It was an angry year, and good riddance to it. The only questions I have for 2012 are, should I try avoiding you in the future, and if so, how?
I began 2012 blogging about faith and homosexuality. Specifically, Christian faith and my homosexuality. I knew going in I was likely to regret the move, and it took about five minutes from the time I posted the first entry for that to prove true. I heard it all. A friend of some 15 years told me, “The Bible says I’m not supposed to have you in my home.” An old college acquaintance quipped, “When you’re done justifying your sin, maybe you can tell me how to justify my lust, because that’s easier than repenting.” A few accused me of “scriptural gymnastics,” a favorite phrase of some evangelicals when someone challenges their beliefs with a non-traditional interpretation of certain Bible passages. No one ever told me why what I was thinking wasn’t right or couldn’t be right; they only told me I was wrong, often in painfully pithy ways. I’d love to say I let the criticisms all roll off my back, but no. Some of those comments still smart.
Next, we had Amendment One, North Carolina’s measure to amend its constitution by banning legal sanction of any union other than that of one man and one woman. No civil unions, and certainly no gay marriage. The vote wasn’t even close. Sixty percent of voters approved the amendment after months of angry exchanges among politicians, civic groups, and churches. If the whole matter had not been so terribly serious, it would have been comical. “Who exactly,” many must have wondered, “is this Jesus? Are these people even talking about the same person? Why does no one seem to know who he is? He’s wildly variable from one church to the next.” Again, I’d love to say I laughed off all the angry attacks I heard, but it’s a little tough to absorb being told you’re shaking your fist at God just because you believe he understands that some people cannot be straight no matter how bad some of his disciples want them to, and so provision should be made for their relational needs, as well. As the vote count rolled in, I stood in a sea of amendment opponents. When the image of Billy Graham appeared on stage behind a handful of gloating politicians and church leaders, I heard the most unrepeatable obscenities hurled, not at God, per se, but at his church, and I realized just how many generations the church (as unfair as it may be to lump us all into one phrase like “the church”) will be paying for its use of politics as a weapon in a culture war. “If you have not love, you are nothing.” If you have hate, what does that make you?
As if to add insult to injury, we next had Chick-Fil-A Day. Again, spurred by a politician, the church took sides, often against each other more than anything else. Some said it was about equality. Others said it was about morality. Still others, that freedom of speech was on the line. Mostly what we all accomplished, I suspect, was spreading more bitterness and, depending on your camp, further padding the wallet of a millionaire maker of chicken sandwiches. But they really are good little boogers, what with that deep fried deliciousness and that lone little pickle on top. Dab of mayonnaise. Mmm mmm. Costly too. A lot of gays got further from anything that smacks of “church,” and even folks like me, who love and serve the church, were left with a rotten taste in their mouths of religion gone rancid.
And then, the biggie hit: Decision 2012. For months that seemed unending, we heard supporters of both candidates accuse each other of the most ghastly things, just because they see the world differently. Facebook was nearly unendurable for 10 out of 12 months this past year. That’s quite a sum of unpleasantness.
Finally, the election passed, only to see another wave of Facebook fighting roll in in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school massacre. “It’s about the second amendment!” “It’s about stemming gun violence!” “It’s about our children!” “Guns don’t kill people …” And we solved … ? Yep, nothing. Just spread around a little more anger and arrogant head-shaking: “Can you believe so-and-so believes THAT? I’m so glad I’m not like THEM.”
Am I alone in feeling like 2012 was a bitter progression from one argument to the next? I’ve dubbed 2012 “the year of the schism” because it did feel to me as though every month–sometimes every week–brought some fresh issue to scrap over. And scrap we did. I’m not sure what the solution is either, how we keep 2013 from following the same pattern, or if we even should try to. Maybe these fights are good, or necessary at least. We don’t live in a Pollyanna world. Sometimes we’re going to disagree, bitterly even, and the only thing to do is to have it out, and maybe this is a healthy and essential process. Surely, few people would say the 1960s were a harmonious time, but we needed to “have it out” over racial equality. It was a messy but necessary debate. Having it was good and ultimately healthy. Maybe our current arguments are the same. Doesn’t feel like it though. I ended 2012 edgy, irritable, and snarky, expecting at any moment to get completely blasted for some belief I hold. I look back on the year and think, “What did all that arguing accomplish? What did I accomplish?”
No tidy ending to this post. This is the early stage of my period of reflection as I make goals for the New Year. Maybe it isn’t right to want to stop the arguments our society is having. Maybe we need to have them. Conflict can be healthy. Maybe the debates are good, or at least necessary. If so, how do I endure them without turning out bitter in the end? I don’t want to say good riddance to another year in twelve months. I want to look back and say, “That was good. Messy, perhaps, but good.” How do I make this happen?