undercut the power of the message. Maturity is learning both WHEN to speak up and HOW to.

  12. I agree with the writer. I am “sick unto death” of the notion of agree-to-disagree particularly when it comes to our foreign policy: drones, bombs, pre-emptive strikes, etc. etc. ad nauseam. Why is ANY of that negotiable? It is morally repugnant to dither over issues of killing other people (especially via what is basically a video game in a faraway room at Creech or Hancock AFB). How can people possibly sign on to “agree to disagree” when such profound issues are at stake??

  13. Well, of COURSE there are SOME positions about which you can and will NOT tolerate disagreement. E.g., you are not going to “tolerate” somebody disagreeing with you about the question of whether you do or don’t have a right TO DRAW ANOTHER BREATH — especially if they are campaigning and voting accordingly, and if their mere opinion-of-disagreement has legitimate prospects of getting ENACTED INTO LAW.

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  15. And Christianity as a religion is NOTORIOUSLY INtolerant about ONE particular issue: John 14:6 ” … I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”
    Yet, sometimes the Bible is in tension with itself — compare the above with John 10:16 ” And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:

  16. The thing I find very much interesting about this gay controversy argument, and the gay themselves, is that in a democratic society, they have right to defend their so call rights but the Church and other religious groups are not free to defend what they believe is wrong, hmmmmmm I call it dictatorship. We believe base on scripture that Homosexual practice is wrong, you believe its right so what, you want to force you view on the rest of us and we must just accept it without voicing our opinion and ignore what the bible says?

    • Mr. Robinson: Please see my comments below. Nobody is saying that “the Church and other relgious groups are not free to defend what they believe is wrong.” We are saying that you don’t have the right to make your opinions into laws and force the rest of us to comply with them.

    • This is exactly the point that the author is making: “Those who use scripture to belittle, marginalize or discriminate against other people are NOT entitled to do so. There is no merit in a position that minimizes a person’s worth based on his or her sexual orientation– even if he or she believes God has given him or her the divine right to carry out such discrimination.” You are absolutely free to have your opinion, but don’t call it dictatorship when other people disagree with you. That’s not dictatorship, that’s civil discourse.
      Let me present a counter example: the KKK believe that equal rights for non-white people is wrong, based on scripture. They are not free to enforce their beliefs. Is that tyranny? Dictatorship? Certainly by your definition, it is.

  17. Excellent article. I would argue on one sniggly point, though: the anti-equality people do have a right to have their opinions. What they don’t have a right to do (and what they seem to feel entitled to do) is to make their opinions into law and force them on the rest of us.

    It’s a small point, but it helps avoid the “you’re opressing me by objecting to my opinion” response I so often get from the anti-equality crowd.

      • There exists NO Constitutional separation of church and state! Have you (any of you erudite know-it-alls) read the US Constitution? Ever? Not irrelevant recent court opinion. Show us the evidence. There is none. The continued repetition of this misconstrued notion, or lie, that there is shows the abounding ignorance of those who think they know so much. That wall of separation that is so often quoted was 1) in a letter from one person to another ABOUT the Constitution, 2) referring to the need to make absolutely certain that a particular denomination of the Christian church as a whole would never have the ability to make itself into another Church of England, which was telling people, through the force of government, HOW they were allowed to worship. Furthermore, the clause in the Constitution referring to this, states SIMPLY (hard for you over-educated fools to comprehend, I know) that CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Simple. To simple for the simple-minded boobs masquerading as public servants in DC to grasp. I bet you think the Constitution grants rights to the people, correct?

      • I’m always amazed when people think that their interpretation of the Constitution is not an interpretation.

  18. Asking me to not act on discrimination IS a violation of my religious views. The Bible – quoting the words of Jesus – makes it crystal clear that whatever I do to my fellow man, I do to God himself. Would I allow someone to abuse God in the name of religion? No. Then I cannot allow something like the Chik-fil-A abuse to continue without rising in opposition. It’s not a “culture war” issue. It’s an issue of real friends who are gay, facing real discrimination, real monetary and legal protection losses, and if anyone thinks I’m going to overlook that because the CEO of that chicken joint has a religious view, they’re dead wrong.

  19. None of this discussion is even the slightest bit valid. If you claim to be a Christian and you read the Bible it states clearly that God views homosexuality as an abomination. There is no oppression. How can people expect to stand in front of a God that says He hates this sin and vow before God to continue living in sin. Such arrogance is the only real oppressor in this debate. Christians are the oppressed Not the gays and lesbians because at No point in time was anyone ever forced to accept God, but we are forced to accept the the immorallity and filth that has been shoved down throats. Listen I am not against people. I believe that everyone is equal under the law. However when the Law is changed to accomidate a minority We are doing things backwards. Civil unions were created for those who chose that lifestyle. That afforded all of the same rights and benefits as a legal marraige. I believe that what people do behind closed doors is betweem them and God I do not judge I do not condemn. However I as part of my core belief in God believe that What God has said is true and that he doesn’t change his mind. The Bible says that he is the same yesterday today and forever, and that He changes Not. What was true in the Bible thousands of years ago is true now. One simply can not say I’m a Christian but this part of God’s word has to go because it doesn’t fit my agenda. Excuse me but by doing so are you not saying I am greater than the God whom I claim to serve?
    Hebrews 6:12 says Make every effort to live in peace with all men… I believe in that. Jesus called us to be peace makers not peace keepers, and when he went into the temple and found them selling and trading he didn’t quietly walk up and say “Hey guys Lets agree to disagree here.” He flipped over the tables Whipped a man and Shouted “You’ve turned my father’s house into a den of thieves.”
    If this Discussion is to continue it must not continue among The Church. (God’s People) Because it simply doesn’t make sense. God is a loving forgiving God, but He is also a holy God who requires riteousness and purity.
    I apologize if you are angry or offended but I for one will not stand back and not speak the truth. And please like I said I am not against people I’m against sin, and I’m against the spirit that exalts itself against God with arrogance. We as a nation will bring judgement upon ourselves if we don’t repent and change our hearts.

    • Joe you are misinterpretting passages in the Bible. At no point does the Bible ‘clearly’ state that God views homosexuality as an abomination. All you are doing is continuing to foster the misconceptions that you have been led to believe are the true words of God. There are varying interpretations of the Bible and it seems like you have chosen the ones that condemn homosexuality.
      There is oppresion. When I am denied the right to marry my partner of 20 years and thereby denied the same rights accorded to heterosexual couples that is oppression. Civil Unions do not afford the same benefits of a civil marriage. Also, the federal government does not recognize either civil unions or civil marriages of same-sex couples. That is oppression.
      Marriage comes with it quite a bit of financial and quality of life benefits. Try getting access to your deceased partner’s remains to perform a burial service; getting a home mortgage together; obtaining health insurance through your partner’s employer based plan; taking family leave to care for your partner; receiving pension benefits from your partner; taking bereavement leave when your partner passes; visiting your partner in the hospital; consenting to an autopsy; filing for adoption; applying for joint foster care; equitable division of property if you dissolve the relationship; receiving spousal or child support; receiving children visitation rights; being able to sign a lease; suing for wrongful death of your partner; not being forced to testify against your partner in court; being able to move to another state and have your relationship recogognized; creating a life trust for married couples; ability to be appointed as your partner’s conservator; receiving family rates for auto and homeowner insurance; AND if the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages then ADD the following: a multitude of tax benefits; no inheritance taxes; receiving Social Security benefits through your partner; veteran’s and miliatary benefits through your partner; public assistance, ability to receive COBRA health insurance coverage to just mention a FEW of the over 1,000 benefits according to married couples. Until I can marry my partner we are not equal under the law.
      Also, most homosexuals will tell you that we did not choose this “lifestyle”. My sexual orientation was not a choice. I would never have chosen this path. It was chosen for me.
      Christians are not oppressed. Christians are not forced to accept what you deem to be immoral. You can have your beliefs. I just don’t have to accept your view of immorality, doesn’t mean you don’t get to continue believeing what you believe. You are not forced to enter into a same-sex relationship or marriage, yet I am denied the right to marry.
      In one breath you state you do not judge or condemn and you believe in making every effort to live in peace with all men, yet you make refreference to filth being shoved down your throat.
      You say you speak the truth, yet the views you speak of are far from the truth.

      • Jesus Christ! Help these folks understand they are advocating stupid behavior, both in the epidemiological, physical, and spritual senses.
        OMG! OH MY GOD! Father help me understand that I have sinned against you and that I need your Son, Jesus in my heart. Please cleanse me from what I have done, and live in my heart to help me know to do better moving forward. I know you don’t hate me for murdering that person in my heart, for sexing that girl up in my mind, and for stealing that from that person in my thoughts. Or any of the physical manifestations of my sinful ways. I know you won’t beat me up about it, because you are love, and the accuser is the enemy that tries to trip me up with lies and accusations. You have overcome all of that with your love, through the resurrection of your Son, Jesus.
        We all have sinned. Nobody enjoys facing that fact, but it’s true. God is holy and full of love, and simultaneously just. One can CHOOSE to ignore the fact and go around quoting scripture-like Satan does. Oh-you didn’t know that, did you? Yeah, just because you can quote a coupe of lines of scripture, even if you’ve read the Bible from cover to cover, this is irrelevant. Knowing the words is like hearing a computerized voice sing or describe the beauty of a flower or the taste of chocolate. If you have no faith in the saving Grace of Jesus Christ, the wisdom of the Bible will elude your worldly fallen mind (includes everybody, all of us humans, excludes nobody). Yes, we live in a free society. This was no accident, any more than your birth or mine. This was brought about by men and women of faith. Faith, not in a tree, a seagull or a lamp, or a dead idol. Christians are a bunch of people just like you who are hurt, broken, have sinned, maybe worse than you, but who have decide to TURN away from it in the only way that has any eternal value.There were Christians who owned slaves in the USA – big whoop! There were atheists and Muslims and… you get the idea. Christianity, which you deride at every opportunity, was also at the leading edge of the abolition of slavery, which would have happened one way or the other with or without the influence of government. So, can it about how bad Christianity is. You speak out of ignorance. The issue of homosexuality is simple. Where there is bad behavior, society as a whole, and government should not encourage, reward or sanction it. Homosexuality and its behavior is responsible for the spread of AIDS and its victims are evident to see what terrible results have happened from the disease. Homosexuality is not a way of life, it is a way of death. Anyone with a brain can plainly see that there is no life that pours forth from such a combination. It is a way of destruction, disease, decay, and all of that, sure. But since we live in a free society, we do not have an “anti-homosexual police force” rounding up people who take part in these behaviors. Likewise, we should not condone it by inclusion in the sanctity of marriage, sanction and reward it by other means, or encourage it by yet other means. If you want to have a contract with someone that includes property, business ownership, or even power of attorney for another person regardless of sex or family relation, that is available already. Stop trying to justify what you already know to be bad behavior, a sin in the eyes of the one true God, by trying to get approval by society and the world at large, and calling it marriage! This shows your level of insanity, and chaotic thinking.

    • “One simply can not say I’m a Christian but this part of God’s word has to go because it doesn’t fit my agenda.”
      So you support slavery, stoning people who work on the Sabbath and forcing women to marry their rapists? If not, you have done exactly what you claim is a Bad Thing.

      As far as the use of the term “civil union” rather than “marriage” – you have no right to define the sacraments for another church. If you want “civil union” to be the word used for ALL government recognized unions, that fine. Know, however, that those who go before a judge (straight or gay) will still call themselves “married” and there will be churches that will perform the sacrament of marriage for same sex couples.

      • OK I’ll say it- DUUHHHH! Stoning people who work on the Sabbath? Yeah, those crazy Christians are always doing that, am I right? Foolish person. Slavery- yeah that happens all t the time in the free world these days, especially from those radical weirdo Christians, and never ever in those “religion of peace” crap holes around the world, right? RIGHT?!! And that whole marrying the rapist is the bomb, man-love it! My 3 daughters are so looking forward to that! Foolish person! You have no voice in defining what is, and is not, a righteous life, a Christian life, or even to participate in an intelligent conversation about the subject matter, because you approach it from a position of ignorance. Ever hear of the new covenant? Probably not. It is revealed pretty blatantly in the “New Testament” of the Holy Bible. Nobody can live by all those rules and have everlasting life in heaven-nobody, it’s impossible! God sent His Son, Jesus to live a sinless life, then take on all the world’s sin and pay the tab just once for all mankind(who accepts Him into their hearts, etc. there is literature.Get some) Same sex people cannot, by definition, have the SACRAMENT of marriage performed for them. sac·ra·ment
        /ˈsakrəmənt/
        Noun
        A religious ceremony or act of the Christian Church that is regarded as an outward and visible sign of divine grace, in particular.
        They can have a party, have some goon stand in front of a bunch of people and say some gushy words, but it is not a sacrament. You see, this all started with the “what I do in my own privacy is none of your business-all we want is to be left alone”. Sounded reasonable enough to enough people, that the lie was bought. Then it escalated to “you can’t tell me who I can make out with at the mall-it’s not like we’re saying it’s the same as your marriage thing. Again, just leave us alone!” stupidity. Well, it is a free country, so a few more people bought the lie. Then it was, “We want to be allowed to share property, etc, etc., what’s so bad about that” (You already can do all of that junk- always could) But a few more people bought that pack of lies, and accepted it. And now we see the true colors of this cancer that is the incremental normalization of deviant behavior-“We want what is yours- approval by all of society, recognition by all, we want to dilute the meaning of marriage, by being included in that definition”, that we are exactly the same in our pairing off for the purposes of this deviant behavior, as you are in your silly little preservation of life spouting, reproductive, hope-springing, life affirming God stuff. I have a proposal for you. If marriage can be between equally 1 woman and 1 man, and 2 people of the same sex…why not a man and multiple wives? Or a woman and multiple husbands? Or a goat, 2 dogs, a gerbil, a man, a doll, and a hockey team? Who are you to say we’re not in love???!!! I can see the TV series based on this “equality” being planned already. I have one final thing to say to you who promote this aberrant behavior. We Christians just want to be left alone in our definition of marriage. You can’t have it-it isn’t yours to steal. Go get your contract notarized, because marriage is part of a belief system that you cannot comprehend. But we will push back. More. And more. And more. Until we achieve what is right, not what the emotionally damaged people who do this want to destroy. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. You can’t have it!

    • Joe, please understand that this is your opinion, and it’s not an opinion that all Christians share. To say that gay people are condemned by the Bible without also adding the people who eat shellfish, wear clothese made out of 2 different materials, and women who speak in church are also condemned. You’re picking and choosing which scripture verses you want to take literally and which you don’t. Ergo, your whole argument is a matter of your opinion only, not based in scripture any more than mine, which says that unless you’re worshipping idols while have sex with your gay partner, there is nothing in the Bible that condemns you.

  20. I fully agree with the writer’s ascertions. Over the past year I finally came to the same conclusion that I can no longer agree to disagree when my civil rights are at stake, especially when the other party already enjoys the benefits of the civil rights withheld from me.

  21. Than you so much for saying this. This is a truth well know to those in the social justice community -.- “Agreeing to disagree” means “maintaining the status quo” and to those suffering a systemic injustice the status quo is inherently unfair.

  22. The person who wrote this is obviously not a Christian. I think it is O K to agree to disagree upon certain things and circumstances. Saying that ” Christianity is a privileged class in our society” is not right. … it sounds as if someone is jealous or something…where do they get that one from ???

    • Christianity is a privileged class in the US. Don’t believe it? Trying saying “Blessed Solstice” to everyone you meet in December. Say “Have a good Yom Kippur” to everyone in the fall. You will get strange looks. If, however, you say “Happy Easter” in the spring, people will smile and nod.

      • In fact, if you say “Happy Easter to someone and they reply “I’m not Christian” they get accused of being rude and not taking it in the holiday spirit. However, if that same non-Christian says “Happy Holidays” in December, some Christians feel it is fine to “correct” them to “Merry Christmas”.

  23. Oppressive fundamentalists DO have the right to try to influence legislation, whether against GLBTQI people or against women’s reproductive rights or against the spread of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. How do we fight the civil battle in an appropriate way?

    • Everyone has the right to try and influence legislation, whether it’s based on their firmly held religious beliefs or based on anything else. But our government was developed with the principle of “majority rules, minority rights” in mind, and to try to prevent any majority from tyrannizing the minority just by virtue of the fact that they ARE a minority. There are obviously road blocks in the form of judges and legislators who resist the defining of LGBTQI people as a group that should be privy to the protections designed to protect minorities, but everyone should have the same rights under the law. I think part of the problem is that passions run high on both sides of the argument. But, when you come right down to it, the people who are against LGBTQI rights and equality are fighting against something that doesn’t really impact their lives in any detrimental way. I’m straight, and it doesn’t affect me AT ALL if same sex couples get married. They invent a lot of arguments about how they don’t want their children to see same sex couples or whatever, but I don’t want my (hypothetical) children to see war, to see murders on the news every night, or to see bigots with signs out trying to take rights away from other people. No one gets to craft the world outside their homes that way, it’s just an impossible demand to make, and it reflects the entitlement of having gotten their way for a long, long time. I wish there were a simple rule that legislation had to pass before being adopted: does allowing this thing to happen negatively impact the lives of others? And, if so, is the amount of harm inflicted on others of such a magnitude that it should outweigh the damage it inflicts on the life of the person in question?

  24. “Out beyond ideas of wrong doings and right doings, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” — Rumi. Well… I have found this to be true, beyond doubt (and beyond certainty), and the answer to all questions and conflicts cannot be found in taking up a position either way on whether or not to agree or disagree. Each must find the Answer, and it will be the same answer, and the conflict on the surface of the mind will be disappear.

  25. It’s obvious that the sun travels around the earth. About this we can agree to disagree. But the truth is that the sun doesn’t travel around the earth.

  26. well said crystal, and by and large the most civil range of comments i have scanned through in a long time, with only one outlier, or possibly a troll. moderate denominations, both christian and otherwise have for too long allowed only the christian, muslim, jewish and yes buddhist too, right to be the voice the media and the public get to hear, and the complicity of the media in giving the most virulent oppressors a place in the discussion in the name of “balanced” discussion, or equal time.

  27. I am a fellow seminary student — just up north a bit from you. This is such an important statement: “we become complicit in oppression when we buy into the myth of the oppressor’s rights.” It’s something we struggle with in our discussions here as well. And as much as we profess to be a very liberal seminary, we are entirely too unwilling to call bigotry and hatred for what it is. I also think there is a lost art of disagreeing. There are many people with whom I break on very important issues that I continue to love, respect, and value in my life. But when disagreement is seen as dislike, we lose our ability to have meaningful and potentially transformative conversations.

  28. To me, agreeing to disagree has never implied that both sides have merit; only that the person proposing it feels that either the argument, or their opponent, lacks enough merit to be worth the time.
    My friend foolishly believes combining chocolate and orange is acceptable. I don’t hassle her about it, but this doesn’t mean I feel her views have merit: just that her friendship has far greater merit than the issue does.
    I wouldn’t dream of wasting a single breath arguing any point with the Westbro Baptist Church. This doesn’t mean I feel their views have merit: just that I feel they themselves have no merit at all.

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  30. Well done, Crystal. The comments basically say the same thing I want to say, which is that avoiding conflict only creates more conflict. We want to, and I agree that we should, avoid open warfare over an issue. We should not avoid simple conflict–disagreement, argument, intellectual struggle–just because it’s uncomfortable. Change always requires discomfort, and injustice always demands change. Thanks very much for this post.

  31. Hah. Welcome to my world. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. If your sphere of compassion ever expands to include non-human animals, you’ll find that dealing with this kind of thing is no longer just a frustration that occurs once in a while in seminary, but becomes pretty much your daily way of life.

    The oppression inflicted upon animals dwarf the oppression of gays that you’re talking about in both scale and severity (it’s not that homophobia is trivial – far from it. But the animal oppression that goes on in our society is a hundred times worse). Yet just try actually bringing any of it up. 99% of the time you’re met with uncomfortable blank stares, a hasty change of subject, perhaps an empty platitude or two if you’re lucky, and ultimately a general refusal to acknowledge the issue. I believe you’ve been guilty of this too, if I’m not mistaken.

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  34. Hello, everyone sounds so educated. I feel left out :( . Anywho, God loves everyone digg it. Some people actually want to have a civil conversation others want to quarrel. Quarreling is pointless. Love never fails, word!

    • Mike: anybody who understands that bickering is pointless and that love never fails, is educated a lot better than people who think hate is cool and meanness is strength.

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