Peace with Paradox
By, Kenneth Reed, ED.D, LPCC
What is in a word? Well, it depends on what the word is, of course. Words, like picnic tables (I’m at a park right now), may not entice emotions on any large scale, but there are some words, depending on who you are, that will bring about great passion one way or another. Let’s try a couple on for size. Here’s one: “homosexual.” Here’s another: “evangelical.” How do these words affect a person? For some, they don’t really stir any emotion. They are simply words that relate to a person’s sexual orientation and to a person’s belief system. End of story. For others, these words can create a flurry of emotions.
For the homosexual, the word “evangelical” can conjure up images of a narrow minded, judgmental bigot. For the evangelical, the word “homosexual” can conjure up images of a rebellious sinner who is morally lost and going to hell. For the most part, the battle lines have been drawn. The evangelicals will sit in their camp with likeminded people and rage on about the sins of homosexuals. Conversely, the homosexuals will sit with their liberal colleagues ranting about the destructive biases of evangelicals.
We live in a time where evangelicals have their religious freedoms and homosexuals can live in government-sanctioned marital bliss. Congratulations to all. Both camps seem to have adopted an unhealthy either/or paradigm. Evangelicals attempted to lead a moral crusade in American politics according to their values, yet the gay rights movement continued to advance. Retreating from the battlefield in defeat, some evangelicals are leaving the faith saying, “I’m glad I am not one of those anymore.” Conversely, some homosexuals who “gave up” their homosexuality after having been “born again” are also saying, “I’m glad I’m not one of those anymore.” This makes for an interesting dilemma.
But what about homosexuals who also maintain an evangelical belief system? What a tortured existence that must be. How can such people be at peace when they stand with one foot in each camp? While I don’t pretend to solve this conundrum in this article, I recognize that there is a silent minority who can’t simply give up their faith or revert to being someone that they are not.
Somewhere in this quandary, there must be peace with paradox. Jesus is great at providing peace where no definite answer can be found. Evangelicals often press for a definitive renouncing of the “other,” as do homosexuals; however, I suggest that somewhere in the middle of this paradox, true peace can be found by understanding and accepting that people can be both evangelicals and homosexuals.
This holiday season, let us remember that we do not live in an either/or world. Working towards understanding the complicated, messy truth behind all seemingly impossible paradoxes is the only way we can achieve peace. Paradoxes are, in many ways, what defines the human condition. They certainly make life interesting! Choosing sides is not the answer; rather, learning how to deal with the complex and ostensibly oxymoronic situations that we find ourselves in with both compassion and reason is the only path to true enlightenment. As strange as it may seem, there is peace within every paradox.
Dr. Kenneth Reed is the author of There was a Time. He is an advocate for helping others find meaning in life through the purpose of Christ. Along with being in full time ministry for over 25 years as senior pastor of Gr8terway ministries, Dr. Reed is also a licensed therapist in private practice and full time psychology professor. Coming to grips with the authentic self is a frequent discussion Dr. Reed has with clients as a means of working through spiritual crisis. Dr. Reed is married to Elizabeth. Together they enjoy their three children, seven grandchildren, their work for the Kingdom of God, and as much travel as a busy schedule allows. Elizabeth, "Libby" is an endless source of strength.