I was going to write a post about all the things Candy Crush and the Church have in common.
It was pithy.
It was funny.
It was full of references to the importance of friends and an engaged community.
It was lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek and gently poked fun at the ways the Church and Candy Crush like to point out that we’ve failed.
The sad, disappointed look when you’ve ruined everything. Again.
The multiple messages that make your failure very, very clear.
“Level failed! You did not reach the goal!”
And I was going to make sure we all noticed the undeniable fact that the guy who’s disguised as a cherubic owl with a serious anxiety problem is really THE DEVIL; he pretends to cheer for you and to want what’s best for you, but HE LIVES ON THE DARK SIDE and HE WANTS TO RUIN YOUR LIFE. –>
But none of it feels very funny anymore after watching the Church spank World Vision this week.
Now because this blog welcomes a wide array of people from all backgrounds – faith, culture, ethnicity, etc. – some of you have no idea what I’m talking about, and, man, I wish I was you right this minute, because those of us who are American Christians or evangelical Christians or fundamental Christians or who’ve come from that background are tired right now. Weary to our bones. Disappointed. Hunched in on ourselves. Feeling misunderstood and trying rather desperately to drag our wounded to safety. All of us. From all the sides. This has been an easy week for no one.
Every once in a while, I speak here as a Christian about Christiany things and invite the rest of you to participate because you’re always welcome here and always encouraged to pull up a chair to this table. This is one of those times, so I’ll recap, briefly, the most recent circumstances so you’re not walking into this Family Brouhaha blind.
This week, one of the world’s largest and most well-respected Christian humanitarian aid organizations, World Vision, announced a policy change which would allow Christians in same-sex marriages to be eligible for employment. Two days later, under intense pressure from Christian detractors of that position, World Vision reversed their decision.
It’s no secret that the question of how to love our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) neighbors – Christian and otherwise – is dividing the Church, and this week was a powder-keg example.
There’s Christian shrapnel all over the internet right now, tangled remnants of an ugly war, and even those of us who were bystanders are reeling from the concussion.
As I looked around the battlefield – so many wounded – I felt helpless. Alone. Dismayed. And then I realized how much more alone my LGBTQ friends, especially those who identify as Christian and who want to participate in the life-changing work of organizations like World Vision, must feel. To be so often ostracized by their faith community. To want so desperately to belong and to worship with their family. To finally be invited, publicly, in the door and welcomed to the table. And then, in an abrupt turn of events, to be booted back out. To be told the invitation was a mistake and ill-advised. To have the welcome retracted.
Oh, dear God. This is not – this is not – the Way of Love. It’s just… not.
We have failed. Not World Vision specifically, although they did fail by even their own account, but, more significantly, the Church as a whole. All of us. We have failed. And we are to blame.
We did not reach the goal which is always – always – to Love God and to Love Our Neighbors.
But what can I do about it, bystander that I am? I mean, really. I’m a straight, Christian woman. How in the world can I mitigate any of the pain?
And then I realized there’s one thing I can do, even though it’s a little thing – a tiny thing, given my one life and my one voice – and that is to tell the wild truth, as best as I understand it in this moment, about Who Is Welcome at Love’s Table. Which is everyone. All the people. Welcome at Love’s Table. Despite everything, welcome. Despite the war, welcome. Despite the hurt, welcome. Although I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to come or to trust that Love even has a table.
Those of us who slowly move our perspective from our fundamental roots to become Christian allies of the LGBTQ community are, overall, a quiet bunch. For every Christian person who’s out as an LGBTQ ally, I know 20 more who are in the closet. Not because we don’t care about the plight of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Not because we don’t think things should change. Not because we’re apathetic about the truth or love as far as we understand them. But because we want to be peacemakers. We know and very deeply love our friends and family members who remain committed to a different interpretation of the Bible, and we understand many will see our affirmation of LGBTQ relationships as capitulation to culture at best, a deliberate misinterpretation with the intention of leading people astray at worst, and a betrayal either way.
We’re quiet because, well, we don’t want to rock a boat that’s already in very choppy seas.
But while we’re quiet, there are LGBTQ people who are receiving the message from the Church, loud and clear, that they must choose between Who God Created Them to Be versus Faith in God.
Each person must decide when her silence is helpful and healthy and makes peace and creates unity, and when it has morphed into a silence that perpetuates pain and loneliness and despair and isolation. I’ve reached the point where my silence must end.
It’s time to tell you that I’m a Christian who’s also an LGBTQ ally.
It’s time for me to stand publicly with the people who are marginalized and those who’ve been asked to leave the table. I cannot, as a follower of Jesus, whom I believe is Love Incarnate, do otherwise. This is, for me, a matter of conscience, a matter of obedience, a matter of justice, a matter of mercy, a matter of resurrection, a matter of truth, and a matter of grace.
It’s time for me to tell my fellow Christians who are quiet LGBTQ allies that I know what it’s like to come out slowly as an ally. To come out quietly. To hover over the Facebook “like” button on a positive article about my LGBTQ friends and try to decide whether to click it. To be afraid to let others see me like it. To be anxious about letting others see me go far, far past tolerating people; far, far past loving the sinner; and run, instead, headlong into support, affirmation, approval and the belief that the love of another person, regardless of gender, can be good, strong, healthy, life-giving and within God’s plan. I know it’s hard. I know. I swear I do. And it’s OK to be where you are in the process until your heart tells you it’s time to take the next step. But when it’s time, take it. Do.
And, finally, it’s time for me to apologize to and ask forgiveness from my LGBTQ friends who frequent this space. Although my friends, my family and my church – some of whom agree with my position and some of whom don’t – are well aware I’m both a committed Christian and an LGBTQ ally, I’ve skirted the issue here, making subtly supportive statements while deliberately avoiding the issue. As though you, my friends, are an issue to be avoided and not mentioned. In that way, I’ve allowed you to suffer while I benefited from my silence, and for that I’m deeply sorry.
You need to know, especially those of you who’ve been invited in and then asked to leave – welcomed and then rejected – that there’s room at Love’s table and friends who long for you to sit and eat with us. We’re still a small table, but we’re growing ever larger all the time, and there is, emphatically, a place for you here.
For those of you who want it, here’s
1. On My Theology
Frankly, the last thing any of us need is yet another Biblical exegesis on homosexuality, and I would be wasting my time and yours if I attempted to outline the 20 year process that’s taken me from my fundamental roots to the conviction that God blesses LGBTQ relationships.
Jen Hatmaker spoke the truth this week when she wrote, “The Christian community is not going to reach consensus on gay marriage. Every article, regardless of its position for or against, is the same. The support arguments; same. The rebuttals; same. The circular thinking; same. The responses are fully predictable, the language identical, the interpretations immovable, and after all the energy expended, we discover we are at the same impasse. This is a fact: Thousands of churches and millions of Christ-followers faithfully read the Scriptures and with thoughtful and academic work come to different conclusions on homosexuality (and countless others). Godly, respectable leaders have exegeted the Bible and there is absolutely not unanimity on its interpretation. There never has been.”
Nevertheless, for those of you who are curious how I can love the Bible and love Jesus and not simply tolerate but, instead, affirm, encourage and support my LGBTQ friends who are in relationships, I’ll direct you to Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate by Justin Lee and to the Gathering Now video sermon series on The Birds, The Bees & The Bible.
Some will say I’m misguided. Or deceived. Or that I’m willfully and nefariously misreading Scripture. To which I say, maturely, Nuh Uh and Am Not, times Infinity.
2. On the Very Best Resource, Bar None, for Christians (regardless of your stance on homosexuality) Who Want to Love Your LGBTQ Neighbors
The Gay Christian Network: Founded in 2001, the Gay Christian Network (GCN) is a nonprofit Christian ministry dedicated to building bridges and offering support for those caught in the crossfire of one of today’s most divisive culture wars. Our membership includes both those on Side A (supporting same-sex marriage and relationships) and on Side B (promoting celibacy for Christians with same-sex attractions). What began as an organization to provide support to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Christians has grown into a worldwide movement for compassion with many straight members as well.
3. Other Things I’ve Written About Faith, Doubt and the Church
Here’s my story of Faith and Doubt.
Here’s What I Wish the Church Would Be.
Here’s the Real Reason I Still Go to Church.
Here’s why “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” should be abolished.
Here’s my Confession About Faith.
4. On How This Benefits Me
It doesn’t. I benefit by my silence. By not coming quite all the way out of closet as an LGBTQ ally. By having quiet conversations in private and not rocking the public boat. Churches and parachurch organizations allow me to come speak if I am silent about this issue; one of which told me so very clearly. I will miss having those opportunities, but my minor losses don’t compare to the losses endured every day by my LGBTQ friends, and I am grateful for the opportunity to stand with them.
5. On What I Think About My Friends and Family – both online and in person – Who Believe to Their Bones I’m Totally Wrong About This
I love them very much.
I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus exhorted us to expand our definition of Neighbor. To extend the title of friend to those on the other side of our cultural fence. To hold Love God and Love One Another as our highest goal. To choose to reject the concept of sides. And so, as my heart has shifted from my conservative roots to a more wild and free and boundless Gospel of Grace, I am convicted that it’s my job to love my conservative neighbors as fully as I love my progressive, liberal and LGBTQ neighbors. To extend to them the same benefit of the doubt I hope they will extend to me: that we are each doing everything we can to reach the goal of Love, devil be damned.