I posted a podcast episode today where I interviewed Dr. Phil Snider who is a pastor, activist, and author of “Justice Calls”. You can listen to it HERE, but I felt that the interview needed to be partnered with a more personal blog post because I want to make one thing 100% clear:
I am a new, vocal ally for the LGBTQ community.
What does that mean? I don't believe this anymore, but for a long time I believed that homosexuality and everything that falls within the confines of “LGBTQ” was a sin.
I’m saddened to say this today, but "their community", I would have said, ought to be loved and welcomed into our churches, but their lifestyle is sinful and they ought to repent and either remain celibate or better yet, “change”.
I pointed to passages like ...
Adam and Eve.
Sodom and Gomorrah.
... And I firmly 100% believed that some sort of special judgement awaited the LGBTQ community for their “rebellion”.
“They” are living in the wrong.
“We” are living in the right.
“Their” lifestyle is abnormal.
“Our” lifestyle is normal.
... That's where I was, it's what I believed.
I need to announce today, though, that I don’t believe any of that anymore, not even close - I don't believe that homosexuality is a sin or that God is angry at the LGBTQ community or that any kind of special judgement awaits them, a conclusion that I've come to after a long series of realizations.
For starters, I came to realize that I was using the above-mentioned stories and passages of the Bible way, way out of their original context and was reading them as black and white with no gray areas in order to side myself with a large majority of Christians and churches and (thus) push away an entire community of people much like the Jews did back in Jesus’ day to the Samaritans and Canaanites.
“They” are living in the wrong.
“We” are living in the right.
And yes - positioning myself AGAINST the LGBTQ community in a theological sense benefited me greatly as it provided me with opportunities to speak and preach in churches and helped me get connections and even jobs and positions that I might not otherwise have gotten had I been a vocal supporter / ally.
(Just being honest.)
And then I realized that although I have an extremely high regard for the Bible and all that is written in it, I realized that the way I was using the Bible (by taking verses and stories out of their context to support MY pushing away of the LGBTQ community and upholding myself as somehow holier than them) was in direct contradiction to the Christian ethic of love that Jesus has called all of us to uphold.
And so I’ve lived with this gnawing tension for quite a while now:
I felt that I needed to voice my love for the LGBTQ community, announce my belief that they ought to be welcomed into the church like any other person or community of people, declare my desire to be their ally, state my firm belief that they ought to have the right to marry, be ordained, etc., and announce wholeheartedly without any doubt that they are 100% loved and welcomed by God just the way they are. They aren't just welcomed, they BELONG.
I also realized that I had a fair amount to lose, in some sense. I realized that stating the above could very well push me to the outskirts of a community I worked so hard to get to the center of. I realized that friendships could be in jeopardy, family members might raise their eyebrows, people could stop visiting my blogs, professors might push back, and future job opportunities or partnerships could fade away.
I lived with that tension for a while, but recently began to realize that I can’t live with the tension anymore and that honoring Jesus’ ethic of love and acceptance and inclusion and affirmation is way more important to me than saving face in my church world.
And so, yes - I’m announcing this loudly here in conjunction with this week’s podcast episode because I believe that there will be a great spiritual cost for ME (personally) if I continue to publicly profess allegiance to beliefs that I once held on tightly to, but privately don’t believe anymore.
Not only that, but doing so does nothing more than throw my LGBTQ friends under the bus of the church that has run them over for long enough.
All of that to say, I realize this might bring some criticism and resistance and might raise some eyebrows. The comment section might blow up or it might be dreadfully silent. I might get some text messages, emails, and personal messages where people tell me they’re shocked, disappointed, maybe even angry.
I get it.
And I will read what is shared, but I most likely won’t respond. It’s not that I don’t want to dialogue about it or that I don’t value other people’s perspectives. I do. It’s just that I need to keep pushing forward and I need to remember what I said in the first blog post - I’m not here to convince the critics that I’m right or they’re wrong or whatever, but I’m here to give the thirsty something to drink.
Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book Leaving Church, says it well ...
"When it comes to the LGBTQ topic, I have grown increasingly weary of arguing over what Paul and the author of Leviticus may or may not have meant in half a dozen passages [that may or may not mention what we in 2018 would call homosexuality] written a couple of thousand years ago while I watched living human beings wince at the cruel and bitter criticism they heard from those with whom they worshipped God."
My LGBTQ friends, honestly, are thirsty and my biggest regret is that I didn’t say all of this sooner, but that I stayed tucked away in the shadows while I listened to them be put down, watched them be pushed away, and saw the Bible and God’s Words pretty much weaponized against them as they made their way through the dry and lonely deserts of condemnation.
My LGBTQ friends, I apologize and ask for your forgiveness that I took this long to open my mouth and put my fingers to the keyboard. And I promise that I will stand with you and for you from this point forward.
On another note, I realize that a lot of my church friends might not be where I am and might never be. I realized that you might read the Bible differently and understand things differently. You might think I’m way, way out of line. And I understand that you choose to remain on the other side of the spectrum that I walked away from not out of some evil intent, but because that’s honestly what you believe is the right thing to do and what God has asked you to do. I totally get that and support you 1,000% in your journey to grapple with this topic.
I ask that you do the same for me.
And I ask that because this post and this decision isn’t one that I took lightly. It’s not like I just woke up one morning and thought, “Oh. I think I’m going to totally change my views and how I read the Bible.” Instead, this has been a process of prayer and experiences and a journey, really, of lots of different encounters, lots of different conversations, lots of different proddings from God’s Spirit, and lots of different wrestling matches with the Bible. I’ve been studying the Bible at a level of higher education for over 10 years and so these kinds of topics are ones that I don’t take lightly and that I have given a significant seat of honor in my life.
Anyways, if you made it this far into the post, thank you for reading. Head over to the podcast (this link will take you there) and listen to my talk with Phil Snider as he takes us through passages and stories like Adam and Eve, Leviticus, Romans, etc. and talks to us about how to read them in a way that is more faithful to the context in which they were written and in a way that is inclusive, welcoming, and affirming of the LGBTQ community.
Much love to you, and may you go give a thirsty person something to drink this week.