{Above all Love One Another: A confession on being an LGBTQ Ally & a Christian}

unless we’re all free, none of us are free.

Kathy Escobar  a pastor and writer, challenged me with these words on her blog this week:

“i’m a nut case for equality.  you hear me talking a lot about gender equality but that’s just because it’s a critical starting place.  when half of the population of the world is thought of as “less than”, we’re in serious trouble.  in a church that is supposed to be the free-est, most liberating place in town, we’re in even deeper trouble.  christians should be leading the way on equality in absolutely every area, yet we all know that on the whole, we are lagging behind, stuck in white privilege & imbalanced power & segregation and all kinds of things that are not reflective of the kingdom of God Jesus called us to create.

equality isn’t just about gender. it crosses into race, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, and any other ways we are divided that strip people’s dignity.

… what will change things is when we begin to vote with our feet (and in ballot boxes) and refuse to be part of churches & systems & groups that oppress.  Period.  they aren’t going to get our money or our time or absolutely-anything-anymore and i don’t care how good their music, teaching, or kids program is.”

I read these words and wanted to cry…

I felt very confused. Kathy says to simply rant and rage on Facebook is not accomplishing anything.  That hit me like a bulls-eye. What she is challenging Christians to do is hard. 

I’m with her in my heart and in theory, in my friendships, my daily practices, my Facebook statuses and as an ally.  But not with my feet, with my church membership.  Do I really need to leave my church? I love my church.

I was driving along listening to our brave President …

That beautiful speech about the fact that people ought to be able to get married, any two people in America, my heart  was gushing and pulsing with pleasure and pride and hope.

Then I remembered and wondered …

  • Do I speak freely about supporting the LGBTQ community because I don’t work for anyone except myself?
  • Two of my children have chosen against Christianity, because the church seems in their estimation to “hate LGBTQ people.”
  • My church, which is a beautiful, amazing, loving Jesus community, came out a few years ago that they believe the LGBTQ lifestyle was a sin.

I don’t know what to do about any of those things. I volunteer and advocate.  I love on my kids and try to dialogue with them.  I still attend my church.  I sat and wriggled in discomfort listening to that sermon (I have the link to it below) in person two years ago, and this morning as I listened to it again.

My heart is so heavy.  And at the same time light with the knowledge of what Jesus’ death on the cross means to me.  I have life, abundant life, because Jesus took my sins upon himself.  

I know this, I’m as sinful as anyone.

My kids say “Christians hate gays.”  My lesbian and gay friends say that most Christians act like they hate them.  My lesbian friend asks me if she would be welcome at my church?

Christians hate gays.

Christians hate gays.

Do Christians hate gays?

I don’t, but are my choices, my actions, my feet, making that clear? I don’t write that three times to be callous or uncaring, but to let it sink in what’s really going on in my daughter’s mind and heart. And my friends.  And your friends and family who may or may not have come out to you.

We attend a fairly middle of the road evangelical church.  

Though they’re not open to women being elders, they are open to women doing everything else, I think.  (Don’t ask me to defend that point, because I don’t want to.  They read Titus, I suppose overlooking “An elder must be blameless” because of course no one is in fact blameless.  And they see “husband of one wife” as a prescription for the job of Elder.)  I say this only to point out the fact that although “middle of the road evangelical” they are not totally conservative theologically.

Tangent! Rabbit trail.

Back to Christians hating “homosexuals.”

The fact is that sexual temptation happens to everyone, but the evangelical Church rejects anyone who admits to same sex temptations.  With the Gay Marriage Amendment and the President talking about the right of anyone to be married the traditional evangelicals are a bit up in arms.

My church did a sermon a few years ago on Romans 1:21-2:4. titled: What about the Gay and Lesbian Community? Chris Dolson, Senior Pastor, Part 4 of the Rotten Tomatoes series. (Watch or listen here.)

We all have opinions on the subject.

In fact, I have more questions than opinions.

Earlier this year, in youth group my daughter listened to a discussion on the topic of relationships and sex, and they never acknowledged that young people may be dealing with the questions of sexual orientation.   This upset her and made her feel angry and she hurt over the friends she knew in the group who are out, who are gay.

From the sermon, here’s what my pastor said, me paraphrasing:

The only sexual expression affirmed in the bible is between and man and a woman in marriage.  All the others are wrong. The choice is marriage or chastity because that is the “way God intended things to happen.  All others are prohibited. This is a traditional view of sexuality.”

And this is the position of my church.

In fact there are only a handful of verses in the Bible – on sexual sin.   Leviticus 18:22; Romans 6:26 and 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 which mentions homosexuality along with all kinds of other sins (including drunkenness, which I have been regularly guilty of. More about my alcoholism.)

To my pastor it’s clear but to my kids and many others, this position is a club we beat up on LGBTQ people and condemn them as if Christians think gay and lesbians are sinful and we, “Christians” have no sin.

I am reading the Jesus Creed for Students by Scot McKnight . I know I’m not the intended demographic. I’m reading it because my child is rejecting my church and rejecting my faith traditions, and perhaps will even reject the Christian faith completely.  I want to offer her more.  I heard this book is excellent so I am reading it with that in mind.

And it challenges us all to the main thing of the Story of the Bible.

It’s true, won’t you agree, that sexual expression is not the focus of the Story of Jesus Christ and in fact Jesus never talked about sexual orientation or choices.   When asked what the most important commands (there were more than 600 commands in the Old Testament) Jesus said this:

Here O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, 

With all your soul,

With all your mind,

And with all your strength.

The Second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. 

There is no commandment greater than these.  (From Mark 12:29-31)

And in the Gospel of Luke there is a slightly different version, Jesus lists four types of people who were blessed:  “The poor. The hungry. The weeping. The persecuted.”

I cannot think of a more persecuted community in America than the LGBTQ community.

“If sin was blue we’d all be colored with blue.  Our minds, our actions, we’re all messed up.“ — Chris Dolson, my pastor.

We’re all “covered in blue.”

And I come back to this from 1 Corinthians 13: The Way of Love (from The Message)

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

There is much I do not know.  There is much that I do not understand.

But it could not be clearer that we are to love, love, and love. Above all love.

We should be known for our love.

Today, as I sit here, I am acknowledging that if sin were blue I’d be covered in blue.  And Jesus forgives me, and says to me, to us all — How do you love one another?  In real life.

“unless we’re all free, none of us are free.”

Galatians 5:13-15 says:  “for you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “love your neighbor as yourself.” but if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.”

I don’t have all the answers — I am torn between certain things and the uncertain and unknowable.   But I do know this, we were told the greatest commandment of all was:

Love one another.

Love one another.

Love one another.

And if we don’t, shame on us.  Beware of destroying one another indeed.

Truthfully I am not much of an ally to the LGBTQ community.  For all my intentions, mostly I’m just a woman with a big lens and a heart.  Taking photographs with love is about all I do.  But it is what I do.   And I love it.

MELODY

These are just a sampling of some of the kind and generous, big-hearted beautiful folk I’ve been able to meet and phototograph over the years for Our Lives Magazine.

It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness. — Paul Strand, American Photographer

“Photography is truth.”- Jean-Luc Godard

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. Martha says:

    Melody, I hope you and your children will discover churches where everyone is welcomed, not invited in to be labeled as sinful for who they love, but actually welcomed as the beloved children of God they are. Such churches exist, and we love Jesus, too. (Although I’m guessing your pastor wouldn’t call a queer female UCC pastor a Christian. Think about that.)

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    1. Melody says:

      I know they do exist. I have many friends who are in beautiful welcoming churches who challenge me all the time to “come on over.”

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    2. Melody says:

      Martha, how do you answer someone who says an “active homosexual lifestyle is sin?” I’m sure you get that all the time.

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  2. Martha says:

    Actually, I don’t get that question a lot, I think in part because of the part of the country in which I live. I’m more likely to get the question, “What should *I* say if someone says the Bible is against homosexuality?” And my answer to that would be along these lines: the Bible contains many statements about human behavior and science that reflect the more limited understandings of the past. It’s cherry-picking to focus on a few verses and not helpful to simply quote them without studying their context in scripture and history, just as it would be, for instance, to pick out verses about dietary rules or hand-washing. Having read the interpretations of contemporary scholars, I believe the so-called “clobber” passages either reflect the understanding of the time(Leviticus, for instance, has many sexual rules aimed at getting the tribe to increase, so no wonder there was a ban on non-procreative sexual activities) or are being misread (the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about the attempted use of abusive sex to dominate the alien visitors) or have nuances handed down from the gorgeously translated King James Version that lack our better understanding of the vocabulary and the culture of ancient times). It’s hard to make a case that the Bible is against non-heterosexual relationships when there was no accepted understanding then that such things existed. And there’s a big difference between, say, temple prostitution and a committed love between two people of whatever genders. The Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is that God loves us over and above the categories and restrictions we use to define ourselves and each other.
    For more on each of the passages in question, I highly recommend Walter Wink’s article, “Homosexuality and the Bible,” which is available as a pamplet: http://www.bridges-across.org/ba/winkhombib.htm
    And, like your friends, I encourage you to come on over. :-)

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  3. Melody says:

    Religious perspective aside,”in a country whose Constitution guarantees freedom of (and from) religion, we absolutely cannot base our secular laws solely on biblical interpretation. If you can’t justify your opposition to legalized same-sex marriage without invoking religion, then your position (at least in a secular context) is baseless. We do not live in a theocracy, and I refuse to use my vote or the anonymity of the ballot to shove my beliefs down others’ throats.” read in the comments section of: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/richarddahlstrom/2012/05/09/carolina-and-gay-unions-on-my-mind/

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  4. Hi Melody – can you e-mail me? I want to feature you on my blog http://atheistfags.com – our normal rhetoric is pointing our crazy Christians – I would love to show one who is not only reasonable, but an ally, for a change. tobiasgh@atheistfags.com please and thank you :)

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    1. Melody says:

      Hi Tobias, I’m gone all day Sunday to Chicago to celebrate my sister who is getting her PhD. I will email tomorrow. Thanks for reading and I look forward to looking over your blog.

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  5. athanasius96 says:

    If the issue is about active sexuality, then the church has bigger fish to fry in heterosexual circles. The issue isn’t really about sex at all especially for young teens that aren’t having any. I definitely agree with you about civil rights for everyone and that everyone needs to be welcomed into the church. I still use the “evangelical” label for myself, but attend mainline churches. I still wrestle with much of what I was taught and what the Bible says on this issue, but we do need to ask the questions and care about people.

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    1. Melody says:

      what’s the difference in your mind between evangelical and mainline?

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  6. athanasius96 says:

    Hi Melody, a fair question. They really are two different categories, though most Evangelicals (capital E) see a division. The mainline are the traditional denominations who till recently represented a larger fraction of Protestants: Presbyterian Church USA, American Baptist, Episcopal, etc. Most Evangelicals don’t see denomination as important, but rather emphasize the Bible, personal salvation, and can be more conservative in their politics.

    I focus on evangelical (little e) as meaning focused on the “Good News” of the Kingdom. I believe it captures a respect for Scripture (though not the literalism that prevails elsewhere). It also captures greater sense of social justice side-by-side with personal salvation.

    I grew up a Conservative Baptist. As an adult, I have been in the PCUSA (with InterVarsity having a big role in that shift). Right now, I am in an Episcopal Church while I work through a time of discernment about a number of issues. But my theological and other commitments are in line with PCUSA. Both of the later churches allow women in all offices. Both are struggling with roles for homosexuals, though have some at various levels of their respective churches already.

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  7. Aperson says:

    Yes it is absolutely true , God wants us to love and this love must subdue all other things . However, he also tells us not to be judgmental . But loving our fellow brothers and sisters doesn’t mean we should also love what they do if its wrong . Especially if it goes against the word of the Lord . Because if you accept God , you accept his word and not just what suits you . Many question faith ; the truth is , there is a big misconception of it all .The word of God is not there to please moods and tempers . It is there to assure righteousness and order .

    The mistake of many is their assumption that expressing love is passivity and a total let-go of the wrongs our loved ones may be doing . Though they are doing wrong ; this doesn’t exempt us from loving them . In turn Homosexuals may feel as though they are meant to be the way they are ..which to me is just a play of the many tricks of the devil . To accept this state ; and not actually fight it , as it might be their crosses on this earth . Accepting the defeat may lead to ruins as they never reach utter happiness – seeking it in momentous activities of pleasures .

    To exemplify this issue , visualize a mother who claims to love her child and permits that child to do whatever he wishes . Such as ; eating unhealthy foods , speaking anyhow and doing the child’s home works when he doesn’t want to . This mother in her mind loves her child – however , all things which she permits her child to do may not be the best things for the development of that child.

    This applies to the homosexuals . As much as we love them as our brothers and sisters . We should not judge them as it is God’s role ( and also we all make mistakes but dwelling on those mistakes and accepting them eventually becomes flaws to our holiness – which is why we need to repent and change instead of accepting sin as being “us” or our self-attributed identities ; homosexuality is not an identity , for we can change it with prayer and faith . In turn we should be helping homosexuals grow in their spirituality to accept God and accept his rules . But never should we force them , we should educate them with gentleness so as not to pass a wrong message as to the aspirations of a church as being forceful . However , they should never be married in church . Homosexuality has been critically disapproved time and time again in the bible . That marriage would never be blessed by God . A church approving it : is questionable and deviant of the actual truth and ways of God . If they are so keen they should stay within secular/nonreligious institutions to approve their marriage but certainly not within a proper church . Which doesn’t twist everything to suit people and denies authenticity ; which steers me to the liking of the catholic church which is firm and keen on its dogmas .

    Accepting God is not just acknowledging that there is a Supreme being out there . It is applying this faith in all our actions ; it is practicing what he preaches . For , we are the temple of the holy spirit and a part of Christ . Thus , we should be careful of the things we do .

    P.s. The ways of God aren’t the ways of humans .
    What a human may seem as fair or right may not be the way God may perceive that thing .
    Get to know God , by reading the bible and getting to know who He is and what He seeks in us . Rather than abiding to our false misconceptions and selfish thoughts on what God is like . Don’t assume ! get informed .

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