Let there be no ambiguity on this matter: while the denomination informally continues to debate whether or not acting on LGBTQ orientation is a sin, to claim that these people are sinning because of who they are makes about as much sense as declaring it is sinful to have Black, brown, or white skin. Being LGBTQ is not a choice, and although less visible than melanin, I would argue that God detests rejecting who he created us to be far more so than embracing our authentic identities. To pretend to be something you’re not in those matters in which we have no choice is a recipe for disaster.
If you already disagree with the premise of this piece, I humbly ask you to explore the science showing that being LGBTQ is not a choice, and, more importantly, to listen to the experiences of people who come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or are questioning.
“But God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman.”
Are you comfortable making the claim that God made a mistake when creating our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters? Is the expansive love found in a committed relationship off-limits to them? Did something as significant as sexual orientation escape the notice of a God who has the number of hairs on our head enumerated? I suspect not. And what’s the end goal? Can we love our neighbors better if more Christians are convinced that being born LGBTQ is a sin? Can the kingdom of heaven be drawn near if only we cast enough stones?
My hope is that the young adults who organized the original tabling event have an appropriate consistency to their biblical application. If in their daily lives they commit to never consuming fat (Lev. 3:17), never wearing a garment made with both linen and wool (Lev. 19:19), and never sitting in the same place that a menstruating woman has sat (Lev. 15:19-21), then kudos to them for achieving a level of scriptural purity I will never be able to obtain. But instead of dying on the hill of a modern Western culture-war, hot-button issue (an issue never addressed by Jesus!), why not direct that same energy towards those things about which Christ made it abundantly clear where we should stand?
It’s evident in scripture that Jesus is very concerned about our relationship with money, being pro-fidelity, and especially seeking the well-being of the most marginalized in society. In his day it was the poor, widow, orphan, and alien at the gates. These people still face immense challenges in our society, but who else has fallen to the wayside of our dominant culture that we should be looking out for? I wholeheartedly affirm the infallibility of scripture, but when we choose the legalism and judgment of the Old Testament over the radical love, grace, and hope of the New Testament it’s no wonder that we begin to look more like pharisees than followers of Christ (hint: the pharisees are not the protagonists of the story!).
While minimizing the big picture theological importance of this debate, I simultaneously refuse to minimize the untold horrors inflicted upon gay and lesbian people at the hands of the religious throughout history, let alone the very real pain still experienced by our queer brothers and sisters through the words and actions of modern Christians. Too many LGBTQ teens who have grown up in a nonreligious home know what the God of the Christians thinks about them: “abomination.” If this is the loudest message they are hearing from Christians, is there any hope they will join a church, or more importantly pursue a meaningful relationship with Christ? Why would they dedicate themselves to an idiosyncratic God who simultaneously seems to hate them and want to save them from the punishment he has promised to inflict on them?
Perhaps I’ve tipped my hand by this point as to where I stand in this discussion. Notice I did not say which “side” I land on; narratives of right and wrong, good and evil are convenient and motivating but time and time again fail to communicate the humanity of all persons we disagree with. Wherever you stand on this topic, listen closely: instead of casting stones against those who express different beliefs than you, consider listening and genuinely trying to understand. Even if they fail to change your mind, at least you’ll be better equipped to respond to their stance.
The through line of the two greatest commandments is unquestionably “love.” Remember this fact the next time you enter into difficult dialogue, and consider this exposition of love from the author of the letter to the Corinthians:
“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing… Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Love never fails.