Everyone that loves is born of God and knows God

Apr 2, 2014 by

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Have you ever felt like everyone seemed to be talking about you but no one was willing to talk to you about something that directly affected you? It can knock you off your game.

Have you ever been the target of personally injurious, defamatory, moral accusations for actions or behaviors you believed to have integrity? It’s heartbreaking.

Have you ever suffered the embarrassment of being publicly condemned for something in your life that you thought was private? It’s severely disturbing.

Have you ever received unwarranted and unjust personal attacks by persons who did not know you or have a relationship with you? It can make it hard to sleep at night and harder to get up in the morning.

Have you ever been publicly accused of gross wrongdoing? It can make you question your reason for living and even your worth as a human being.

Because these human interactions carry such weighty and damaging consequences for the persons who are their targets, they are considered unacceptable ways of communicating in civil society. In some cases they are illegal.

But as unkind and punishing the consequences of these behaviors may be, they exemplify precisely what well-meaning Christians carry out against our brothers and sisters who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer, on a regular basis. From the pulpit on Sunday mornings to the Sunday school classes and Bible studies we lead, from the prayer groups to the church conferences we join, we unwittingly and constantly declare public condemnation. The Christian church has been busy with this particular kind of cruelty and unique brand of sexualized violence for centuries.

Without thought of the consequences, painful pronouncements of judgment and exclusion are meted out to every person in our churches, young and old, who do not fit the box of sexual identity known as heterosexual or cisgendered.

I invite those of us who have the privilege of fitting into what’s considered a normative gender identity to take the time to notice and observe next time we sit in church, attend a Christian ceremony or engage with church media. I invite us to imagine we are experiencing it from the perspective of someone who identifies as queer on the gender identity scale, from someone who is a follower of Jesus, and who lives or one day hopes to live a fulfilling life within a same-sex committed relationship.

There is a flurry of prayer, dialogue and discernment going on in the Mennonite Church about the intensely personal lives of brothers and sisters who happen to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or the all-inclusive, queer. And we have made them outcasts. Even though we have known some of them since they were children, we do not even invite them to the discussion. Others of them have worked along side us in Mennonite congregations and institutions. They are sons, daughters, friends, colleagues, cousins, aunts and uncles. They were at one time some of the most beloved members of our Mennonite community. They have been birthed, consecrated, baptized, commissioned, employed, even ordained into the congregations, institutions and agencies of MC USA. And then they were suddenly marginalized, ousted, rendered voiceless and made to feel unwelcome in our circles, our homes and at our social events.

As we continue to wrestle, discern, pray and talk about this “issue” I hope we can do away with the “issue” word and replace it with “people.” In actuality we are talking about these people rather than this issue. These are people who deserve a place at the table. It is time to end this cruel practice of exclusion. It is time for change.

To keep these good people at the forefront, I invite you to make a list of the persons in your inner circle of friends, family and congregants who you know have been shunned by our heterosexist church culture. Keep seeing their faces as you join in whatever privileged official church process you find yourself.

They don’t want our pity, but they deserve our respect and full acceptance.

God save us from pronouncing such harsh and unwarranted judgment on yet another generation of honorable, upstanding, gifted and faithful Mennonite young people.

Barbra Graber lives in Harrisonburg, Va. She is the associate editor of Our Stories Untold, a blog meant to be a safe and open space to discuss sexualized violence in the Mennonite church.

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Mennonite World Review invites readers’ comments on articles. To promote constructive dialogue, editors select the comments that appear, just as we do with letters to the editor in print. These decisions are final. Writers must sign their first and last names; anonymous comments are not accepted. Comments do not appear until approved and are posted during business hours. Comments may be reproduced in print, and may be edited if selected for print.

  • Rachel Halder

    Thank you, Barbra, for these beautiful and encouraging words. It’s nice to have others support us when we don’t have the words to do it ourselves.

  • berryfriesen

    Barbra, I don’t get it. You obviously are willing to make “painful pronouncements of judgment and exclusion” about behaviors, practices and attitudes that are inconsistent with your values. So you are the same as the people you criticize in that regard.
    Indeed, the Bible is full of such pronouncements, as I’m sure you know. So you and I and the rest of us are constantly discerning how to apply the biblical preferences.
    Your advice about considering how our pronouncements impact people who feel negative judgment is sound. But as you’ve demonstrated here, that’s not the end of it. You no doubt practice what you preach but still you pronounced judgment and exclusion on us heterosexists.
    Are we making progress yet?

    • Barbra Graber

      Thanks for your response, Berry. I don’t intend to convey that I’m for excluding heterosexual persons who disagree with me from my life. In fact I am in a faith community, family and social circles with such persons and as far as I know the love and friendship has not stopped just because we aren’t at the same place. Authentic relationship means we will take each other to task on occasion and I concede that is a form of judgement. But if you asked me who over the course of my life has taught me the most, it would be those persons who challenged/judged my thinking and made me take a new look at the consequences of my actions.