It’s only days until Christmas, and I, like many LGBT people, spent much of the day alternately dodging and engaging yet another "gays vs. Christians" media firestorm.
Even if you’ve never heard of him before, by now you’ve probably heard about Phil Robertson.
Robertson is the patriarch of A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty, and he recently gave an interview to a major magazine detailing his disgust at homosexuality. Robertson was subsequently disciplined by his show’s network and, like Chick-fil-A before him, has since been lionized by certain Christians eager for a champion willing to fight back against “the gay lobby,” which took offense at his crass paraphrase of Romans 1.
By midnight the Facebook group “Stand With Phil Robertson” had reached 1.2 million likes, and fury flowed with the trending Twitter hashtag #standwithPhil. Yesterday, on CNN, FOX and MSNBC, the Duck Dynasty debate was the public face of Christianity at the height of what should be the holy season of Advent.
It makes me sad. But more than that, the thought that this mess will probably find its way into many family conversations this Christmas is profoundly disheartening.
The holidays are already tough enough for so many LGBT folks; the last thing we need is something like this to provide both fuel for the fire and a spark.
At some point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve recently joined my church’s worship band, and so part of how I chose to spend my time instead was in rehearsing for this Sunday’s service. Over and over I strummed the chords for “O Holy Night,” losing myself in the delicate melody and the traditional lyrics filled with hope and promise.
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease…
At some point in this meditation it occurred to me; this, this is enough.
If all I knew of Christianity were the stories faithfully told and the songs sung on the two days that more people find their way to church than any other—Christmas and Easter—then I would know nothing of the long list of people Robertson and so many others today have said are unable to inherit the kingdom of heaven.
I’d never know that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ consider my love to be an abomination. I’d never have cowered in a closet, trembling at the thought of hellfire and damnation. All I’d know was that God, Emanuel, chose to be with us, shining like a star in the darkest night, and that He loved us so much that He died for us and even death couldn’t keep Him away.
A faith built on that alone would be enough for a peace beyond anything else I’ve ever known.
And while some might say that such a limited knowledge would be incomplete, that every word of scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness—which is why Christians have coined so many derisive terms for people whose church attendance is limited to those two holidays: CEO, the C&E crowd, Chreasters, and so on.
On a day like today, when scripture has once again been used as a scourge on our backs and loveless words have deafened our ears with the ringing of gongs and cymbals, I have to give these folks praise.
When there is so much out there claiming to represent Christianity and to speak for our God, these Christmas and Easter Christians somehow manage to tune out the static, clinging to what is essential and letting go of so much that isn’t. Despite all of the noise, the annual proclamations of a “war on Christmas,” the sirens’ call of holiday shopping jingles and the exhaustion of stress and worry, they can still find their way to church to hear the old familiar stories and to join their voices in the old familiar songs.
They’ve come to understand, perhaps instinctively, what I realized today. With Christmas and Easter, the beginning and the end that is not an end, but a beginning yet again, what else do you really need? And why risk letting our human narratives, the obsessions with sex and conflict and judgment, find a way to get in the way?
Maybe that’s why Christmas and Easter Christians don’t come any other day.
I wish they would. I suspect our churches would be better for it. But even if we only ever see them those two days of the year, I’m glad they’re there, to remind us of what we should already know: God’s love is enough.
Photo via Casey Pick