Target Audience: Evangelical Christians, Liberals, Conservatives, LGBTQ+, LGBTQ+ Nuclear Community
In this article I will discuss:
- A Brief Look Back
- The Myth of Homophobia
- It is Bigotry
- God’s Vision — One New Humanity
- Redefining Marriage
- The Jesus Ethic
I am an evangelical Christian and I support same-sex rights, and the full integration of the LGBTQ+ community into evangelical churches, not just as fellow Jesus-followers and worshippers, but full integration in leadership, and full recognition and affirmation of same-sex relationships.
A Brief Look Back
It wasn’t that long ago that women could not teach men in most evangelical churches. Sadly, in some evangelical churches women still can’t teach men or be in leadership over men. It wasn’t that long ago that if you had a problem with alcohol, your church would not have a 12 Step program operating on Friday nights in the basement, they would simply exclude you. It wasn’t that long ago that if you smoked tobacco, the only way you were accepted in many evangelical churches was to hide it from public view. It wasn’t that long ago that the majority of evangelical churches were predominantly “white” in color on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t that long ago that respectable men wore suits to church, and respectable women wore dresses all the time, never pants. It wasn’t that long ago that many Christians in evangelical churches considered long hair, blue jeans, and rock music decadent. It wasn’t that long ago that divorced people were not welcome in most conservative evangelical churches. How long ago was that, you ask? If you turn the clock back to the 1960s and 1970s, that is pretty much what many evangelical churches looked like. So, the fact that the more theologically conservative/progressive evangelical churches are even discussing acceptance and equality of the LGBTQ+ community (the Community) is, in my mind, quite amazing.
The Myth of Homophobia
A phobia is something that we are afraid of or that we fear. I am afraid of heights, so I have acrophobia. Someone who is afraid of open spaces has agoraphobia. Whether the fear is real or imagined, justified or embellished, the most common understanding and use of the word “phobia” is being afraid of something. I have fellowshipped with a lot of people who do not like people in the LGBTQ+ community, but I can’t remember a single person who I thought was actually “afraid” of an LGBTQ+ person.
A number of years ago, a minister in an evangelical church corrected me when I used the term homophobia. He said a much more accurate term is “homobigoted”. I will admit that it doesn’t roll off the English tongue as smoothly, nor does it sound as elegant as homophobia, but it is much more accurate. Countless people with whom I have worshipped and fellowshipped over the years have had a bright, burning glowing bigotry and hatred towards people who identify as LGBTQ+, or those who support or affirm people within the community.
It is Bigotry
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a bigot as: a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices. While there may be people out there who are genuinely afraid of people within the LGBTQ+ community, I believe the vast majority of people who can be described as “homophobic” are really homobigoted. They are not afraid of non-heterosexual people. They may be ignorant about homosexuality, or people within the Community. They may not know anyone who does not identify as heterosexual, but afraid, no, they are not afraid.
I have encountered many evangelical Christians who are intolerant of people within the LGBTQ+ community, not because they know they are bad people. They are intolerant not because they really even know people within the Community. They are intolerant because of their theological belief that homosexuality is a sin, an abomination before God, and therefore they feel they can condemn people within the Community because of their perception that God also condemns these people.
When we label other people, categorize them, then pigeon-hole them as being inferior, or even worse, beyond the scope and power of the gospel to save, that is not just ignorance, that is bigotry. When I lived in Texas, many years ago, I remember one or two of the students at this backward Baptist seminary believed that people of color could not be saved because they did not have souls. One of my coffee buddies who recently passed away told me that he believed that a practicing homosexual could not be a Christian. He felt that unless that person “repented” gave up the identity as someone within the LGBTQ+ community, they could not be saved or be a Christian. I never did find out if he meant their souls were beyond the power of the gospel or whether he felt that the identity of being a Christian was only open to those who were heterosexual.
I believe that God sees humanity in a much different way.
God’s Vision — One New Humanity
The Apostle Paul wrote: For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross by which he put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16 NIV). Looking for a new mission statement, or a new vision statement? This just might do the trick. It has taken God some time for this to resonate inside my head, inside of me, and bring about changes that have literally changed the way I see people, treat people, and my entire worldview. Of all the things I have read in the Bible in my almost 50 years as a Christian, this one passage is perhaps the most profound, the one that has changed my life the most.
A few verses earlier, Paul pointed out to his readers that the Gentiles, who were never part of the Old Covenant relationship with God, who were uncircumcised and outside this relationship God had with the Jewish people, were now brought close by the blood of Christ. In human history, there have been some awful battles between nations and nationalities, but perhaps none so longstanding, none so bloody, none so violent, as that of the Jews and the Gentiles. Yet Paul is telling his readers, mostly new Jewish converts, that the blood of Christ has brought the Jews and the Gentiles together. This was unthinkable for a first-century Jewish Christian. Even those who had come to Christ by grace through faith, were still trying to get their minds around a relationship with God that was not based upon obedience to laws, sacrifices, and outward appearances such as circumcision.
This one passage is the nuclear blast that completely destroys all perceptions that heterosexual people are more accepted by God than any other sexual preference. This passage completely destroys all notions of racial bias and prejudice, all ideas that men and women are not entirely equal, that people who battle mental illness are not as loved by God as everyone else, that people who, every day, live with debilitating physical challenges are somehow not equal to those of us who are whole. Every prejudice, every idea of superiority, all notions of inequality are completely destroyed by this passage. No matter who you think you might be better than, God says you are wrong.
I have never been married, nor have I ever wanted to be married. Perhaps I am in the minority of single people, but I have a feeling there are a lot of us out there. I wrote about being single in another post (Church and Single People) on this blog, but with respect to marriage, I think it is time that evangelical churches redefine their concept and understanding of a marriage relationship. It isn’t like the current concept of marriage is a smashing success. I am not sure what the current divorce rates are, but I would be surprised if it is under 50%. As I have stated in other blog posts, I am not a huge fan of getting tangled up in statistics. I think it is beyond dispute that far too many marriages either fail outright, or people become imprisoned in stale, meaningless relationships until they die. An article in The Anabaptist argues that marriage in Biblical times was nothing like our concept of marriage and governments did not become involved in marriage until the middle ages.
Today, even a modest marriage can set a couple back tens of thousands of dollars, or the family that pays for the wedding. If it takes a year to plan the wedding, it can be a year of intense stress for the couple getting married as they have to plan everything from guest lists, food, and where to go on their honeymoon. Unless they have been able to save for the wedding, it can cost them as much as a year or two in university, just to get married.
Is it possible that churches need to rethink the whole concept of marriage. It wasn’t that long ago that if you were divorced, you could not serve in ministry in many churches, and in some cases, would be excluded from church membership. Times have changed. The rules have changed. The overall attitudes toward a lot of things have changed. Perhaps it is time to move to a more progressive concept of marriage.
The current Christian concept of marriage binds people to one another for life. In Biblical times, though, marriage was a covenant relationship between two families. In those days, families arranged marriages, often at a young age for the couple. I am not saying that is a good idea, but the covenant relationship idea is one that churches need to explore. No one expects someone to work at one job or one company for life. We do not expect people to live in the same place their entire adult life, nor do we expect them to attend the same church for life. Somehow, though, we do expect them to know the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with, often before they are thirty years old. Perhaps love really is blind with respect to marriage.
The Jesus Ethic
The Apostle Paul wrote: More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. (Philippians 3:8-10 NASB).
I have never met a Jesus-follower who doesn’t want resurrection power. I want resurrection power. About 45 years ago I attended Florida Bible College. I have forgotten much of what happened back in those heady days of my youth, but I do remember one message on the above passage delivered by the late Dr Mark G Cambron. He pointed out that in order for there to be a resurrection, a death needs to happen. In order for death to occur, we must suffer (usually). The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is wrapped up in death, and that death is, like His death, preceded by suffering. Part of the suffering, according to the Apostle Paul is found in the loss of all things that we consider valuable.
If among the things people value is their sexual identity, if that is something they believe puts them closer to God, then according to what Paul wrote, they need to consider that identity as rubbish in order to really be on the path to resurrection power. That is what Jesus did.
How did you feel when you read this article? What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the views expressed here? Your comments help connect us to the larger blogosphere community. They also help me develop this blog and as a writer. Please, comment.
Categories: Christian Ethics and Issues