The Evangelical Chronicles: Do Those Being “Loved” Get a Say?
I’m guest-posting in Ken’s series, “The Evangelical Chronicles.” Normally, as a gay pastor who was booted out of evangelicalism, I don’t converse much with practitioners of that stream — that’s a job better suited for allies. But I’ve had one bee up my bonnet that’s worth saying. And I address it specifically to those of you who “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Many Christians and churches say they “love” gay people, while simultaneously holding beliefs and policies that forbid both church-sanctioned gay marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ people. Maybe that’s you.
In my experience as a gay Christian pastor, when these folks are questioned about their “welcome” and “love,” they get defensive, saying it’s “complicated” and that you can love people while not approving of their “sin.” Of course we love gay people, just like we love all sinners. And, just like other sinners, gay people have to give up their “sin” to fully participate in our community. But we love and welcome them.
Here’s my question: do those being “loved” get a say in whether or not they are actually are loved? Do they get a say in whether or not your behavior translates as love?
Let’s step back from the religious arena. If you had a friend who married someone you didn’t approve of — and you repeatedly told your friend that her spouse is welcome at your house and they’re loved — you even make a fuss over them at dinner parties to show how open-minded you are. Would your friend want to hang around you, knowing that down-deep you really oppose her marriage — you oppose her most intimate, important, lifelong relationship? And would your friend’s spouse, who has no history with you apart from your friend, want to be around you? Trust you?
I don’t want to hang out with my wife’s old friends who don’t approve of our marriage. Why would I waste my time? And she feels the same the other way around. Why invest in people who don’t support your relationship? Those aren’t friends.
In your own relationship, if you continued behaving a certain way toward your significant other — insisting that you’re loving them — while they tell you that they don’t feel loved by the behavior, would you continue doing it?
Of course not. At least, not if you want to stay together very long.
LGBTQ+ people left and are leaving the church in droves for good reason. YOU think you love them, but they (we) say you’re not loving us. You don’t support our relationships. You refuse to believe LGBTQ+ people who feel called to ministry. Who wins? YOU think you do, because … God.
How’s that working out? Are out, married, gay people who are at peace with their orientation flocking to your “loving” evangelical church? Are they “changing”? Are they finding LIFE?
I know the answer, and so do you. If anything, you *might* have a token celibate gay or two … or a married gay couple who either isn’t aware of your policies because they’re iced over with “welcome” or is trying to help move your church toward full inclusion out of a sense of calling. They’re not breaking up, though. Not on your account.
But the sin, you say.
When Jesus has asked me to do hard things — and I’ve done some hard things in my Christian path, including giving all I had away not once, but twice, at the invitation of Jesus — those things brought me LIFE. They were life-giving acts in obedience to the Spirit of Love. Jesus has never asked me to give up my most cherished relationship, and I can tell you right now it would not be life-giving to me to do so. I’ve never been happier in my 40-odd years than I’ve been with my wife. No comparison. Not even close. I’m at peace, and blessed, and believe she is a gift from God. In fact, turning away from that life-giving relationship would feel like a rejection of God’s gift to me. There’s no way you could convince me otherwise, and that doesn’t bode well for your “love them out of sin” model.
Sin creates disconnection. Disconnection between humans and God, humans and each other, humans from themselves, and humans from creation. In my gay marriage, I experience GREATER connection to God, to others, to creation, and certainly to myself. And I’m not alone. The inconvenient fact is that there are thousands — millions — of us. Gay Christians. Happy, gay, Jesus-loving Christians. I experienced incredible DISCONNECTION with my own body and mind when I tried not to be in a lesbian relationship, and disconnection from my evangelical community because I knew that if I shared that I felt Jesus was fine with me that it wouldn’t be received or believed. At least, not by most.
So give it up. Relinquish your desire to judge others based on a limited way of reading Scripture and leave the judging up to Jesus. This will free you from your angst-ridden chains, of your defensiveness, of your multi-layered justifications for “loving” in ways that do not translate as love. People on the receiving end of love get a say in the matter, and I think I speak for the vast majority of us when I say: you are not loving us well, if at all.
(Note that I will neither read nor respond to comments.)