Whoever is spared personal pain must feel himself called to help in diminishing the pain of others. We must all carry our share of the misery which lies upon the world. -Albert Schweitzer
This subject has been very hard on me. I am in a position of not going far enough with some people and going way out on a limb with others. My goal is not to change people into (fill in the blank). I want people to understand the issue from the eyes of several Christians who have dealt with this in their lives.
Today, I will finish up on this topic with a free flow of thoughts from my discussions with Justin. I am so grateful that Justin spent the time with me. He opened my eyes to many things that I have never considered. Justin made me realize that I am dealing with people, not a just a theological concept.
I also want to thank the TWW community for dealing with our differing positions with grace and kindness. You are all an example of how to show Christ's love while discussing a topic that has dominated the Christian and secular landscape, often in an ugly manner. You guys are awesome!
(Dee now gets to crawl into a hole and lick her wounds! We will definitely be switching to an easier topic.)
We do not need to lecture every gay person we meet
The one thing the Christian community has conveyed to the culture, loud and clear, is that homosexuality is a sin. Justin said that many Christians feel the need to tell every gay person they meet what their religious stand is on the issue. He said that all gays, along with a majority of the populace the United States, know exactly what Christians think of homosexuality:
- They are in sin
- They must be celibate
- They must change
- Laws must change
The one thing that they do not know is that Christians can love them. Assume that the person you are meeting already knows your views on homosexuality. Instead, try to be conversant and befriend them. Think of it this way. The first time you meet a straight couple, do you feel the need to review the sexual mores of the church? Justin says Christians have got the “hate the sin” down pat. They do not do so well in the “love the sinner" department.
Justin quoted Philip Yancey in his soon to be published book, Torn.
Philip Yancey : Recently I have been asking a question of strangers-for example, seat mates on airplanes-when I strike up a conversation. “When I say the words “evangelical” Christian’ what comes to mind?”
In reply, mostly I hear political descriptions: of strident pro-life activists, or gay rights opponents, or proposals for censoring the Internet. I hear references to the Moral Majority, an organization disbanded years ago. Not once-not once-have I heard a description redolent of grace. Apparently that is not the aroma Christians give off in the world.” (p137)
Churches do not provide clear role models for gays.
Think about your church. It has programs for families, Sunday school programs for kids, women’s Bible studies, marriage seminars, divorce recovery, etc. The church is set up to be a great role model for families. The pastor is usually married and role models his family.
Where is the admired celibate gay person leading a Bible study, worship service, or serving as a deacon? Sometimes I wonder if single people are really welcome in the church. Many churches would not hire a senior pastor who is single. Yet Paul himself was a single for his entire ministry.
There are most likely gay kids in your church.
Justin quotes a study (p.9) by Christian Community that virtually all congregations, even the ones who were outspoken against homosexuality, had kids who self-identified as gay but they would not tell others in the church about this.
If the church does not have gay role models, who will these kids turn to for advice? Unless the church gets serious about this issue, our children may turn to the larger gay community, which exists outside of the church.
If a gay person must be celibate for his life, how does the church support them?
Justin made a point that very few people are commanded to be celibate for life. Even in the case of a long time single person, there is always the hope that they might meet someone. The church seems comfortable with commanding celibacy but does very little to support the person who must now deal with the day-to-day living out of their celibacy.
The church is good at telling a gay person what he can’t do. He wants to know what he can do.
Justin was asked to review a 9-page policy statement on gays in a certain large Christian organization. He said it consisted of 7 ½ pages which gave the biblical basis for their perspective on the Bible and homosexuality. Another page was devoted to restrictions on what a gay person could not do in the organization. Only about ½ page was dedicated to what a gay person could do.
Justin says that he understands that celibacy means no sexual contact. However, there is far more to affection than just sex. For example, when a single person meets a member of the opposite sex, they are not chastised for holding hands or putting their arms around each other (except in some highly legalistic circles) so long as it does not lead to sex. Is such behavior allowed for a celibate gay person?
Justin said that celibacy is a life long commitment. But few churches have figured out how to help those who will never marry. Justin had me imagine a scenario in which he gets very old and is no longer to care for himself. Most people have spouses or children to support them. What about a single gay man?
He proposed an interesting idea. Some gays have formed special covenant friendships-loving but non-sexual relationships to meet their need for companionship without engaging in any kind of sexual activity.
I could see this having even broader applications. Could churches start groups for people who do not have families, helping them to become a family to one another? Of course, those married with families could include them. However, if truth be told, many families are so busy managing their situations that their time is limited. I think this is a fascinating option. I am curious to hear if any of our readers have seen such groups in their churches.
Be a friend
Justin says that Christians are often fearful of becoming friends with someone who is gay. Deep down inside such Christians worry that, by their friendship they are giving tacit approval to an active gay persons life
Justin says not to worry. That gay person already has a pretty good idea of what you think about his lifestyle. Become a good listener. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
One commenter asked about how to communicate with her husband with whom she disagrees on this issue. He refers her to Tony and Peggy Campolo. Tony believes that the homosexual act is a sin. His wife does not. They often speak to groups together. Here is a link to their discussions.
Be very careful of the "nurture" versus "nature" argument
In Justin’s situation, it was clear that he came from a wonderful, loving family. Some Christians blame the parents for causing “the gay.” Yet, in the vast majority of families, one child is gay while the others are not. This can be a subtle, self-congratulatory preening. "I’m a better parent than you are."
Recently Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, was asked what he would say if one of his kids told him he was gay. He claimed:
I doubt that would happen with my children as we are teaching them the right ways that they are to interact as human beings. We’re not allowing them to be indoctrinated by the education system link
His premise is rather startling. He believes that parents can teach children not to be gay and that the education system is causing them to be gay as well.
This reminds me of a pastor who said that if we used a certain church curriculum, our kids would grow up right. He learned the fallacy of this argument the hard way when one of his kids seriously rebelled.
Christian parents must teach their children not to tease or hurt other children they deem to be “gay.”
Parents must look to themselves. Our children often reflect our attitudes towards others. Christian children should be raised to be kind and actively discouraged from using derogative terminology.
Pastors must realize that constant condemnation of homosexuality could prevent people from seeking help for the church
Justin discusses one mother who said that she had heard, in her church, so many antigay sermons, saw so many kids teasing others and parents making potshots at gays, that she was fearful to go to the church for help after her son revealed he was gay.
Too many Christians believe that just being gay (even if celibate) is a sin.
Being gay is not the sin and being heterosexual does not imply goodness. It is what we do with our sexuality that matters. Justin remarked that “a 45 year old single straight woman may feel overlooked or misunderstood at her church but she doesn’t have to be worried about being condemned for being straight."
Finally, could Christian leaders stop blaming every disaster on “homosexuals.”
A theology that states that leaders know that certain disasters are caused by a certain sin which was committed by a certain group of individuals is ridiculous. Do leaders really want to say that they know the mind of God? Also, if they insist on proclaiming sins that cause disasters, why are disasters never “caused” by pastors who use their pulpits to get rich or have affairs?
I want to close this series with a quote from Paul Burleson, Wade’s father, who wrote me as I was considering writing about this issue. He transparently discussed his struggle to understand his thinking on the issue.
“So I think my problem with homosexuals, in simple terms, has more to do with my seeing THEM as the ABUSED as opposed to the ABUSER. Maybe demonstrated in Jesus with the woman at the well and the religious guys at the money-changing table in the Temple.
It may be as simple a thing as my wanting to address them as people WITHOUT reminding them of what I see as their sinful act every time I'm with them. I don't want to address a gluttonous person on the basis of their EATING or an adulterer on the basis of their ADULTERY or a prideful person on the basis of their PRIDE either. There may be a time and a place for addressing their actions but none of them have to FIRST admit my view of their behavior is the CORRECT view for me to express my love to them. I just want to love them as people.
I think I've concluded that I'd rather go on loving sinners as people where they are and helping them, if I can, to ultimately find their identity in Christ and not in any particular brand of sin they might struggle with. I'm thinking that IS the gospel. I could, of course, be wrong in my conclusion. But I really don't think I am.”
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 39:1-41:16 Matthew 12:46-13:23 Psalm 17:1-15 Proverbs 3:33-35