In 9th grade, I got really into Christianity, by which I mean, I went to church two days a week and was attempting to start a Christian group at the high school I attended. I did not think I could teach anyone anything about Christianity. I simply wanted to meet with other students during lunch period once every two weeks to discuss passages from the Bible and what they might mean to those in attendance. I had planned to bring up issues like homosexuality, abortion, slavery and its extreme inequality, and so on, but mostly I wanted to find a place where I could talk to people around my age about ethics from a Christian perspective. I did not think that homosexuality was a sin. I did not call abortion “baby killing.” I did not think that all Black people were the descendents of Cain. I did not think that women were the downfall of men. I was fourteen. I hadn’t made up my mind about anything.
There hadn’t even been one meeting of the Christian group I was trying to set up before an acquaintance approached me between classes one day asserting, “I’m straight but not narrow.” I was taken aback.
I think I said something like, “wha???”
She repeated herself and then went on to explain that she was “sexually straight” but not “narrow-minded.”
I am certain that I gave her a look that reflected how shocked I was at her sudden and weird outburst, said, “okay” and then closed my locker and walked away. I knew what she meant the first time she said what she did. My surprise was at her narrow-mindedness in declaring how “not narrow” she was.
And that is my trouble with that sentence, “I’m straight but not narrow.” It implies so much. It implies that our desires, our affections are set. It implies that liberal enlightenment is a switch to be turned on or off, and not the battle of varying lengths and degrees that is highly personal. It implies that there is something brag-worthy about not being a bigot, and that one knows if one is a bigot.
My favorite Bible passage was (and still is) Matthew 7:1-5
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NIV)
This is my Christianity. It is the kind that calls the audience to participate in introspection aimed towards greater empathy, greater action, greater love.
I have made up my mind about homosexuality, about abortion, about people of color, about women, about all sorts of people and issues that are usually seen as divisive. I have made up my mind to withhold judgment in favor of abundant joy and love.
I’m not straight. I’m not narrow. I’m a human being with flaws who is unashamed of the possibilities of her faith because those possibilities house the greater possibilities of what we can accomplish when we choose love. And I believe that part of our amazing potential lies in crafting our sentences more carefully so that we spend more of the time saying exactly what we mean to say and nothing more.