Another day, another back and forth between Christians about LGBTQ people.
Yesterday, a group of evangelicals released a statement about sexuality called the Nashville Statement. It has everything you’d expect. Condemnation upon condemnation for LGBTQ people and those who affirm them laid out in 14 neat articles.
And it was met with strong words. Nadia Bolz-Weber’s church released The Denver Statement. The folks over at The Liturgists released a response. GCN posted a reflection. LGBTQ Christians and allies have been vocal about their opposition to this way of thinking.
In the midst of all of this tête-à-tête, I saw someone who sides with the Nashville Statement ask a Denver Statement person if there was a way the Nashville folks could disagree about this issue that was acceptable to the Denver folks.
That’s the crux of it, I think. Can we, as people of faith, have an “agree to disagree” view on sexuality and gender expression?
I’ve thought about this question for years. And the more stories I hear from LGBTQ people, the more I think the answer is, “No.”
I haven’t always felt this way. When I center the thoughts on my own journey toward affirmation, I want to find grace for the intolerant. I know at least a little of what they believe because there was a time when I believed it too. And honestly, I don’t love condemning past me, because I know that I was trying to be loving.
Here’s the thing. I wasn’t loving.
No, I wasn’t spewing hate. I wasn’t shouting epithets and slurs. I wasn’t banning folks from churches or even pushing to deny equal rights. I probably didn’t directly contribute to LGBTQ suicide or homelessness.
But I was okay saying that it was sinful to want to be with someone of the same sex. I was okay saying that gay people should probably not marry, but just choose to be alone. I was okay suggesting that love wasn’t really love and that some kinds of love were more righteous than others. I was okay suggesting that there was an inherent flaw in LGBTQ people that made them less valuable, less deserving of love, less important to the Church.
When I focus on the way those actions impact the LGBTQ community at large and the LGBTQ Christian community specifically, how can I find a way to just brush that off? How can I see that as a mere difference of opinion? How do I just shake my head and move on to something else?
The question behind the need to agree to disagree is, “What is an acceptable level of homophobia I’m allowed to display without making you think I’m a bad person?”
We see it with racism. We see it with sexism. We see it with islamophobia.
We want to keep thinking and teaching what we already think and teach, and we don’t want people to tell us that what we’re thinking and teaching hurts people. We want to approach these as simply theological issues and ignore that at the heart of every issue is a person.
But I’ve sat with my child in an emergency room after a suicide threat. I’ve watched people lose their kids to suicide. I’ve watched friends struggle with significant bouts of depression. Things like the Nashville Statement aren’t simply theological positions, they’re words that wound, words that kill.
If you agree with the Nashville Statement, I don’t think you’re a monster. I don’t think you’re out actively abusing LGBTQ people. I know that you probably have a gay cousin or co-worker or friend who you get along with just fine.
I know, because I was you.
At some point, though, we have to look hard at people, not theology. We have to engage empathy. We have to decide if hurting people is okay in the pursuit of theological correctness. We have to decide if we are okay with the fallout from our positions. We have to decide if we want to feed the hungry or heal the wounded on the Sabbath. We have to decide if we want to pluck out eyeballs or forgive.
But I’m here to tell you, I’m not going to just agree to disagree if you support words that harm the LGBTQ community. I won’t stay silent when you relegate LGBTQ people to a theological position. I won’t back down when you embrace ideology that casts LGBTQ people as sinners and second-rate humans.
I won’t agree to disagree, not because I think you’re bad, but because I think my LGBTQ friends and family are good.