I have a problem with us Christians. The problem spans denominational divides and it's "Christians' response to homosexuals." The gospel is pretty clear what this response should be since it's the same response Christians are supposed to have toward anyone - Love.
Boom. Blog post over.
Or if you want some clarification, keep reading.
This is not a post about Leviticus and exegesis. It's not a post about St. Paul's letters and Biblical support of or opposition to homosexuality or other alternative sexualities. Not really. Those are important conversations to have but this post isn't theological. It's practical. This post is about how we're failing one segment of the human population, one part of the divine creation in which God is fully present.
We are failing homosexuals by rejecting them. We are failing them by demonizing them, by arguing with science (does Galileo ring a bell?), and by not supporting them in the obvious ways all Christians can agree we should.
Imagine for a moment that when people started to openly identify as gay and they were victimized, violently assaulted, locked out of employment and their livelihood, ostracized from their neighbors like lepers, driven underground, and turned away from every part of "respectable society", imagine that Christians had met homosexuals there. Imagine if we had thrown open our doors, not to say "you are perfect", but to say "God loves you, and so do we." Imagine if we had promised to stand by them to end violence, end employment and benefits discrimination, end victimization, end cruelty. Imagine if Christians, the natural allies of the lowly and the disenfranchised, had partnered with homosexuals and fought for these common beliefs. What a witness we could have been! What bonds of friendship and unity we would have built!
But no, we judged them. Worse, we made conformity the litmus test for inclusion into Christian communities where homosexuals would actually have had a chance to see solidarity, experience a loving community, and hear the message of the gospel. I remember once watching an old documentary about the Civil Rights Movement in white churches. The pastor was trying to convince his parishioners that integration was a good thing. One white woman implored on camera with something like, "Pastor, I mean them [blacks] no harm and I wish them every good. But I just don't want them sitting next to me." If that comparison makes you uncomfortable, it's meant to.
Before homosexuals could be "real" Christians, we demanded sexual purity, a standard most of the adult population in our churches (married or otherwise) couldn't meet. I've been using the past tense here but not much has changed. Just a few weeks ago, Jason Collins became the first openly gay NBA player. Chris Broussard, another "Christian" NBA player responded by going on national television to declare that if Collins identified as a homosexual then he obviously wasn't a real Christian.
Even today, very compassionate Christians who neither condone nor condemn homosexuality still insist sexual orientation is ultimately a choice, despite the mounting empirical evidence to the contrary. Research also suggests sexuality, rather than an either/or distinction of heterosexual or homosexual, is actually a large spectrum with people falling in between the heterosexual/homosexual (and other?) poles with various degrees of proximity to either one.
Catholics have learned the hard way that we should listen to reason. (Remember my Galileo mention?) And this is why Catholicism, among other denominations, has said there is nothing wrong with being born homosexual. This from one of the most conservative religious bodies on the planet. (For the record, Catholicism makes a distinction between a homosexual nature and homosexual acts.)
But even if you throw out that research and that view, we can all agree that there is a very large number of cases of assault, hatred, and discrimination against homosexuals. And most of this isn't coming from the secular world or atheists. Most is coming from individuals who would identify as "Christian." What does that say about us?
Now homosexuality is a hot button issue with everyone racing to either legalize or outlaw gay marriage. And Christians are leading the charge on the latter. And not just political groups made up of Christians, of course, but identifiable Christian communities, like the bishops, Catholic groups, and evangelicals.
The "Defense of Marriage" is their battle cry. But defense from what? What is the real danger to marriage?
No Christians are protesting, legistlating, or publicly defending marriage by standing against pornography, the oversexualization of women and girls, messages of domination to men, promiscuity, infidelity, rampant divorce, disregard for procreation, messed up notions of what marriage means, our culture's overemphasis on romantic love, frequency of sex as the measure of a marriage's health, and the lack of formation and preparation before marriage. These are all problems of which Christians are well aware. And we're much farther down a dangerous road with respect to all of these other problems than we are with gay marriage. But I don't get letters from the bishops telling me to write my congressman about loose laws on the creation of and access to pornography.
That's because we've failed the homosexual community. Again, you don't have to be a Christian who supports that lifestyle. You just have to be one who can see past it to the reflection of God's image before you and know that it deserves your peaceful, no-strings-attached love.
When Christians start having LGBTQ outreaches and standing with the marginalized and oppressed, we'll be seen as the true followers of Christ. We're called to stop judging homosexuals and stop creating campaigns against them. I'm not saying definitions of marriage aren't important. But it's honestly hard to imagine Jesus on a picket line supporting Prop 8. It's much easier to imagine him amazing everyone (even his followers - us!) by his kindness, by his subversion of our cultural norms, and by his unfailing ability to meet the marginalized where they are. And that's where I want to be too. I want to be in that unexpected, life-giving, radical meeting space.