Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dear LGBT Friend,

Dear LGBT Friend,

I recently wrote a post about what Christians should keep in mind when it comes to homosexuals and all the controversies the media likes to exploit (see post here).  As I wrote to post, I kept having this nagging feeling that I should address you all as well and share my frank and honest thoughts as a Christian and as another human being who doesn't like this divide in our culture.

First off, I'll ask the same thing of you that I asked of my Christian counterparts.  I beg for your grace as I risk leaping into the frying pan, so to speak.  I'm struggling with this topic just like everyone else and I know I'm opening up myself for some serious scrutiny from both Christians and the LGBT people who read this.  I don't want to bury my head in the sand an ignore what is going on, but I also don't want to blindly pick a side because I feel like "my people" should believe a certain way.  I do my best to make Jesus Christ the center of my priorities, not the religious right or a certain denomination or the "Christian culture".  I follow Him and pray that what I'm about to say reflects Him and only Him in the highest possible way.  But I'm a flawed person, so please, give me grace.

When I think of what I most want to say to you, the cry of my heart is to say I'm sorry.  There were times in my past when I personally said things about "fags" and "queers".  I never said those things directly to anyone I knew that was gay, but I would tease my straight friends by using those terms.  I didn't think anyone who really was gay would hear me say those things, but now I realize there were people that heard me say them, people who I cared a tremendous amount about, who were gay and it breaks my heart to think about the pain I possibly caused them.  There was one instance in particular where I wish I could find the person and tell them directly how sorry I am that they had to hear me say those things.  Of course they didn't keep in touch; who could blame them?  But even with all the social media out there, I can't find this person and it's a grief I will carry with me for a long time to come.

So, I ask you as a community, please forgive me for making you a joke, for shaming you and for not being a safe person for you.  There is nothing I can do but throw myself before you and ask for your forgiveness.  Please forgive me.

The other thing I want to say I'm sorry for is for the way Christians have treated you.  I apologize for my brothers and sisters in Christ who feel justified treating you like second class citizens.  I apologize for the churches that have shamed you, shunned you, and made a public example of you.  I apologize for all the propaganda about "praying the gay away".  I apologize for any physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse you experienced at the hands of a so-called Christian, whether it was a priest, a parent, or anyone else that claims to know Jesus.  I apologize for the church labeling you because of your gender or sexuality before they even take the time to know your name.  I apologize for the Christians that have treated you like a freak show and who ask you all kinds of inappropriate questions about how you have sex or what your genitalia looks like or anything else that was mortifying for you to be asked.  Most of all, I apologize that we have misrepresented who Jesus Christ is and why He came to earth.  Of all the sins we Christians have committed toward you, that one is by far the worst and the one we will suffer the most for in the eyes of our God.  Please extend grace and forgiveness to us, even though we don't often deserve it.  We are just as screwed up as you or anyone else, and don't let any of us tell you otherwise.

Now that all that is off my chest, there are a few other things I want to share with you that I don't hear Christians tell you.  My hope is that a dialogue and a relationship can be formed between the LGBT community and the Christian community, instead of what goes on now, which is mostly lobbing insults at one another and demonizing our fellow human beings.  We don't need to be mutually exclusive groups and I believe with all my heart that the Jesus Christ I follow wants you to feel welcomed and included among the family of believers.  And I believe that is possible with a little understanding on both sides.

1.  I want to clarify this: as best I can tell from the Bible, it is not a sin to be gay, but it is a sin to have homosexual sex and/or sex with someone you are not married to.  I'm sure many reading this will want to retort, "But if I'm gay, that means I have gay sex.  So you can't really separate the two."  You need to understand that even though most non-Christians see it that way, Christians do see a difference between the two.  If someone is sexually attracted to members of the same sex, there is nothing in the Bible saying that they are evil and can't follow Jesus and be a Godly person.  It's when you act on those feelings that the sin happens.  But understand, too, that gays are not the only group that are prohibited from sexual relations.  Straight people that never marry are prohibited from having sex as well.  And of course, people who aren't married to one another aren't permitted to have sex.  Most of Christianity teaches control over our lusts and that sexuality is something that is only shared between a married man and a married woman.  The focus is on sexual purity, not gay sex verses straight sex.  You can have same sex desires without acting them out or lusting after another in your heart (Jesus teaches that lusting after someone is the same as having sex with them) and be sexually pure in the eyes of Christ.  At least as sexually pure as the rest of us can be.  None of us is perfect, and I'm pretty sure when it comes to sexual purity, it is the one sin all of us struggle with, regardless of gay or straight, married or single.

2.  For those of us Christians that do want to reach out to you and love and accept you, there is a lot working against us.  If you are the praying type, please pray for us.  There is a lot of pressure from other Christians to not have anything to do with you and there is a lot of hatred shot at us from your side when we do reach out.  And I forgive the LGBT community for that and understand why it happens.  It takes a very strong, very individualistic, very secure Christian to be able to venture out into these waters.  I'll be honest, the blog posts that scare me the most to publish are the ones on homosexuality.  I know I'm going to illicit strong reactions from all around and get lots of "hate" mail.  I only do this because I believe Christ calls me to speak out.  If it wasn't for Jesus' power, I would cower in the corner too.

3.  We hate the Westboro Baptist Church as much as you do.  Okay, we aren't supposed to hate anyone.  Jesus is firmly against hate and likens it to murder.  But those people tick us off just as much as they tick you off.  When I hear LGBT people trashing Christians, 9 times out of 10, I see them bring up the Westboro Baptist Church.  They are not a church.  They are a hate organization.  And my personal belief is that they are run by Satan himself, not just to persecute gays, but to make a bad name for Christianity and for Jesus Christ most of all.  I go to a church that works really hard at trying to represent who Jesus is to our community and when the Westboro Baptist "Church" pulls one of their stunts, it feels like all the hard work we have done to show the world that there is healing and love and salvation in Jesus is smashed to pieces.  Believe me, if I'm ever confronted with one of these "God hates fags" sign holders, I pray that God channels His wrath through me and lets me punch one of those people in the face.  Unfortunately, my God teaches grace to everyone, whether I like it or not, so that will never happen and I'll have to continue to purify my heart until I love those people too.  But my God is a just God and I know whatever hell He brings down on them will be way worse than anything I could ever do.

4.  Don't stereotype all Christians.  Please.  Just like you don't want to be stereotyped.  We don't all huddle in our churches on Sunday morning and talk about how evil gays are.  A lot of Christians want to reach out to you, they just don't know how.  And it's not so they can make you straight.  They know you are hurting.  They know you have pain.  They know you are broken and beaten down and searching for that one thing that is going to fill the hole in your heart that has been caused by abuse or being marginalized or from constant rejection.  We feel like we can help you because we have been helped.  Jesus has filled that hole for us.  He has given us meaning and purpose and value and worth and we want to help you find those things too.  He has saved us from death and we want to share that with you, not because you are gay, but because you are a broken and hurting human being, just like us.  I was suicidal for 27 years.  Jesus filled the cracks in my heart and made me whole.  I now have power over those thoughts and can focus on living instead of dying because I am close to Jesus.  I want to share that with you.  Other Christians want just as desperately to share their stories with you too.  Please don't assume that if a Christian wants to reach out to you that it is just to make you not gay or to shove religion down your throat.  We found the Healer, He healed us, and we want to introduce you to Him because we know your heart needs healed too.

5.  Please be tolerant of the awkwardness Christians feel around you.  There are many Christians out there who have never known a gay person (or maybe they did, but the person wouldn't come out to them for fear of what they would think).  I've had a number of gay friends and family members and even I get awkward sometimes.  For instance....

Do we call your partner your husband?  Boyfriend?  Friend?  Are we going to offend you if we say something wrong?  And yes, a lot of us are curious about your sex life just because we don't know anything about it.  Like, how do two lesbians have sex?  I know now, but for a long time I didn't.  But most of us know we shouldn't ask that kind of question, but is there a certain point when our relationship is good enough that I can ask?  I mean, I talk about sex with my girlfriends pretty openly.  And then if you are a gay Christian, then there are even more things to be awkward about.  Do I need to remind you gay sex is a sin?  But I don't remind the straight couple that's living together that premarital sex is a sin.  I mean, they might just be living together and not having sex.  But so could you and your partner.  Ack...why do I care at all?  Oh yeah, because Jesus doesn't want us to be permissive toward sin.  But He also says take the plank out of your eye before you take the speck out of someone else's.  Oh crap, and I've been thinking about how hot that guy three pews up is and how I would love to get him in bed.  And I'm married and Jesus says that is adultery.  But, seriously, he is smoking hot.  Yikes, I can't even stay pure in church!  And now I'm thinking about myself instead of making my gay friend feel comfortable because I'm always more concerned about myself than other people.  What kind of Christian example am I?  And oh crap, I brought my gay friend to church.  What if they like it and find Jesus but then want to get married to another gay person?  This church doesn't do gay marriages!  Are they going to hate me or Jesus or the church when they find out they can't get married here?  Should I have told them before hand???  AAAARRRGGGHHH!

Yeah, that kind of awkwardness is what goes on in our head.  And I'm female.  I don't even pretend to know the awkwardness in a man's head.  Even with the best of intentions and the most loving heart toward you, we are going to be awkward.  The best of us can hide it.  But realize, we are willing to walk through that awkwardness because we love you and care about you.  Yes, you may see us as ignorant and backward, but please walk through the awkwardness with us because you are willing to love us and care about us too.

I'm sure there are more things on my heart that aren't coming to me right now, but these are the biggest, at least for me.  I want this conversation to continue, because even if not a single LGBT person comes to Christ again, I at least want peace and understanding among us.  It will be hard at times, but I think it's important.

Most of all, I can guarantee you Jesus thinks it's important.  He is searching for you.  You are His beloved Child and He wants desperately to hold you and care for you.  He made you for a purpose.  Nothing about you was an accident.  But most of all, He wants a relationship with you.  He accepted me and I am just as screwed up as you are.  Trust me, my past was awful too.  But He never stopped desiring me and searching for my heart and the same is true for you.  Please, don't turn your back on Jesus because of the way some flawed human beings have acted.  He comes for the broken, the sinner, the sick.  He personally wants YOU!

With much love,



Anonymous said...

I see your heart about wanting to share Jesus with the LGBT community and appreciate your thoughts. What I wonder is this - do you truly believe that gay people are choosing to be gay? How do you address the monogamous gay couple who want to marry but are not permitted to by law? Are you saying that God's law prohibits it? Most biblical references to homosexuality refer to an abuse of power. The Bible just doesn't address a committed relationship. As a Christian, and a Lesbian, I struggle. The Bible says I am fearfully and wonderfully made. The world says I am a mistake. The Bible says I am loved. The world says I am hated. The Bible says love one another as I have loved you BUT I am not allowed to love someone because they are the same sex as me? I am committing a sin but if I were allowed to marry it wouldn't be a sin. Thank you for opening the dialog. I wonder -if one of your own children was gay would you want them to live a lonely life or would you want them to know the love you share with your husband? Is the expectation one that if you are gay then Jesus can be your one and only love? Thank you for your thoughts.

Jenny Wright said...

I'm going to have to do this in parts because I can't put all my reply in one post. My answer starts below.

Jenny Wright said...

Thank you so much for your questions!!!

Let me do my best to answer each of your questions.

1. Do I think people choose to be gay? I think the whole "Do people chose to be born gay or are they born gay?" is a false dichotomy. My answer to both those questions are yes. I know that I was born attracted to is a hormonal response in my body, but I also know that I choose to be married and choose to be attracted to my husband. Trust me...there are days when loving my husband, or even being attracted to him, doesn't come naturally to me and I have to choose to love him. And quite honestly, there are gay people I know that I believe absolutely were born attracted to the same sex and nothing in the world would change that. But I believe that we aren't slaves to our desires and that we have power over them. We choose whether or not to have sexual relations.

2. The gay marriage questions.... First off, I want to say I take this question very seriously because I have a friend who has been with his partner for 20+ years and is a hardcore Christian. In fact, before he came out, he was even an Orthodox Catholic priest! He and his relationship have caused me to question lots of beliefs that I thought were true about homosexuality.

First, let me address the legal/political part. When it comes to politics/law, first I follow Jesus, then I believe in liberty. I feel like I need to break this down into the legal question and then the spiritual question of gay marriage. My personal political beliefs (NOT what I believe scripture necessarily says)...I think the government should quit issuing marriage licences and treat couples as if they were business partners and issue everyone civil unions. And actually my reasoning behind this has nothing to do with gay marriage. I don't like the fact that the government has any say in whether or not my husband and I can be married. Marriage is a sacred union between me, my husband and God. In my opinion, the government has no business meddling in my marriage or anyone else's. Now, if they want to establish civil unions for tax purposes and to determine inheritance, power of attorney rights, etc., that is fine with me; in fact I wish they would. I know my friend I mentioned above is concerned about his partner having rights to certain things if he becomes ill or dies and my opinion is that you should be able to make whatever choice you want about who gets what or who makes decisions for you. That is all legal and political and according to the Constitution of the United States, no religious viewpoint should be favored above any other in legal and political matters.

As for marriage in the religious sense...I only see marriage in the Bible as being between a man and a woman. There are lots of strong friendships between people of the same sex, bonds that are even stronger than one would have with a brother, but I don't see any indication that marriage is intended to be between anyone other than one man and one woman. I know that is not the answer that many want to hear, but if I'm intellectually honest with myself when I study scripture, that is the conclusion I come to when looking at the situation Biblically.

Jenny Wright said...

I understand your questions when it comes to verses like, "love one another like I have loved you". It helps perhaps to know that in biblical greek, there are a number of different kinds of love. In the Bible, we see three kinds. One is philia, which refers to friendship or brotherly love (which is why PHILadelphia is called the city of brotherly love). Another is eros, which is sexual love (it's where we get the word erotica). The last one, and the most commonly used one in the New Testament is agape. Agape refers to a sacrificial love...the love Jesus showed for us and the love that we as Christians are supposed to show others. In the verse you quoted, "love others as I have loved you", the love there is the word agape. It means to sacrificially love others the same way I have sacrificially loved you. So, according to the Bible, you can philia-type love someone of the same sex and you can (and should) agape-type love someone of the same sex. But I do see the eros-type love as being forbidden. And again, I want to reiterate, that having same sex attractions is not a sin. It is the acting out those attractions that is the sin.

3. What if one of my children were gay, would I want them to be lonely/would they be expected to have Jesus as their one and only? (I know it's out of order, but it goes with the previous question) If it were my own child, my first priority would be that they love Jesus with every bit of their heart, body, soul and mind. Until they are confident in their love and devotion to Jesus, nothing else matters. If they come to accept Jesus, and are, I would not want them to lead a lonely life at all. I know the world tries to say that we only have two options, to be married or to be lonely, but that is a complete lie!!! For one, that is why Jesus created the church, to love, support and encourage one another. The people in the church are supposed to be a family of believers. They are supposed to stick together and walk through life with one another, just as a family would. Marriage doesn't determine whether we are lonely or not. You can be just as lonely married as you can be single. God's plan for us is for us not to be alone, no matter what. He wants us to have close relationships with each other and with Him!

Beyond having the church, if my child was gay, or even if they were straight but didn't feel called to be married, I would hope my child had a close network of good friends. They could even live together in the same house for companionship. If my child were gay and lived with another gay roommate that was their friend and their companion, I would think that was great! They would be welcomed to church, family functions, Christmas dinner, etc. I would love them just like any other of my child's good friends. God would still see them having sex as a sin and I would expect that as a Christian, the Holy Spirit would be constantly reminding them of their sin. And as a parent, I would let them know that having sex with that person is not okay for someone that says they follow Jesus. But no, I would never want them to be lonely or for Jesus to be their only love. I want Jesus to be first in their life and above all else and for Him to come first in every relationship they have. And I believe that if they are a follower of Christ that God will provide a way to meet their needs within the parameters of His ways. I know people who live full and satisfying lives without ever having sex. I'm not saying it would be easy and it may not even be possible without the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of them, but we all have things we need to sacrifice in Jesus' name and it is never easy.

Jenny Wright said...

4. YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE!!! If there is anything you take away from this post, please, please believe me when I say, in the eyes of Jesus Christ, and in my eyes, YOU ARE NOT A MISTAKE!!! Yes, the world says you are a mistake. Satan is the ruler of the world. He would love nothing more than to convince you that you are a mistake, but it is not in any way true. God loves you more than anyone will ever be able to comprehend in our lifetime.

According to scripture, I believe that God knew you would be a lesbian when He made you, or at least He knew that you would be attracted to women. Either it was part of His plan for you or He is allowing you to walk through this and will in the end use this for the good of you and others that are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

I struggled with depression from an early age. When He created me, I'm sure that He knew I would spend a large part of my life seriously depressed and suicidal. He was in control the entire time. Even though I believe depression and being suicidal are from Satan, God could have at any moment taken them away from me. But He didn't. And now that I know Jesus, I see why He allowed me to struggle with those things. I wouldn't have the compassion for hurting people that I do without having gone through that. I wouldn't be as willing to lay down everything for Jesus if I hadn't seen what life apart from Him was like. If I wouldn't have been depressed/suicidal, I would have never experienced Jesus' incredible healing power.

I believe with all my heart that you are not a mistake. I know Jesus has a plan for you and if you love Him with all your heart, that He will use your attraction to women for your good and ultimately for His glory. Maybe like me, He is using it to let you know what it feels like to feel like a mistake so that you are extra compassionate to others who feel that way. Maybe He wants to use you as a believer that has same sex attractions to give hope to others that even though they aren't attracted to the opposite sex, they can still have a powerful relationship with Him. But don't for a second ever believe the lie that you are a mistake or that you are supposed to be hated. You were created on purpose and you were created to be lovable, beautiful, precious and valuable. YOU ARE LOVABLE. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE PRECIOUS. YOU ARE VALUABLE. And you are all those things because you were created by Him. Don't let anyone try to make you feel less than any of those things. You are His princess, just as much as any other daughter of the King. And as your sister-in-Christ, I see you as all those things too.

If I could offer you one suggestion...spend some time getting to know who Jesus is. Not just stories about Him, but get to know Him as a person. He is our Living Savior. We can have a real, personal relationship with Him. Talk to Him. Read the Gospels about His life. Sit in quiet in His presence and just listen. Worship Him by singing along with music about Him or drawing Him a picture or writing Him a letter. Forget about the rest of the world for a while and focus on Him and the ultimate act of love He gave for you on the Cross. You won't need a blogger to tell you how wonderfully created you are...He will wrap you up in such a loving embrace that you will believe it.

Your reply and your questions have been a huge blessing to me. I pray that this response is a blessing to you from the Father as well.

Rex Van Alstine said...

Well said, thou good and faithful servant. Christianity was originally called The Way, you have traveled far on that path. The journey is never over.

Jenny Wright said...

Thank you, Rex. That means a tremendous amount coming from you! :)