{Site currently under construction. Grace for my mess?}

Monday, September 10, 2012

On Gays and God-Haters and Me - A Facebook Conversation, continued

{This post is actually a continuation of a personal Facebook thread in which I posted a link to this blog post. The responses I received were from varied perspectives and highly charged on all sides. This issue is important to me, so I appreciate your time in considering it prayerfully.}

I do not write this lightly, as I wept over the responses this Facebook post got. Actually fell to my knees in the middle of Barnes and Noble, phone in hand, and cried hot tears. I'll tell you why in a second. First, I need to clarify a couple of things, so as not to be misunderstood. I shared this link as exactly what it was – a powerful story about a family's experience with conversion therapy (a method of "curing" gayness that a lot of churches support). I disgree with this method since at its core is the teaching that homosexuality is caused by something lacking in the father-son relationship (something that research shows to be false and damaging, and in my opinion, is just plain hurtful). I strongly disagree with a church supporting/teaching conversion therapy. I made no indication, statement, judgment, or position on whether homosexuality was right or wrong. None. Nor did I represent anything anyone else said as a Christian perspective. However, I am Christian, and that was my perspective about conversion therapy, on a public forum in which we are free to share thoughts and opinions, Scripture verses, prayer requests, barbeque invitations, or whatever we fancy. It's the same hard-earned freedom which allows us to worship Jesus openly that also allows this man and others to share their words and hurts.

I shared one man's perspective and experience, a man whose perspective is no less important than yours or mine. I do not believe to do so calls into question my Christianity, rather I believe that to show active love, to learn how to love like Jesus, means to listen to and acknowledge the experiences of those who are feeling like outcasts, those who have been told they aren't welcome in church. Being listened to is a way to be loved, practically speaking, and I'd wager a guess that if more of the homosexual community felt like the church was willing to listen and support rather than condemn, we'd see many more gay individuals coming to Christ.

Since it was suggested that I may not be familiar with what Scripture has to say about homosexuality, please be assured that I do. I know well what both the Old Testament and the New Testament say, as well as Christ's silence on the particular topic. I do believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, as I also believe that to study it is to also study the historical background of it, the original languages it was written in, the meaning of the traditions and such, and to not take it out of context. The Scriptures condemning homosexuality also condemn wearing mixed fibers and eating certain fish, but I don't know any Evangelical churches ostracizing polyester pantsuits. I'm very grateful personally that Jesus taught about the dangers of living under religious law instead of freedom, which helps me understand that keeping the Levitical laws holds no weight in regard to my salvation and access to unconditional love, grace, and forgiveness.

I know all the relevant Scripture and have studied the Greek and Hebrew in modern translations and ancient ones, with historical implications, and have studied a smattering of theology on the issue, from various viewpoints, in order to help my gay friends get to the bottom of the topic. I am more acquainted with the Bible's standpoint on homosexuality than most Christians you know… I promise, and to be fair, arguments can be made for several positions on the issue, all of which I understand. I won't debate theology with anyone here, mostly because this is the Internet and not seminary, but also because I doubt it will matter. We may have different ideas about this position. It does not mean we don't both love Jesus.  

But again, I did not take a stance in the above post on whether homosexuality was okay or sinful or anything else. I never will. I am not God and until I reach the day where my own eyes are plankless, I won't attempt to let my moral standards have authority over someone else's life. Scripture warns me of the consequences of doing so. It is only the Holy Spirit that can convict us of our failures, and I am so glad that I was shown agape love by Christian friends that caused me to first want to know and understand God's love as an outsider, and only after that could I care anything about His law. I have read the Bible cover to cover, in several translations, and studied it in depth. What I have found every. single. time. in every. single. translation is the same, and it is this:

I have been given a greater responsibility, along with all Christians, to show love than anybody else. I follow a man (God), who taught that love was the most important thing and that without it, we are nothing but "clanging cymbals". Sadly, a lot of my friends will never set foot in a church or whisper a prayer because they can't hear love over the clanging, because God has only ever been portrayed to them as hateful. Those of us who intimately know Christ know that in Him is freedom and grace. I want my gay friends to know my Jesus. I care more about their soul than their sex life, and I believe strongly that He does too. I believe that Jesus, friend of sinners, would build a bridge of love before attempting to deal with lifestyle. Jesus saw to the heart of a person and it is my prayer that I can do so, too.

A popular Christian catch phrase on the gay topic is "hate the sin but love the sinner." What I want to know…what many of my gay friends want to know…is what that means for you on a practical level. HOW is the church, how are you and I, as the body loving the sinner? What are we doing to make Christ attractive to our gay brothers and sisters? Are we hearing them? Are we listening? Are we wrapping arms around them, showing them the grace we've been given? Do we care about anything more than their sex life? I hope my answer will be yes. I believe to love like Christ means to open the dialogue, to not generalize gays or claim to know everything about them because of one aspect of their lives. I am a sinner saved by grace and I believe that is available for all people who choose it.

Here's what sent me to my knees in tears in the middle of the bookstore on a Monday afternoon. I have many gay friends, some of whom are seeking truth actively. What they will see on my Facebook wall, between the lines of all of this, is not that they are loved and welcomed, not that there is room for them in the Christian community. They will see that they are compared to murderers, drunks, and liars by the world's greatest lovers, and that several sides of the issue will bear their teeth over a stranger's personal life. They will see that people who don't know them at all are willing to speak out about their sex life, but not about any other aspect of their beings. They will be reminded that there are many churches they aren't welcomed in, that they can find hateful statements galore by people whose greatest assignment is to love.

To the Christian friends/family who spoke out, I know the position of many of you is that tough love is still love and it seems that you believe to acknowledge or discuss homosexuality in any open way is to water down Scripture or ignore the law of God. I understand the perspective and acknowledge it, but I simply can't bring myself to see it this way. I have learned far more about the love of Christ, about how to walk in love, by listening and exploring and acknowledging people who are different from me than I ever have by starting the conversation with a statement about their sin. Respectfully, I don't think it's how Jesus did it or would do it now, and though I fail at it every day in many ways, I am growing in my understanding of His love and making every effort to walk in it through the grace I've been given. I will continue to share the perspectives of people I believe need to be understood and I freely invite you not to read it if it offends your values. In the same breath, I also invite you to (respectfully) disagree with me. I want all my public spaces to be open doors for all people. It doesn't mean we will agree, but I promise to always consider your perspective prayerfully. I make the same promise to anyone who finds their way here. There are ways in which we will adamantly disagree and I don't think our faith has to come into question because we might approach it from a different perspective. To the contrary, you teach me more about Jesus, you draw me to the Word and to my knees for wisdom when we disagree. I appreciate given the freedom to speak my truth and therefore honor everyone else's right to do the same.  

It comes down to this for me. It breaks my heart that most of my gay friends think Christians are hateful, condemning, religious, and spiteful, when Jesus adamantly, passionately taught against all those things. It is not only "God haters" who are giving Christianity a bad name. Plenty of people, in Christ's name, are willing to loudly condemn and assign that designation to the rest of us without our permission. I am the body, too, so I am doing what I can to help bridge the gap between the church and the homosexual community, in the interest of love. I do not have to make a judgment call on someone's choices in order to love them. Listening to a gay person's story, understanding their heart, acknowledging their hurt is not watering down God's love (or His law) in any way. If I am willing to listen to them, show them grace and understanding, there is hope that they will care about what my heart holds too and prayerfully, that they'll eventually know the source of it intimately, that they'll receive the love and grace and freedom I'm blessed to know. I hope that makes things a bit clearer, and I invite my gay friends, my Christian friends, and anyone else that wants to respectfully add to the conversation to do so. 


  1. Love your response! My thoughts exactly!

  2. Oh, Cara, your heart! Yes, friend, I stand with you. All of it. So good. So true. Go, girl. How He delights in truth!

  3. I admire your courage to boldly stand on the side of love (as we Unitarian Universalists so proudly promote). Sadly, I think that as long as homosexuality is considered a "sin" (which in my opinion, it is most affirmatively not), the idea of "love the sinner, hate the sin" will only carry so much weight. I agree wholeheartedly that the actions and words of a select few are giving people of faith a bad name. It is important for religious individuals, such as you, to stand up and emphatically affirm that hate and condemnation is not acceptable. Well said.

  4. I'm a big fan of the book/movie "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers". Justin's dad had our Sunday School class watch the movie as we read through Galatians, and I am SO GLAD that we did in that group, because I think it opened up a different type of dialogue than could have been opened up otherwise.

    Anyway, this is a debate that's multi-faceted (i.e. is homosexuality a sin in the first place), so without writing a novel on the subject, I'll say that I feel like sometimes, we (as a church) stand behind this cloak of "correction in love" when it comes to issues like homosexuality and abortion. I'm not sure why THOSE things have seemed to reach an elevated status of sin over anything else within the church, but regardless, my understanding is that the verses that call to gently correct a brother caught in sin are directed to someone who is a brother or sister in Christ--someone who is already a believer. It's not a call to tell people on the street, 'I love YOU, but you're doing everything wrong', and I think there's a big difference there--with the former, you already have that relationship built on the foundation of Christ's love. With the latter, you don't.

    I think similarly to you Cara--my calling as a Christian isn't to judge
    others or to tell them that they are doing it wrong. It just isn't. My
    calling is to love as God loves us...and as corny as it may sound, God
    loves all of us. Every single one. Not just believers. Not just people
    who are observing the commandments. Not just people who attend Bible Study. Not just people who attend church every Sunday. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

  5. I stand behind you, Cara. Your care, thoughtfulness, bravery, and faithfulness are evident in your words. You are not alone.

  6. Really, really loved the way you worded this, Meredith. Haven't seen the movie, but betting I would absolutely love it. Spent the last few days "Searching for God Knows What" by Donald Miller, which gives an excellent perspective on how much of a love story we're involved in rather than a boxed-in religious formula. It has helped restore my faith in the purpose of the Church, and the future of it as well.

  7. Thanks for visiting my blog earlier (Holding the Distaff) - and WOW what a courageous, beautiful post. You're not alone in the way you think.


Your comments are such an encouragement. Thank you for sharing your valuable words.