I first wrote the majority of the post below in March of 2012. Almost three years ago. And I wish, more than anything, it didn’t need repeating. That I could look back at it and think how thankful I am that it is no longer necessary to speak up on behalf of the LGBT community. For a variety of reasons, all of which boil down to our inability to accept one another for who we are, as God made us, and love each another enough to really listen past the fear and anxiety and into a new way of being together, I’ve adapted the original post, here, and am once again sharing it. Because everyone’s life matters.
I was eleven years old the first time I had a conversation about homosexuality. It was at the family dinner table, and for whatever reason, my parents said the word “gay” in front of me for the first time. I piped up, “What’s that mean?” and my dad proffered an explanation. “I don’t know anyone like that!” I said, all earnest insistence.
And dad said, “Yes, you do, Julie. You just don’t know it.”
Perhaps it is precisely because of this that the issue of who someone loves, or is attracted to, has never been, for me, an issue at all. Intentionally or otherwise, my parents never made it anything to get wound up about. And because I was consistently surrounded by messages of grace and love when it came to church, it never occurred to me that God would take issue with someone being gay either.
I was lucky.
I was in high school before I heard the horrid word “fag.” I was sixteen about the time I heard rumored whispers about my friend Steve, my very favorite duet partner at church. My freshman year of college one of my roommates transferred to another school because she’d been labeled “lesbian” and couldn’t take the heat that came with it. My first year of seminary, Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence and beaten to death. Not long after that I saw, firsthand, the angry signs of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.
And for the last decade or more, I’ve watched the Church I love struggle mightily with this “issue.” When I was practicing congregational ministry, I often equivocated when asked, “Do you believe being gay is a sin?” fearing my job would be on the line otherwise. I found ways of talking about God’s love for those who identify as part of the GLBT community such that it would be easy for congregants to ignore my words if they didn’t agree with me. And sometimes, to my own deep dismay, I held my tongue when those around me held forth on the great “sin” of homosexuality, not wanting to enter the fray of conflict.
Silent and vague and equivocation don’t cut it.
Because here’s the thing: I love my friend Doug–he is a shining example of what it means to love God and follow Jesus. And my friends Rob and Joe? Their 40-plus year commitment to one another is one of the finest testaments to love I’ve ever seen. And my daughter’s friend who has two mommies–I don’t want them to ever feel, ever again, that their love, their family, is somehow “less than.”
And between these ones I can speak of, and the other friends and family I cannot speak of aloud (for their own emotional and professional safety and stability), I have come to the conclusion that those of us who stand with “them” ought probably say something about why we do.
And so here’s why I do….
- I stand with them because there is a whole lot in this world I will never understand, but I do understand that it is never okay to judge someone outside the love of God. Ever.
- I stand with them because I know the hearts of some of them and they are hearts full of goodness and truth, and I cannot believe that any one of them would choose the misery, judgement and exclusion that has been present in their lives–I believe they are simply trying to be who they are, even if who they are isn’t appreciated, understood, liked or affirmed.
- I stand with them, as a person of faith and as an ordained minister, because the Bible says very little–IF anything at all–about what we know in this day and time as homosexuality. It’s really rather nebulous. But the Bible is VERY clear about loving your neighbor. About taking care of those who are left out. About caring for one another as we have been cared for by the One who created us. We Christians used to use the Bible to justify slavery, the subjugation of women, too–for these atrocities we have begged pardon. Maybe one day….
- I stand with them because I believe it is the right thing to do. I might be wrong. But I’m willing to take my chances.
- I stand with them because there is a great deal God and I will have to reckon with at the pearly gates. I’d rather the judgement and ostracization of another human being not be added to the list.
Someone once said to me, “Julie, your thoughts on this are all well and good. Kind-hearted and compassionate, even. But unfortunately God isn’t always about being kind-hearted and compassionate. You have to make room for judgment.”
No. I don’t.
The faith I was given, the stories I read about God and Jesus taught me that we are, each of us, loved beyond our wildest imagining–no matter what–and that it’s the ways we mistreat one another that most often break God’s heart. Rampant hunger, homeless children, war-stricken countries, generations of poverty, unchecked disease–these things, yes, I think they probably warrant some wrath and judgement from our God. But the love Rob and Joe have for one another? I think that probably mirrors God’s love as opposed to acting against it.
I know and love more than a few folks who do not agree with me and who would, at best, call me misguided. And my only answer for them is the unwavering faith I have in a God who loves–so much bigger and broader and wider and deeper than we ever know. A God who calls us into life together and pronounces that life very, very good.
The judgement, the bullying, the pronouncing some of God’s children as less worthy than others, the name-calling, the leaving-out, the hatred, the fear, the insistence on naming the supposed of sins of others-on BOTH of sides of this debate!–I cannot believe any of this is what God intended. And I believe we can do better.
When my daughter was very small, she told me she was going to marry her best friend, Caroline. I told her that was fine, but asked her why she wanted to. She told me about another friend at school who has two mommies–“so it’s ok, Mommy, right?” I smiled, hugged her tight, and told her, “Yes, baby. It’s okay that Eric has two mommies.”
She doesn’t know any different. All she knows is the love she has for her friends and how happy they all are together–no matter how all the relationships shake out in the end. Lucky curly girl.
My deep prayer these days is that we’d all be lead, perhaps by our children, into such generosity of friendship. Such adamant insistence on loving each other.
Such grand and hopeful and unconditional welcome.