This blog is about movies, but where it’s the space I use to write more than a short status update, I thought I’d use it to post some closing comments on a discussion a group of us had on my Facebook wall. The status was: “Attention Christians: If gays are being beaten, imprisoned and killed all over the world for being gay, 1) Are you upset about that i.e. do you believe this isn’t right? 2) Do you believe the church should do something to stop it? 3) Do you think the church will?”
Here is a kind of rejoinder from that conversation:
I am sure it was no surprise to anyone that the original post I made brought out much debate, emotion, and difficulty in communicating ideas. I thought it was great experience. The only classes I really remember well while in school, college, and university were the ones that a) had something unexpected happen, b) involved a discussion where the topic really mattered to us and we all got involved emotionally, and c) when I was challenged in my thinking and learned something new. So, here are some points that I’d like to make in closing:
1) I was determined to make sure the topic didn’t get diverted somehow, which can easily happen with controversial subjects (and I accuse no one of doing this. It just happens easily.). I do wish we–and I am much worse with this than anyone I know–did more for the oppressed around the world, but that’s not what I was trying to address with my questions. We did well, but just to reiterate: my conviction is that evangelical Christians are generally not concerned about the gay community and what may or may not happen to them. Agree that the physical persecution is wrong? Yes. Do something? Not likely. Agree as a group to help them and do so with the same kind of resolve, unity and funds that is done with helping oppressed children, the sick, the dying? No. Denying this seems crazy to me.
2) There was a sentiment along the lines of, “Isn’t this obvious? Of course we think this should not happen. Who wouldn’t?” I agree wholeheartedly, though this isn’t what troubles me. If it was this simple, why would these questions lead to such an intense discourse? As I shared, if any other group of people would be substituted for “gays” or “LGBT” in the wording of the post (say other Christians, special needs people, migrant workers, etc.), this conversation would have been much shorter with a whole lot of agreements and not much disagreements. Why? That is what troubles me.
3) I have always hated it when a powwow would form for the purpose of complaining about the church. In fact, I don’t even like discussions that center on how bad the world is getting. In so many ways it’s getting better and better. I have, however, always been a big fan of questioning our behaviour, practices and ways of thinking. This does require speaking in generalities unfortunately (i.e. “the church”, “Christians”, etc), but it’s necessary. If we never did that we would still be making crusades to Israel, denouncing the devilish movie theatre and refusing to believe that the earth revolves around the sun.
I was humbled when one comment in the thread reminded me that “church bashing” is typically nothing more than annoying. It has to get to a real extreme for anyone to really get hurt, which usually would be church leaders (I know–I’ve been there). But “gay bashing” always results in at least deep emotional damage, and at most physical harm or death. It’s funny that gay bashing wasn’t even brought up, but church bashing did. I think we’ve been too far removed from the persecutions that Christians used to experience that we’ve lost the ability to empathize, even sympathize.
4) I am very thankful that there was no mention of some “secret agenda” that the gay community has. The only agenda I can discern from any of you who are gay is the desire for equality. I will be happy when we’re not saying “they” and “them” so much anymore. We Christians don’t like division within the church, nor should we. Humans being divided is equally distressing.
5) For 17 years I carried the title of pastor. My intention, which I trust you all know, was not to accuse pastors of anything. I do believe that it would be easy for a pastor or church member to say we need to help oppressed people, no matter who they are. But I also believe that an initiative in a church to help stop persecution of gays and lesbians would, indeed, be controversial. It would spark emotions and debate much like this post did. Again, I don’t accuse. I believe I would be nervous trying to make this happen. But maybe for some pastors it wouldn’t, and maybe now some will?
Thanks everyone. I have felt for years that we don’t talk about the church’s poor relationship with the LGBT community enough in the world of Christians. Part of me felt anxious after the discussion, but most of me felt great. I look forward to the day when we go beyond the talking. And to think… I didn’t even bring up the issue of many evangelical Christians believing that all gays are bound for hell. Maybe next time??