In the air we breathe.
I was born and raised in North Carolina, moved to east Texas at 17-years-old, and have been here ever since. In other words, I am what you might call a “Bible Belt Christian.” I was raised in a church culture that was committed to Conservative Evangelical Christianity. I don’t just mean Conservative Evangelical doctrine; I also mean its pop culture. The first dozen or so concerts I went to as a kid involved The Newsboys or DC Talk (and with that, I just earned street cred with my fellow homeschoolers). The only R rated movie I watched (other than the couple I snuck into with friends) was the Passion of the Christ. And the music stations saved to speed dial on our car radio began every commercial break with, “Positive and Encouraging,” or “Safe for the whole family.” Need I continue?
Beneath those seemingly righteous activities lay the embedded morality of Conservative Evangelicalism. Drinking was a sin, cigarettes and tattoos were at least frowned upon, and modest was hottest. At the top of the sin hierarchy was sexual immorality. This included porn addiction, premarital sex, adultery, and then, it seemed, at the very top of the list was homosexuality. To be fair, few people would have openly said that they believed being gay was a worse sin than the rest, but that is certainly how it came across.
I think homosexuality was so widely and readily condemned because it’s way easier to demonize a group of people you have never actually encountered, than to really get to know them. So instead of seeking to befriend them or understand where they were coming from, we just avoided them.
Better Christians than us.
This caused a huge problem for many of my passionate Christian millennial friends, because it was in our lifetime that the world has upended around this issue.
We grew up in a time when the name “LGBT” was coined, when gay TV stars made it to the Disney channel, when gay marriage was legalized, and when the sign on a bathroom door welcomed everyone. In other words, we have grown up in a world where the LGBT became normalized. We couldn’t avoid the issue or the people anymore. They were no longer hiding “in the closet.” Most of us now knew these people from school, or work, or even church. And because we had simply been taught that homosexuality was bad, and nothing more, we were not equipped to handle what we actually experienced.
One of the biggest reasons people change their minds about homosexuality and accept it as godly is because they finally met a few gay people and found out that they were, well, real people. They were actually quite genuine and kind and simply wanted to find love. We befriended them. We talked about life, and work, and love, and even God together. And slowly but surely, many of us became less and less sure about our belief that homosexuality was wrong. In fact, some “Christian LGBT” people even seemed to be better Christians than us.
Camouflaging our prejudice.
When we begin to doubt our beliefs about homosexuality based on the simple fact that we met a really nice gay or transgender person, it exposes our real motives. We were not against homosexuality because it was a sin. We were against it because it was different and it made us uncomfortable. In other words, we are prejudiced.
We camouflage our prejudice by calling it conviction, and nobody calls us out on it because it’s technically Biblical. Our disapproval of homosexuality does in some sense agree with Scripture, so it makes us look righteous. But just because our beliefs happen to align with the Bible on this issue doesn’t mean we share God’s heart for it. If we did we would be far more compassionate and far less ostracizing. While scripture makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin, it is only mentioned about 5 times in the entire Bible. We have made the LGBT the poster children for depraved sinful behavior, when the Bible spends very little time on that issue. This is how we know that it’s prejudice rather than conviction influencing our beliefs, because our prejudice causes us to elevate one particular sin above the rest, and let other severe sins go undetected and unconfronted.
Our greatest sin against the LGBT is that we have made theirs out to be the greatest sin. We have treated it as gross, or weird, or more rebellious than other sins. I have even heard preachers make fun of the LGBT instead of compassionately being willing to disciple them and walk with them through their struggles, confusion and frustration, just as you would with anyone else. It’s like we are saying, “Come as you are, unless you are coming like that.”
What I am asking you to do is to be compassionate and gracious. Go out of your way to befriend these people. Invite them to your house for dinner, not just to your church. And be far more concerned that they hear and believe the gospel than that they leave the LGBT, because the gospel of love, acceptance and forgiveness will address someone’s actions far better than we can. Our job is to let people hear it.
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