Something really ugly and hateful showed itself in our community, and each of us needs to pray and act.
This past week Canmore Pride sent an email request to Valbella Gourmet Foods to sponsor their BBQ event. Their request was met with ugly hate by the former president of the local vendor. Since the news came out, there has been a sharp division in our community on how to respond to all this.
Many have advocated for all to refuse to patronise the vendor in solidarity with our LGTBQIA2S+ community. Other voices have sought to isolate that hateful message to the former president alone, and not representative of all who work at Velbella.
It’s in the midst of all this that a follower of Jesus needs careful discernment on how to move forward with passionate justice and Christ-centred grace. As I process all this along with you all, and as your pastor, I want to offer a reflection on all this, a reflection that invites dialogue in the spirit of friendship, justice, and peace.
Jesus says NO to HATE - Questions surrounding human sexuality and human identity are as controversial as they are complex. I know there are those in our community that find the LGTBQIA2S+ community threatening and object to their acceptance from the wider culture. And there are many others who are passionately inclusive of diverse identities and don’t understand those who aren’t. And many are in between these two poles.
Now where you land is complex, and I am committed to journeying with you no matter where you find yourself in this cultural moment. But I want to be really clear right now:
Whether or not you sympathise with the LGTBQIA2S+ community, each of those who are in that community are having a HUMAN EXPERIENCE that MUST be honoured and respected.
No matter where your views of human sexuality land at the moment, you have to recognize the essential humanity of those you disagree with. For each one of them is made in the Image of God, Jesus Christ died for each one of them as well as you and me, and therefore, in the follower of Jesus there is absolutely NO room for vitriol and hate of the kind that came out of that person at Valbella, full stop.
Jesus is all about RADICAL GRACE - In the wake of this controversy, battle-lines have been drawn. Many calls have gone out to punish Valbella for all this, and others have argued the blame is solely on the single individual and not the company. I’ve had in person conversations, as well as online, and what’s essential, especially in the followers of Jesus, is a warning on cheap grace and self-righteousness:
Cheap Grace - It would be IMMORAL to simply sweep this under the rug and ignore what has occurred. Simply giving the person or even the company a pass would be cheap grace. God doesn’t simply ignore our sin, the bible is clear that our condition is clearly pointed out and we are in a serious condition. We are called to bring our sin into the light of God, hence our audible confession each Sunday. The point is: we can’t simply sweep it under the rug. In the same way, we can’t ignore what happened in our community. I would call Valbella to genuine repentance and making amends as a starting point in all this. The important point is that we must absolutely NOT ignore this.
That said, for us Christians, we must passionately pursue JUSTICE in the light of the CROSS of JESUS.
There is a conspicuous tone throughout all this controversy that needs checking. If you are a follower of Jesus, that’s because you admit that you are a sinner, that your actions and the posture of your heart have rejected God, and you accept Jesus’ gift of grace that reconciles you with God our Creator. This undergirding truth is what St Paul calls ‘the new self’. A Christian MUST advocate for the downtrodden and be an agent of justice, but cannot carry off a tone of self-righteous indignation. In other words, we must not carry ourselves or express ourselves as those who ‘would never do or say such a thing’. We must not call for punishment in a self-righteousness that forgets the mercy and grace given us by Jesus. We call for JUSTICE and also SEEK MERCY because God has forgiven the unforgivable in YOU. When you call for retributive punishment without grace, you place yourself outside the love that God has so freely afforded you at immeasurable cost. And that’s not right.
In all this, my friends, we act for justice and mercy and process all this together. Let's look to the healing of the hearts of our friends and loved-ones injured by all this. And all this must be done prayerfully and in a spirit of truth and love.
Rev. Seth Enriquez