I am not a theologian. I am not a constitutional scholar. I am not gay. But none of that has stopped anyone else from commenting on the recent Chik-Fil-A debacle, and Matthew Paul Turner's brilliant (if somewhat in need of proofreading) response touched a chord in me. All of his points are good and important and valid, but the two that hit me the hardest were numbers 2 and 3.
The HR department where i work requires all employees to take a sexual harassment training seminar. Plus they did one on "The Office", so i'm pretty familiar with all of that stuff. Here's the important take-away from harassment training, as well as from MPT's point #2: intent is irrelevant. If something i say or do hurts or offends you, the appropriate response from me is not "I didn't mean it like that. So don't be offended." The appropriate response is, "I am so sorry. I truly didn't mean to hurt you. Can you tell me why it was wrong so I can avoid saying/doing something similar in the future?" There were people yesterday who felt that they were hated. Maybe most of the people lined up at CFA didn't feel hatred. Maybe most of them really were just supporting free speech. But that didn't stop people from feeling hated.
I have no doubt that some of the people who ate at CFA yesterday do hate gay people. There are people in this world who are hate-filled bigots, and Jesus loves them anyway. I have no doubt that some gay people are overly sensitive to perceived slights. There are also straight people who are overly sensitive to perceived slights, and Jesus loves everyone regardless of their level of sensitivity. Neither of these facts change this point: when someone feels hurt by you, accept that they were hurt. You may not have meant it. You may not understand it. But your intentions do not override someone else's feelings.
MPT's point #3 reminds us that while our constitutionally protected rights are important, they are not more important than people. Causes don't trump humans. If we are Christians first and Americans second, we need to make sure that we are loving our neighbors before we are worrying about our rights. If we are Americans first and Christians second, we need to make sure that everyone is entitled to the same civil rights that we have before we worry about our own morality being offended.
Either way, we are all welcome to dine at the table of Christ. But be warned: at this table, there is no room for hate, intentional or otherwise. There is no room for anger, there is no room for offense, there is no room for escalated aggression or militant support of corporations or running roughshod over someone else's feelings or fear or bigotry or bullshit. There is room for conversation in love. There is room for questions asked in love. There is room for loving confusion, for honest explanation and discussion in love, for growth of ideas and of loving friendships, for gentle answers and careful consideration and thoughtful dialogue in love.
Tonight, i'm eating homemade beef stew. You are welcome to join. There is room at the table for you, but only if you leave room for love.