Trading Black and White for the Beauty of the Rainbow / Andy Dickson

Growing up in the church in the eighties I developed very strong, black-and-white opinions about “the gays”. I knew very clearly what I thought about ‘them’. And, as you probably can tell, those views weren’t very positive.

The trouble was, I’d never actually met anyone who presented as anything but hetero-normative until I was in my twenties.

Looking back, I see how easy it is to have black-and-white theology when it doesn’t affect you. When it’s all theoretical. When you ‘other’ the people involved, creating a them-and-us situation.

When I started working at my first full time job about half the staff were lgbtq+ and many of my assumptions about what ‘those people’ were like were shattered overnight. They just didn’t line up with what I had believed. That was step one for me in a long journey of changing my mind.

I’ve heard people say you are on dangerous ground when using your experience to interpret the Bible because the meaning of the Bible is clear. First, if the Bible was clear there wouldn’t be thousands of denominations divided by differences in theology. And secondly, every single one of us uses our experiences as part of the grid through which we interpret everything, the Bible included.

I believe that if the people and situations I encounter don’t challenge my interpretations of the Bible, then my interpretations mean more to me than the Bible. Even the Bible’s authors allowed their theology to be challenged by those they encountered. For a start, the two bigwigs of the early Church, Peter and Paul, both changed their minds when confronted with new experiences that challenged what they believed.

And so, when I encountered lgbtq+ people whose lives challenged my theology, I knew it was time to reexamine my beliefs. Interestingly it didn’t make me take the Bible less seriously, as I have been subsequently accused of. It actually forced me back to examine the Bible and take it more seriously. I wrestled with texts. I searched for meaning. I looked at what was said and what wasn’t. I looked at the contexts in which they were written. I read books and listened to speakers. Most importantly, I listened to lgbtq+ Christians who have had to wrestle with this way more than I have, or ever will.

There’s no time here for the specifics of the verses or interpretations – there are plenty of books that do that. But over the course of a decade I changed my mind. I now feel compelled by my understanding of Scripture to hold an affirming position regarding same sex relationships.

What has been fascinating to me is how much this change has made me fall in love with Jesus all over again. The more I looked the more I saw his love for those who were shunned by the religious. Those who were told they were sinners and didn’t belong. And I saw his desire that all might be included. That all might know the joy of being loved.

This is the Jesus I believe in. The one I follow. Jesus the includer. Love in the flesh.

And you know what? I might get things completely wrong. But I’m totally willing to err on the side of love and inclusion. And my world is much brighter as I no longer see everything in black and white but in magnificent, beautiful rainbows.

Andy is a white, cis-gender, heterosexual male, with a wife and three kids. He is the host of the Down to Earth Conversations podcast, where he has conversations with people who are doing good in the world, or as he likes to say, ‘ordinary people who are helping to bring a bit of of heaven Down to Earth..

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