Helping Christians Understand LGBT Related Issues w/ Michael Kimpan: My Response

TMF_0328_michael_bw

Today, in my beloved Portland, Oregon, the Gay Christian Network is hosting their annual conference #GCNConf, themed “Together at the Table.”

Welcome GCN to Portland.

In the spirit of neighborliness, on today’s #OffTheHighway episode, Michael Kimpan, the Executive Director of the Marin Foundation, offers a library of ideas and resources for those who care enough to better understand LGBT related issues, particularly in the worlds of faith and Christianity.

In this OTH episode, Michael references the “6 Pesky Passages” that represent the nucleus of the biblical doctrine of homosexuality debate.

In my travels and friendships across the spectrum of Christianity, particularly in North America, I have found four broad reactions to those 6 pesky passages:

  1. To plug one’s ears to the passages (and their very tangible impact on real people) and declare that they don’t care because their faith is “just about Jesus.”
  2. To essentially root those passages out of the Bible and toss them onto the same trash heap designated for passages that similarly normalize slavery, demand stoning for minor crimes and minimize and commodify women as second class humans.
  3. To historically interpret those passages as referencing something wholly unrelated to the 21st century understanding of sexual orientation/expression.
  4. To soberly accept those passages as addressing 21st century LGBT expressions and doctrinally implement them as such.

In this OTH episode, Michael admonishes all of us of the absolute necessity of investing at least a few hours toward better understanding of the broader Bible/LGBT debate.  In fact, he says something like:  this IS the issue of our day (within faith and church life) and if you are not willing to commit at least an hour to better understand, then you probably just don’t care (I know I didn’t get the quote perfectly, but you understand his important idea.)

I would like to take his  point a huge leap further.

No matter where one falls on the interpretive spectrum, I believe that if we identify with biblical christianity, we are required to receive Michael’s call to listen.

Central to current research on interpersonal connection and neurological development is the concept of empathic listening.  Empathic listening is more than researching another’s divergent opinions.  It is more than “understanding” them on a conceptual level.

Empathic listening means that the other person is so important to me that I am fixated on their words… more than their words, it is their story that I care about, full of pain, convictions, spiritual beliefs, joys & sorrows, non-verbal language and tenuous trust.

Empathic listening means that I do whatever it takes to turn off the machine inside of me that is constantly searching for cracks in the other’s logic that I can correct or exploit.

Empathic listening means that even if I never get the chance to share my counterpoints to whatever the other person shared, that I still deem the exchange as eternally valuable.

Empathic listening means that I don’t just want to understand the substantive content of the other’s opinions BUT more so, I need to know the reasons WHY those opinions have become important, central or defining to them.

Finally, empathic listening is an irrefutable out-cropping of love.  It is the very experience of “love thy neighbor.” It says, “you are important.”

2 Responses to “Helping Christians Understand LGBT Related Issues w/ Michael Kimpan: My Response”

  1. I think that empathetic listening causes a breakdown from transactional to cooperative relationship. From seeing a person as a two dimensional project/object/stereotype to a created (made in the image of the Creator) cohabitant seeking meaning and belonging.

    • Aimee makes a good point in distinguishing between “transactional” and “cooperative.” Christians need to take a cue from Jesus in the way he dealt with many of the seekers with whom he interacted. Very often he communicated empathy by first asking an open-ended question.

      Unlike us, he had the advantage of “knowing what was in a man,” but our asking an open-ended question CAN communicate we’re interested in what our interlocutor has to say; that there’s no hidden agenda on our part which will be exposed when we respond with a canned answer; and that we’re simply seeking further information to make our dialog more meaningful.

      In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that thoughtful questions on a Christian’s part should probably outnumber the declarative sentences, at least until there is a genuine–albeit partial–rapport between him or her and their interlocutor.

Leave a Reply