As stories go in the LGBT community especially those of a LGBT identifying child growing up in a conservative Christian family my son’s is relatively benign. Honestly, loving him was a no brainer from the family’s point of view. Yet, we were ignorant. We’d been taught the conservative Christian lie that sexual attraction and gender identity was a choice that could be changed. And, while it took some of us a little longer to turn away from the lies, we didn’t ever reject our son or brother and did ultimately CHOSE to adjust our behavior and verbiage as the truth was made known to us. From my son’s point of view, I believe, most of the damage was done before we knew the truth, before he let us know how he identified. Our ignorant words and behavior created an atmosphere of fear, rejection, and uncertainty for him. Before ever coming out to us he spent years struggling with self hatred, wondering if his relationship with God was threatened by his attraction to other boys, and living with the fear his family would reject him if they (we) knew. Our unstudied, status quo answers to his questions (when he tried to test the waters of our judgment) contributed to his pain. We can’t undo those years. We can’t take them back. I hope he can heal from the damage our lack of understanding caused and I hope we’ll be given opportunities to embrace the whole of who he is. Even so certain scars will probably be with him for life.
As I said, my son’s story is relatively benign. Some children who identify as part of the LGBT community feel afraid for good reason. For some, coming out to family begins a journey through the greatest pain they will ever feel in their lives. The heart breaking stories I’ve read from parents who learned too late how to love their children and the ones told by children who no longer have families who love them fuel my pleas to the Church–We must become more like Jesus! Children shouldn’t need to turn to prostitution and engage in unsafe sexual practice because they’ve been kicked out of their homes, rejected by their fellowships and friends, have no where to sleep, and have nothing to eat. Children shouldn’t be filled with such self loathing that they contemplate suicide on a daily basis or get involved with drugs to deaden their pain. These are realities in the LGBT community and the Church ought to feel ashamed for our part in driving our children to these dark places.
Love first! Be the first to love. Embrace first! Be the first to embrace. Nurture first! Be the first to nurture. These dictates ought to be the mantras of Christianity. They were most certainly the lifestyle of Christ. He walked out loving His Father God. He walked out loving His neighbor. And, He walked out loving His enemy. He showed us what non-judgment and forgiveness looked like when he spoke with the women at the well, ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, and Pharisees, refused to stone the woman caught in adultery, and prayed about the soldiers nailing Him to the cross, “Forgive them; they know not what they do.” He showed His compassion for all of humanity when he wept over Jerusalem, fed the 5000, and traveled through towns and villages healing the sick and forgiving sins. His life was inclusive. He did not tell anyone that because of their sexual practice, because of their gender, or because of their ethnicity they didn’t belong. He did not tell anyone that because of their sexual practice, because of their gender, or because of their ethnicity He couldn’t love them. The Church has said that but Jesus never did!
Personally, I do not believe members of the LGBT community are sinners because of who they love or how they identify. But Church, even if you do still cling to that thinking, it is NOT our place to judge. We must become the safe havens we once were. We must keep the bullying outside our walls and refuse to let our fellowship halls become torture chambers or lion’s dens. We should be leading the way to champion the rights of the LGBT community. And, we should do it not because it’s politically correct and will increase our coffers. We should do it because we are called to be salt and light; we’ve been commissioned to deliver the good news; we’ve been given our own freedom. We should do it because Christ would.
I am not ashamed of Christ but I have been a shameful representative. Forgive me. Forgive my ignorance and my laziness. Forgive my silence and my duplicity. Walk with me where the spirit of the Lord is because there is where we’ll find freedom and there is where we’ll know love.