Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What's Steve Riggle Really Afraid Of?

I want to articulate something I think the Church (big "C") does all too frequently that sabotages our witness of the gospel in the world, and what Steve Riggle, a Houston pastor, has done most particularly with a video he produced, which attempts to rally opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance [HERO]. It's important for me to say I've never met Steve personally, and though sometimes I'm a bit embarrassed about the fact, I do think he and I are the Church together.

The video expresses a concern - actually a highly anxious-driven concern - that HERO will open you and your God-fearing families and particularly your children to "sexual predators" and "pedophiles." The ordinance will (among other things), in other words, allow transgendered people equal access to public restrooms of their choice, where (according to Riggle) your children will be exposed to abuse. There's a lot wrong with that from any perspective. Here are at least two. First, ask yourself a question: "Is there a distinction between being transgendered and being a pedophile?" (Seriously, stop and think about that for a moment.) Second, any child, right now without the ordinance, is already without a doubt exposed to "sexual predators" and "pedophiles" whenever they enter a public restroom. HERO doesn't increase or decrease that tragic possibility.

The video Steve Riggle produced calls the Church - Christians all over the city of Houston - to rise up, show up at City Council and fight HERO's passing. The biggest motiving factor, interestingly enough, isn't because this would be a faithful action to take as a committed disciple of Jesus. The biggest motivating factor is fear; a highly anxious-driven concern. And this is where I think we as the Church often sabotage our witness of the gospel in the world. Where's the good news? That is, where is the good news that is more than good news for one Christian pastor and the church he serves?

Which leads me to ask, What is Steve Riggle really afraid of?

Venturing a guess leads me to say that what Steve Riggle is really afraid of is something much larger than this specific ordinance. Steve's not afraid for his children and grandchildren or anyone else's. Protecting them from harm in public restrooms is actually an easy fix; don't let your children go into public restrooms unattended, something that you should probably prudently do now. The fear is that our nation, built as it were on Christian principles, is going to hell in a hand basket. The fear is that "our" beloved Christian society is falling down around us, that Satan is working his wiles on the minds of our city leaders, influencing them to do his bidding to tear at the fabric of what God considers good, moral and decent.

So here is what I think after twenty-three years as a pastor who used to think this way myself and who has seen much of this in that time: This sabotages our witness to the good news we have to share, because this is not at all the better part of us. This highly anxious-driven concern is very much the worst part of us. It's the worst part of us because this fear creates enemies. It creates us against them, and the "them" needs to be stopped at all costs.

More than that, it proposes to speak for God in a way that when you really think about it isn't, isn't at all. It proposes to suggest who God's enemies are. And frankly, the moment we go there, we really need to do some serious personal reflection. That's the moment that we really need to reach out for some help from the rest of the Church if we take Jesus seriously.

I often welcome this simple prayer:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)