On Explaining Gay Marriage to my Four Year Old

“Mom! We are having a wedding! We are marrying our-chother!” I squirmed a little uncomfortably as my daughter and her little friend, both beautiful in princess dresses, ran up to me. The two sides of my brain are in a culture war over this issue, and I don’t want my innocent girl to get caught in the crossfire, so I feel a lot of pressure to say the right thing. Don’t screw it up. Don’t screw HER up. Wanting to make light of it, I joked, “Not in Ohio, honey. You have to go to New York or Massachussets.”

One of my closest friends got married a few weeks ago, and E helped me as I helped with lots and lots (and LOTS) of wedding stuff. It’s been a wedding sort of summer. She wants to marry her dad, her brother, her Granddad and any of her friends who will stand in one place for long enough.

“Mom! My two dollies are getting married! I want them to wear matching dresses. What colors should we pick?” She looks at me quizzically when I don’t answer right away.

I long to make the world easy for her to understand. To just say, “Yes that’s totally fine and I have no problem whatsoever with it,” as my friends to the left of me would, or to say, “No, that’s wrong. God says the world works in this other very specific way, and that’s how it is. End of story,” along with the friends to my right.

But the truth is, I’m just not as qualified to make sweeping judgments as I used to be. Or at least, as I used to think I was.

I know this may sound like a cop out but it would be disingenuous for me to take a strong stand on this issue right now.

I know that for me, even if I do find that the Bible is as clear about homosexuality as I was taught growing up, the line between a marriage that honors God and one that doesn’t is not just whether the two people in question have opposite bits.  Looking to popular culture even very briefly can show us this. Does anybody really think that Tiger Woods, Newt Gingrich, or whichever Kardashian that was that time are honoring God with their marriages and their bodies? That they were “more right” than Neil Patrick Harris, Jim Parsons, or any of the other celebrities who are coming out to tell everyone that they are gay and, even more shocking in Hollywood terms, have been with the same person for a decade or so? Unfortunately I know that some people do think that, and I’m clear that I disagree with them on that point.

I have been hearing from some that “we” as christians need to make a stand on this issue and read a couple of articles claiming that, as the church, this is our opportunity to be hated by the world just like Jesus. Guess what? Just because people are mad at you doesn’t always mean you are just like Jesus. Sometimes you’re just being a jerk.

We are nowhere in scripture called to go into the world and make straighties. We are, by the way we act, speak, and yes, even eat, to act in such a way that reflects the life of Jesus in the world; to live in such a way as to bring about an awareness of God in the people around us. That is a broad calling, and will look different for different people. I know that there are many gay people with very sincere faith (it hurts my heart a little to realize that I even needed to say that) and  I’m not willing to discount someone’s entire relationship with God simply because of their orientation. If I were, I think it would be a terrible overstepping of my job description as a follower of Jesus.

I am to love people with an open hand and trust that God cares at least as much about them finding their way in as I do. And you know what? I really have no trouble leaving almost everyone else’s sexual decisions between them, whomever they choose, and God.

And yet, if one of my kids came out to me….that would be really hard for me. I would choose to love my child no matter what, and what is important to them will be important to me also. But these are my kids, and it feels like I have so much more of a stake in their choices. I am told by the Bible to raise them to know about God, and to “train them up in the way that they should go.” It would be very hard for me if one of my kids was gay. It would also be very hard for me if they were judgmental, lazy, unwilling to learn, prideful, mean, or any of the other things that are so much more often and so entirely denounced in the Bible. But you know what? There are moments when they are likely to be all of those things. Because they are my kids. And there are moments when I have been all of those things. So rather than standing in between my kids and God as a gatekeeper saying, “This is what you have to do, and think, and be for Jesus to love you,” I will allow for the fact that there are things I’m not quite sure about.

All of this passes through my mind while E waits for me to tell her which dolly should wear what dress.

“Mom???”

“You know, kiddo, sometimes I don’t know what to say when you talk about girls marrying girls. It’s kind of a big deal for some people, and a lot of people think different things about it, and some people get really mad. One of our friends gets really mad if you say that girls can’t marry other girls, and another one gets really mad if you talk about girls marrying girls. I haven’t decided to get really mad at either time, but if it takes me a minute to answer you sometimes, that is why.”

That’s all I’ve got just now, and I can only hope and pray that it’s enough for today, and that I’ll be given more when I need it.

Other people I know (or at least read) have posted really thoughtfully about this topic. Some of them are:

Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker again. She’s that cool.

Danny Golde

Andrew Marin, an Evangelical guy who is trying very hard to reframe this whole conversation in a more productive way. I liked his book a lot. He doesn’t take really strong stances either, and that frustrated the “just tell me what opinion I’m supposed to have about this issue” crowd, but I appreciate his humble approach.

Dan Pearce– I’m Christian, unless you’re gay.

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4 thoughts on “On Explaining Gay Marriage to my Four Year Old

  1. Katie, as you know I don’t post my feelings online. After reading this I must say I am humbled by your faith, your patience, your thoughtfulness, your angst over the possible effects of how you parent, your use of the Bible as guiding principles for how you live, your well reasoned decision making, your concern for how what you do will impact not just your kids but those they will come in contact with for their entire life – so many things about you just blow me away. I thought for a bit before posting this and decided it was appropriate for me to tell you in a forum where others who care about you can also see.

    You are amazing.

    Dad

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