In my previous post I raised some questions related to a statement that Amy DeLong made in regards to change and grace. Several folks have rightly suggested that I took the sentence in question out of context, and that Amy was obviously referring to change in regards to GLBT folks who have spent their lives being confronted with the call to be something other than who they are. I understand her argument from that perspective, and recognize that all whose backs are up against the wall need to know of God’s amazing love and willingness to accept us as we are. If I unfairly raised questions for conversation that were less than sensitive to that context, then I apologize for my late night writings when I should have taken more time to reflect on that context.
But here is the problem when any of us speak in a public forum related to the things of God — what we say is important for we have no control regarding how they are heard by others. We may understand our intended context, but others may not, or in the scanning of an article that context may completely be passed over. More importantly definitions of God’s grace and issues of inclusion and exclusion are rarely adequately explained by pithy soundbite theology that fails to deal with the deeper issues of God’s nature and our response.
Some take this as a deliberate attack on Amy DeLong, suggesting that I deliberately interpreted her words out of context to make a point. “It’s obvious she means that God doesn’t require one to change one’s sexual orientation,” some of you have said. And in re-reading the statement with that context in mind, I can certainly understand that interpretation. Yet, my first reading was based in a different context — a context where discipleship has been cheapened into moral therapeutic deism, and where change is generally resisted. My context is one that is hesitant to claim the transformative power of Jesus Christ’s love and grace, and in their holding onto tradition is sometimes resistant to the call of embrace. Any misinterpretation that I may have in her words is based in the reality of where I live, just as the interpretation of her words in others ways is based in the context of where she lives.
Where I continue to struggle is that I think there are so many better ways she could have responded to the question — ways that make specific claims of God’s welcome, love and acceptance, ways that acknowledge the reality and power of God’s presence in her life, and ways that focus on God transformative power for all. We are all being called to be “perfected” (to use a Wesleyan word), which I believe is the movement from the false and distorted self that is the result of human sinfulness toward the true and honest person that God intends for us to be. What I heard in the soundbite seemed like simplistic responses to a question that offered great opportunity for engagement about the church’s mission, which is more than being “positive” but rather involves being faithful to God’s call of love and grace.
So yes, I took her statement out of context. I’m sitting in my office under sackcloth and pulling out the ashes.
I simply wonder if there isn’t a better way to convey what she was trying to say.