Ignorance is a Choice
Using my platform to advocate for LGTBQ+ rights within the religious community
My friend, author, and activist Jamie Arpin-Ricci has a habit of challenging his readers to think through everything they do. He recently wrote:
“If you are an LGBTQ+ affirming cishet Christian who remains in a non-affirming church in order [to] be a change from within, make sure your queer friends know the reasons. (Also, be prepared for some [pushback]). Thanks for coming to my TED Rant. ;)”
First, it got me thinking, am I an LGBTQ+-affirming cishet Christian? Yes, I am. I believe God created both LGTBQ+ and cisgender heterosexuals with a purpose. We are equally deserving of grace and equally created to make a difference in this world. We are both designed by a loving creator.
So, then, why did Jamie’s statement make me cringe? Because I am a member of a non-affirming church without a clear mission to change from within. My purpose is to lift Jesus and help people grow in their understanding of what a relationship with him means. But I haven’t set a goal to single out the LGTBQ+ elephant in the room.
Yes, I wish my denomination were an affirming church, but it isn’t. Not even women are treated equally and even have separate black and white sectors within the administration!
How can I look into the eyes of my good LGTBQ+ friends who are currently discriminated against? “Look, I see your problem, but I don’t want to muddy the waters. Why can’t we simply focus on Jesus instead?” That’s pretty much what I have been doing. I’ve focused on Jesus, which is good, but I haven’t searched for justice for the LGTBQ+ community.
Justice is a sneaky concept. We all want to be treated justly, but we fail to ensure that others benefit. The Bible is straightforward, though. It says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).
Learn to do good.
Ignorance is a conscious choice. Nowadays, information is at our fingertips. We have access to a wealth of sources that can educate us on any given topic. Are you not familiar with what the LGTBQ+ folks are facing in the religious community? Educate yourself. Read, ask, process. (I have been fortunate that my good friend Pastor Jamie directed me to the writings of Bible scholar Karen R. Keen)
Once you have processed all the information, look around. Your view is different now. Details that were ignored or not obvious will appear clear and poignant. For instance, why aren’t there same-sex couples in your congregation? Is it a coincidence, or could it be because they don’t feel safe? If there are LGTBQ+ folks in your church, why haven’t they been added to the membership? And if they are members, why aren’t they among the leadership team?
If your queer friends aren’t welcomed at church or treated as other cisgender heterosexual members, ask the leaders why not. And if they don’t know how to answer, give them resources to educate them on discrimination.
If they genuinely believe their practices are based on Bible principles, you may want to guide them to books like “Scripture, Ethics, and the Possibility of Same-Sex Relationships,” by Karen R. Keen. Their eyes might be opened to a grace-oriented, love-soaked, and intelligent interpretation of the Bible and its role in today’s complex society.
Have a plan. Share it. Even better, involve the leadership and LGTBQ+ folks in planning to correct the current oppression. Invite the Holy Spirit into the process, and make love the currency used in the new economy. Make it holistic.
Does it sound utopic? Maybe. But once you are aware of an injustice, it is your responsibility to act upon it, according to the Bible: “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (James 4:17)
So, where do I fit in this picture? It is difficult to say, to be completely honest. I believe what I wrote above is correct, but am I practicing it? I used to have a pulpit to preach to hundreds of people every week. I belonged to multiple committees with the power to make significant changes, and Christian magazines published my articles.
But I don’t anymore. I don’t even attend church regularly due to agoraphobia. My anxiety prevents me from engaging in conversations, even with friends!
However, I still have a voice. My blog, Empathy Cafe, has over 2,000 followers on Facebook. Many of them are Seventh-day Adventists. I shall advocate for LGTBQ+ rights in this medium. May God give me the strength and the clarity of mind necessary to uplift my LGTBQ+ friends in love and camaraderie.
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