These words were in an e-mail from a member of one of my previous churches who has a gay son. Thankfully this particular Christian father loves and supports his gay son, but this particular father was also grieving for all the LGBTQ young people out there who have been rejected by their families--a rejection often justified by Christianity. I share his grief.
It is ironic and tragic that a religion originating with a first century rabbi who taught it was better to die than to use violence could be used throughout the centuries to commit so much violence. From the killing of "heretics" and Jews to the verbal assassination of feminists and LGBTQ people, Christianity as a religion has much to atone for. How very human of us it is to spend more time using religion to reinforce our own prejudices than allowing religion to challenge them.
Even though legal protections for LGBTQ people thankfully continue to expand, Christianity as a whole seems hell bent on doubling down its attacks upon this group of people. Attacks on LGBTQ people, however, should not be seen in isolation. They are just the latest manifestation of the ugly side of Christianity that has condemned people who hold beliefs different from "orthodox" ones, women who refuse to be submissive to men, immigrants, divorced people, supporters of civil rights for all ethnicities, free thinkers, doubters, advocates for the poor, and pacifists. Most Christians are aware of the sins of their spiritual ancestors, but they refuse to consider that they may commit similar sins in their denunciations of people who disagree with them.
My former church member who wrote to me via e-mail may wish to "expose" to the Church all of the lives it has torn apart, but one doesn't need to look very far to be exposed to the pain Christianity's misuse has caused. Our culture is awash in people wounded by Christians who believe they are doing God's will. Jesus said, "Those who have eyes to see, let them see." Yet, most Christians do not have the eyes to see or the ears to hear people hurt by the Church.
Within the last few weeks, I have met with two young people deeply wounded by the Church. One was a lesbian and the other was a transgender woman. Although these two people fall into the category of the Church's current target for violence: LGBTQ people, they just as easily could have been people wounded by the Church for a different reason.
The first young woman visited our church one Sunday. As is the case with every visitor who leaves contact information, I wrote to her welcoming her to our church and let her know I would gladly meet with her to talk more about it. She immediately replied and we met together. She shared with me her story of coming out as a lesbian, that she and her girlfriend were looking for a church and that she knew that God accepted them as they were despite claims to the contrary by each of their families.
I said to her, "It sounds like you already know this, but I need to tell you this anyway, because you deserve to have a representative of the Church say this to you. God loves you as you are. God made you as you are. God accepts you as you are. You are welcome at our church just as you are."
She burst into tears, because it meant so much to her to hear a minister say those words.
The second young woman called our church sounding upset and asked if our church was LGBT friendly. I assured her it was, and sounding upset she asked if she could come to the church and talk to someone. I told her to come and I would meet with her. She turned out to be a male-to-female transgender person who is being kicked out by her parents who believe God condemns who she is.
We talked for about an hour and during the conversation when the time was right, I shared the words, "God loves you as you are. God made you as you are. God accepts you as you are. You are welcome at our church as you are."
Again, tears flowed, because it meant so much for her to hear these words from a minister.
My sadness over the pain caused by the narrow-mindedness of so many Christians is tempered by how grateful I am to serve a church that welcomes all people. I have no idea if these two wounded strangers will return to our church, but I am glad that when they did come knocking I could say without crossing my fingers that they really were welcome at our church just as they are.
Maybe we can't make up for all of the sins of Christian history, but we can do our part as a congregation to welcome wounded strangers as they come our way. These two wounded strangers came our way, because we have gone public with our love for for LGBTQ people. How many more people like them are there out there who need to hear the words, "God loves you just as you are." The multitudes of people hurt by the Church are not only LGBTQ people but all kinds of others who have been condemned in Jesus' name. How might we "go public" with our love for all these other people too? How many more wounded strangers might come knocking if they only knew there was a church who would really love them as they are?
Grace and Peace,