Needed: A New Conversation on LGBT in the Church

light on stairsTwo weeks ago, Christian rock singer Trey Pearson came out as gay. His band, Everyday Sunday, had multiple albums and several #1 hits on the CCM single’s chart. Trey said he had tried for years to become straight, even marrying a woman and fathering two children, but nothing had changed. He wasn’t sexually attracted to his wife, was unable to meet her intimate needs, and felt burdened by having to pretend to be someone he clearly wasn’t. He and his wife had mutually agreed to separate, putting a plan in place for him to continue to be very involved in raising his children.

What shocked me about this announcement was the response to it. A fairly well-known Christian radio show host spat on Twitter that Trey was ungodly, and so were all the other CCM artists who had come out as gay in recent years.

Ungodly?

All Trey had confessed to was same-sex attraction. Not an affair. Not abusive behavior. Not breaking one of the commandments. Just “I like men.” Yet that statement alone was enough to erase his godliness and call his salvation into question.

This is proof of the homophobia that exists in the Church. Mark Driscoll can confess (unrepentantly) to stealing, beating counselees upside the head and fleeing church discipline, and still get support for his new church plant. Tullian Tchividjian can confess to having an affair with a member of his congregation (which is clergy sex abuse) and still get hired on staff at another church a few months later. Doug Wilson can plagiarize books, threaten to humiliate rape victims, and publicly use filthy, sexualized slurs against women, and still get invited to speak at conferences and write articles for John Piper’s websites. I could go on with many other examples. (Though to be fair, the Christian radio show host mentioned above has criticized these things as well.)

Why do all of these men–men who have stolen, lied, slept around, and behaved in despicable ways–get a pass from the broader Christian community, while those who confess “I’m attracted to the same sex” do not? Why do Driscoll and Wilson get to keep preaching and selling books, but Trey can’t have his music played in church anymore?

Why is it that we applaud authenticity when pastors confess to neglecting their families, or disliking parishioners, or giving into bouts of explosive anger, but react with disgust and outrage when the same authenticity comes from someone who is attracted to the same sex?

Even if everyone else were faultless, it would still be wrong. Being attracted to someone is not a sin.

The conservative church may not want to hear this, but there are gay people in your church. Right now. Today. There are gay people singing in your choirs, writing your worship music, and sitting next to you in Sunday School. There are gay people working at your favorite Christian charities. There are gay people on staff at CCM, CBN and TBN. There are gay people writing on popular Christian blogs. There are gay teens in your youth group. There are gay people on your elder board. There are gay students attending your seminaries. You may even have a gay pastor who stands up in front of you every Sunday and rails about the sin of homosexuality.

The gay people in your church may be married to an opposite-sex partner. They may have children. They may tithe and give other offerings. They may be serving in your weekly outreach programs. They may come to church in their Sunday best, not looking anything like the trendy clubgoers that you see frequenting your local gay bars on Saturday night.

And the only reason you don’t know they are there is because they haven’t told you yet.

And do you know why they are there? Because they love Jesus and want to serve him. They want to be disciples. They want to fellowship with other believers. The want to be part of a conservative faith community. They want to further the Kingdom of God. Some of these people, like you, believe that gay sex is wrong. Some of them are living as celibate singles or in heterosexual marriages, doing their best to live up to the commitment they have pledged to God and their spouse.

But that doesn’t make their feelings and attractions go away.

Now imagine that these people, in many churches, get to hear on a regular basis that they are condemned. That they are such horrible sinners that God gave them over to this attraction so He could punish them. That they are dirty and represent everything that is wrong with our world. That they need to be told, over and over, to repent, even while they are walking in repentance. That they aren’t fit to be parents. That they are a danger to children. That they aren’t qualified to minister within the church, ever. That their songs of worship to God aren’t fit to be sung. That their sexual orientation, which they did not choose, should induce a gag reflex in straight Christians. That they aren’t right with God until God takes their attractions away. That they aren’t worthy of communion, which is simply a remembrance of the sacrifice Jesus made to forgive all sins.

Imagine what that must be like. To love Jesus with all of your heart and be so despised by his followers.

To see others offered grace and forgiveness for their struggles, but not you. To see others applauded for their openness and authenticity while you are shamed and shunned.

This is why we have to have a different conversation about gay people in the Church. Because even the ones who are there–who are doing their best to live faithfully to the scriptures as your church understands them–don’t feel welcome, loved, or safe in your community.

That’s a problem. It’s a problem when the Church offers to pray for gay victims of a mass shooting and the victims respond, “We don’t want your prayers, because we know what you say when you pray for us.” It’s a problem when a young gay person says, “I’m a Christian, but I haven’t attended church in over a year because I can’t find a church that will truly welcome me.” Is it any wonder that they would flock to bars and clubs instead, where there is a community that values them? The Church needs to be encouraging gay Christians in their faith, allowing them to be open and authentic–evaluating their walk with God, not solely by what feelings and attractions they have, but by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

Hint: Heterosexual orientation is not a fruit of the Spirit.

We already teach that salvation is through faith in Christ alone, that he alone is our righteousness–that while our sinful nature has been mortified through the Cross, we will never fully escape sin or temptation this side of our resurrection. We teach that humans are fundamentally broken in all areas, that grace is available to those who commit themselves to God, and that said grace allows us to live redeemed and justified in spite of whatever thorns in the flesh God allows us to keep.

The only change required is not showing partiality to whom this doctrine is applied.

If you think even feeling attracted to the same sex is sinful, then why do your potentially sinful feelings of anger and fear and frustration get to live under Christ’s blood, but your brother’s same-sex attraction does not?

If there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, why do you still condemn the LGBT people who have accepted him as Lord and Savior? Why is it acceptable for Bill to struggle with alcoholism, or David to struggle with lust, but not acceptable for Todd to be attracted to men?

There are people in your community who are trying to enter the Kingdom of God. Gay people. And there are others in the Church who are blocking the door. Are you one of them? Because the problem with blocking the door is, you don’t get to enter, either (Matthew 23:13).

I think it’s time we talked about it.

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36 responses to “Needed: A New Conversation on LGBT in the Church

  1. Every time I comment when you post LGBT info, I am attacked with comments, but I am truly trying to understand and change the Evangelical mindset I have blindly followed for years, so I will keep forging ahead. Im saying this so people will know that I am not trying to offend but need to ask real questions.

    Since I have totally revamped my thinking on “a Christian woman’s role” and what “submission and headship” really mean (bc of coming out of the fog in a 30 yr abusive “marriage”), etc. I find myself so much more open to the idea that some of what I have been taught is WRONG, so please bear with my ignorance as I wade through this issue. I have a good friend who is an LGBT advocate so she has been a good resource.

    Even as an Evangelical Christian, I have never been homophobic. I have never rejected nor felt uncomfortable around people who are gay. My concern with what you are saying here is differentiating between those who are “attracted to men” (Ill stick with that to save space) and embrace it as an acceptable lifestyle (i.e.-they have a partner), and those who feel those attractions (you are right, NO different than attraction to gambling, alcohol, lying, whatever will trap us) but see it as a “thing to be avoided or rejected.”

    This is where I have trouble. The Bible seems pretty clear that to ACT upon these attractions is wrong. How then, do I, as a believer in Jesus and His Word, respond to a gay person? The thing about most sins is they are easy to hide. Easy to put on a front. With homosexuality, if you have the attractions, you can hide that, but if you are openly living out those attractions, that is hard to hide, unlike “Im beating my wife” or “I’m gambling my sons college money away” etc.

    So, yes, I am welcoming because I don’t know this person is openly defying God’s Word. But once I know, as a sister in Christ, do I not confront them? How is that loving, to let them keep going forward in ignorance, or defiance and Im to just keep smiling and back slapping? THAT seems hypocritical.

    Anyway, this is where I am having trouble wrapping my brain around it. If I know an alcoholic who is unrepentant and sits in the pew next to me, isn’t my response to him different than to the alcoholic who knows what he is doing is against God and his family/friends/self, and is actually fighting against it? Jesus said to wipe the dust from your feet if they don’t listen to you. He didn’t chase them or try to win them over or show public support for them. How is this different?

    Thanks for taking the time to read this and share your thoughts.

    • Thanks for your question, Debby. I’m sorry that you’ve been attacked by comments before. I hope I was not contributing to that. I try to keep this a safe space for discussion.

      I wonder why, on this issue, evangelicals feel the need to rush to confrontation. There are times the Bible outlines we should confront a brother in sin:

      1. When the offense is against us personally or harms others (Matthew 18)
      2. When it brings the Gospel into disrepute/leads others into sin (1 Corinthians 5)
      3. When it endangers their own soul (Galatians 6)

      In the first case, the sinner is given three chances to repent. In the latter case, the Bible says to restore the sinner gently. If you believe gay sex is a sin, it falls largely into that latter category, as the Bible says, “He who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (Sexual sin touches the other two categories when it involves children, abuse, lack of consent, adultery and promiscuity.)

      It also helps to keep in mind that homosexuality in Biblical times was mainly associated with three things: sodomy (male rape), pederasty, and temple prostitution (idolatry). When Paul penned Romans and some of the other relevant verses, he did not likely have monogamous gay relationships in mind. I haven’t yet done a word study on the Greek that has been translated as “homosexual” in the Bible, but there is some scholarship out there that suggests the Greek has different connotations than what we assume from our own cultural viewpoint.

      No matter what our beliefs are or how we interpret scripture, I think we absolutely MUST approach this issue with empathy and compassion. We are sexual beings made for companionship. To tell someone “you must remain celibate or marry someone you aren’t attracted to” is a heavy weight. We must trust that the HOLY SPIRIT will be the one to bring strength and conviction. I think the place to start is just say, “What are you going through right now? How can I help carry your burdens? What would you like to see in your relationship with God?” God is very patient with us, giving us many chances to grow in Him. We should extend that grace and patience to others, especially when their sins aren’t harming anyone else.

      We all know of teenagers in the Church who got too physical with a boyfriend/girlfriend (heck, that was me). Sin? Yes. Confronted? Yes. Kicked out for it (even when it happened again)? No. Why should this be any different?

      Just some food for thought. I encourage you to keep thinking and praying about this issue.

      • Thanks so much. Lots of great food for thought. I used to think if I even THOUGHT about these issues in anything other than “Absolutely, unequivocally NO” then I was “opening the door to the devil” (you know the mantra) and would feel so guilty, but I don’t feel guilt at all in trying to discern truth and helping others in this difficult world. I feel that God is patiently guiding me (much as we do with our teen who are “discovering their own voice and ideas” and we don’t go bludgeoning them if we feel they are wrong, just voicing some “food for thought” as you have done) to truth and is not intimidated (as humans are) by our misconceptions or thoughts when we are truly trying to understand HIS take on it.

      • April, have you read Torn by Justin Lee? It really helped me clarify my thinking about reconciling Scripture and gay relationships (although I’m sure I’ll always have a degree of uncertainty about it).

    • I hope I don’t come off as attacking because that is not my intent, but I will be blunt. If you know a person in your church or social circle is gay and in a committed relationship, why do you think that they need to know your opinion on it and why do you think your opinion given to them will be helpful?

      I don’t know where you live, but where I am in America, there is not a single gay person who is “going forward in ignorance” of conservative Christian views of homosexuality. Christians have beaten that into us as children, we have to fight Christians tooth and nail to gain our civil rights, we have been ostracized, insulted, hated or even assaulted by Christians, we have been rejected, abused, and left homeless by our Christian families, we have heard our brokenness, worthlessness, and disgustingness preached from pulpits for our entire lives by Christians. There is not a single gay person in the USA who thinks that conservative Christians support their relationships. WE KNOW. If you decide to bring it up to us uninvited, all you will do is remind us of all of the hateful and dangerous Christians who have done this to us for our entire lives.

      And trust me, it won’t matter if you think you are saying it in a “loving” way. Some of the most horrible experiences I’ve had with Christians were done by Christians who thought they were being loving. Conservative Christians do not understand how to love LGBT people and they never will if they prefer to talk at us rather than just listening to us and believing us. Unless you’ve walked 20 miles in our shoes, you cannot possibly comprehend what your “loving” words will sound like to us. I’m not trying to be rude here; as a white person, I can’t pretend to know what white supremacy feels like to a person of color. I have limitations in my understanding because the limitations in my experiences, and I must listen to people with other experiences and believe them when they tell me I am hurting them. You must do the same for us.

      Finally, just because you know a Christian who is gay does not mean that you know the spiritual journey that they are on or what sort of study they’ve done on the matter or what their beliefs are about their sexual ethic or how they came to those conclusions. They may have done a lot more study of scripture than you have. They may have prayed about this a lot more than you have. And, quite frankly, assuming that all gay people in your church need you to “set them straight” (pardon the pun) about scripture is spectacularly arrogant. If they invite you to talk about it, that’s one thing. But the assumption that all gay Christians need you to straight-splain scripture to them is offensive.

      I hope this doesn’t feel like attacking to you. I think your heart might be in the right place, but I’ve been horribly abused by people whose hearts were thought to be in the right place and I am desperately urging you to take a huge step back before you hurt someone. If someone you know is gay and you feel that is against your religion, please keep it to yourself. We know. We just want to exist.

      • Thank you for these thoughts. They are very helpful. I do understand a little about the hurt. I grew up in a children’s home, not just wearing hand me downs but “goodwill doesnt want them” hand me downs, and even though I was NOT mentally retarded and did NOT have behavioral issues but lived with 20 kids who did, I was constantly stereotyped. As a mature adult, I wouldn’t care if they DID “lump me in” but as a rejected kid who already feels like they don’t measure up, it hurt a lot. Its not the same as what you are describing, but I think I understand a bit about judgement.

        I actually have never confronted any gay people that I know and have contact with about scripture and what it says. Its been relatively easy to just sidestep it all these years. I have always been friendly and caring. I also know that “nobody cares what you know unless they know that you care” and frankly, as a Christian, I have not been that involved in the lives of gay people. You have succinctly explained why, the rejection from the evangelical “know it all” community and I do get that. But I don’t want it to be that way, at least as far as how I deal with this, so I am exploring another place to “land” with this issue.

        I try to look at it as if it were any other sin (if it is a sin and I address that later) If I had a friend who was, let’s say, cheating on his wife, would I just let it go? What would be an appropriate response? Do I just go on acting as if what he is doing is ok? Do I talk with him about it, and when he gives me the excuses as to why he is doing what he is doing, what should my response be? If he knowingly and continually engages in this behavior, what is my response to that? Will it send him to hell? If I don’t confront him, will he GO to hell?

        If being gay IS a sin (and that is a question that all other questions hinge upon and it seems that the Bible makes it clear that it is, but then again, the church also teaches that the Bible says its a sin to divorce NO MATTER WHAT which gives abusers the full support of the church, and keeps people trapped and oppressed, so thats a lie that I used to believe) but if it IS a sin, how am I to respond? Is it arrogance that makes me care about a person so much that I don’t want them to die in their sin and go to hell?

        This is where I am struggling. I could be kind and caring to gay people all day long, no problem. But I am concerned about the repercussions for them. And I am not exactly sure what those would be at this point.

        Thanks again for the dialogue. It is very helpful. Just as you have found that Christians won’t dialogue with you without getting angry and defensive, I have found it difficult to find people who WILL dialogue with me, to help me understand their perspective.

        • I’m glad that my words were helpful to you and that you’re working this out in your own mind! Coming out of some of the toxic sides of religion is quite a process and I definitely want to encourage you in your journey (and no, I’m not going to try to convince you to de-convert, even if that’s the path I took). I am sorry for the pain you experienced due to religious sexism and abusers using the church and bible as a shield for themselves. This sort of thing makes me unspeakably angry.

          Regarding the topic at hand, even if you think that non-heterosexual relationships are a sin, it is still different than a person cheating on his wife. In the case of cheating, there is a victim in the situation who needs to be protected. In that situation, the “sinner” and the person aware of the sin are not the only people involved and thus we must treat it differently for the sake of the victimized party. This is not so with a same sex couple. As such, I do not think the two situations are comparable.

          I understand and appreciate that you care about gay people and you don’t want them to go to hell. I wish that I could convince you that this is not a risk… that even if being gay is a sin, no being that we could consider “good” or “just” would ever torture someone for eternity simply because they misunderstood god’s sexual ethics and committed themselves in love to a life partner, harming no one. Even if you could prove to me that such a being existed and that I should therefore divorce my wife in order to appease him (I am a transgender man so I was born female) I would refuse. Such a being would be the most horrific monster that could possibly be imagined, and would not be worthy of my worship and I would rather go to hell than submit to such a disgusting, evil, hateful, and unspeakably cruel creature. I would choose the love of my wife, who never hurts me, who never threatens me, who never demands my complete obedience, over the “love” of an abusive monster who requires his followers to threaten gay people with his eternal torture on his behalf.

          However, I am not a Christian. I no longer believe in god (although I stopped believing in hell long before I stopped believing in god). My view on the matter probably isn’t very compelling and I have no real evidence to prove that “god” wouldn’t do these things since I have no evidence that “god” exists at all, nor do I believe that he does.

          So all I can do is ask you to consider the possible outcomes of various courses of action. You will have to work out for yourself what you believe about sin and hell and god. But what you believe about gay people is irrelevant to the results of your actions. Whether you are trying to convince gay people to be celibate because you hate them or whether you try to convince them to be celibate because you want to save them from hell, the result is still pretty much the same. Those two things are practically impossible for a gay person to tell apart, and having good intentions doesn’t make one’s actions any less harmful. If you continue to interact with LGB friends (or even friends that you are presuming are straight but may not be) without bringing up any of your religious beliefs about same sex couples, they will continue to have a friend and ally in you that they feel comfortable being around and they will also still know all about conservative Christian objections to their relationships. On the other hand, if you choose to bring up your view that same sex relationships are a sin, you will mark yourself as an unsafe person, you will add your voice to the thousands of others that are shaming them, and you will be contributing to the routine dehumanization that LGBT people face on a daily basis. For many of them, you will be repeating words that have been attached to experiences of violence, hatred, cruelty, emotional physical or sexual abuse, and possibly some of the worst moments of their lives. There are no benefits.

          Keep in mind, children in non-affirming families are over 8x more likely to kill themselves than their peers. 8x. The #1 cause of death for LGBT people from age 12-24 in the US is suicide. That, more than anything else, should tell you how harmful non-affirming behaviors are. This is the real-life consequence. My question to any Christian who wonders if they should “lovingly” broach this conversation with gay people in their communities: “When experiences and statistics show that Christian sexual ethics hurt and kill gay people, do you really think that you are somehow immune to that effect? Do you really think that you know the perfect way to express these ideas in a way that won’t hurt and kill people when so many others have failed? Is that a risk that you’re willing to take?” I posit that, if the answer is “yes” then you don’t actually love gay people at all.

          Best of luck on your continued healing, and I hope this continues to be helpful and I’m open to comments or questions.

      • This is not in regard to April or anything she said. I think one of the grave errors pastors make with gay people is that they automatically assume that gay people are just as shallow mentally as the lowest common denominator sitting in the pews on Sunday morning. I have known pastors who openly resent (before their congregation) the wide gulf of Christian faith knowledge that exists between themselves and what they learned in seminary and that of the members of their congregation. I sat through an SBC church sermon one Sunday when the pastor lashed out at the congregation and honed in on a little old lady:

        “And little Miss Daisy over here!!! She comes in here every Sunday morning and listens patiently to my sermons. When she goes out the door after the service, she always tells me what a wonderful sermon I preached. Trouble is—she has no idea what I said in any of those sermons. She couldn’t briefly summarize what I said if her life depended on it!!!”

        I think pastors need to understand that just about all gay people have thought incredibly deeply about their homosexuality and its religious implications. They cannot just take the path of contempt some pastors feel toward “not very bright” pew sitters like Miss Daisy and assume that a gay person is a person walking around in some sort of religion-free fog. If pastors could tune into that fact, maybe they would see that harassing people with “clobber scriptures” only drives gay people away from religious things.

    • “But once I know, as a sister in Christ, do I not confront them?”

      I guess my problem with the idea that conservative evangelicals must confront a non-celibate gay person is that it’s so…self-absorbed? I say “self-absorbed” because it never seems to occur to these evangelicals that we’ve heard it all before. Why exactly do you (general you, not you specifically) need to confront me? I grew up United Methodist and in college I was a hardcore Southern Baptist. Why act like I have no idea what non-affirming theology states? I’ve already heard all of the arguments, I just don’t agree with them. Telling me that you (once again, general you) love the sinner but hate the sin simply insults my intelligence at this point.

      “I have never been homophobic. I have never rejected nor felt uncomfortable around people who are gay.”

      But that’s not all homophobia is. I know that people will disagree with me, but my stance is that regardless of your more personal feelings, if your theology advocates treating homosexuality as “less than” heterosexuality, then it’s homophobic. I’ve heard people say that they can’t be homophobic because it’s simply a sincere disagreement re: religious theology. But the two are not mutually exclusive. Sincere religious beliefs can be homophobic. Other people say that it can’t be homophobia because they’re not afraid of gay people. But that’s falling into an etymological fallacy.

      The thing is, I DON’T believe that only awful people can be homophobic. Just as “homophobic” and “sincere religious belief” are not mutually exclusive, neither is “homophobic” and “good person.” My mom is mildly homophobic in that she doesn’t really “get” homosexuality, thinks it’s weird, and has told me that she hopes I’ll eventually settle down with a guy. But she also supported marriage equality long before a majority of Americans supported it, and regardless of her personal feelings, believes in “live and let live.” I don’t respect her any less. In fact, that she supports equal rights even though she finds homosexuality ~weird puts her a notch above people who only change their tune on LGBT rights when they find out that a close friend or relative is gay IMO. (I don’t think the latter are bad people either, but it’s a shame that so many of us only come around when someone we love gets personally affected by our bigotry.)

      And yeah, back when I was in the UMC and then the SBC, I was homophobic (and apparently deeply closeted) even though like you I did not have any personal discomfort towards gay people and counted several gay people as my friends. But I still spouted verses from Leviticus and talked about loving the sinner but hating the sin. I don’t think I get to say that I wasn’t homophobic just because I was comfortable hanging out with gay people and had gay friends. My actions, my words were homophobic even if my gut feelings re: gay people weren’t.

      “The Bible seems pretty clear that to ACT upon these attractions is wrong.”

      Full disclosure: I’m not sure if I believe that the Bible is as affirming as some affirming Christians believe. I just don’t believe it’s clear-cut in the other direction either. The Bible has been translated multiple times. Look at all the current editions out there. IIRC, Wayne Grudem has acknowledged that the ESV was translated in order to have a definite complementarian bent.

      So many things can be lost in translation. If you speak multiple languages, I’m sure you know that firsthand! The other day I was explaining to someone how yes, a particular word in my native language is technically an insult if you translate it literally to English, but it’s much more a term of endearment/affection in my native language than it is in English.

      • Let me just say, full disclosure, I’ve had to repent of my own homophobia, and it was not overnight. I have a friend ordained with the UMC who is a true, years-long supporter of the reconciliation movement. There were times we had heated, painful discussions over some less-than-enlightened drivel I had written about homosexuality. I’m deeply ashamed to admit that I once left a church several years ago because it was affirming. It has taken a lot of listening and introspection to shed the prejudice instilled by my upbringing. So I feel for those who are still in that process. Among you, I am the chief of sinners.

        • (this is Julie under my wordpress account)

          Oh, me too. And even though I ended up being as gay as a rainbow, I can’t even blame my homophobia on repression and self-loathing; I was just someone who unthinkingly swallowed everything I was taught without question. Honestly, I don’t even recall my UMC church saying ANYTHING about homosexuality one way or the other, but I still got it into my head that I should be anti-gay because that’s the message I got from the culture at large: Christians were supposed to oppose homosexuality and that was that. Southern Baptist leaders like Russell Moore want to act like affirming people are just capitulating to the culture, when my own anti-gay stance was the very definition of capitulating to [conservative Christian] culture.

          Back in high school, I took a class at the local community college. We had an assignment where we had to give group speeches on any topic we chose and the rest of the class would fill out response cards. One group decided to do a speech defending homosexuality. On my response card, I quoted Leviticus. I cringe just thinking about it.

        • Yes, interesting Kelsey. That is sort of where I am right now, completely revamping, revisiting, re-searching (now I finally know what that word means!) what has been instilled in my brain, and not just about this issue). I question EVERYTHING now and have a different view of how God views us than I have had all these 54 years of my life.

    • I, too, have been working through this.(I actually just did a post on this on my blog.) One thing I found interesting is Rabbi Shmuley’s approach: he urges them to focus on the other 611 Torah commandments. Orthodox Judaism disapproves of homosexuality, but not of the attractions. They say straight people shouldn’t give LGBT a hard time because that’s not something straight people go through.(Attraction to people of the same sex is seen as a test in Orthodox Judaism; and everyone is tested in some way. They urge people not to judge how others handle their tests, especially if it’s different from the judger.)

    • Debbie, I’d like to recommend a couple books that have rocked my theological “bubble.” There is a dramatic difference between the way Jesus interpreted Scripture and the way modern conservative Christianity looks at Scripture. Up until a modern times, the church tended to use allegory to apply Scripture that seemed violent, unloving, disturbing, Joshua for example. As a result of modern textual criticism, the church has switched to the “grammatical-historical method. Conservatives now know what Scripture means, what its historical setting was, etc., but, because of theological presuppositions, decline to draw critical ethical conclusions from the text. That would be “judging God.”

      But careful reading of Jesus’ use of Scripture (for example Matt. 5) shows he purposefully subverted unloving texts from the OT, often changing the original meaning all together. Paul likewise. As Derek Flood says “Christians can become so focused on “right” biblical interpretation that they callously disregard how their position marginalized and devalues others, leading to people being deeply hurt.” (P. 68 ‘Disarming Scripture’)

      For Christ and Paul, the hermeneutical basis for reading Scripture was to learn to love God and our fellow man. If a text was harmful it was disarmed. This is the opposite of what we do today. In fact we seem to go out of our way to find texts we can use to point out the sins of others.

      In the case of dealing with SS relations we have, as you’ve pointed out some negative passages in both Testaments. Now we know Paul was not writing to us, nor was the author of Leviticus. So how do we “use” these hurtful (even violent) passages. We look at the original setting (April has pointed some out), compare it to today’s loving, committed SS marriages and realize, Scripture is not addressing today’s situation. We acknowledge this and move on to passages that affirm committed, Godly relationships. We can not only affirm, but sanctify SSM as a result.
      The books are “The Bible Tells Me So” by Peter Enns and “Disarming Scripture” by Derek Flood. Together they are a game-changer. God bless.

      • Thank you very much for these resources. I will get them asap and dive right in. It feels good to be freed from the shackles of “God sayeth” coming out of the mouth of people who aren’t God. I don’t know where I’ll end up on this issue, but it feels good and right to give it actual time, attention and thought as opposed to blind repetition. I look forward to continued dialogue with your readers Kelsie.

  2. April, lots of wisdom, truth and compassion here. We as a Christian culture need to stop condemning out of hand and must begin offering God’s hand of redemption through the grace and love of Jesus.

  3. Oops! Didn’t mean to comment 2x above. I wanted to thank you for this, April. As mom to a gay son who is deeply committed to Christ, I have lamented the church’s general exclusion of him and others like him who simply wish to be who they are, fully and authentically – wholly (a word which shares the same root as “holiness”). Your voice is so important to this conversation; thank you for your courage and compassion.

  4. galactic explorer, I appreciate the valid points you are making in your above comments. They make sense and have given me some new perspective. And for anyone reading this, I tell you this to give you hope: I am just a typical stay at home mom of 3 who has grown up in a very large patriarchal evangelical church, a soccer mom, a conservative, the kind of person you would have thought “she’ll never see things any other way” and yet, here I am, so perhaps there are others as well.

  5. I grew up as the scapegoat “sinner” in my church…anytime a sin was mentioned, heads would swevel to look at me. My mother was (gasp) divorced, so I was “sin” walking–such low hanging fruit for the self righteous. Skip 45 years forward (divorced after 30 years of abusive marriage to a closeted “gay” miserable “man”)
    and I find myself in a loving wonderful relationship…that according to the sanctimonious I shouldn’t be in.
    If you can’t forgive you cannot heal. Without wholeness (holiness) and grace you cannot be kind. Without kindness–this place sucks! And far to many Xians are not kind. No child should go through what I went through. Or adult either, but that’s a different tale.
    Bring all the hurt, angry, unloved ones home…by grace, because all of us fall short of the mark (sin).
    Then life is glorious!

  6. I was a theater major and taught dance lessons at one point in my career, so I have always known a lot of gay people, and I also have several gay family members. To me, as a Christian, it has always been a painful embarrassment to know that the very people who were most attracted to Christ— namely, those who are cast out and condemned by the church as “sinners”— are the same ones repulsed by much of modern day Christian practice in America.

    I love your “fruit of the spirit” remark, and I’ve often that that exact same thing myself. Like, “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, & being straight. #NotTheGospel”.

    • I wonder how many of us really have all those fruits—or even some of them. That self-control thing is a BIG problem of mine. Yet, I am always welcome at the UMC club.

  7. Wow, so many comments!!! It is very late, and I did not have a chance to read all of them. However, I do have a couple of things to say:

    1) If homosexuality is a sin, and there is some serious theological argument about this, then I suspect that homosexual attraction is a sin too. Jesus said,

    “You heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    Jesus says elsewhere than sin arises within the human heart and goes out into the world—rather than the other way around. Yes, some theological bickering exists about the adultery quotation above. Some think lust itself is okay as long as it does not become overtly covetous.

    I tend to stand with the traditional theologians who believe “lusting in the heart” is exactly the same as doing it—that Jesus was laying down a general principle specifically designed to target an old 1st century Pharasaic adage that said, “Thinking about doing a sin is okay as long as you do not actually do it.” Basically, Jesus was slamming shut the final door the Scribes and Pharisees could use to claim their own righteousness. Indeed, it was so no man or woman could ever claim any degree of righteousness that would somehow preclude the need for Jesus. Personally, I do not think it is physically possible to be sexually attracted to someone without mental lust. I think the two go hand-in-hand—and if you could break a tiny sexual attraction thought down into the 1,000 fleeting movie frames that comprise it, some part of one’s anatomy will always be going into some part of another person’s anatomy in at least one of those frames. However, I think the net effect of this is that ALL OF US unquestionably fall within the circle of sin, either consciously or unconsciously, each day of our lives—each day. So, as April said, what gives us a right to kick old Fred bloody for his sin, while Joe gets back into the club regardless of his sin? It is fundamentally unfair, and it is fundamentally wrong—and if we truly abide by that notion to the fullest, every American church would be completely empty of human beings on Wednesday night and Sunday morning—throughout the entire year—every year.

    2) Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals treat homosexuality as a special sin because they are absolutely convinced, either consciously or unconsciously, that homosexuality is the only sin in the Bible with the power to get their entire town and everyone in it destroyed by a nuclear weapon fired directly from Heaven into said town. It is that simple. From my youngest years in church, I was taught that the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah were elevated so incredibly high above all other sins—I mean from here to Galaxy MACS0647-JD—that anyone committing one of those sins (or approving of them) could get instantly zapped dead right on the spot in this life—never mind the next life and Hell. I was in an apostate Methodist Church. I shudder to think what the kids over at the IFB Church were being taught on this.

    Supposedly, homosexuality was one of the great sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, and I think this early childhood “concept of sudden utter destruction” that was planted in our small minds at church is why so many Christians revolt at anything homosexual. What they are really saying, if I may, is that the sin of homosexuality is so loaded and so powerful in God’s mind that the grace of Jesus might cover it all but about ,00001 percent—and if I approve of it or do it—I might get caught in that .00001 percent corridor—and even my salvation might be jerked from me. “What if the blasphemy of unbelief that constitutes the Biblical “unforgivable sin” has an evil twin named Bruce?” This is why so many Christians go nuts over homosexuality—in my opinion.

  8. Things I used to think about LGBT+ people embarrass and horrify me now, and I am so sick of seeing and hearing conservative Christians keep on pushing their heteronormative and transphobic lies. Their lack of compassion (I mean actual compassion, not the faux “love” they claim to have) is inexcusable.

  9. As I’m reading your blog, every fiber in my being is screaming ‘she just wants us to accept worldly sin’.
    it has been drilled into my head since I can remember, homosexuality and other sexual deviances are sinful, wrong, disgusting & unacceptable. Your blog gave me another point of view, made me think. And I completely agree, we are more accepting of adultery, drug addiction and alcoholism and things like that than we are of homosexuality. I am a conservative Baptist and I struggle with what you’re saying and what I’ve been taught.

  10. People don’t have to be born gay, and attraction doesn’t have to be inborn…doesn’t mean our attraction is a choice. Also, attraction isn’t automatically healthy, is it?