I was reading my Facebook newsfeed the other day and saw a post from one of my friends who is a conservative Christian. Lately she’s been posting bible verses, but today she added a praise of Kirk Cameron, the once-upon-a-time child star who made headlines for speaking out against marriage equality (or for “traditional marriage”, depending on your perspective). In the post she applauded him for his stance and said it takes more courage to come out for traditional marriage than it does to come out as a homosexual. Her words. I don’t know if she knew I would see it, but my attitude about Facebook is that if we can’t speak our minds there, it’s just a smiley-faced cafeteria.
My immediate reaction was sadness, because I like … let’s call her Jane. She has long appreciated my droll humor on Facebook. She has never commented negatively on anything I’ve posted, nor have I on anything she has posted, and I did not start that day, but I thought about it. Should I tell her about The Struggle, or the plague years? Should I offer her a stern lesson on what equal protection means? Or should I let her be. She has an adult child with disabilities she has cared for since birth. Does she need a lesson from me on how challenging life can be?
A dictum came to mind: Does it need to be said? Does it need to be said now? And does it need to be said by me? My answer was yes only to the first. I speak by example, living openly and confidently, and I have for a very long time. If someone who believes I’m not entitled to full equality cannot have her mind changed by knowing me, I’m not likely to change it by yelling at her.
I refuse to call my friend a hater. I worry that the word “hater” has become an easy label we throw around every time someone differs with us. I know my friend to be very religious, in a very specific, evangelical way. I’m not interested in changing her opinion, except as it may happen through our friendship. And – here we go – I respect her beliefs, so long as they do not impinge on my full civil equality. She is not a hater, any more than my late mother was a hater until time and love won out. (I remember my mother kissing my dying partner on the forehead just before I rushed him back to Los Angeles to admit him to the hospital for the last time. We both knew he would not be back.) Perhaps love will win out with my friend, perhaps it won’t. But I will not “un-friend” her or lecture her or rant at her. Life has its lessons to teach each of us, and my place in it is to love and accept, however difficult it may be.
I rarely identify myself as a Christian. Partly because I’m really not (I just like the church I go to) and partly because I believe it is such a high standard. To me, being a Christian precludes rejecting those who reject me. It requires me to react with compassion when anger is the natural response.
So Jane remains my friend. That afternoon she asked me how my journaling was going (it’s not). She continues to “like” my Facebook updates. She is not a hater, whatever that means these days. Nor, most importantly, is she hateful. We have diluted the word “hate” until it has become almost meaningless, a verbal bumper sticker we slap on people without giving it any serious thought. And it’s a shame, because there is hatred out there, and there are some very hateful people we’ve allowed to become indifferent to the label by slinging it so freely, but in much greater supply are people who simply need to learn. Whether they ever do or not is not my concern. My concern is to love, and to keep my heart as open as I possibly can.