Monday Musings

I have often wondered why it ticks me off so badly when a person says that I am all this way or that way. You know, "You are a partisan Democrat." Or, "You are a Calvinist." Or, how about this one that I have gotten a lot lately, "You a pro gay-marriage." Now, the reality is each of those are true to one extent or another. It is true that I identify more with the political left. It is also true that my understanding of scripture could lead folks to conclude (as I once did) that I am a Calvinist. Finally, I do believe that every American should have equal treatment under the Constitution, which is the only document that should guide our civil law. With all of that said, my positions are so much more nuanced than any of those general labels could ever really explain. Let's unpack just those three.

"Partisan Democrat"

I am a Democrat but it is probably fair to say that I am no partisan. I make no apologies for being neither a Democrat nor someone who is ideologically progressive but I am no partisan. I have had the high privilege to cast a ballot in three presidential contests. I have voted for the Democratic nominee two of those three times. In the congressional races in which I have had the privilege to vote, I have voted for the Democrat four out of the six elections. In one of those elections, I not only voted for the Republican but actively campaigned for the Republican, serving as a County Coordinator. In countless of the local and judicial races I have cast my vote for a non-Democrat candidate. What is my point? I am Progressive and will, more times than not, vote for the most progressive candidate on the ticket. A partisan will always vote for the Democrat and will never give a candidate from a different party a glance. I am convinced that the things that make me a progressive are biblical. That is to say, I am a Progressive because of my understanding of scripture. Matthew 25, Micah 6:8 and Proverbs 31:8-9 have largely shaped my worldview and sense of responsibilities as a citizen of the world and more specifically, America. When I wail against the injustices of the marginalized, it is out of a conviction to live out these verses. When I speak for my gay brothers and sisters, it is out of a conviction that the loudest (and often most hateful) does not get the final word on the Lord whom I cherish so deeply and exclusively. When I speak about the incongruousness of proclaiming a banner of being pro-life, but then rail against the very policies that will ensure that poor people will not have to turn to abortions, it is from a conviction that we should be people who live as "the sent ones" who give hope and not further despair and death. When I speak against the death penalty and wars that merely generate profit for corporations, it is from that conviction that does value life. You see, I am not a partisan Democrat, but I am a proud member of the Christian Left.

"You Are A Calvinist"

If you'd asked me when I was in college if I would be a staff pastor at a United Methodist Church, I would have told you, emphatically, no! Alas, I am a staff pastor at a United Methodist Church that I absolutely love. Doing a quick run through the famed "TULIP" (Side note: Reformed folks did not come up with that acronym) I would assert that I do believe that mankind, from the core, is totally depraved and, in and of him or herself, would not choose the highest and best. The sticking point with me has always been the idea of unconditional election. (Although, at this point, I still adhere to this point in Reformed Theology) Not the idea that mankind has no role to play in his or her salvation but the other part that would seem to suggest almost double predestination. That essentially means that God ordains those who will eventually receive his grace but also pre-damns those who were not predestined for salvation. I do believe that the substitutionary atonement of Christ at Calvary atoned the sins of those who ultimately places his or her faith in Christ. That is to say that his sacrifice on the cross was limited to those who accepted that work.  I further believe that those whom God has chosen for salvation can not, ultimately, resist the grace of God. I believe this efficacious grace will be applied to those whom God, in his sovereignty, chose. Finally, I do believe that those who have been chosen by God, will, ultimately, persevere in the faith until the end of his or her natural life and will ultimately be united, in glory, with the lover or his or her soul. I affirm these things but I am not as sure about them as I was when I was under the apt leadership of my Pastor in High School and College. My lack of assurance (and not of my salvation...see what I did there?) is not because the Pastors, under whom I have sat, since Pastor John, have somehow been lacking or deficient. Quite the contrary. They have each challenged my previously held dogmas. Ten years ago, my hands were clenched and I was sure that I had a firm grasp on what was and was not the true interpretations of the Scriptures. Today I sit with an open hand seeking to hear my daddy's voice. The father of my denomination said these words that are so apropos: "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may." -John Wesley 

"You Are Pro-Gay Marriage"

The issue of homosexuality has been something that I have wrestled with ever since about 2006 when one of my dearest and longest held friends called me and, effectively, "came out" to me. That day the distance between "them" and me vanished. No longer could "those people" remain "those people". "Those people" received a face and a name to me. Their face was a familiar face. It was a face that I'd grown so familiar with. A face that I remember sharing memories from elementary, middle and high school. It was the face of the last woman I kissed before I kissed my wife. It was the face of the woman whom I shared countless hours in prayer and study. It was the voice that gave such incredible advice and words of wisdom. That voice, became, for me, the voice of "those people". That voice, for me, became the voice that was being muted and drowned. It has been said to me, "Ray, Tonetta is the exception. You can't base it all on her." Maybe that is true--though I highly doubt it--but the truth remains that "those people, indeed, have faces now for me. But, further to the point. I am not so much pro-gay marriage as I am pro-equal treatment under the law in America. My nuanced view on this topic will have the government out of the business of marriage altogether. Each person should have to get a civil union (hetero or homosexual). I am not for "gay marriage" as many of my sisters and brothers within the gay community would like, either. I want for the church and the state to be separate as the founders clearly intended. In that, I mean the government should in no way seek to shape or determine ecclesiastical (church) policies or polity and neither should the Church bring pressure upon the civil government policies or polity to somehow force folks to live lives that are in keeping with acceptable Church doctrine and teaching. I further believe nothing is necessarily gained when we attempt to legislate morality. Should individual Christians be involved in the political arena? I think he or she, emphatically, should. Here in America we have a republic. Because that is true, each member has a duty and rare honor to speak with his or her representatives to ensure said representative represents his or her values well. The rub for me, however, is when we use scripture to tell the civil government why one group of Americans should not be afforded the same rights that other Americans are afforded. Just as I would not be okay with the government passing a law that requires faith communities to marry couples whom they have a conviction would not be in keeping with its understanding of scripture; I am not okay with the church subjecting the civil government to its convictions. It was recently asked of me if I would marry a same-sex couple if I was asked. I told the person that I would not. For several reasons I gave the answer that I gave. The primary reason is I am not settled on that issue personally. Also, the church where I serve, though we fully embrace and love all people, we do not believe that same-sex marriage is in keeping with scripture. Finally, in the state of North Carolina, where I reside, same-sex marriage is not legal. It isn't now and if the marriage amendment fails to be accepted into the North Carolina Constitution tomorrow it will still be illegal in this state.

You might be able to tell from reading all of that why, at times, I feel like I do not fit easily into the boxes that I am often placed within. Though I am Progressive, some of my progressive brothers and sisters question my progressive bona fides. Though most would say that I am Reformed, my unease on the most essential point--unconditional election--I doubt Marc Driscoll or Dr. Piper and certainly Al Mohler will not have me in the solid Reformed category. Finally, though there are many points that my gay brothers and sisters would probably appreciate and consider me a "straight ally" there are some who would lump me with all the others because I am not settled on same-sex marriage (civil unions are a different matter altogether).

At the end of the day, I want to have open hands and an open heart before God. I want the good news to be, good. I want to live as a sent one offering hope and grace. Offering mercy and truth. My heart breaks (and maybe it should not) when folks form opinions about my motives or my commitment to God because I do not share the same convictions that he or she shares. My former Pastor wrote a post the other day regarding Amendment One. I made a comment on that post. He said: 
I have observed the debate taking place on the internet with regard to the Marriage Protection Amendment – to include seeing see those I love in the Lord (and who I know have a deep and genuine love for God) advocate for what I view to be the wrong side on this issue.
One of the things that I have grown to respect so much about Pastor John is  the thought that he gives to not only his sermons, but to (unlike me, sadly) the posts that he makes of Facebook. In his reply (where we obviously disagreed) he was very clear to not intimate that folks like me did not lack a "deep and genuine love for God". I want to model that. Though I disagree, vehemently, I do not want to question one's motives. I want to always fill in with trust and not suspicion. 

Pray for me, as I pray for you to live loved. Live on mission and, by all mean, live as the sent ones!


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Anonymous said...

Great post, Ray. Loved it.

John Shore said...

Great post, Ray; I especially liked the part about how your friend changed your perception of LGBT people. You wrote it so honestly and true. Great job.

Ray McKinnon said...

Thanks, John!

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