My Journey Judging LGBTQ Christians
Recently I was talking about stuff on WikiGodPod, a podcast out of the Greater Toronto Area (I live close to the GTA in Kitchener) centred around our stories and how that shapes how we understand God. I’m not somebody who speaks well without preparation, so the potential questions were sent in advance and I spent a few hours the night before and morning of planning. I figure since I already spent those hours writing notes, I may as well clean them up a bit and publish them here.
Mark’s next question for me was:
You’ve written a fair bit on LGBT issues. Particularly, you seem passionate in the area of judgement around it. Can you unpack that a bit – Christian judgment as it relates to our gay brothers and sisters?
Some of my earliest blog posts on the topic were like a lot of other stuff out there, focusing on whether or not Christians can ever be in a same-sex relationship or whether God would throw them in Hell over it. Of course, some including myself didn’t put it as bluntly as whether it is an instant ticket to Hell, but others did. Interestingly, I did conclude before knowing any gay Christians that there weren’t any arguments convincing to me that having sex with somebody of the same gender was inherently sinful, but it was still mostly an abstract discussion for me.
As is usually the case, my attitude started to shift away from that once I got to know some gay Christians. I went to a seminary that was loosely affiliated with the United Church of Canada and not surprisingly for those who know of the UCC, I had gay classmates. One classmate had come out of a conservative background and was still conservative in a lot of her theology but she knew she might not be able to be a pastor anywhere other than the United Church, so there she was studying with us.
I remember one of her stories as a teenager not long after she had realized she was attracted to women and was actually planning on coming out soon. I get fuzzy on the details, but the youth lesson in church that day was to the effect of having two of the same shaped blocks, hitting them against each other, and comparing it to two men having sex and how it doesn’t work. She recalled how the whole congregation laughed at how stupid it was to try to make these two pieces fit. Then he demonstrated how the block fit perfectly with a different shaped block. That was followed up by some blunt condemnation of those who use their parts wrongly and my classmate went back into the closet for a few more years out of shame for who she was. A lot of gay people from a lot of churches have similar stories.
Scapegoating is a human instinct, tied closely to the original sin of knowing good and evil. We love to find a person or group of people who are different so that we can say that at least we’re not as bad as them. That happens so often with sexual minorities and they can spend their whole lives trying to prove that they are just as much human as the rest of us. Unfortunately, in many churches, they can never achieve that goal. I’ve gotten a tiny taste of it for saying that I am affirming. I’ve even been condemned as not being a real Christian for suggesting what I am here that it isn’t our place to judge. But it’s still abstract for me. I’ve experienced nothing compared to the people who have to wrestle with what to do with their same-sex attractions.
From that, I got to the position I have been in since. It’s one thing to say you don’t think God blesses same-sex unions based on Scripture and church history and experience and prayer. If you hold that position and genuinely treat LGBTQ people like equals, I am definitely not attacking you. It’s another thing to say that nobody is allowed to question that stance – especially those who actually have it affect their lives – or that this is a particularly heinous sin. Regardless of whether you’re affirming or not, we need to do better at coming alongside our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
There’s a politicalization to it where we talk about “the issue” while ignoring the very real people who are collateral damage in our abstract debates. There is definitely some place for the debates but they need to be grounded in real life stories and led by those who are most directly impacted, i.e. LGBTQ Christians.