Thursday, June 21, 2012

Encountering Immortals

Everyday we encounter immortals. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, every person we meet is on a trajectory to everlasting glory or eternal shame. They will either dazzle with dignity or repulse with reprobation. We are (mercifully) not the judge of anyone's destiny and we are called upon to offer hope for the best eternal and and temporal life possible as each person decides which path to pursue.

Part of America's greatness rests upon liberty of conscience and religion and limited governmental or social interference in private adult behavior. We argue passionately about ethics and religion, but we do so safe in the knowledge that our Founders secured the freedom to practice any or no faith and live peaceably with our deepest differences.

In a future essay I will comment on the importance of a pluralitic nation defending heterosexual monogamous marriage as a vital economic, moral and social institution. In this brief work, I want to encourage greater civility and mutual respect by reordering our thinking about one another. This does not mean a compromise of deeply-held values or suppression of debates over public policy.

To my friends in the GLBTQ movements: Your adult choices are yours, but insisting that everyone approve all of them is a form of intolerance just as onerous as the traditional prejudice you have been subjected to by others.

To my traditional friends: Some of your neighbors have feelings and make choices contrary to your beliefs. But they are more than their choices in some areas of life. They are artists and engineers, laborers and professors, the folks that serve your lunch or send out your paycheck.

The immortals we encounter are first human beings with a vocation from God to care for the community and planet and use their gifts well. Second, these neighbors are men or women. Third, they have histories and hopes worth exploring. Fourth, they have feelings and thoughts on life worth listening to. THEN, fifth, they have their particular orientation. If we can learn to think in this order, life will be more enjoyable even as we debate the nature of personal and social choices.

Recently a friend commented that our sex-obsessed culture has made erotic passions more important than ethical choices. Whether bi, gay or straight, being human means we are more than mere instinct. We are creative, moral, relational and spiritual beings able to channel affections and actions in ways that create a better future for others.

Let's never lose the wonder of the immortals we meet every day. Let's live the words of I Corinthians 13 bearing and believing, enduring and hoping, exercising patience and rejoicing in the good. Such love that seeks God's glory and the good of others is the only foundation for civil debates and decisions affecting millions of people and our civilization's future.