Someone asked: You identify yourself as a gay believer in Christ. How does it make you feel when people use words like “unnatural”, “perverse”, “abominable”, “destructive”, “deceptive” and/or “vile” to describe homosexuality?
This question or some variation of it seems to come up often. Personally, I’ve had to learn that I cannot take responsibility for other people’s ignorance or blindness. An analogy might be how black people have had to learn to live in a culture and society where so many have been erroneously taught that light-skinned people are superior to dark-skinned people. Fact is the Jewish community has problems with me because I’m a Jew who believes that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. (Yet if Jesus is indeed the Jewish Messiah as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets, then the most Jewish thing one could do is to follow him.) Many Christians are not happy with me because I’m unapologetically gay, without secrecy or shame. (Yet if the few biblical passages that generally get appealed to in this debate are in actuality addressing issues other than homosexuality per se, then it’s those who doggedly cling to their antigay doctrine who have bought into bad theology.) And the secular gay community dismisses me as insane for my continued association with what they perceive to be a homophobic religion. (Yet if I am called by the Creator of the universe to walk with him in personal and intimate relationship, then being faithful to that call certainly takes priority over the secular gay community’s or anyone else’s lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of who God is). As Jesus reminded his disciples:
“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16).
So I’ve learned that the ignorance and blindness of other people are their issues, not mine. I can sow seeds and seek to educate people who are teachable and open to allowing the Holy Spirit to move and grow them. But Jesus wisely instructed his disciples: If people do not receive you, shake the dust off your feet and move on — and we are to forgive them for they know not what they do.
I know who I am. More importantly, I know who I am in Christ. If it is true that we are saved by faith in what Christ has done, then the antigay message cannot be true. Whether we are straight or gay is irrelevant to God’s redemptive work in our lives. It is the fact of our responding to Christ that is the all-important thing. And as a Jewish believer in Christ, I learned a long time ago that truth is never determined by a majority vote.
Perhaps the bottom line is that God has given me a ministry of being a “dot connector”. Specifically, I help gay people connect the dots to be able to integrate a theologically sound, committed Christian faith with their sexuality. I help Jewish people connect the dots to be able to see that that Jesus is their Jewish Messiah, and I help Gentile believers connect the dots to be able to see the rich Jewish roots of their faith. Jesus was a dot connector too. In fact, Christ was the ultimate dot connector. Furthermore, I see many people out there who are struggling to connect the dots as well as many others who insist that the dots are not meant to be connected. But I suppose that when God gives you a ministry like this, He also gives you the thick skin to go with it.
That said, I have also heard the cry of Christian gay people with less thick skin. I have heard the cry of those who have lost hope, those who have become seriously disillusioned, those who have felt depressed and hopeless and who, as it were, are struggling to connect the dots.
Numerous studies have revealed that gay youth have a significantly higher rate of suicide attempts than do heterosexual youth. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center synthesized these studies and estimated that between 30% and 40% of gay youth, depending on age and sex, have attempted suicide.
More sobering still, the majority of gay teens who attempt suicide have had church involvement. Why? Because these young people are strongly affected by the negative attitudes of their churches on homosexuality and the resulting poor self-esteem, depression and fear can be a fatal blow to a fragile identity. The Church is not without culpability. Gay people continue to be victims of persecution and discrimination from the Church — the one place on this earth where grace, love and fairness ought to be the theme of life for them. Parents who do not accept the sexuality of their children also play a significant role as they fail to understand the power of the messages that make their gay children feel unsafe and unaccepted.
We in the church have done little to help their plight. We’ve only added to their burden. The suffering that gay people have endured at the hands of the Church is incalculable. The general and deliberate ignorance of sound biblical exegesis to rightly divide the word of truth is the cause of the lion’s share of the unsympathetic treatment gay people continue to endure. The Church has driven from its doors literally millions of men and women who would have accepted Christ. They drove away people who would have entered the kingdom of heaven. Jesus gave a severe warning of the dangers of adopting a Pharisaic attitude in our ministry to and treatment of others. In Matthew 23, he warned:
“Woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites! … You load men’s backs with burdens that are impossible to bear and do not lift a finger to help them … Woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven to men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Woe to you blind guides! … You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
The Apostle Paul admonishes: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Jesus said with what measure we judge, we will be judged. He said in the final judgment, he would make decisions based on how people treated “the least of these my brethren.” Too often we forget that when we’re speaking of gay people, we are talking about God’s children and about a God who will hold us accountable for the way we treat each and every one of them.
Adolescence is a very difficult stage for anyone to go through. Gay people have the added difficulty of coping with this ignorance and the intolerance, discrimination and rejection that often accompanies it. My friend Mary Lou Wallner tells the story of how it took her lesbian daughter’s suicide to make her search out a better understanding of homosexuality than what she’d been taught. Devastated by her daughter Anna’s “coming out”, she’d insisted that she change. After Anna’s suicide, Mary Lou learned that it was she, herself, who had to change. She and her husband now have a ministry, teach-ministries.org, focused on consequences of homophobia.
Perhaps it might be more frutiful to turn the question around. How does this make you feel? One clergyperson suggested that what it means to be a religious person is to be terrified of the possibility that you’re going to harm someone else. The clear commandment is this: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.