in recent years, i’ve intentionally placed myself in the middle of discussions surrounding homosexuality in the church. it’s not just something i read about – it’s something i live on a daily basis, in real relationships with real friends.
i’ve walked alongside members of the LGBT community who are struggling to belong and be welcomed in their places of worship and even within their own families. || they’re Other-ed simply because of their sexuality.
i’ve also walked alongside members of the conservative religious community, who struggle to understand why they’re often labeled by others as ‘homophobic’ or ‘anti-gay.’ || they’re labeled as such simply because of their theology.
i’ve found many of my conservative friends initially have a hard time understanding why they are seen as anything but loving by the gay community.
‘i love gay people,’ they tell me. ‘i’m not anti-anybody. and quite frankly, i’m sick and tired of being labeled as a homophobe.’
i see their point.
and at the same time, in each of these conversations in the context of friendship, they are shocked to hear the sentiments most often spewed in the direction of the gay community from the religious right. i often tell my conservative friends,
‘the gay community has heard two things from the church :: ‘God loves you and so do i, but we don’t approve of gay sex.’
they’re not confused about the latter. they’ve rarely seen the former.’
we need to do a better job of communicating and living out God’s love and grace toward all people, without making qualifications. God’s love is called unconditional love for a reason…because it’s unconditional.
and yet, the gay community is bombarded with media images of angry church members picketing parades, lawns throughout the neighborhood decorated with flimsy signs that read ‘Vote NO on gay marriage’ and a consistent barrage of hate speech disguised as sermons.
here are just a few examples of statements made in the name of God – these should help us see the reality that the accepted method of engagement on the landscape of conversation with the gay community is not working.
• one pastor, in an effort to convince his congregation that homosexuality is a choice that can be avoided through aggressive parenting said ::
‘Dads – the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over and CRACK THAT WRIST. Man up – give ’em a good punch!’
after local media got wind of the sermon, the pastor gave a non-apology retracting his support of child abuse, saying, ‘I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended. I did not do anything to intentionally offend the LGBT community.’
• another pastor didn’t stop at mere child abuse – he suggested a genocidal extermination of the gay community ::
‘Build a great, big, large fence — 150 or 100 mile long — put all the lesbians in there,’ he said. ‘Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out…and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out…do you know why? They can’t reproduce!‘
although the local and national media had a field day with this pastor’s ignorant and hate-fueled comments guised as church-speak, when he returned to the pulpit the following week, his church members greeted him with a standing ovation.
• the FBI recently reported that violent crimes against the gay community are increasing – a natural effect of the dehumanizing of another. in response one pastor told me he thought the numbers were inflated as some sort of left-wing conspiracy theory to raise awareness to the so-called ‘gay agenda.’
• in uganda, parliament is considering a bill which would criminalize homosexuality and punish anyone seen as ‘promoting gay culture’ – the original version of the bill included a death sentence in some cases.
• this fall, several religious groups fought against an anti-bullying campaign, for fear of allowing gay students to be accepted and treated as normal. one leader of the groups declared,
‘The reality is we are not a hate group. We are a truth group.‘
• even in my post yesterday, i quoted a commenter on another blog who likened homosexuality to murder, rape and embezzlement -in an effort to show ‘respect’ and ‘kindness.’ fearing a world in which gay marriage would be accepted she declared, ‘[This I will] resist with every fiber of my being.‘
there are literally countless examples – some more or less extreme. yet each points us to a common thread :: our discourse is dysfunctional.
if our desire is to communicate and live out God’s unconditional love and grace to the gay community,
what we are doing is not working.
most often, the response to stories like these is predictable :: ‘no wonder we’re seen as homophobic and anti-gay. that’s horrible.’
most would agree – what we are doing is not working.
but here’s the question :: what are we doing to change it?