I see the bumper sticker all time. In fact, i’ve thought about getting one myself. It’s just that i can’t afford the gasoline to actually drive my car anymore and display it. And i think it would look a little ridiculous on my bike.
A few weeks ago, it became more than a bumper stick for me though. You see, i’ve been hanging out with this guy named Rick. And in my adventures with him, i’ve found myself experiencing a lot and re-thinking a lot more. [see my last three blogs for the whole enchilada].
But, i was recounting my experiences at the bath house with a few friends of mine the other night. And as we sat around, i told them of life at the bath house, of the men who came in compelled by their addiction, and of the two of us who sat there patiently handing out an imperfect solution because it was the only thing we knew to do.
And as i shared these experiences, one of my older friends was obviously getting agitated. She squirmed in her chair. I could see by the look on her face that she wasn’t completely approving of my choice of Thursday night activity.
I should have known she would be skeptical. Of course, i already know her and if i had thought back, i would have realized that this type of conversation would really stretch her theologically and spiritually. But, she is my friend. And she is a bit of a hero for me. She has been involved in missions work across the world for many years. She knows what it means to love and meet people where they are in their life and to nurture them to faith in Christ.
So, i was surprised when after hearing the whole story she asked this question: “Are there any mosques in town?”
“Like Muslim Mosques?” I replied. “I know there is at least one in Seattle that i’m familiar with.”
“Great,” she said. “Here’s what we are gonna do. We are all gonna write letters to the mosque and tell them about this gay bath house. And i guarantee you, in two weeks they’ll have bombed the place.”
WHAT??? I’m not sure if i actually was able to get out any intelligible words at this point. I was completely dumbfounded. I wasn’t even sure i had heard her right. Maybe i had just misunderstood.
“But…that isn’t the only bath house,” I offered, hoping that somehow she would clarify.
“Well, then we’ll tell them about all of them. Trust me. They’ll deal with the problem.”
Now, i’d like to stop here for a second and explain a few things. First of all, i don’t really think that if we wrote any letters of the sort to the local mosque in Seattle that this kind of “solution” would actually happen. Not every Muslim, and certainly not the ones i have been around in this area, actually consider “bombing” a legitimate solution to anything. And i’m fairly certain that a large portion, if not all of them, may be very offended by even the suggestion being offered here. And in that sense, i’m offended with them.
Secondly, i find it very ironic that people who justify the use of war against Muslim extremists who employ this sort of tactic, would then find it in some way divinely acceptable to use these same terrorist tactics to promote their own agenda or sense of moral decency. In a very scary way, the lines between militant Islam and militant Christianity become about the same thing.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Be careful in pursuing the monster that you do not become the monster yourself.”
Sadly, I think a lot the “Christian” world could be accused of this latter atrocity today. We have become too blood-thirsty. Too eager for the fight. The intense (and almost naive) backing of the United States war in Iraq and Afghanistan by many “Christians,” alone, suggests that this danger is alive and well.
And as all this is going on in my head, i realize that i have to say something. Although no physical bombs have actually gone off, a large verbal bomb has just been detonated in the room.
“But, i don’t want anybody to blow up the bath house . . . and besides, i don’t think Jesus is going to allow me to do that.”
After a lot more discussion, my friend seemed to settle down. In fact, at one point she even retreated to a position of “oh, i was just joking.” The reason i’m writing this, though, is because i don’t think she was.
And so, what do you do? What do you do when your friend, that has made of life of loving people not like her, displays that type of bigotry and hate? What do you do when mega-church pastors around you seem to demonstrate the exact opposite of the love of Christ they say they represent?
You see, i learned in the bath house that i am called to love everyone. I’m called even to love the most diabolically oppressed men who throw away their lives to an addiction. I’m called to love even the people that everyone else (religious or otherwise) write off as garbage or as a social disease. I’m called to love the people that go to the gay bath house. I’m even called to love the people that own it and make me most angry by feeding these hopeless people’s addiction and even making money off of it.
But, would Jesus bomb the bath house? Absolutely not. He calls me to love the people there, not to destroy them.
But, here’s what i learned from my friend that night. Not only does Jesus call me to love the guys at the bathhouse. He calls me to love my friend too.
You see, i believe she is dead wrong. I believe the Mega-pastor is dead wrong. But, if I’m to be a consistent lover of God, I’m called to love them too. And in some ways, it is easier for me to extend my love to those in the bath house than to those in God’s house.
So, I may call them to conviction. I may be critical of their response to others. I may even have to challenge their assumptions of how big God’s grace really is. But, i am not allowed to treat them with any less love than God does.
My friend may not be right. She may not be living a lifestyle (without ultimate love) that i condone. But, in those ways, is she really so different than my new friends at the bath house? And if i’m called to love them, certainly i am called to love her.
I think i’ve written about all i can on this topic for now. It is interesting to me that many more people have read this blog and left comments about this particular topic than any i have written. Obviously, this is a sensitive and important issue for many of us.
But, i have been encouraged this past week as i have read your comments and responses. If nothing else, it reminds me that there are many people that follow Christ today that are desiring to show love to ALL people. And if that is the case, then maybe there is a great deal of hope for the world.
So here is my prayer…
God, bless my friends at the bath house. May they be free from sexual oppression and may they find ultimate peace and fulfillment in You.
God, bless my Christians friends that don’t show love like they should. May they experience Your love to an even greater degree and may that love shape them into greater lovers of You and Your people.