According to the Bible, “they” will know we are Christians by our love.
According to research conducted by The Barna Group, however, most “outsiders” under 30 know we are Christians not by our love, but by our politics, judgmental language, and anti-homosexuality.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how to help LGBT folks understand that their sexuality doesn’t separate them from God. I get frustrated when I hear stories about Christians who somehow think that using hateful, judgmental, hell-centered language effectively communicates the grace of God.
Unfortunately, too many trusted pastors, authors, speakers, and politicians preach that in order to be for Christ you must be against [fill in the blank]. You obviously know that this blank is often filled not only with issues (abortion, homosexuality, etc.), but also with the people these issues represent… homosexuals, pro-choicers, democrats, liberals, etc. I think it’s safe to say that many of the folks reading this blog have experienced the hurt that comes from being shoved into the “against” column.
I could rant endlessly about how un-Biblical it is to imply that Christianity requires its followers to be against people. The New Testament paints Jesus as decidedly PRO-people. The only groups he ever came close to being against were judgmental religious insiders. Regardless…
What if there’s another side to this story?
I’m currently reading “unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters.” In it, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons explain what they learned from interviews with 867 people about their perceptions of Christianity. In the chapter dealing with non-Christian folks’ perception that Christianity is anti-homosexual, they say:
… a young Christian friend we interviewed said she has to be discreet about her attempts to minister to some gay people she has met at work. ‘If my church friends hear me talk sympathetically about gays, they get bent out of shape about it…’
I’ve been chewing on this idea for several weeks. I hadn’t really considered the frustration, confusion, and grief of conservative Christians who are led to believe that in order to fully love Jesus, they must disapprove of their gay friends, coworkers, children, uncles, and sisters. I know how hard it is for a Christian homosexual to come out as gay… but in my self-pity/absorption, I hadn’t really considered how difficult it must be for a conservative “straight” Christian to “come out” as one of our allies. By showing their loyalty, understanding, and support for a gay friend/family member, many straight Christians apparently have their faith questioned… just as we do when we “come out.”
I’m surprised that I’m surprised. When my friend (and former pastor) Joe contributed this blog entry a few weeks ago, he emailed me to say:
So I posted this link on my facebook page. I’m guessing that more than 90% of my fb friends are conservative and will really react to this. Most don’t know that I stand where I stand, so it should be interesting. It’s time I say what I believe and stand by it…
His Facebook post said, “many of you will un-friend me. many of you will chastise me. many of you will mock me. however, it’s time i come out of the closet.”
I don’t know whether Joe lost friends because of the blog post… but his awareness of the potential fallout speaks volumes. I guess “coming out” has consequences for everyone.
What do you think? Does a fear of becoming “guilty by association” discourage our Christian parents, friends, and fellow believers from doing the homework necessary to understand how God and gay can fit together?
PS. If you’d like to read reflections by a few of our straight allies about why they support our community, check out The Allies Project – a new initiative that tells the stories of the straight folks who have made our journey a little easier!