It is not true to say that all of the Christians who oppose same-sex marriage are hateful and homophobic.
It is not true to say that none of the Christians who oppose same-sex marriage are hateful and homophobic.
So let’s just cut that out, shall we? It doesn’t get us anywhere.
I wish that my “marriage equality’ colleagues would clearly and unequivocally affirm that it is indeed possible to interpret the Bible in a way that does not condone same-sex marriage, and that doing so does not necessarily make you hateful or homophobic.
I wish that my “traditional marriage” colleagues would clearly and unequivocally affirm that it is indeed possible to interpret the Bible in a way that condones same-sex marriage, and just as clearly condemn hatred and homophobia, instead of pretending it isn’t present.
If we could do that, then maybe we could get to a deeper level of dialogue. Because we need to be deeper than we are. We really need to be past the “yes it does” / “no it doesn’t” naiveté that predominates our sermons, our blog posts, our presentations and conversations these days.
We need to be talking about how hatred and homophobia are doing severe harm to LGTBQ+ people everywhere. We need to be talking about how to counteract this hatred and homophobia, which leads to discrimination, bullying, assault, suicide, and murder, rather than just turning an ecclesial blind eye.
Literally, lives are at stake. And here’s the deal … (buckle your seatbelts, y’all) …
The words, spoken and written, of non-hateful, non-homophobic “traditional marriage” clergy are fuel for the words and actions of hateful, homophobic people. And the words and actions of hateful, homophobic people are literally destroying lives.
Please consider the following questions:
What are the implications of saying (in a very non-hateful and non-homophobic way) that gay people are welcome in your church as long as they do not want to be married or ordained? What fuel does that provide a hateful, homophobic person? How would they interpret that?
What are the implications of saying (again in a non-hateful, non-homophobic way) that nobody who believes that the Bible blesses same-sex relationships will be allowed to hold a leadership position in your church? What other forms of discrimination will that implicitly condone in the mind of one who is in fact homophobic?
What are the implications of saying in that same non-hateful and non-homophobic tone that you simply cannot even be a part of a church in which same-sex marriages are permissible but not mandatory? How might that fan the flames of other, more sinister and blatant expressions of divisiveness and exclusion?
And flip that around …
What are the implications of telling someone who is gay that they are non-hatefully and non-homophobically welcome in your church, as long as they do not actually demonstrate outwardly in any way that they are gay? What does it say to the gay teenager in your youth group that they can be a part of the Body of Christ as long as they stay in the closet? How will they apply that limited and conditional love and acceptance to their understanding of who Jesus is? How will your condition that she or he remain closeted at church compel him or her to remain closeted elsewhere; how will it affect his or her mental health, self-image, and ability to function in daily life?
These are the questions that we need to be asking, and that requires us to go beyond where we are. That requires us to go beyond what the United Methodist governance system is designed to do, to be honest. These questions require personal relationship, deep trust, covenant accountability that goes beyond following the rules, and an unrelenting commitment to speaking the truth in love.
I am not accusing anyone of being hateful or of being homophobic. I am just asking us to confess that there are people who are. And furthermore, to consider how our words might be fuel for the fires that drive them.