Almost a year ago to the day, I remember sitting in a coffee shop at Harding University, listening to a friend playing “Losing My Religion,” by R.E.M. at an open mic night.
At the time, I remember being struck by the irony of our staff singing a song about losing our religion on a Christian campus, but I couldn’t have foreseen the true irony that I would be losing my own religion a year later.
On Feb. 26, the United Methodist worldwide conference voted to pass the traditional plan, which would harshen the church’s stances on LGBT issues, including the ordination of gay clergy and the officiation of gay marriages.
Churches which refuse to make a statement in support of this measure will be asked to leave the United Methodist Church, and clergy who officiate gay marriages risk suspension without pay and eventually job loss if they continue.
The decision passed with 53 percent in favor of the traditional plan, a small victory for a decision that will effectively split the church in two.
Since the vote was announced, churches across the country have vowed to do as the Church asked and leave, mirroring similar splits in denominations across the country when decisions on LGBT issues have been made.
No matter who is right, the idea that you either agree or leave is heinous, and is emblematic of the tribalism of our culture today.
But evil is the thing that divides, not Christ. Evil is the thing that gives us so much pride we believe we don’t need others. It’s the thing that makes us believe we are better divided than challenged. It’s the thing that makes us build walls instead of opening doors.
Say what you want about teaching truth and casting out lies, but it’s been said again and again by people much more experienced than I:
A house divided cannot stand: Abraham Lincoln
United we stand, divided we fall: Aesop
And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand: Mark 3:25
And, this week, my church forgot all these things.
It valued pride and precedent over unity, and then essentially asked every individual who could not sign on for that to leave.
So, I will. In anger, in sadness, with regret.
But I will not be silent.
We live in a time when we are divided at every turn. Where politics, religion, philosophy, disagreements, threaten to pull us apart at every junction, but we cannot let that happen.
The world is watching, UMC. They see how we speak to each other when we disagree, how we deal with problems when we can’t find a solution, how we interact when frustration is at the forefront of our minds.
And we are teaching them division is the answer — even among followers of Christ.
We are showing them a God who cannot see past certain differences, a God who shuts doors instead of opens them, a God who casts out those who disagree.
That’s not the God I believe in.
We have a chance to be love in action — to show the world that disagreement doesn’t have to mean abandonment and that love is always, always greater.
It’s time we use it.