Not Peace, but a Sword
I feel somewhat guilty for leaving the church, but I also needed time to heal and it wasn't possible there. A church is not a place for dissenting opinions and beliefs. I'm a witness and a victim to scriptures being used to manipulate families and drive them apart. Having heart to heart and human to human conversations becomes impossible when one party always appeals to authority, the scriptures.
I'm a bastard child and I grew up believing it was my moral imperative to save my dad so that he wouldn't go to hell. You can read my exact thought on this matter from a blog post twelve years ago, when I was spiritually well-endowed. At that point in my life, I went a year listening to only Christian music, fasting regularly, and striving for 100% righteousness.
I still wake up angry most days. I woke up angry today. To know prime years of relationship building with my father were wasted on false teachings. Me, trying to fix a man that was never broken.
I remember being a child and my mom telling me she loved God more than me and that she hoped as I'd grow that I'd feel the same. This memory is a reference to Matthew 10:34-39. To paraphrase, Jesus here is saying he didn't come to bring peace, but a sword. A man's enemies are his household and choosing your family over God makes you unworthy of God.
For me, the belief that my father needed to be saved from hell by believing in Christ was learned. When lamenting over this desire, I was comforted by this scripture knowing that I was doing right by God. Being opposed to my father was a calling, my mission to save him.
I was wrong though and my interpretation of these verses was wholly inaccurate.
Now, I'm not writing this for myself. I've worked through a lot of this pain. I'm able to have open and honest conversations with both of my parents. They both accept me for who I am and that feels great.
I'm here for the people who are oppressed by the book of justice. For the people who are hated by ones called to love.
As a reformed bigot, that “loved the sinner, but hated the sin” I'd like to discuss the harm caused by this line of thinking. Specifically, I'd like to talk to the parents that have disowned their own children. This family dynamic is more common than a child disowning their parents, like I had done to my dad.
Let's begin by unpacking “love the sinner, hate the sin.” When you say this to a child, what they hear is, “I will never accept you for who you are.” Astute parents will vehemently agree with a resounding, “Obviously we want the absolute best for our kids.” And that's tough to argue against, but I posit the argument is worth having.
I believe every life is sacred and to view any life as less than equal is inhumane.
That's the entire story arc of the Bible. The historical context of the Old Testament is primarily about the cycles of oppression and liberation of the Jewish people. Jesus shows up and points out all the ways the Pharisees were now the ones doing the oppressing and using the Romans to enforce their spiritual agenda.
Jesus' ministry was to bring love and peace to the marginalized. The ones failed by the system. People hungry, naked, or in prison. People about to be executed according to the letter of the law and even from after death itself.
Paul himself spends the rest of his life unpacking what Jesus did. Paul knows how dangerous it is to be “technically correct” with regards to scriptures. He used those texts to commit genocide against followers of Jesus.
Paul's life is the distilled essence of the Bible. It's about coming back from being so wrong when you knew you were so right. It's about love and forgiveness.
So now, I'd like you to think about your Queer child. The one you raised, the one you taught to love and the one you taught to fear.
The child that's now an adult, that you've never accepted completely, honestly, and truly— after they came out to you. The one that comes by once a year to wish you a happy birthday, while their lover waits in the car, confused because of the mutual embarrassment you and your child both have for one another. The one that doesn't stay long, not because they've got better places to be, but because they can't stand how you make them feel about themselves.
It's not too late to you to learn to love again. It's not too late to apologize and seek forgiveness.
I believe God is love and love is all we leave in this world when we die. The hate will be eroded with the sands of time, but the love will continuously grow into new forms and new shapes. Love will always prevail, but it's a battle.
Matthew 10 takes place when Jesus is assembling his disciples. He's prepping his disciples for ministry as a part of a counter-culture movement. The historical context of the time is captured by the final days of Jesus' life.
The fact is that Jesus was executed by the political authority on behalf of the spiritual authority for protesting peacefully on behalf of the marginalized.
This is the sword that Jesus is talking about bringing. When challenging the status quo, those with status will not go down without a fight. It's not about your child being gay or your father not attending church.
It's about recognizing systems of oppression and standing in solidarity against them. It's about living and dying for justice. Without justice, there is no peace. This is the cross he charges his disciples with carrying.
Having voices and people we disagree with in life is extremely valuable. It was difficult being raised by parents with opposing view points. Most days I was unsure if I was in a cult or not.
Being challenged by my dad to critically think about what I was taught in church forced me articulate what I believed and why I believed it. The fact is, my father saved me from joining a literal cult when I was 20 years old. Everyone else in my life was fully supportive of the decision I was making.
For one of those conversations, my dad showed up for me when I needed him the most.
I went camping alone for a weekend of fasting, meditation, reflection, and prayer— seeking guidance for the decisions I needed to make in my life, namely joining Teen Mania's Honor Academy.
That day I almost blacked out on a hike from dehydration and starvation. A park ranger brought me back to my campsite after someone called the cops about a drunk man hitchhiking in the forest.
While recovering after a nap, my dad showed up at the campground. I was offended because he had interrupted my miniature spiritual retreat. I let that pass though, because I knew my father was there for me because he loved me.
I don't remember what we said that day and it's not really important. The fact is that I felt loved by my dad— a man I'd rejected because he didn't believe in what I believed. He had never given me any reason to believe he didn't love me besides the church telling me so.
That was the first day I accepted my dad for who he is and the first day I felt accepted for who I am. It came from a place of love and forgiveness. Me, the bigot needing to forgive myself because he'd done nothing wrong besides love his son.