(Today’s guest post comes from a new friend of mine, Christian Brown, a talented journalist, newly-out gay man, and fiercely passionate lover of Jesus Christ. On an issue that is as divisive as this one, Christian is a voice of reason well-worth listening to. For more from him, please check out his site, where this post first appeared.)
In July, I attended a screening of David Thorpe’s documentary “Do I Sound Gay?,” which explores the etymology of the gay voice in American pop culture and film.
In one particular scene, Thorpe revisits the history of the early 80s AIDS crisis, highlighting comments made by politically-conservative evangelicals at the time. As you can imagine, most of the opinions were not flattering, but when former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms‘ face appeared on screen, an audible hiss rang out across the theater.
The audience, mostly comprised of gay men, sneered and jeered as Helms quoted Romans 1:27 on the Senate floor.
“…They are receiving the due penalty for their error,” he said in his signature southern drawl.
The reaction, while surprising to me, was not unmerited.
It’s clear that the Church has unfortunately taught believers through the years that embracing LGBTQ people is synonymous with “approving their lifestyle.”
That’s incorrect, and must be addressed if the Church is ever going to effectively bring Christ to a community that needs His love, hope and peace.
So let me give non-affirming Christians a little advice. Here are five ways you can support the LGBTQ community without affirming same-sex relationships.
1. Become an advocate for people with HIV/AIDS
Since the 1980s, churches have remained reluctant to get their hands dirty ministering to those affected by AIDS.
Sure, Christian organizations like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse do raise funds to treat people with AIDS in foreign countries, but the American church has yet to accept the challenge of touching and healing those sick here at home.1
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV infection, the most severely affected being gay and bisexual men of all races, but particularly young black men.
For years, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church has advocated for people with HIV/AIDS, inviting other churches and organizations to join in his fight of not condemning these people, but reaching out to heal them by removing the stigma, offering free HIV testing/counseling, and helping pay for medical treatments.2
Jesus showed us in Mark 1:40-42 that while everyone else avoided the lepers of society, He wasn’t afraid to bear the burden of the outcast and make them whole again.
And what better way to show the LGBTQ community that you truly care than to reach out in love to those who are most vulnerable.
2. Stop using social media as a place to bash LGBTQ rights
I think we can all agree that Christians shouldn’t bash period. But whenever the topic of gay rights and religious freedom are in the news, Facebook often turns into a war zone, filled with snarky, inconsiderate posts and memes.
The problem with these is that more likely than not they come across as flat out disrespectful to LGBTQ people, totally thwarting what should be your goal: introducing people to God’s grace.
Have you posted anything like this lately:
Any social media post that delights in the destruction or ridicule of LGBTQ people is neither godly nor Christ-like. Instead it only promotes an increase in animus against a group that has already experienced its fair share of prejudice and discrimination.
Please don’t misconstrue my point, I am a big advocate of healthy dialogue and conversation around the sinfulness of homosexuality, but good theology should never inspire mockery, hatred, and bigotry.
3. Join forums dedicated to dialogue between LGBT-affirming and non-affirming Christians
This might be difficult for some of you, but if the Church is going to get pass the fixation on homosexuality, it has to talk about it.
For some non-affirming Christians, even debating whether or not LGBTQ persons can possibly be Christians is a sign of too much compromise. But I would exhort you to rethink that position.
There are organizations in Southern California, like Level Ground, the Gay Christian Network, and OneTable, which are solely interested in fostering conversation about this subject in order to create some sort of middle ground.3
If you are truly interested in healing this schism in the church, why wouldn’t you be willing to attend a gay lesbian forum, read a pro-LGBTQ inclusion book, or listen to a gay Christian’s testimony?
If you are solid in your stance on homosexuality, these forums will only sure up that stance. In the meantime, however, your participation will break down barriers of animosity, ignorance and tension that don’t need to be there.4
Jesus was never afraid to dialogue with people his culture said were unworthy. In John 4, Jesus even encountered a double minority — a Samaritan woman. His disciples were shocked to find Him chatting about spiritual things with such a person, but Jesus didn’t care. He treated her like everyone else — a person He wanted to have a relationship with.
Are you treating people differently depending on what sin they’ve committed or status they have?
4. Be a safe space.
Shortly after I came out, I was invited to lunch by a young pastor friend of mine. As I gleefully chowed down on my tacos, he dropped a revelation on me.
“Homosexuality might be a sin, but if you can’t see me as a safe space then I’m in sin,” he said.
In other words, if an LGBTQ person can’t feel comfortable around you, can’t talk openly with you, or feel accepted in your presence, you might be the problem.
No LGBTQ person should ever see your judgment before they see your love and acceptance.5
Unfortunately, church culture today feeds presumptions about gay people that are false and divisive. Rather than promote openness around sexuality and gender, many churches encourage silence on the subject and shut down anyone who challenges the norm.
That is not a safe space.
A safe space is openness and freedom to love anyone no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or mental health status.6
If you are a non-affirming Christian, you must ask yourself, “Would I be comfortable taking an LGBTQ co-worker to lunch?”
“Do I have any LGBTQ friends?”
“Has an LGBTQ person ever confided in me?”
If the answer to any of these questions is no, it could be because you’re not being seen as a safe space. Change that, honey.
5. Pray for the LGBTQ community
When I came out, there were a lot of things people shared with me, but perhaps the most prevalent phrase was, “Praying for you.”
Months later, I often wonder if these Christians really meant it. While the church is quick to condemn people over homosexuality, I don’t see the same level of passion when it comes to praying for the LGBTQ community.
Instead, I see churches willfully forgetting this community, avoiding places where they think LGBTQ people might congregate.7
The gay community should know that God’s people are praying for them because Jesus loves them and cares about their futures just as much as he does anyone else’s.
When interacting with a member of the LGBTQ community, pray for them in person. Touch their hands. Hug them. Let them know that you care no matter where they are in their spiritual walk.
And after you finish praying, listen to what God has to tell you.8
We are all guilty of doing way too much talking when praying. Listen next time. God might just give you an assignment. He might just challenge you to be more affirming and love outside your comfort zone.
And if He does, obey Him. In the end, you might just discover that you’re not as different from your LGBTQ brothers and sisters as you may have thought.