Several years ago, one of the young women in my congregation reached out to me via Facebook. She had participated in an event organized by the Gay-Straight Alliance at her high school as a way of supporting her gay and lesbian friends. She was upset and somewhat confused by the reaction of another friend, a Christian, who told her that, if she was a good Christian, she should not support such an event – that no Christian could because the Bible so clearly taught that LGBTQ people had to be rejected. She contacted me because she wanted to know if her friend was right and if I thought she was not a good Christian because of her support of the Gay-Straight Alliance.
I reassured her that, while there were many Christians who I thought and acted like her Christian friend did, it was definitely not the only faithful Christian way of looking at the issue. Her friend’s interpretation of the Bible was not the only one that people who take the Bible seriously could come to.
I resisted telling her what she ought to think about the issue because I really didn’t want to act like her friend, but I did try to steer her towards approaches that would help her work this out for herself in a way that remained faithful to the scripture.
Anyways, I tried to do my best to help her through what she was dealing with. I know that some might not I agree with my response and some might think that I didn’t go fair enough, but I think it was the right response at the time.
But Now it is Happening differently
The reason why I bring up this past event today, though, is because I’ve noticed that it doesn’t actually happen like that anymore – at least not for me. The young people connected to my congregation are still experiencing their own struggles as they work through LGBTQ issues and they are still looking to me for some help, but the issue isn’t presenting itself in quite the same way now.
Most of the young people connected to the church that I know have already decided that their gay, lesbian or transgender friends are okay. There really isn’t any debate or question about that and, if they think about it in relation to their faith, they would just think of it as the kind of attitude that Jesus would have.
But here has what has changed. The people who are challenging them over what some would see as the contradiction between their acceptance of LGBTQ people and their Christian faith are not their Christian friends. The people who are challenging them are their atheist, agnostic or generally anti-religious friends. They are the ones who are telling them that hatred of LGBTQ people necessarily goes with religious faith, that there it’s no other way to look at it and that that is a major reason why religion must be rejected.
I’m sure that’s not everyone’s experience, of course, but I expect that it is definitely becoming much more common.
What does it mean?
I would suggest, first of all, that it means that the those who would take the view that Christianity demands the rejection of LGBTQ people have won the messaging battle. They have successfully convinced the vast majority of people that their approach is the only Christian approach. That makes it much harder, and yet so much more important to stake out a moderate place to stand.
The other thing this means to me is that the major cultural debate is over. Acceptance of LGBTQ people is here and it is here to stay. That doesn’t mean that there won’t continue to be problems and issues, but the direction is clear. What is in question is whether the Christian church will find a place in this new culture.
I am not writing this to say that we ought to take a specific course of action (though I certainly do not promise that I won’t make suggestions in future posts), I just want us to recognize this important shift in our context.