by Theo Poward
I am writing from the outside of the LBGT community. I am a straight, male, Christian. So I want to make it clear that I am writing about Christian Theology. I do not know what it is like to be Gay, whether in the Church or in general. Here I want to talk about the mindset that still holds many people in the church and what the proper Christian response to that mindset and LBGT people should be, modelled on Jesus.
People who have not fit in with what has been considered ‘normal’ sexually have traditionally been lumped together. When it comes to sexuality and gender, in the Christian tradition at least people have been seen to either abide by Adam and Eve’s model, or condemned as perverted. This is how homosexuals and transgender people have been lumped together even with paedophiles and people who engage in bestiality. This mindset has been so prevalent and LBGT people have been so persecuted against that even getting their voice heard has cost a tremendous amount of time, effort and blood.
The people who wrote the Bible held this mindset as well. So there is no surprise that homophobia and transphobia are present in the texts. Jesus, when he lived, was surrounded by this mindset. Which makes it not a little interesting that Jesus is quiet on this specific issue. Christians, as purported followers of Christ, should look to Christ in the justification of their beliefs. In a global Christian population divided over the nature, and the morality, of LBGT people, Jesus remains the best model for all Christians:
- For those who, for whatever reason, believe LBGT people to be immoral they can emulate Jesus not only reserving judgement but also extending a respectful and open stance towards those persecuted by others.
- For those who believe it perfectly normal and natural for people to be LBGT, that LBGT people are no more or less moral or immoral than the rest of us, and find the persecution against this group to be immoral they can see Jesus openly and unashamedly standing with the oppressed, sharing in their suffering and seeking an end to it.
To follow Jesus’ example when it comes to this issue is very clear: Treat people with love, kindness and respect, even if you consider that person to be wrong, even if you consider them an enemy. If you do not understand then do not judge, try to understand. You are required to seek out others, sit with them, share a meal, listen to them. If you think you do understand and you think it right to stand in judgement of this group then you still must treat them with respect, they are still your neighbour, they still deserve love. But also remember that ultimate judgement does not belong to you, even Pope Francis on this issue said simply “Who am I to judge?” He is open about his stance and the stance of the Catholic church towards LBGT people, but he demonstrates Christ’s teachings well, saying that the most important thing is that “each case must be welcomed, accompanied, studied, discerned and integrated. This is what Jesus would do today… it is a moral question. It is a human question, and it must be resolved as best as possible, always with the mercy of God, the truth … always with an open heart.””
Persecution is always wrong, to do it in Jesus’ name amounts to hypocrisy from a non-Christian perspective. From a Christian perspective it should also be seen as blasphemy; a slandering of God’s name. A common thread of Christian Theology is that Jesus stands with the oppressed. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” How could this possibly not apply to this situation, to this group of people?
The evidence, both scientific and social. As well as the evidence of my own experience has drawn me unequivocally to the second of the two positions outlined above. I don’t believe in any contradiction or tension between Christianity and being LBGT; throughout my life I have actually met more LGBT Christians than non-Christians, and at least half of these people were ordained. If somebody holds the view that being LBGT is unnatural or even immoral, which the Pope might, or vacillates between the two positions, then I am more than happy to respectfully try to convince them otherwise.
The first openly gay Bishop in my Church said the following to the guardian: ““It was not my decision to make a big thing about coming out… People know I’m gay, but it’s not the first thing I’d say to anyone. Sexuality is part of who I am, but it’s my ministry that I want to focus on.”” I hope to see the day in my lifetime when this is no longer an issue; when the Bishop’s sexuality are not considered newsworthy. But in order to create a space where we can talk openly about this issue, and further our understanding, Christians need to fulfil their obligation to actually follow Christ, just as the Pope does on this issue.
The hypocrisy of persecuting in the name of someone who always stands with the persecuted, needs to be highlighted and underlined. Then hopefully Christians can make their choice as to where they stand. If a person holds onto hatred. If they refuse to respect these people who they consider to be their enemy. If they think it right to persecute this group. Then, as a Christian, I must consider such a person to be my enemy, I am compelled to stand against them.
A friend recently wrote about why the more people that come out the better. Our previous post was the story about somebody who has struggled with exactly this, as a Christian. It is important to read more, and so I also encourage you to read about the current situation in the US. There are also other great things to check out on this issue. Like the Jesus in Love blog and the Religion Dispatches page on Sexuality and Gender.
I believe that I will at least see the day in which the people who approach this issue with hatred are the global minority. But that is not the end. Christian communities along with humanity as a whole need to seek forgiveness. But, forgiveness requires repentance, and we are currently a long way even from that.