We all know what the divide is about. One side holds a belief that homosexual behavior is immoral and the other holds that this belief, like the biblically-based arguments which supported slavery, is evil. Disagreements about the morality of homosexuality extend in many directions. They are ripping apart communities of faith. They have led to the promulgation of half-truths and lies in the name of science. They have prevented us from listening to, much less honoring, the life journeys of others.
Jesus said, "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16).
Can disagreeing Christians model Christ's love in a way that will draw nonbelievers towards God? Can we not only speak our truths in love, but open ourselves to hear what God might be saying through the journeys of those whom we call adversaries? Can email with strangers help us relate to loved ones whose views cause us pain? Can we witness to those on the Internet who will never go near a church? Can we hear the voice of God in a gay person? In a person who has moved away from same gender behavior and identity? In a transsexual? Can we hear the voice of God in others? Can we who are Christian join together in prayer and ask God to help us put away fear and meet each other as brothers and sisters in Christ?
Bridges Across the Divide is a cyberspace initiative with a mission to provide models and resources for building respectful relationships among those on both sides of the homosexuality issue.There is a Bridges-Across website, and a Bridges-across working group. We are beginning to plan three bridges-across email lists: journeys, faith, and science.
Joe Dallas, author of A Strong Delusion: Confronting the "Gay Christian Movement" reminds his readers not to attack the character of homosexuals, that "if character were the issue, homosexuality would be legitimate." Dallas writes (p.217) "I knew far too many lesbians and gay men who were responsible, likeable, hardworking people: I have known far too many heterosexuals who were outright despicable. Keep the issues straight. The character of the person is not in question. The person's behavior is."
Despite the strong theological disagreement, dialogue becomes a possibility when people on both sides of the divide acknowledge that there are some people of good character on the other side. It becomes even more of a possibility when we come together as Christians and join with Roberta Showalter Kreider in saying, "I want those who differ with me, because of their own religious convictions, to know that I feel that they also are sincerely seeking to follow God. I hope we can keep seeking together and trusting that God will guide us. Thank you for listening to my story."
The Bridges-Across working group consists of individuals who disagree about the morality of homosexuality. Most of us are Christians, some do not believe in God. Several of us are gay and several have friends or family members who are gay. Two of us left same gender behavior and identity behind. One is an InterVarsity student leader. Some of us struggle with the concept that someone could be ex-gay. Others struggle with the idea that if someone is truly ex-gay then that implies that gays can chose to be ex-gay and should choose to be ex-gay. We have encountered people who disapprove of our mission but many have expressed appreciation for undertaking a difficult and needed endeavor. Some are suspicious but hopeful, others suspicious and very doubtful. We have come together knowing that religion gets in the way, yet realizing that religion can pave the way. We do seem to get hung up on who someone is, and who someone has become. Some think one can not be the way they are, others think another is not honest when they say they have had a transformational experience.
In his booklet Homosexuality and the Bible, Walter Wink, the author of the Powers Trilogy, closes with these words: "I know a couple, both well known Christian authors in their own right, who have both spoken out on the issue of homosexuality. She supports gays, passionately; he opposes their behavior, strenuously. So far as I can tell, this couple still enjoy each other's company, eat at the same table, and, for all I know, sleep in the same bed.
"We in the church need to get our priorities straight. We have not reached a consensus about who is right on the issue of homosexuality. But what is clear, utterly clear, is that we are commanded to love one another. Love not just our gay sisters and brothers, who are often sitting besides us, unacknowledged, in church, but all of us who are involved in this debate. These are issues about which we should amiably agree to disagree. We don't have to tear whole denominations to shreds in order to air our differences on this point. If that couple I mentioned can continue to embrace across this divide, surely we can do so as well."