Can We Disagree, Part 2: LGBTQ & Disagreeing Unifies Us
Recently, I wrote about Jen Hatmaker’s podcast interview with her daughter, Sydney. As one who has family members and friends who relate or identify as LGBTQ, I can relate with Jen. On another level, Jen and I had two very different childhoods.
While I was raised in a progressive LGBTQ community by 3 activist gay parents, she was raised in a very conservative Christian community. It’s fascinating that she is now affirming while I became non-affirming (I despise those inaccurate binary labels).
Near the end of the podcast, Jen said, “When we refuse to cherish and affirm the LGBTQ community, including our kids, we are literally breaking their hearts. We are breaking their bodies. We are breaking their minds. This is not neutral. This is not just a difference of opinion. This is causing harm and trauma and suffering.”
Her words prompted me to ask a lot of questions, one of which was the basis for this blog series:
Is there room for us to dialogue and disagree about sex and sexuality?
I firmly believe there is room for a couple of reasons:
The topic of sexuality is very vast and expansive—there’s more than enough room for differing views that are respectful.
I personally know plenty of individuals with differing views on marriage that remain good friends. Additionally, there are numerous examples of parents/children who disagree on sexuality and marriage, but have tremendous relationships.
Why then, would Jen Hatmaker insinuate that disagreeing with LGBTQ youth is always harmful when studies and personal experiences prove otherwise—that loving disagreements do exist?
In 2018, the editorial director of The Huffington Post Personal wrote the following about Chick-fil-A: “If you care about queer people―or you yourself are queer―you have absolutely no business eating at Chick-fil-A. Ever. It’s really that straightforward.”
It’s no secret that Chick-fil-A and the activist LGBTQ community don’t have the best relationship, but is the editor's statement true? Anyone who eats at the “best chicken fast food restaurant ever” doesn’t care about LGBTQ people? I know a lot of people—gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, men, women—who eat at Chick-fil-A and love queer people. Also, gay men and lesbians work for Chick-fil-A and don’t face discrimination—but I guess they don’t care about queer people either?
Social and psychological scientists believe an outrage culture or cancel culture is created when people assume their own view to be based out of love and the opposing view to be founded in hate. When disagreement isn’t allowed, each camp begins to view itself as fighting injustice and the other side as the worst (which is why many people call each other names like Hitler). It gets to the place where each side sees the other as being beyond dialogue, understanding, or negotiation. Eventually, simply eating at a chicken restaurant is an unforgivable act.
Jonathan Haidt is Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University. I’ve become a fan of his writing (check out his books here, especially The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion & The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure). FYI, Haidt is not a radical conservative—if he was, he wouldn’t be teaching at NYU. Raised in a politically liberal home, Haidt spent much of his life as a liberal Democrat. He now sees himself as more of a political Independent.
Haidt recently stated that American democracy might crash within the next 30 years or so. He believes a combination of “social media, eruption of common-enemy identity politics, and entrenched rival moralities of progressives and conservatives is provoking a reversion to tribalism.”
LGBTQ rights expert and Rutgers University Law Professor Carlos Ball cautions progressives (in their fight with religious conservatives) not to destroy the same First Amendment principles that afforded them their current rights. Similarly, journalist Scott Shackford
warns, “After decades of fighting to be treated as equal members of society, we shouldn't be trying to put the boot of the federal government on the neck of anybody who is not violating our individual liberty. Not getting a wedding cake, or not getting to teach at a Catholic school, is not enough to justify the boot.”
In other words, our refusal to assume the best of each other, be honest about our feelings, engage in dialogue, and allow disagreement is putting this country and ourselves in jeopardy. But again, if you view “your side” as heroes fighting injustice, then people like Jonathan Haidt, Carlos Ball, Scott Shackford, Caleb, and others are just wishful do-gooders who don’t see the bigger picture. Regardless, I still maintain that how we handle our differences can make all the difference in the world. More than that,
Our differences can unify us.
In his recent book, Gay Rights vs. Religious Liberty? The Unnecessary Conflict, Northwestern University Professor of Law & Political Science, Andrew Koppelman says: “Conservative Christians and defenders of gay rights can despise one another’s views while respecting one another and sometimes joining as political allies.”
Arthur Brooks is Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership at Harvard University. He suggests that we don’t commit to “disagreeing less, but by disagreeing better—engaging in earnest debate while still treating everyone with love and respect.” Brooks says we’ll discover healthy ways to disagree when we walk away from the rhetorical dope peddlers who get rich, win elections, want fame, and gain influence and power from a culture of outrage. (he gets extra points for using the phrase, rhetorical dope peddlers, LOL!)
I love that idea—disagreeing better. How do we disagree better?
Never Make Agreement the Goal
Obviously, we don’t like the idea of people not agreeing with us. I mean, those people must have a screw loose! Too many attempt to focus less on disagreement and more on agreement. This idea works in some circumstances, but merely sweeping major disagreements under the rug doesn’t make them disappear. Making agreement the ultimate goal of conversations actually plays right into the hand of the extremist because he or she wants everyone’s agreement.
Some individuals can disagree about significant issues without damaging relationships—this is by far the healthiest response to disagreement and by far, the most difficult. It takes 0% effort to ignore disagreements or categorize those who disagree as bigots and unintelligent.
Valuing disagreement allows you to value people.
In cases of extremism the focus of “agreeing at all costs” kills dialogue. Worse yet, when you only value and respect those who agree with you (and think the worst of everyone else), it gives you permission to dehumanize all others. Doing so stands in direct opposition to Jesus’ great commandment and commission (Matthew 22:37-40 & 28:19-20).
In his book Christians in the Age of Outrage (which I highly recommend you read), Ed Stetzer writes, “You can’t hate people and engage them with the gospel at the same time. You can’t war with people and show the love of Jesus. You can’t be both outraged and on mission.” No one can devalue people and try to share Jesus with them at the same time.
Focus on Acknowledgment Instead of Agreement
Maybe those who value disagreement understand that part of the key to our disagreements is acknowledgement. Agreement only cares about one aspect (alignment) whereas acknowledgment values the whole person. Acknowledgment validates others’ experiences and notices their pain. It’s very similar to or even synonymous with empathy, which is, as Brene Brown says, “connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance.” Brown also describes empathy as the ability to allow “people to have feelings without taking responsibility for those feelings.”
Instead of rejecting or agreeing with people—acknowledge their reality.
Acknowledgement lets you step into their life and love them in the present moment... it's saying that right or wrong, you recognize the reality in which they live. Those who are affirming and non-affirming, people in same-sex and opposite sex marriages, single individuals, liberals, conservatives, and those in-between need to practice acknowledging each other. I think we can acknowledge anyone by doing some of the following during discussions:
Pray for understanding of where people are coming from
Don’t automatically assume they're evil incarnate or manipulative
Listen more than talk
Repeat what you hear them saying
Ask good questions
Value understanding them more than convincing them
Don’t invalidate their experiences
Reflect on their words
When sharing your thoughts, don’t act like you’re the expert
Acknowledging others instead of pursuing agreement allows respectful and helpful disagreement.
Realize the Bigger Issue at Hand—Identity
I understand and agree with Rosaria Butterfield: “Sexuality isn’t about what we do in bed. Sexuality encompasses a whole range of needs, demands, and desires.” So true, and this is why when someone identifies as LGBTQ it often represents their friendships, communities, politics, etc. In my experience, I’ve found that those who refuse disagreement are protecting an identity.
Gay journalist Brandon Ambrosino writes:
To me, recognizing the distinction between opposing gay marriage and opposing gay people is a natural outgrowth of an internal distinction: When it comes to my identity, I take care not to reduce myself to my sexual orientation. Sure, it’s a huge part of who I am, but I see myself to be larger than my sexual expression: I contain my gayness; it doesn’t contain me. If it’s true that my gayness is not the most fundamental aspect of my identity as Brandon, then it seems to me that someone could ideologically disapprove of my sexual expression while simultaneously loving and affirming my larger identity.
If you follow Jesus, then He should be your primary identity.
Identifying with Jesus was the last decision you ever made. When you chose to follow Jesus,
you died. When Jesus died, God saw you on the cross and now God sees His Son living through you. God counted you as dead at Golgotha with Jesus (Romans 6:8, Colossians 2:20, 2 Timothy 2:11, and Revelation 14:13 communicate this truth). Dead people don’t fight for control over their lives because… well… they’re dead!
In Christ, He has given you new life and become your very life. Paul says as much in Colossians 3:3, but then in verse 4 he qualifies our relationship with Jesus in a unique way: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
A few years earlier, Paul described the same idea in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Many other passages like Romans 8:10, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Ephesians 3:17, Philippians 1:21, and 1 John 5:11-12 teach Christ’s ownership of His followers’ lives. Since Jesus, the perfect representation of God (Hebrews 1:3), died and rose for humanity to God’s glory, He should define each of His followers.
When your identity is in Christ, you don't have to fight to defend it. You can rest because your identity is secure in Christ. He's protecting it.
A Christ-centered identity frees you to be an ordinary person through whom God does extraordinary things.
If anything, a Christ-centered identity should give us the freedom to not only disagree, but to do so with a loving and gracious attitude. One of my favorite theologians, Yale University Divinity School professor Miroslav Volf writes, “Christ’s indwelling presence has freed us from exclusive orientation toward ourselves and opened us up in two directions: toward God, to receive the good things in faith, and toward our neighbor, to pass them on in love.”
So please, be one of the few who isn't afraid to disagree. Be committed to disagreeing better. Never lose sight of another person's value. I've got more to say about this, a lot more... especially about logic and emotions. But, that'll have to wait until part 3!
 Jen Hatmaker, Fierce, Free and Full of Fire: The Guide to Being Glorious You (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020).  Scroll down the page for the transcript of the podcast: https://jenhatmaker.com/podcast/special-edition-series/a-moment-of-pride-jen-and-sydney-hatmaker-on-being-gay-christian-and-loved/.  Noah Michelson, “If You Really Love LGBTQ People, You Just Can’t Keep Eating Chick-fil-A,” Huffington Post (June 12, 2018). Accessed November 21, 2019. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/lgbtq-eating-chick-fil-a_n_5b1fb4cee4b09d7a3d770c81.  Adam Waytz, Liane L. Young, & Jeremy Ginges, “Motive Attribution Asymmetry For Love vs. Hate Drives Intractable Conflict,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111/44 (November 4, 2014), 15687–15692. This is a brilliant article that examines how this is true.  Arthur C. Brooks, “Our Culture of Contempt,” New York Times, March 2, 2019. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/political-polarization.html.  Paul Kelly, “’Very Good Chance’ Democracy is Doomed in America Says Haidt,” The Weekend Australian (July 20, 2019). https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/politics/very-good-chance-democracy-is-doomed-in-america-says-haidt/news-story/0106ec1c458a0b5e3844545514a55b5a.  Carlos A Ball, The First Amendment and LGBT Equality (Harvard University Press, 2017).  Scott Shackford, “Democratic Candidates Promise LGBT Voters They'll Punish All the Right People,” Reason (October 11, 2019). Accessed July 15, 2020. https://reason.com/2019/10/11/democratic-candidates-promise-lgbt-voters-theyll-punish-all-the-right-people/.  Andrew Koppelman, Gay Rights vs. Religious Liberty? The Unnecessary Conflict (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020).  Arthur C. Brooks, Love your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt (New York: Broadside Books, 2019).  Arthur C. Brooks, “Our Culture of Contempt,” New York Times, March 2, 2019. Accessed December 12, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/political-polarization.html.  Ed Stetzer, Christians in the Age of Outrage: How to Bring Our Best When the World Is at Its Worst (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2018).  Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (New York: Penguin, 2015).  Brene Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts (New York: Random House, 2018). Brown goes on to say, “If I’m sharing something that’s difficult, I need to make space for people to feel the way they feel—in contrast to either punishing them for having those feelings because I’m uncomfortable, or trying to caretake and rescue them from their feelings.”  Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secrets of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith (Pittsburgh: Crown & Covenant Publishing, 2012).  Brandon Ambrosino, “Being Against Gay Marriage Doesn't Make You a Homophobe,” The Atlantic (December 13, 2013). Accessed July 15, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/being-against-gay-marriage-doesnt-make-you-a-homophobe/282333/.  Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005).