Sooner or later it’s going to happen. It always does.
History teaches us that eventually justice comes where injustice has reigned for so long, and with it too so do the oppressors’ apologies to those who they’ve victimized. This is true of nations, governments, institutions, corporations, and individuals.
And so often these expressions of culpability and regret arrive posthumously, when many generations who deserve to hear them have long passed, when they cannot benefit from the admissions of those who’ve hurt them. Restoration for these folks, is impossible.
That’s precisely why the Christian Church needs to apologize to the LGBTQ community and those who love them now, and save so much any unnecessary future suffering.
Though many of us have already figured it out, I believe that day is indeed coming when all Christians will realize just how terrible we as an entity have been to gay people, when we come to grips with our misplaced focus on sexuality, when we’ve properly fathomed the cost of our conduct and fully realize the terrible damage we’ve done to the queer community in the name of God. In that day, we as a Church will be contrite and remorseful and with great sincerity we’ll ask them for forgiveness.
And for so many good, loving, faithful LGBTQ people and their families who’ve been the recipients of our systemized and sanctioned bigotry and fear—it will be too little, too late.
The Church should be brave enough to speak now; those of us within it who are presently committed to diversity without caveat or condition or prerequisite—or delay. We who claim Christ and who believe the Church cannot fully reflect him until it loves all people well, need to say such things loudly and clearly in these moments. A generation needs and deserves to hear that they are equally loved and valued, not after a lifetime of unnecessary heartache, but to prevent one.
Martin Luther King Jr. was right, the arc of history does bend toward justice, and right now we’re in the middle of such grand, undeniable movement; in Supreme Court decisions and denominational shifts, in local congregations and high-profile spiritual leaders. Most importantly, this beautiful revolution is happening in the very hearts of millions of Christian people who desire a Church that better represents them. If this includes your heart, may this conviction move from there to reach your voice and hands as well.
To those whose eyes are fully open to what God is doing in the world, we can see that day just off in the distance.
We’re surely heading toward a time when all people regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation can worship unfettered and without restriction; where LGBTQ Christians are simply welcomed and celebrated in their communities of faith. While to some, this kind of radical hospitality feels unprecedented and seems radical, Jesus showed us this way two thousand years ago. His ministry was expectation-destroying and scandalous, and startling in its openness to all people and its refusal to cater to the elite, powerful insiders. It sanctioned none of the moral gatekeeping and bullying and segregating and barrier-building that has marked so much of Christianity’s recent history.
The Church then, needs not so much to move forward by abandoning tradition, as it needs to look back and recover the heart of the Christ which is the tradition; one we’ve discarded for decades, in favor of a manufactured culture war over sexuality and sky-is-falling hyperbole over LGBTQ inclusion in the Church. It has been a costly, wasteful, violent diversion from Jesus’ vision for the world, and Christians’ place in it as physical manifestations of his compassion and goodness and mercy.
We need to claim ownership of this, apologize for it, and repent of it—and the reasons are quite simple:
We’re wasting time. Generations of people are being born and living in deep and urgent need of all sorts, and we’re allowing the Church to be largely consumed by a battle that doesn’t rid the world of the smallest bit of hunger or poverty or injustice or war or hatred or greed or suffering, but only promotes division and perpetuates damage to people who are seeking to willingly come alongside the Church (or to live peaceably away from it).
We’re obscuring the message. People outside of the faith (and many within it) are weary of our seeming preoccupation with people’s bedrooms and body parts, and realize just how inconsequential it all is in view of the massive adversity we face in this life, the greater needs of our shared humanity, and the priceless opportunities we have to build something beautiful together. The Church’s focus on issues of sexuality has simply caused us to lose the plot.
I realize there are many people of deep faith reading this, and you still hold an orthodox understanding of sexuality. You are still carrying the teaching you have grown up immersed in and you see the idea of apology to the gay community as a willful rebellion against God. I can only tell you that I wish for greater things for you. I pray that you one day see what so many of us are seeing as we too seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus; that we have really missed the mark and squandered precious time and lives in the process.
And to you who do see, I say again, be loud. Speak the words you feel compelled to speak, because I assure you there are people all around you in your faith communities and homes and workplaces who feel exactly what you feel and who are waiting on someone else to say it first. So say it.
Once communities evolve to embrace greater civil rights for all people and become more inclusive, they rarely go backwards unless overcome by some irrational prejudice or fear. We as the Church are not moving toward a place of less affirmation of the LGBTQ community, but a place where this will eventually be a non-issue; where the gifts and inherent value of all people are the given that we move forward in.
Until that day, in these moments may we as the Church learn from our history regarding the treatment of people of color and of women, and may we be prophetic enough to see where we are headed and act now with boldness and Grace. For the LGBTQ people and those who love them who share this very time and space and breath with us, let our learning (and our apology) not come posthumously.
There is great living to be done together.
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