When Aretha Franklin first belted out the iconic R-E-S-P-E-C-T, it became an anthem for a generation.
“What you want,
Baby, I got;
What you need,
Do you know I’ve got it;
All I’m askin’
Is for a little respect…”
I suppose we’re all askin’ for a little respect. Heck – maybe we’re asking for a lot of it!
Respect is a loaded term. Put as simply as I can, “I want to learn to honour others as Christ honours others, and me,” but:
I get it wrong… a lot. And after reading this, some may scream at the screen that I got it wrong here. Nevertheless, here is my feeble attempt to understand “respect.” I will try to accept enough grace for myself, and hope you may also be blessed with such a grace, especially for me.
Recent Triggers to Spur the Discussion: Respect
Rob Bell announced “A Church That Doesn’t Support Gay Marriage Is ‘Irrelevant‘,” and Nashville Evangelical Church Comes Out for Marriage Equality. It is not my greatest goal to be “relevant” (see Nouwen’s insightful treatment of this in “In the Name of Jesus“), or to espouse “marriage equality,” but these kind of announcements force Christians to think through the dynamics of respect, acceptance, tolerance, affirmation and inclusion. (For a thorough treatment on same sex marriage see Alastair’s Adversaria.)
I repeatedly address the hypothesis that the issue with sexual and gender identification is the problem of a confused basis for identity; but I’ve been told that I’m out of line for saying this: who am I to judge “confused identity;” who am I to say such a thing? These questions tempt me to stop the very conversation I want to have – but this reaction also hints at the raw rejection and the numbing condemnation our LGBTQ friends have endured. There appears to be little patience for a fool like me meddling in something too close to be anything other than emotionally explosive.
Many of us (all of us?) know people who self-identify as LGBTQ. Identity is key, as Ashley C Ford puts it in her Guardian article: I’m queer no matter who I’m with. I won’t define myself differently for your comfort. We know them as our friends, colleagues, and children. With the strength of that kind of relationality, I do not write as if our friends are either distant or adversaries, whatever the tone of the conversation becomes. Further, before I go on, I am not suggesting a “we-they” dichotomy. I will however suggest something equally offensive: we are all lost and wounded sinners in need of grace found in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If this is offensive to you, then I suspect I have nothing to contribute to the conversation. You can safely conclude I am the fool I already confessed to be.
But, if we do recognize something of our own lostness and woundedness, then we might be able to accept each other the way Brennan Manning quipped, “Jesus accepts us as we are, not as we ought to be, for none of us are as we ought to be” (see Jesus in John 4).
Attempts to understand Respect:
Respect recognizes the inherent value of the person, however confused and sinful we are. Respect accepts a person as they are, but does not necessarily tolerate self-destructive behaviours, or behaviours that harm others.
Respect affirms the worthiness of the person without affirming a commitment to continue sinning (see Jesus in John 8). Respect includes others into the community as we are, while also not ignoring the ultimate lostness of the lost, or the encouragement to be transformed by Christ in communtiy.
Respect holds unresolved disagreements in suspense. I like how Rick Warren speaks to this:
Our Culture has accepted two huge lies:
The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them.
The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything thy believe or do.
Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.
Recently I read Kathy Kwon’s review of the book, Loving my LGBT Neighbor: Being Friends in Grace & Truth, written by Glenn T. Stanton. Kathy outlines what she can affirm, and what she can’t. To read more of her thoughts on the topic, you can go to her blog, BonnesConneries. Or you may be interested in the Evangelicals for Social Action’s Oriented to Love. I make these references, not because I agree with everything, but because I appreciate the respectful tone of the conversation.
As I said earlier, Respect is a loaded term. Put as simply as I can, “I want to learn to honour others as Christ honours others, and me.” I love how He does this, and I firmly believe this is more enigma than dogma.
If you’ve endured this long, you may be vibrating with reaction, or sitting with confusion (I am aware that I have these affects). Nevertheless I welcome your informed, faithful, and… respectful response.