A few nights ago I was reviewing previous episodes of MTV’s The Jersey Shore, the addicting show that has a “guidette” getting decked in the face by a gym teacher and fake-tanned, short-tempered, probably STD-bearing fist-pumpers that make a sport out of defiling the image of those who actually live at the Jersey Shore like I do.
As I did this, I saw a link for The Real World: Washington, D.C. After I got over my initial depression from not sending in an application tape after seeing its emphasis on politics, I actually saw a debate that sparked some deep thought about my Christian faith.
The argument features Ty, an atheist; Mike, a bisexual Christian; and Ashley, a pro-Obama Christian who tries to referee. Also present though not actively engaged is Emily, who grew up strictly religious in a cult-like atmosphere, as she describes it, who has predictably rebelled and turned against the faith. I originally thought the deck was stacked against Mike by the producers — and perhaps it was — and that the show would portray the conflict between his sexual orientation and faith as an expose of the intolerance of Christianity. Instead, Mike’s responses show the love and compassion of the religion, even if all of us who believe in it inevitably fail to uphold those qualities.
Watch clips two and three here to see the clash. Ty is immediately angry, obviously bitter at Christians and threatened by any potential credibility of the faith. He says “everyone who is religious is so narrow-minded” and challenges Mike to say God doesn’t exist. When Mike refuses to, that is proof that he isn’t open-minded, according to Ty. For the most part, Mike stays cool throughout, reflecting a confidence in his faith and position. To us “crazy Christians,” we have a relationship with God that feels not too different than that of a family member. To say He doesn’t exist doesn’t threaten us, because we feel His presence, see Him work, and, at least in my case, it is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And by the way, when we share this with others, it’s not just because we are told to do so, but because we want to see other people’s lives improve as ours have. To not do this would be downright selfish.
But Mike makes a greater point, one that all Christians should embrace. Mike explains how the idea that his bisexuality means “you can’t be religious, you can’t follow the Bible, you can’t follow God … is stupid.” This may sound like a hippie version of Christianity that means there is no objective right and wrong, but he further explains.
“My church is come-as-you-are and we’ll teach you Christ and we’ll make you better and if you’re flawed, everybody’s flawed, just do what you can,” he says, and then he goes onto explain the concept of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love. Again, this sounds like an acceptance of sin, but if you listen closely, he’s acknowledging that we’re all sinners and in need of salvation. And as all sinners require God’s mercy, this means we are all on the same plane — whether you’re a bisexual, or lie, or act selfishly, or ever step into any of the pitfalls that all of us have — unless you think you’re perfect, which is a pitfall in and of itself.
In other words, Mike, despite how some Christians would unfortunately look down upon him, articulates the most important premises of the faith that go beyond any debate about its specific tenets, such as the one regarding sexual orientation. At least for me, it was simply inspiring.
And one more thing on the “narrow-mindedness” comment. Skeptics often make it sound as if we Christians brush away any doubt and we haven’t considered the questions they’ve raised. This isn’t true. We share the same questions and struggles, only on a greater level since we’ve invested our lives in it. There isn’t any criticism available that we ourselves haven’t pondered over, but the difference is that we find the answers to those doubts, and when we can’t, our faith based on the previous answers and the evidence we have in the form of our relationship with God fills that gap.
When Governor Mike Huckabee was running for president, he did a great job of summarizing this aspect of faith. At a November 2008 debate, he said, “The Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small.”
That’s where faith comes in. We won’t have every answer, but we don’t need every answer, and if we did have every answer, frankly that’d make me more skeptical of the Bible’s teachings about the nature and power of God.
This article is an unusual one for me to write, I know, because it really triggered some deep thoughts for me. Who would have thought I’d get inspired to write a near-sermon from the words of a bisexual Christian on The Real World? God works in mysterious ways.