“You can’t win. You know that, don’t you? It doesn’t matter if you whip us, you’ll still be where you were before, at the bottom. And we’ll still be the lucky ones at the top with all the breaks. It doesn’t matter. Greasers will still be Greasers and Socs will still be Socs. It doesn’t matter.”
These words uttered in the film “The Outsiders” capture my feelings at the moment. I wonder if this is the festering attitude in the church these days. We fight each other for orthodox supremacy. We assert that our opinions mirror that of Christ. We separate ourselves into self identified “us” and “them”, Biblical and unBiblical. We line up as if to wield our bodies at each other in an ecclesial game of Red Rover.
WWJD? I ponder this often these days. I look at the horizon of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and wonder, W(Is)JD(oing)? I feel very strongly that the exclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender & Queer (GLBTQ) members of the church in all areas of service in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a tragic injustice. I have little compassion for the “opposition” and can view them in dehumanizing ways.
I am angered that it is an issue at all. I see this issue tied up in money, power, and pride. I am sad that I look at this issue with competitive eyes. We must win! Then I hear, “You can’t win. You know that, don’t you?”
Deep down, I fear that I do think this. The real issue is not one of win, lose, or draw. It is a matter of “us” and “them”. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is sharply divided in many areas over this issue, with each side digging in their heels to fight the other.
What happens if one side definitively wins? What happens to the other folks? Do they quietly retreat to the opposite corner and receive a reassuring you’ll do better next time? Do they victoriously wrap themselves with a flag and stand on the top turn buckle? The worst part of all of this mess is that we are missing the call of Christ in loving each other.
We tend to fight, and as we do we paint the face of the “opposition” as demonic and unchristian. We seek to attack and remove them as far as we can from the divine mandate and holy canon. It is easier to believe someone wrong if you cannot love them or see them as Christ sees them.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has sought with great care and deep compassion to endeavor together toward the gospel message of transformation, unity and radical reaction to the pervading unjust systems of this world. We seek to honor and uphold all voices present and heed the warning of human pride.
Where have we failed? This is not as important as how do we show grace. No matter the solution to this current row in the church, mercy must be a part of it. Not a mercy bucket, but a mercy tanker. Mercy must flow from all available sources into the assembly.
We must pray with and for each other. We must answer the radical call to love. We must release our preconceived notions of who “us” and “them” symbolize. Mercy must be a part of this dialogue.
The Gospel according to Matthew offers us this,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (chapter 6:25-34).”
“Do not worry about your life…” Mercy must be present in this absence of worry. “It doesn’t matter if you whip us, you’ll still be where you were before, at the bottom. And we’ll still be the lucky ones at the top with all the breaks. It doesn’t matter. Greasers will still be Greasers and Socs will still be Socs. It doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter who wins. We are still sinners in a sinful place looking for salvation.
No one but Jesus has the market on salvation. You, me, no one gets to make up the rules on how that salvation is accessed. There is no right or wrong, no Jew or Greek, no free or slave, no greaser or soc, no us or them. We separate ourselves from the presence of God as we fight each other upholding justice and commanding restoration of our rightful place. I feel very strongly that justice is being with held from our GLBTQ brothers and sisters. I also feel that we need to walk in mercy and grace as we seek resolution to this injustice. We need to return to the humanity of the people that this issue entails.
Us, they, and them are real people with breath, divine love, and stories. Mercy includes effort and investment. God’s mercy involves the death of Gods Son, Jesus Christ. We are all Greasers pointing fingers at the Socs. We all claim to be the lucky ones (the elect) with all the breaks. In the end only God determines the Socs and the Greasers. Where does your trust lie? In what does your trust lie? Only mercy, grace, and forgiveness will whip you and bring you from the outside.
By Ryan Kemp-Pappan
Ryan is a minister with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) at Douglass Blvd. Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He has a B.A. in Religious Studies from California State University, Northridge and a M.Div. from Austin Seminary (TX). He is a co-founder of UNCO. He is an aspiring actor and once stared in an off, off Broadway production of "Turducken: The Inside Story of a Turkey, a Chicken & a Duck". He is an avid runner and blogs at#RUNREVRUN. He likes Coke Zero & cold pizza.