I was going to write a post about all the things Candy Crush and the Church have in common.
It was pithy.
It was funny.
It was full of references to the importance of friends and an engaged community.
It was lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and gently poked fun at the ways the Church and Candy Crush like to point out that we’ve failed.
The sad, disappointed look when you’ve ruined everything. Again.
The multiple messages that make your failure very, very clear.
“Level failed! You did not reach the goal!”
And I was going to make sure we all noticed the undeniable fact that the guy who’s disguised as a cherubic owl with a serious anxiety problem is really THE DEVIL; he pretends to cheer for you and to want what’s best for you, but HE LIVES ON THE DARK SIDE and HE WANTS TO RUIN YOUR LIFE. –>
But none of it feels very funny anymore after watching the Church spank World Vision this week.
Now because this blog welcomes a wide array of people from all backgrounds – faith, culture, ethnicity, etc. – some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and, man, I wish I was you right this minute, because those of us who are American Christians or evangelical Christians or fundamental Christians or who’ve come from that background are tired right now. Weary to our bones. Disappointed. Hunched in on ourselves. Feeling misunderstood and trying rather desperately to drag our wounded to safety. All of us. From all the sides. This has been an easy week for no one.
Every once in a while, I speak here as a Christian about Christiany things and invite the rest of you to participate because you’re always welcome here and always encouraged to pull up a chair to this table. This is one of those times, so I’ll recap, briefly, the most recent circumstances so you’re not walking into this Family Brouhaha blind.
This week, one of the world’s largest and most well-respected Christian humanitarian aid organizations, World Vision, announced a policy change which would allow Christians in same-sex marriages to be eligible for employment. Two days later, under intense pressure from Christian detractors of that position, World Vision reversed their decision.
It’s no secret that the question of how to love our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) neighbors – Christian and otherwise – is dividing the Church, and this week was a powder-keg example.
There’s Christian shrapnel all over the internet right now, tangled remnants of an ugly war, and even those of us who were bystanders are reeling from the concussion.
As I looked around the battlefield – so many wounded – I felt helpless. Alone. Dismayed. And then I realized how much more alone my LGBTQ friends, especially those who identify as Christian and who want to participate in the life-changing work of organizations like World Vision, must feel. To be so often ostracized by their faith community. To want so desperately to belong and to worship with their family. To finally be invited, publicly, in the door and welcomed to the table. And then, in an abrupt turn of events, to be booted back out. To be told the invitation was a mistake and ill-advised. To have the welcome retracted.
Oh, dear God. This is not – this is not – the Way of Love. It’s just… not.
We have failed. Not World Vision specifically, although they did fail by even their own account, but, more significantly, the Church as a whole. All of us. We have failed. And we are to blame.
We did not reach the goal which is always – always – to Love God and to Love Our Neighbors.
But what can I do about it, bystander that I am? I mean, really. I’m a straight, Christian woman. How in the world can I mitigate any of the pain?
And then I realized there’s one thing I can do, even though it’s a little thing – a tiny thing, given my one life and my one voice – and that is to tell the wild truth, as best as I understand it in this moment, about Who Is Welcome at Love’s Table. Which is everyone. All the people. Welcome at Love’s Table. Despite everything, welcome. Despite the war, welcome. Despite the hurt, welcome. Although I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to come or to trust that Love even has a table.
Those of us who slowly move our perspective from our fundamental roots to become Christian allies of the LGBTQ community are, overall, a quiet bunch. For every Christian person who’s out as an LGBTQ ally, I know 20 more who are in the closet. Not because we don’t care about the plight of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Not because we don’t think things should change. Not because we’re apathetic about the truth or love as far as we understand them. But because we want to be peacemakers. We know and very deeply love our friends and family members who remain committed to a different interpretation of the Bible, and we understand many will see our affirmation of LGBTQ relationships as capitulation to culture at best, a deliberate misinterpretation with the intention of leading people astray at worst, and a betrayal either way.
We’re quiet because, well, we don’t want to rock a boat that’s already in very choppy seas.
But while we’re quiet, there are LGBTQ people who are receiving the message from the Church, loud and clear, that they must choose between Who God Created Them to Be versus Faith in God.
Each person must decide when her silence is helpful and healthy and makes peace and creates unity, and when it has morphed into a silence that perpetuates pain and loneliness and despair and isolation. I’ve reached the point where my silence must end.
It’s time to tell you that I’m a Christian who’s also an LGBTQ ally.
It’s time for me to stand publicly with the people who are marginalized and those who’ve been asked to leave the table. I cannot, as a follower of Jesus, whom I believe is Love Incarnate, do otherwise. This is, for me, a matter of conscience, a matter of obedience, a matter of justice, a matter of mercy, a matter of resurrection, a matter of truth, and a matter of grace.
It’s time for me to tell my fellow Christians who are quiet LGBTQ allies that I know what it’s like to come out slowly as an ally. To come out quietly. To hover over the Facebook “like” button on a positive article about my LGBTQ friends and try to decide whether to click it. To be afraid to let others see me like it. To be anxious about letting others see me go far, far past tolerating people; far, far past loving the sinner; and run, instead, headlong into support, affirmation, approval and the belief that the love of another person, regardless of gender, can be good, strong, healthy, life-giving and within God’s plan. I know it’s hard. I know. I swear I do. And it’s OK to be where you are in the process until your heart tells you it’s time to take the next step. But when it’s time, take it. Do.
And, finally, it’s time for me to apologize to and ask forgiveness from my LGBTQ friends who frequent this space. Although my friends, my family and my church – some of whom agree with my position and some of whom don’t – are well aware I’m both a committed Christian and an LGBTQ ally, I’ve skirted the issue here, making subtly supportive statements while deliberately avoiding the issue. As though you, my friends, are an issue to be avoided and not mentioned. In that way, I’ve allowed you to suffer while I benefited from my silence, and for that I’m deeply sorry.
You need to know, especially those of you who’ve been invited in and then asked to leave – welcomed and then rejected – that there’s room at Love’s table and friends who long for you to sit and eat with us. We’re still a small table, but we’re growing ever larger all the time, and there is, emphatically, a place for you here.
For those of you who want it, here’s
1. On My Theology
Frankly, the last thing any of us need is yet another Biblical exegesis on homosexuality, and I would be wasting my time and yours if I attempted to outline the 20 year process that’s taken me from my fundamental roots to the conviction that God blesses LGBTQ relationships.
Jen Hatmaker spoke the truth this week when she wrote, “The Christian community is not going to reach consensus on gay marriage. Every article, regardless of its position for or against, is the same. The support arguments; same. The rebuttals; same. The circular thinking; same. The responses are fully predictable, the language identical, the interpretations immovable, and after all the energy expended, we discover we are at the same impasse. This is a fact: Thousands of churches and millions of Christ-followers faithfully read the Scriptures and with thoughtful and academic work come to different conclusions on homosexuality (and countless others). Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been.”
Nevertheless, for those of you who are curious how I can love the Bible and love Jesus and not simply tolerate but, instead, affirm, encourage and support my LGBTQ friends who are in relationships, I’ll direct you to Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate by Justin Lee and to the Gathering Now video sermon series on The Birds, The Bees & The Bible.
Some will say I’m misguided. Or deceived. Or that I’m willfully and nefariously misreading Scripture. To which I say, maturely, Nuh Uh and Am Not, times Infinity.
2. On the Very Best Resource, Bar None, for Christians (regardless of your stance on homosexuality) Who Want to Love Your LGBTQ Neighbors
The Gay Christian Network: Founded in 2001, the Gay Christian Network (GCN) is a nonprofit Christian ministry dedicated to building bridges and offering support for those caught in the crossfire of one of today’s most divisive culture wars. Our membership includes both those on Side A (supporting same-sex marriage and relationships) and on Side B (promoting celibacy for Christians with same-sex attractions). What began as an organization to provide support to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Christians has grown into a worldwide movement for compassion with many straight members as well.
3. Other Things I’ve Written About Faith, Doubt and the Church
Here’s my story of Faith and Doubt.
Here’s What I Wish the Church Would Be.
Here’s the Real Reason I Still Go to Church.
Here’s why “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” should be abolished.
Here’s my Confession About Faith.
4. On How This Benefits Me
It doesn’t. I benefit by my silence. By not coming quite all the way out of closet as an LGBTQ ally. By having quiet conversations in private and not rocking the public boat. Churches and parachurch organizations allow me to come speak if I am silent about this issue; one of which told me so very clearly. I will miss having those opportunities, but my minor losses don’t compare to the losses endured every day by my LGBTQ friends, and I am grateful for the opportunity to stand with them.
5. On What I Think About My Friends and Family – both online and in person – Who Believe to Their Bones I’m Totally Wrong About This
I love them very much.
I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus exhorted us to expand our definition of Neighbor. To extend the title of friend to those on the other side of our cultural fence. To hold Love God and Love One Another as our highest goal. To choose to reject the concept of sides. And so, as my heart has shifted from my conservative roots to a more wild and free and boundless Gospel of Grace, I am convicted that it’s my job to love my conservative neighbors as fully as I love my progressive, liberal and LGBTQ neighbors. To extend to them the same benefit of the doubt I hope they will extend to me: that we are each doing everything we can to reach the goal of Love, devil be damned.
112 responses to “On Coming Out as a Christian Who’s an LGBTQ Ally”
Beth – you know I love you so much. How I just stumbled upon this post is a question for me, but if you have any doubt at all, I didn’t have to read this post to know. Your life, your actions, your words – they all have made me feel so welcome and affirmed just as I am. So… thank you.
Good post, keep
[…] Conformity and Compliance. Waving good-bye to the rules of the evangelical Christian subculture which haven’t fit us well for a long, long time. Waving good-bye to our desperate desire to have beloved members of our former community approve of […]
[…] church denomination is trying to decide whether there’s room for LGBTQ people at the table, and we had more meetings this summer with no decisions again, which were agonizing to everyone and […]
that last paragraph. you nailed it!
[…] a Christian who loves Jesus and the Bible and is an LGBTQ ally, my position is, I suppose, clear. And so I was left Friday night with a Now What? Now what? Now […]
Sin is sin. Never support sin! Render to LGBTQ the things that are LGBTQ’s (love, respect), and to God the things that are God’s (adoration). The word of God is not only about how you treat others but also and most importantly how you treat yourself. Love neighbors AS self. But the first command, love God and do not sin, is the foundation. The devil loves to twist The Word and confuse children of God.
I’m writing because no one cares what I say. And while that’s completely true, it’s too small a part of the whole story. Because my words can affect my family, the way people think of & treat my family, and lastly, because my words can affect the way people think of and treat me….
I’m the next marginalized group. (Hi!) Or maybe my group has been marginalized for awhile and I just hadn’t realized it yet. Anyhoo. I’m the unicorn called “Successfully Changed Sexual Orientation”. (Hisssss! Boooooo!)
For what it’s worth, I had my first same sex romantic feelings at six years old. I’m female. I experimented with boys and girls as a teen. As I grew older, people began asking questions like, “Are you sure you’re not gay?” Because I’d share that I never thought about men when I was (ahem) enjoying sexual activities. And so yeah. I went through an extensive sexual orientation struggle, which makes my story even more unpalatable. I even got married and talked my (now ex) husband into a poly-amorous relationship, because I couldn’t stomach being with a man and only a man for the rest of my life. Clearly that relationship ended well. I had relationships with both sexes. It all kept coming back to the fact that my relationships with men were marred by my desires for women, and the sex with men was ALWAYS accomplished by imagining I was with a woman. But the long and the short of it is that after a decade and a bit of following my desires and generally flip-flopping around, I went through several years of… well, I think of it as cleansing, purifying. I’m sure others will disagree. But it was a time where I learned to subvert my own desires to get closer to God’s standard of holiness. And at the end of it, I’m married. Heterosexually. With actual heterosexual sex, where I don’t think about women to get through it. Good sex, mind you. And here I shall stay. And I suppose there are those that believe sexuality is fluid, but for the most part, if you tell people you used to be a dyke but now you’re a straight mommy of two, they don’t quite buy it. If they hear you made the switch, you get stares, whispers, gossip… from both sides of the fence.
People believe you are born gay, and that once you are gay, that’s it. No matter how hard you try, you will always be gay. It’s just not true, folks.
But you can’t hear me, partially because you’ve got your popular social blinders on…. and partially because I can’t speak up. I don’t want to be the gay chick living the straight life. I don’t want to live in your judgement. I don’t want to be the fundie poster child, or the next Duggar scandal. I just want to love Jesus and be happy. (On a side note, this requires a lot of adjustment to my definition of happy.) But I feel silenced, marginalized. Because no one hears my story; and if they do, they don’t believe it. How many of me are there? I doubt we’ll ever know. All we will -ever- hear are the stories of those that tried, and failed. And people will judge them for trying. People will use it as evidence that no one should ever try to switch to a hetero life. That one guy tried and he couldn’t do it and it made him go schizo.
I don’t want my husband’s family to see me differently. When you boil it all down, you won’t hear me because I’m not brave enough to speak up. And I suppose that’s a whole other can of worms that is important but neither here nor there for the purpose of the conversation.
Frankly I haven’t sat down and tried to parse why God wanted me to change teams. I just know that He did, and there was never a doubt in my mind that my homosexuality was not what God wanted. Now, does God have the same plan for all homosexuals? I haven’t a clue. I want to say yes, but I also want to say that God would never condone taking a human life. When I look at scripture, I see that He’s got plans that don’t always fit the script, that challenge my concept of God.
I keep posting things like this anonymously in various places, hoping it makes a difference to someone. That it makes someone think about who is being silenced behind the scenes.There’s a good chance I’ll never visit this page again, because I can’t stomach the controversy and ill will this post will generate- if anyone ever sees it all. With that in mind, I part with this: I pray God’s love be with you and through you.
Thanks for this post. You are a brave person. First of all, you’re right: YOU are the story our culture doesn’t want to hear. And anyone who’s following the current research on sex addiction will know that it’s not all that unbelievable or crazy. Sexual desires/fantasies/practices can become attached to all kinds of things. Those patterns CAN be rewired, but make no mistake, it’s REALLY difficult. I think the battle World Vision is fighting is a bit frivolous, but no offense to the author of this post, but “coming out” as an LBGTQ ally is, well, becoming the cultural norm. Popular. Politically expedient. Acknowledging that sexuality is really complex, and that all of our desires aren’t good or equal, that they develop and change over the course of a lifetime? THAT’s what’s getting lost. We’re telling a simple story that we want to believe rather than the nuanced one that’s…well, kind of inconvenient.
Thank you for this. I think we’d be so much better off if we all could admit (even to ourselves) that our relationships with Christ are often messy or complicated. I hope people can hear you story and weave it into the other messages out there.
These are the 2 things that calmed me down and halted my assault.
Sin is sin. One sin is not greater than another.
God already knew.
In Christian love,
As the mom of a gay son, and member of a church which doesn’t recognize same sex marriage, at this time, thank you for your message. I’m hoping and praying that minds will be educated and hearts will be softened. I especially love your blog about why loving the sinner and hating the sin is wrong. You explain eloquently exactly what is wrong with that message and why it is so harmful. That post was shared on my FB wall twice this week, once by me in my status, and another time by a fellow LGBTQ ally in a thread. More Christian women need to take a stand, in support of LGTB members everywhere, especially for the children. One ignorant hater commented in my thread that she has seen homosexuality destroy families. I believe that the destruction comes from people’s reactions. When families reject their own children as they come Out, when they withhold their love and refuse to offer support, when one member is tossed aside for trying to live as their authentic self, then a family is weakened and begins to crumble. We are losing precious children to rebellion, estrangement and suicide. Some are the victims of heinous hate crimes. When we do not take a stand beside our LGBT loved ones, we are standing with the advesary, and not with God. The most important commandment we can keep in this life is to love one another as Jesus loved us. It isn’t enough to proclaim our love, we must show it, true unconditional love.
As the mom of a gay son, and member of a church which doesn’t recognize same sex marriage, at this time, thank you for your message. I’m hoping and praying that minds will be educated and hearts will be softened. I especially love your blog about why loving the sinner and hating the sin is wrong. You explain eloquently exactly what is wrong with that message and why it is so harmful. That post was shared on my FB wall twice this week, once by me in my status, and another time by a fellow LGBTQ ally in a thread. More Christian women need to take a stand, in support of LGTB members everywhere, especially for the children. One ignorant hater commented in my thread that she has seen homosexuality destroy families. I believe that the destruction comes from people’s reactions. When families reject their own children as they come Out, when they withhold their love and refuse to offer support, when one member is tossed aside for trying to live as their authentic self, then a family is weakened and begins to crumble. We are losing precious children to rebellion, estrangement and suicide. Some are the victims of heinous hate crimes. When we do not take a stand beside our LGBT loved ones, we are standing with the advesary, and not with God. The most important commandment we can keep in this life is to love one smoother as Jesus loved us. It isn’t enough to proclaim our love, we must show it, true unconditional love.
You mention that, “they must choose between Who God Created Them to Be versus Faith in God.”. This is not the choice. The choice is for everyone for whom Christ died and rose again (which is the entire world), to decide whether to accept God’s love and the ransom paid for their sins. They are also to accept God’s grace and mercy. And they are also to follow in the ways of Christ by increasing in righteousness and decreasing in sinfulness. This isn’t an easy thing to do no matter the sin. But the struggle, the attempt, the constant prayer and the confession are all part of the journey. A journey we all are allowed to join when we profess our faith. On that journey we are not to be stumbling blocks for others on their journey. In your haste to love, you ignore the very definition of the word.
I also questioned the “who God created them to be” phrase. Sounds like you believe homosexuals are created that way. I don’t think there is a valid case for believing homosexuals are born that way and have to live that lifestyle to authentically be who God wants them to be.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You’ve managed to put into words my exact feelings! Being somewhat of a writer myself, I’m ashamed to admit I usually don’t like to read blogs by others..lol I was forced to examine my thoughts & beliefs about the LGTB community after my adult son came out several years ago. I grew up in a very conservative Christian community. I’m talking deeeeep South Southern Baptist Convention conservative…the kind of church that nobody spoke or dared clap their hands or even clear their throats loudly. I raised my children in a SBC church, mostly because, as a Christian parents, that’s what my husband & I were familiar with. We were pretty much there everytime to door was open while our boys were growing up. It wasn’t until I was older that I begin to really question things about the doctrine of the church. My husband and I married very young & sort of came to the realization about the same time. We began a very slow departure from the typical SBC church. By that time our children were grown & they were brought up in The Word, which was always very important to us both. After our son came out, I won’t get into the very long process it took for my husband to get “on board”…I process things very differently & had the privilege of being brought up by a Christian mother & grandmother who were both very inclusive & open minded, which helps. But bottom line was… WE LOVE OUR SON, more than we agree with any of the hate & divisiveness spouted by our religion! Thank you for taking a stand with us other Christian supporters…my daughter in law actually led me to your sight & your blog about loving the sinner…which was pure perfection! I love the way you are very blount but in a loving, gentle way. A way that doesn’t come across in a hard way. Thanks again, God Bless, Cindy Shotwell
“We love our son more than we agree with any of the hate and divisiveness spouted by our religion!” YES!!! You are on the right track, Cindy. Your son is so fortunate to have you and your husband as parents. As a Jesus follower who has a gay son and who has had her faith shattered and reconstructed (mainly due to the church’s hateful response, not due to my son’s being gay), I am finally out of the closet, myself. Yes, I’m a Christian parent to a gay Christian son, and I will do what I can to make sure he is welcome at the table. And there are many other moms like us out there. 🙂
I’m a member of a private FB group for Christian moms of LGBT kids, and if you’re interested in joining us (and there are HUNDREDS of us!), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a wonderful community of support and encouragement – and SAFETY.
There’s also Susan Cottrell’s blog here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/freedhearts/ and Linda Robertson’s blog here: becausehebreathes.com. I’m honored to call both women my friends.
Beth, thank you so much. Just. Thank. You.
Oops! Linda’s blog is here: justbecausehebreathes.com
Question: If our understanding of ‘neighbor’ is expanding; at what point do we say that we’ve expanded too far? Or is it your belief that we’ll never hit a point where we’ve gone too far? By using your reasoning (which I appreciate your giving it), if the church welcomes LGBTQ’s to the Love table today, who (or what) is next? Twenty years ago this conversation wasn’t even on the radar of the church, not seriously anyway. What group is going to fighting for their seat at the Love table twenty years from now?
If it truly is “Love’s Table” why would anyone have to fight for a place?