There is a movement happening in our country right now. More and more congregations are becoming open to positive discussion about LGBT issues. Many are changing and updating their statements of faith to include and affirm LGBT individuals as part of their faith community. I’ve been blessed to be able to visit many of these congregations in the Nashville area. There is something quite sacred to me about seeing people of all races, social classes, and orientations joining together in worship. The first time I visited a predominantly gay congregation, I found myself wishing that the rest of my Christian friends could witness what I saw: loving, genuine, talented, compassionate, and humble individuals singing their hearts out to our Creator. And guess what? There was no lightning bolt, no wrath, no judgment; but there was the Spirit of God. That same, unmistakable Spirit that I’d witnessed countless times in “straight” congregations before. I closed my eyes and I could not fight the tears. I had never felt such a profound sense of acceptance as I did that day.
But what about the other congregations? What about the ones who not only refuse to engage in dialogue with the LGBT community, but actively discriminate against them? These churches may not be up to par with Westboro Baptist in terms of bigotry, but make no mistake… the hurt, pain, and rejection they leave in their wake is no less significant. Throughout my life, I’ve been on both sides of this debate. Let’s look at some of the core reasons why I believe certain congregations are so adamantly opposed to the acceptance of the LGBT community. This assessment is by no means complete (and please feel free to add your own in the comment section), but here is a list of concerns that I’ve witnessed in my own life as part of an ultra-conservative congregation:
•The “Slippery Slope” Mentality. Many Christians believe that if they become accepting of LGBT’s, then they are somehow condoning promiscuity, polygamy, sexual addiction, and the like. This is fueled by fear, and it will not change until ignorance is overcome with education. Sure, some gay people are promiscuous; so are some straight people! Sexual orientation does not make a person sick, perverted, or addicted. And for pete’s sake, gay people are not synonymous with pedophiles. (But that’s another blog topic.)
•”Our congregation isn’t ready for dialogue on this topic.” To be sensitive, this may be true in certain regions with certain demographics. After all, if people are still hung up on racial prejudice and discrimination, how in the world do we expect them to address the issue of homosexuality and the Church?! (Probably yet another blog topic…). However, if the Church desires to stay up to date with current issues (and they must, or else they’ll die), then they have to address this topic. Pretending like it does not exist is damaging. Silence does nothing but perpetuate ignorance.
•”This issue doesn’t affect anyone in our congregation.” I can guarantee this is not true. Even on the minuscule chance that not one single person in the congregation is gay, they know someone who is. And if they think they don’t, they’re wrong. It’s a matter of sheer probability. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you think you don’t know anyone who is gay, it’s just because they don’t feel safe enough to tell you.
•”This country was founded on Christian principles. That’s why we need to fight against same-sex marriage in America.” Wrong. This country was founded on the belief that everyone should have religious freedom. Whether that religion be Christian, Buddhism, Sikh, Islam, Hindu, Wicca, Paganism, Shinto, atheism, agnosticism, etc… this country is supposed to be a place where each prospective religion (or lack thereof) can be observed without prejudice. The only exception is if you are harming others by practicing that religion. This is why separation of church and state is so vital; its goal is to protect religious institutions—not to stifle them. Additionally, let’s not forget that if we really want to get “back to our roots”, then we have to go way back. As we learned in this post, the indigenous people of our country were performing same-sex unions before we ever set foot on this soil. But just hypothetically, let’s say that this country was founded solely on Christianity. Then which Christians are right? Which do we follow? Is it the Southern Baptists? The Puritans? The Appalachian Snake-Handlers? Or any one of these common American denominations:
African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, American Baptist Association, American Baptist Churches USA, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, Armenian Apostolic Church, Assemblies of God, Baptist Bible Fellowship International, Baptist General Conference, Baptist Missionary Association of America, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, Christian Brethren (Plymouth Brethren), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian churches and churches of Christ, Christian Congregation, Inc., The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Church of God in Christ, Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Church of the Brethren, Church of the Nazarene, Churches of Christ, Conservative Baptist Association of America, Community of Christ, Coptic Orthodox Church, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Covenant Church, The Evangelical Free Church of America, TheEvangelical Lutheran Church in America, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Free Methodist Church of North America, Full Gospel Fellowship, General Association of General Baptists, General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, Grace Gospel Fellowship, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Independent Fundamental Churches of America, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, International Council of Community Churches, International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, The Mennonite Church USA, National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, National Association of Free Will Baptists, National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, Old Order Amish Church, Orthodox Church in America, Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc.Pentecostal Church of God, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., Reformed Church in America, Religious Society of Friends (Conservative), Roman Catholic Church, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate, The Salvation Army, Serbian Orthodox Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Southern Baptist Convention, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Wesleyan Church, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It isn’t difficult to see how governing a country by one religious group’s standards may not be a true democracy. And I, for one, don’t want my government to have a say-so concerning my religious practices. That’s something that is extremely personal, and it should be decided on a personal level.
These are just a few of the reasons that I believe some Christian denominations are still unwilling to have discussions about LGBT issues. But just like the women’s rights and civil rights movements of our nation’s past, inclusion of the LGBT community is inevitable. To quote Corny Collins from Hairspray:
“Isn’t this where it’s all heading anyway? Now you can fight it, or you can rock out to it!”
I tend to agree. Wouldn’t it be nice to be on the right side of history?