I just happened to notice today while responding to some friend requests on Facebook that someone defriended me. I have no idea who – and it really doesn’t matter. I’m not hurt or offended – I have a pretty open policy about people joining or removing themselves from my friend list. But it did get me thinking. Was this an old highschool classmate who hated getting so much traffic on their homepage from my fb activities? Someone who realized I wasn’t going to help them get a cow or brick or food item for their various fb game obsessions? Was it a fundamentalist family member who was uncomfortable with the kind of thought-provoking questions I often ask in my status line? Or perhaps was it a fellow Christian who got spooked by the gay positive comments many of my gay friends feel comfortable leaving on my wall?
I take delight in knowing how diverse my friend list on fb is. To me, it is a beautiful tapestry of different people with different journeys, outlooks, and personalities. At the same time, in my mind I sometimes flip that tapestry over and see the multi-coloured threads all jumbled up together, chaotic and messy and quite unrepresentative of the beauty on the other side – and I have my moments of anxiety. Will a vulnerable contact get engaged with someone else on my list who doesn’t exactly know how to embody generous spaciousness? Will someone comment on someone else’s comment in an offensive or insensitive way – even with the best of intentions? To date, I’ve not seen anything like that on my fb page. I feel like it has been a hospitable space where there is great difference and diversity. But, I do sometimes wonder if that might just blow up in a hurtful way and wound someone I really care about.
What if a conservative pastor, who found themselves appreciating the spiritual insight and wisdom of a regular commenter, finally puts two and two together and realizes this is a trans male to female follower of Jesus or a partnered gay Christian? Would they process the sudden tension they might experience – or just quietly disappear from the conversation? My hope, of course, is that they would continue to engage, embrace the tension, and see Christ in the midst of the complexity.
What if a gay Christian friend, new in the journey like a butterfly just unfolding its wings, somewhat damp and fragile, reads a comment from someone else that makes them feel unsafe and unwelcome? I know how devastating this could be.
What about the times those who embrace a celibate journey see me encouraging an affirming gay Christian in their walk with God? Will they feel betrayed? Will they feel that I speak out of both sides of my mouth? Will they understand the nuance and tension and paradox of bridge-building? Will they be able to accept some of the uncertainty in which I choose to live?
At the end of the day, I cannot control any of these outcomes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about trying to foster a safe and hospitable space – on my fb page or on this blog. People are at all kinds of different places, with different priorities and concerns, different styles of communicating, and different expectations. But my priority, over on fb and here on BTG, is to foster hospitable space, an unconditional welcome, where our differences can be explored in a generous, gracious and caring way.
Inevitably, when I’m speaking within the Christian community, I get asked the question, “How far do you take the love and acceptance of Jesus?” And my response is usually along the lines of, “I want to keep having dinner with people as long as they are willing to have dinner with me.” Always invitational – never coercive.
So whether you agree with me or not, you are welcome here….. but I hope that you will have an investment in experiencing and helping to foster hospitable space. Your honest questions are welcomed. Your unique place in the journey is welcomed. The community who comments and gathers in these places (even if they are virtual and not the literal Starbucks down the street) will, I hope, seek to listen, understand, engage, welcome and learn from one another. And if and when we fall short, as we inevitably will, I pray we’ll seek to extend grace and forgiveness and spaciousness to one another. And in the words of Billy Graham, we’ll let God be the judge, the Holy Spirit the one who convicts – and we’ll be the ones to love one another.
Note: for those of you who think this is just sappy, Hallmark drivel ….. too darn bad. It’s a lot harder work than being caustic, sarcastic, divisive or bitter.