April 18, 2014

Faith and fear

“It’s possible to believe in something wholeheartedly and simultaneously know that you could be totally wrong.”

During O-Week, I met an unapologetically Republican housemate, and, even though I don’t identify as Republican, I felt a sense of camaraderie as I listened to him repeatedly defend his views. After years of conservative upbringing and having attended a Christian high school, I found myself quietly hiding my Christian identity because I feared being associated with the accompanying negative stereotypes.  Even my Republican housemate at one point clarified that he was economically, not socially, conservative, unlike a “gun-totin’, Bible-thumpin’ redneck.”

In all honesty, I do fit some of the assumptions that my friends have about Christians: I own a bow and arrow (gun-totin’) and I have a Christian education (Bible-thumpin’). But while I’m not scared of people finding my Bible or archery equipment, I do have other fears about my beliefs. Because the similarities between the stereotypes and me go further than that: I believe in an absolute Truth, I have chosen a certain framework with which to access it. By that framework, gay marriage conceptually cannot exist.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I am terrified of those words.

My fear comes from my awareness that Christians have wronged the LGBTQ community in more ways than I could probably ever imagine. Because of this, I understand that any visceral, adverse reaction that the LGBTQ community may have is to be expected. My dread is rooted in this concern—of propagating, in any way, hatred and hurt, which is not my intention.

Because when I say that I don’t believe in gay marriage, it’s not about condemning anyone, raising barriers against or implying superiority over a sexual preference. What I mean is that within Christianity, which is the body of thought through which I find meaning for myself, there are some fundamental arguments for the purpose of marriage and life, and within these arguments the idea of “same-sex marriage” does not exist.

In Christianity, marriage is ultimately not founded on passion, emotional compatibility, or a desire for companionship. It is simply another type of relationship (such as a parent-child relationship) instituted by God to reflect some aspect of Him. The reason that marriage is between a man and a woman is because it creates a unique context within which men and women—who are, though equal, different—can understand and learn from each other. True understanding of these differences would entail a deeper understanding of biblical gender roles, which do not imply any superiority in either direction.

This is only the tip of the iceberg of the centuries of discussion and debate among Christians regarding the definition of marriage, which encompasses biblical gender roles, the nature of God’s existence as one being but three persons, and Biblical definitions of sex. And that’s not even getting into the many possible ways that these beliefs can manifest politically. But this piece is not meant to be a persuasive essay, nor a comprehensive overview of my personal journey of thought regarding this issue—which isn’t even over yet; I’m just nineteen. It’s an attempt to begin to lay out where I’m coming from so that we can start an honest discussion.

I do not hate people who do support same-sex marriage, nor do I believe does God. I do not believe myself morally superior to anyone, nor do I intend to try to change anyone. How can I say that what I believe is true and simultaneously think that I’m somehow not better than anyone else? I can love and respect people regardless of their sexual preference because differences in belief systems have no implications on a person’s value. Because it’s possible to believe in something wholeheartedly and simultaneously know that you could be totally wrong. This is what faith means to me. Not a blind leap empty of thought, reason, or experience, but rather trusting that at the end, whatever is true will stand.

I understand that everyone’s search for meaning looks different. And my search is rooted in my belief in God and commitment to follow Jesus. This is the way I’ve found to pursue truth, and I can completely understand why you may not think the same way. Once again, I’m not trying to persuade you of anything. This is a plea, to people of both religious and non-religious backgrounds, to untangle a person’s worth from her beliefs.

I think back to O-Week, when my Republican housemate not only understood but also reassured me when I admitted my hesitancy to attend my first frat party. I think about how an agnostic friend gave me advice when I was debating about which church I should attend. I think about a gay friend of mine who helped me process my ignorance of certain aspects of the LGBTQ community. I feel as if my experiences here have been a living testament to what President Zimmer writes in the University’s diversity statement: “A commitment to diversity is central to our mission of discovery.”

Because I was tolerated and respected, I can tolerate and respect. So I admit that, in some ways, I am a gun-totin’ Bible thumper. But my aforementioned fear is tempered because I have personally witnessed the maturity and strength of this community, and in it I have faith.

Grace Koh is a second-year in the College majoring in political science.