A Quick Note On Homophobia And Responsibility

As an evangelical Christian, I pray for the efforts of LGBT groups in reaching church people who believe that the only faithful way to understand Scripture and serve God is by being anti-LGBT rights as well as being resolutely opposed to gay people themselves, and claiming that theirs is the only “right” approach for the believer.

It would be a good thing if groups dedicated to marriage equality and the civil rights of the LGBT community could join forces with organizations like Evangelicals Concerned to reach Christians so that they can come to understand the love God feels for our precious, valuable GLBT sisters and brothers who call Jesus Lord — as well as grasp that you don’t become a “better” Christian the more and more homophobic you are. 

This will bother some of my progressive readers, but here it is:  I don’t believe all conservative Christians who are opposed to marriage equality are necessarily true homophobes or bigots, but are simply trying to remain faithful, in a rapidly-moving world, to the traditional teaching of Scripture as they understand it.  It is, after all, a characteristic — and not usually a good one — that individual believers struggle mightily to be sure they’ve “got it right” and are walking in step with the Christiandom, if not the true Christianity, around them. 

But you can’t rightly just rest on your conservative Bible-reading laurels.  The conservative believer does have to grasp the special responsibility she or he has in holding to that position.  If one’s opposition to gay marriage is “taken from Scripture,” then the Scriptural mandate to exercise humility, peace-making, justice, and defense of the outcast has to be equally present in their positions and their behavior.  If it isn’t — if there’s any hint of smugness or superiority or slander, or if they fail to defend the basic rights and safety of the LGBT people around them — then I believe they can truly be identified as bigots and not just traditionalists.  And if they are so identified, they ought to be held to account for their sin just as any other sinners are.

Unfortunately, we have local “ministries” here in Moscow, and certainly throughout the country, whose rise to prominence is fueled by just such anti-gay smugness and insult.  But I don’t imagine there will be a great move from the pulpit, the elder board, or the pews to practice Matthew 18-style church discipline against people, pastors and laypeople alike, who use their conservative reading of the Bible to liberally engage in the mistreatment of the LGBT community and thus violate the core principles of the Gospel.  We’re very selective, after all, in our approach to sin, and until being righteous becomes a far more passionate goal of the Body of Christ than simply being “right,” we’ll continue to hide our bigotry behind bonded-leather shields of piety.

It’s a sin to use God’s Word not to guide our understanding of sociopolitical issues of right and wrong, but to marginalize and do harm to people deemed by that same Word to be precious to their Creator.  To do so under the guise of fealty to its teachings is, sadly, a sure ticket to prominence and power in evangelical circles, but it results in harm very real and very profound to the Bible and to the people for whom its message is intended.  I respect people who, if unable to reconcile gay marriage with their understanding of the Bible, nevertheless demand of themselves and others a commitment to humility, justice, and mutual, sacrificial submission as they seek ways to genuinely love their LGBT brothers and sisters through a grid more narrow than my own — but not, by definition, a hateful one.

Nonetheless, as long as the Church in the United States believes that buying a chicken sandwich from a business owned by an anti-gay rights brother is a bold, passionate expression of true Gospel revolution, nothing much will change.  Traditionalists will embrace bigotry, call it Scriptural, and presume that they’ve taken a strong stand for the faith — unless other traditionalists and other Christians who differ with them don’t together boldly and passionately rebuke any and every hint of insult, mockery, and contempt. 

The choice is fairly clear to me:  Strive to understand rightly and, in doing so, act righteously, or focus on “getting it right” while calling “cowardly and compromising” the attempts of others to both believe rightly AND behave righteously.  It’s easy to see where the big-name evangelicals are in this, and most of them aren’t standing where their Savior is — and proud of it.

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