*This is a personal experience piece and does not represent the views of all Rogues. To see the introductory article for this series, click here.*
When I was a sophomore at Lee University in the spring of 2006, I had an amazing experience in sharing communion with several LGBT Christians during a prayer vigil. This occurred when Soulforce, a LGBT Christian advocacy group, visited Lee during a college tour. Though I held a more conservative view of homosexuality and the LGBT community back then, the experience was no less powerful in how so many of us, despite our differences, were unified in the presence of Christ.
To be honest, I’d forgotten about that until a few weeks ago.
Let’s fast forward to just recently, when I attended a Pride event for the first time in Knoxville. This was essentially my coming out as a straight ally and LGBT affirming Christian. It was the culmination of a great deal of change in the several years since that communion.
My views started as those of your run of the mill conservative Southern Baptist kid. God loved them, sure, but he had to be calling them away from their lives of sin, right?
Even back then, however, there was conflict. I remember talking to one friend who was upset that an old friend of hers had come out as gay. Yet, she adamantly denied the reality that her friend was a lesbian, claiming she was confused by evil spirits. Then, there was a guy who lived in my dorm who made the claim during a debate about marriage equality that LGBT persons should be treated as second-class citizens.
Years after I left Lee, the conflict grew as I began to see God moving in the lives of many LGBT people in my life, even as they remained gay.
I also came to see and acknowledge the absolutely vile way this country and the Church had targeted and abused the LGBT community, and continued to do so, often only for the sake of having a tangible enemy to blame and exploit. I learned of the horrific realities of “conversion therapy”, the staggering suicide rates among the LGBT community, and the long history of discrimination and abuse that points to a sad reality:
We have failed our fellow bearers of God’s image.
Before we continue, yes, I’ve heard all the stock anti-gay passages in the Bible. But before the Leviticus bullets start flying, perhaps we should actually look a little more critically at some of these.
- Genesis 19: Sodom and Gomorrah: Contrary to popular belief, Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for “gay sex.” First of all, the scene happening with the people of Sodom wanting to have their way with Lot’s visitors is an example of a power rape used to abuse and humiliate foreigners. A similar scenario is seen in Judges 19. Furthermore, Ezekiel 16:49-50 is pretty clear about Sodom’s actual sins:
“Now this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had pride, plenty of food, and comfortable security, but didn’t support the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable acts before me, so I removed then when I saw this.”
Ezekiel cites this to warn Judah as they are committing the same sins in exploitation of the vulnerable in the kingdom. (And let’s face facts, this all seems pretty familiar in America.)
- Leviticus 18:22: This was from a list of practices of the surrounding pagan nations, containing many things from child sacrifice to sexual worship practices (many of which would constitute rape). These statutes were intended to keep ancient Israel separate from the pagan nations, particularly their gods. (Also, actually read the whole list sometime instead of cherry picking. It’s interesting.) The point is these are regulations concerning practices for a no-longer existing ancient Near-Eastern nation.
- Romans 1:26-28: This is Paul’s commentary on the environment where the Roman church was situated; with a pleasure obsessed culture with a brothel on almost every corner and many temples to deities like Venus and Saturn, where worship would often involve sex with temple prostitutes, slaves, etc. Sexual acts on slaves were also quite common. (Most of these would also be akin to rape.)
- 1st Corinthians 6:9-11: It should be remembered that these verses lie within a section in the narrative relating to lawsuits among believers. Also, it only references men practicing homosexuality. This is in reference to Greco-Roman practices of powerful men using male servants for sex and practicing pedastry (sex with boys). These were acts of power, status, and dominance; not simple lust. (And yes, it’s more rape.)
The point is there are a few parts in scripture that “address” homosexuality, though within a certain context that quite often goes unacknowledged, if not willfully ignored. There are also significantly more passages that deal with treating others with love and mercy, particularly the vulnerable and oppressed in society, which definitely describes the LGBT community.
There are also voices in the church that call for “acceptance” of LGBT persons, on the condition they forsake relationships (even loving, committed, and monogamous ones) and practice celibacy, essentially demanding a monastic lifestyle simply due to orientation. To this, I would cite Matthew 23:2-4:
“The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry and put them on peoples shoulders, but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.”
Who are we to make insane demands of people that we would never dream of taking up ourselves? Who are we to subjugate people because of biased surface level interpretations that allow for abuse? Who are we to twist scripture to manufacture convenient enemies for political power?
Well, I’m done.
I’m done participating in a system that victimizes our fellow image bearers for a leg up on institutional power. This is why I am and will continue to be an ally and advocate for our LGBT friends and will affirm them.
I choose the way of love and respect. I choose the way of inclusion. I choose the way of Jesus, who condemned the abusive religious elites and embraced the vulnerable and exploited outcasts of society.
Obviously, I expect quite a few of you reading this not to agree. I’d even expect some pearl clutching, snappy retorts, and threats to unfollow/unfriend; and to that I say “I don’t care.” I will affirm our brothers and sisters, even if that means loss in likability.
So, I’d invite you to join me in affirmation and being an ally; because it so incredibly worth it. For those who would refuse, I’m sorry to say you’re missing out. I say this because in all honesty, I think Heaven may indeed look a lot like the Pride event I attended: full of love, joy, acceptance, and God’s beloved being themselves.
May God bless our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community, especially during Pride Month. May the Lord forgive us for our corporate abuses toward them and guide us to repentance, and may Christ make our hearts into deep wells of love and compassion for all.