I want to say right off the bat that I love that the conversation is happening. In my closet days, I never imagined seeing the day when Christians, devout Bible-believing Christians, would speak out against harmful measures towards the gay community. The swell of righteousness that has been percolating through blogs across the web in response to the proposed Arizona bill has been such an assuring sign of forward progress. Of change. For the most part, it’s been a good day of reading.
One blogger stands out for writing the best, most poignant response to all of this. Preston, if you’re reading, you nailed it.
Preston put it this way:
We’ve stumbled into a theological grey area. Because Christians don’t agree on this. And actually, Christians don’t always agree on what counts as gossip, as sinful divorce. Even whether or not gay marriage is a sin.
So wait. Whose Christianity is it?
It’s a simple excerpt as you can see (read the whole post here) but it is also a sharp deviation from the typical progressive Christian response.
The message I normally hear, and have previously written about, is this: Christians are beating up the gays again and how will they ever find Jesus if we keep pushing them away from him? We need to be better at witnessing, showing Jesus love, like the way he was with sinners he encountered…
It’s a condescending argument, and yet, one that doesn’t seem to realize it’s condescending. It typecasts gays as the worst sinners of the gospel that Jesus, despite everything, STILL LOVED. He goes even that far! Amazing!
I cannot count the number of times I have been likened to Jesus drunk friends, or the adulteress woman, or the tax collectors. I am the pre- “go and sin no more” gospel character- the shabby fellow who’s luck is about to turn when I meet the Light of the World. And Jesus would’ve met me differently; he would’ve converted me. But Christians today aren’t meeting me like he would. And because of their unkindness, I am still lurking in the corner- rightfully so!- waiting to be wooed into the light by love.
But wait a sec… I am a Christian. There are thousands, maybe millions, of others out there like me. There are entire organizations like the Gay Christian Network and Believe Out Loud, lots of congregations around the country that affirm same-sex couples. What’s going on here?
I want to suggest two arguments that tend to muddy things up for us. That need to be nuanced before the next culture war blow-up happens.
1. Jesus ate with sinners- we need to eat with sinners. Serve sinners. Love sinners.
Of course he did, the gospels tell us so. And we all are sinners, but Jesus loves us as we are, that is all there is to it. But when, from the outset of your piece, you circumscribe our sexuality as a mark of our sinfulness, you are othering us. It does not feel warm and fuzzy to be called the lesser that is still loved. The SINNER. The project. It feels rather low. Insulting. A bit ignorant.
Like you, we seek to live good and honorable lives. As Christians we put our faith, desires, and daily living before God and ask for his direction. So, when you assume that being gay or being in a same-sex relationship is sinful by way of analogizing our lives with the rowdy crowd Christ hung out with, you suggest that we are more broken, more need of redemption than you. And you continue a narrative that says there are no other interpretations of scripture (reformed interpretations, affirming ones, are growing in opinion.)
2. There are more important issues
This one really gets under my skin. Though I know it is being directed at conservative Christians, it can feel like someone is somehow blaming my existence on the lack of attention to things like poverty, creation care, and human trafficking. It also assumes that this whole equal rights business, the liberating of a minority group, is kind of frivolous. Something to get over with. Move on to the important stuff that actually matters.
I tell you.
Injustice is injustice. And when it comes to gay and lesbian people- the wrongs have been devastating.
They’ve resulted in a thousands survivors of reparative therapy- people who simply wanted to be normal, accepted, and loved by God, because according to Christian culture and teaching, they couldn’t until they changed. It has resulted in those who lied their way into a marriage only to come out thirty years later, trying to pick up the pieces of their family, grieving over all that time lost. Gay teens today are still the most at risk for suicides, and though they make up a tiny part of the population, they are the most likely to be homeless, too.
Healing, restoring dignity and giving respect to a group that has been maligned for a millennia is no frivolous thing. It matters, this process, it is where God is working his magic for the good of his beloved, for the good of his church and for his world. He is showing us with every shift in society, every conversation with loving Christian friends, that he is for us and everything will be okay. Two things that were once hard to believe.
And I get it. You are voicing your support. But even when you are eager to publish that post and show your solidarity with us, you still carry the capacity to offend and if publishing your piece is important enough to you, you must pay close attention to how you write about gay people, because you might be hitting us in an unforeseen way.