Traveling through Tyre and Sidon, Jesus' disciples asked Him to send away a foreign woman begging for healing for her daughter. As she persisted and bowed down, crying, "Lord, help me!," Jesus drew an ethnic and religious boundary that dehumanized her: "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." However, when she humbly beseeched Him, "Even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master's table," He praised her great faith and healed her child immediately. This story is recounted in the two oldest Christian gospels, Mark and Matthew, and I believe shows not that Jesus was a racist but that like the Canaanite woman, he recognized, named aloud and most importantly ultimately overrode the dehumanizing bigotry of his disciples.
As heartbroken Christians in the LGBTQ community today have been responding in near disbelief to the hateful campaigns led by evangelicals like Franklin Graham of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Michael ("Dr.) Brown of Line of Fire and the Coalition of Conscience that successfully encouraged "Christians" to stop supporting the humanitarian aid efforts of World Vision U.S. because they had started to extend health coverage to the spouses of full-time employees even in same-sex marriages, I have thought of this gospel story. Our LGBTQ sisters and brothers who are not Christians are not heartbroken: In fact, they are not even the least bit surprised. Likewise, those who are Christian but not LGBTQ shrug off the events of the last few days as insignificant, with the loss of health-benefits for same-sex spouses a relatively small gesture.
For me, it feels like the invitation to the Great Banquet was finally extended as ordered by Jesus in Luke 14: When the righteous are too busy to come (in this case to fulfill WorldVision's mission of caring for the poorest and most vulnerable as Jesus also ordered in Matthew 25), those usually considered "unclean" are invited, escorted in, given seats of honor at the Master's table. Indeed, perhaps our Christian brothers and sisters who are not LGBTQ are right, and what was offered by WorldVision for just a few days, health coverage for same-sex spouses of full-time employees, was just the equivalent of "crumbs" from that Master's table (a Christian organization's resources). Even so, to be invited in at last to live openly, to celebrate and provide for one's spouse and family as other married partners and their children experience with full support in Christian community, was being celebrated with great joy as the news rippled through the LGBTQ Christian community. While Graham and Brown's followers rescinded their support of starving children to prevent any tiny percentage of their donations being used for health coverage for a same-sex Christian spouse, my LGBTQ Christian sisters and brothers and I stepped up to fill the financial gap, committing to monthly donations and sponsoring the children caught in this political crossfire.
Drawn in for the first time to share in this Great Banquet and feed these children, how much more keenly did we feel the sting of being slapped away from the Master's table again, now from such close range. Even worse, World Vision publicly reversed their policy by "humbly" asking "forgiveness" for even having considered insuring the same-sex spouses of their Christian employees -- who are now essentially forced to quit or go back in the closet. How strange to capitulate to the hateful and ask forgiveness for having extended grace, for having obeyed Jesus' order to call all to the Master's table, for believing in the faithfulness of those the "righteous" treat like dogs. Yet those of us who as LGBTQ Christians tried to support World Vision against homophobic backlash with our financial donations cannot follow the example of those we criticized in these last two days. The world's children cannot be caught in this crossfire when we are on the firing line. We who are gay and Christian have no "agenda" where suffering, starving people are concerned but to feed them. This is our witness, as Jesus taught us: "In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples--when they see the love you have for each other" (John 13.35).
Follow H. Adam Ackley, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrHAdamAckley