Today I'm going to venture into a controversial area and probably upset a few people. However, these are my views and I want to share them.
A few weeks ago, in one of my textbooks for school, I reread the account of how Galileo revived the discovery by Copernicus that the earth was not the center of the universe. At the time, the Christian Church held firmly to its interpretation of Bible scripture, saying the earth was indeed the center of the universe and to say otherwise was to commit heresy.
As I read the forced statement that Galileo had to make, recanting what we now know to be true, I got thinking about how Christians (and other faiths may do as well) have a bad habit of drawing lines in the sand. We have so many hot button issues, where a line has been drawn by some denominations and individuals: homosexuality, abortion, alcohol consumption, medical marijuana, decriminalization of other drugs, etc. These heavy lines are drawn when gray areas exist. Seeing everything as black or white with a clear demarcation line is denying the state of the world. We live in an imperfect world. Often choices have to be made when there is no clear right or wrong. Those who point to Bible verses as an indication of where God falls on some moral questions are mistaken. It is their interpretation of the verse that is guiding them, not the actual scripture. What happens when rational thought and science prove that both our interpretation and the line drawn in the sand are wrong? We can't forget poor Galileo.
As an example of gray areas, I'll use medical marijuana. Studies have shown that the use of this plant can alleviate pain and suffering experienced by cancer and other patients. However, a line has been drawn and marijuana is considered evil, no matter how it is used. There are those who say it should not be used no matter how much good it can do. On the other hand, these same individuals, who have demonized marijuana, have no problem consuming drugs manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, even when case after case has shown that many of these legal drugs are extremely dangerous, much more dangerous than marijuana. Sometimes I see pharmaceutical advertisements on television and at the end they include the disclaimers, where they list the possible side effects of the drug being advertised. I wonder how many people pay attention to the announcer as he or she drones on and on, especially to the mention that one of the side effects is possible death! Clearly, we need to stop drawing lines in the sand on this issue and really consider the pros and cons. If something is not harmful to others, we need to allow individuals to make personal choices based on what they know about their own circumstances, on their own faith values, and on the best available research.
Rather than drawing lines, we need to allow the gray areas to exist. When circumstances force an individual into that gray area, we should come along side them, offering love and encouragement rather than judgment and condemnation. It's what Jesus would do.