A few weeks ago, I saw this post by Matthew Vines addressing the Christian community on same-sex beliefs. If you’re too busy (or too tired) to read through the whole list, I’ll sum up the main point in one sentence: All Christians should deeply consider what implications their same-sex theology has on their real lives.
As I read these questions, I began to wonder what the responsibility is for a gay person seeking inclusion among Christians. In the spirit of finding balance in these questions, I want to pose some questions to gays hoping to find inclusion in the church:
1. Christian belief on our same-sex relationships has been ingrained in culture for literally thousands of years. Are you willing to accept the life we live significantly challenges an age-old system of thought?
Our lifestyle challenges the theologies of many. While some agree with a same-sex theology in the Christian Church, many also do not. Although we may hold a different theology, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our affirmation of same-sex relationships challenges an ingrained idea in the Church. As with any challenged ideology, most people don’t enjoy questioning their beliefs and this makes things a bit uncomfortable—for everyone.
If we’re to successfully find life in the Christian Church, it’s imperative that we know what exactly we’re challenging. While some gays would argue that it’s up to Christians to just “get on-board,” we too are called to approach all people with a Christ-like attitude of humbleness and grace. Frankly speaking, a posture of defensiveness toward a widely held idea will never result in successful inclusion.
2. Are we willing to forgive Christians for the way they’ve acted toward us?
If we are to find community with Christians, then we have to forgive them. I realize this is possibly the hardest thing to do given the onslaught of negativity passed on by some within the Church. In our quest to flourish among a community of Christ-followers, it would be wise for us to engage the Christ-centered practice of forgiveness to the very hurt that His people have created.
This means we begin to heal from the damage that Christians have knowingly or unknowingly inflicted upon us. It means we cease to hold the Church’s past against itself and move forward. More personally, it means we stop holding past hurts that a specific Christian has caused against him or her.
I know that when I write this, I can incite frustration for some. I’m no stranger to the struggle that this actually is. As a result of my sexuality, I’ve encountered a lot of resistance and outright unloving behavior from people in my life. Friends I’ve had for years, people I’ve directly ministered to, family members, and others have acted scornfully toward me for my sexuality on some level. However, if I’m to move forward, I simply have to forgive.
Beyond this, it means we seek relationship with those in the Church. Sure, we shouldn’t embrace bigoted attitudes/behaviors, but I have encountered many Christians who genuinely want friendship with gay people despite their personal theology—these are the people to surround ourselves with.
3. Are we patient enough to find community among those who may not ever agree with us?
Some people may not ever come to agreement with us on this theological matter. To find inclusion and to help Christians understand us as more than just a political issue, we must begin to lean into this tension. We must be content and accepting of the fact that some people will never change their theology. Further than contentment, we can find amazing value in seeking to build genuine relationships with these individuals—relationships that are grounded in something deeper than our mere sexuality and theological position.
4. Do we believe in the value of God’s people enough to keep trying?
I’m not confident that our place in the Church is fully understood as of yet. Many pastors have yet to establish a position on same-sex relationships in their own lives let alone their own churches. Additionally, many laypeople have yet to explore their theological understanding beyond the embedded theology in which they were raised. With this in mind, we have to truly understand the value of the Church. We have to understand that God believes in His Church and that we should too. Conversely, when we seek to devalue God’s people, we inherently devalue God himself.
5. Are we willing to let go of our “pride” mentality to engage in very real relationships with those in the Church?
Put simply, this identification as gay, doesn’t define who we are on a holistic level. Pride often hurts people. Pride often hurts us. When we approach the Church, seeking to maintain an antagonistic sense of pride in our sexuality isn’t helpful for us or for others. When I seek to build successful, healthy relationships with people, my goal should be to show them who I am on many levels. Yes, my sexuality is one of those levels, but I also love music, art, cheesy comedy, and deep conversations. There’s more to me than being gay (I hope).
While the pride ethic of the gay community has been effective in attaining marriage equality and gay rights in the world as a whole, I’m skeptical that the same ethic will be effective in the Church. Pride isn’t the attitude we need to take as we seek inclusion among Christians. Instead, I’m beginning to realize that we need to bring a humble understanding with us—an understanding that acknowledges things like the questions above.
Where do I fit into this?
While I’m perfectly content using some generic post to communicate some insights about the very thing I’m struggling with, I think I’m being cowardly if I don’t get a bit vulnerable about these questions.
While the understanding of same-sex relationships in the Church is so new, I’m learning that this pursuit is a rather lonely walk. I’m finding that this is full of disappointment at nearly every turn, if I allow it to be. As I’ve, for lack of a better term, “come out” to the broad spectrum of people in my life, I’ve felt a strong sense of alienation from many in the Christian community. It’s as if Christian community, a construct that was once a comfort-filled safe-haven, now feels foreign to me.
Now, I’m sure that those seeking to value their own theology over actual understanding would argue that this alienation is what I “should” feel. Frankly, I understand your viewpoint—although I disagree with you, I understand you.
This process has allowed to me reevaluate the Church in so many positive ways. It’s helped me to really believe that God’s people can be bigger than mere theological dissent. It’s showing me that God’s people can love despite differences in biblical interpretation. It’s showing me how to build relationships with people I don’t see eye-to-eye with. Lastly, it’s taught me to ask the above questions of myself as I re-approach my Christian peers.
When I yield to these questions, I find that my purpose isn’t to win a theological debate, but to simply win transformative relationships with God’s people.*
*Trust me, I realize that this idea couldn’t sound any cheesier.