Note: This blog is in response to, “An Open Letter To The Gay Community,” posted at the link below on September 21, 2017. The author is anonymous. To read the original letter, click here: http://thefreedomsproject.com/open-letter-gay-community/
I came across your letter while scrolling through my feed one day on social media (Facebook, to be exact). I clicked on the link and read it because one of my social media “friends” had made a point of stating that the letter was “exactly” how she felt about the issue. To be honest, I looked at it and my browser crashed (as Firefox sometimes does), and I was not able to retrieve the link again. I didn’t remember who posted it. It wasn’t a social media friend I was really “friends” with, so that meant whoever posted it didn’t stand out. There was no rush of people sharing this letter. To be honest, I think many people are tired of the back and forth on the issue. They are tired of fighting and arguing over it, and their answer is, sure, they might like something when it comes along, but they don’t go looking for it anymore. No matter how anyone feels about LGBT issues, they are a part of our world, they are here to stay, and no amount of protests, letter-writing, or blogging is going to change that. Things are the way they are. And maybe, in the heart of hearts of many on this particular issue, that is what the issue is.
I don’t have all the answers for everything, and I am not going to attempt to answer everything. That’s not my job, nor is it my place. I believe you have the right to feel as an American and yes, even if I sincerely disagree with your position, you do have the right to feel as you do as a person, even a human being. Yet as I read your letter, even now, I am deeply disturbed at the approaches you have as a Christian.
By writing this letter, you made yourself a “spokesperson,” using the pronouns I, me, my, and we, extensively throughout, as if you are speaking on behalf of all Christians. I’m not calling you anything; I am not calling you a bigot (the example I use below with that term is not geared at you, I am just making an example); I am not discriminating against you; you wrote the letter, you authorized it to be published; and by doing so, that opens the door for disagreement, and for counter viewpoints. I am using my own blog, just as you used the one that you published your letter on, to state, as I do, as a Christian, where the letter, and the posting, was both problematic, and in error.
Once upon a time, I probably felt much like you do. I didn’t know any better. I grew up in some of the most conservative denominations in existence. Until I was 28 years old, most of the churches I attended were against women in ministry. Gay marriage and gay relationships weren’t something we talked about much in those days, but when they started to come to the forefront, they were something that all those churches were against, too. Christian media still abounds with outdated or inaccurate information to try and disprove the veracity of LGBT relationships. It was a part of my Christian “meme.” It wasn’t something I was interested in learning about or exploring. It was nothing more than another thing I just assumed was a part of upholding the Bible, a part of adhering to a Biblical faith, and that being “against” it in all forms was a part of defending that Biblical faith.
The more I learned about the Bible, the more I came to understand what it says and the more it transformed me, the more that I learned I was being self-centered. I was worried about me, about having to change who I was, about having to be different from other ministries, about having to stand out, about maybe dealing with that I might be rejected. I didn’t want to have to learn something new. I wanted to be fine as I was and how I saw the Bible and my faith to be adequate. I didn’t want to change.
I, me, my. That’s all I said, and as one who said it, I am very attune to hearing it. Let’s not forget, He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:33).
What I didn’t realize (and what it is obvious that you do not, either) is that how you feel about this issue is making you an ineffective witness to the faith. You are stating your position and not considering that there is a flaw with your own witness. It’s not about people being LGBT, it is about you, and how you understand and live your faith.
It’s easy to want to sit back and say that you want to ensure you look after your own self and your own happiness. It’s easy to say that you want to feel respected and comfortable. It’s easy to say you want to be good with your own decisions. The problem with all of these statements is that they are self-centered. They aren’t Christian understandings. I don’t hear God in any of your concerns; I hear you. In the first two paragraphs alone, you use the pronouns, “I, me, my” fourteen times. This is a reflection of how you feel, of how you perceive the world and how you feel about it; it’s not about God. I hear the fact that an LGBT world is not a part of your “meme” and you feel that somehow respecting a different perspective (because it is not respected) is going to somehow invalidate what you, yourself believe. I hear that you want what you believe to be your final word, your final authority, and you don’t want anyone to challenge that. You know fully well in this world, that does not happen and that is not the case, and for you to say “this is how I feel” and that to be the end of a matter is not realistic. If, indeed, that is how you feel, you are going to have to find a more honest defense. If it’s how you believe, then you say it’s how you believe; but don’t blame it on Christianity, and certainly, do not blame it on the Bible.
In America, we are very into our “rights” and upholding those rights. We see those rights as entitlements, as things we’ve got the right to claim because they are “ours.” In fact, within American culture, we are so into “our rights” that we have forgotten much of Biblical principle is about laying down “our rights.” Sure, we have the right to be angry, we have the right to be a bigot, we have the right to feel however it is that we feel about anything. We have the right to say anything and to believe anything. That is the general consensus of what it means to be an “American.” Yet when we become a Christian, doesn’t the Bible tell us to lay much of this down? Doesn’t it tell us that while yes, we might have the legal right to be hostile, or indignant, or unkind to others, that we shouldn’t exercise that right? Does not the Bible tell us that we should lay down our flesh, lay down everything within us that wants things our own way, and handle things in God’s manner? Just because something, such as speaking how you feel about something, might be your “right,” does that mean voicing that opinion is done with a godly intent?
In your posting, you stated: “Bible becomes your physical connection to God. It is our history of the world and our guide to Christian living and wellbeing. it is our safe haven…” Ma’am, the Bible is not our physical connection to God. It is not a history of the entire world. God is a Spirit; not a book. I have no desire to minimize the relevance of the Scriptures in our lives. I recently heard a minister literally tear apart the Scriptures from stem to stern, and I had a real issue with what he said and did. It grieved me. I don’t believe that the Scriptures are of no importance, and I certainly uphold their divine inspiration, but I also don’t believe the Bible is a physical extension or substitute of God. The Bible itself was never intended to become such a vast extension of God in this world; it was intended to be a record. The Scriptures themselves warn us against physical images, because they become idols. It’s a written work of the history of salvation, of the beautiful way in which God has reached out to humanity and that record reminds us that God is reaching out to us, today, even now. The Bible is not a safe-haven. God is our safe-haven. The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is the One Who is here, with us, to bring God to our awareness, to make us aware of His presence. All of that is found in the Bible itself. But if that is the way you are feeling about the Scriptures, you aren’t finding, nor discovering God, within them. If all that reading the Bible does is lead you back to yourself, and your own defenses, and doesn’t challenge you to grow and to examine how you treat others, then you aren’t handling it in a way that leads to life.
The Scriptures state that we are supposed to look after and love our neighbor as ourselves. When these matters were presented in Leviticus 19 and later in the New Testament, they were specifically referring to groups that had differing practices, beliefs, and perspectives than the Israelites. In essence, the laws of God and the Scriptures today were saying the same thing: treat your neighbor who is different from you in the exact same way you would not just treat those who are like you are, but as you would treat yourself. While there were points in the law that might seem to contradict this point, those laws were specifically written for Israel, not Israel’s neighbors, in dealing with Israel. It doesn’t mean we uphold these laws verbatim today, but that we learn more of what they were about and what was being taught, because context is essential, and is everything. Therefore, if loving your neighbor as yourself is part of the essence of the entire law, we now understand it in a Christian context: we must desire for our neighbor to have exactly what we would have, even if it means we have to sacrifice ourselves in order to have it. We trust that that love, that willingness to treat others right, is a major source of spiritual revelation and one that will open the door to witness, more than just with verbal evangelism, to change lives. It means we consider the comfort and decisions of others as equal to ours, even if we do not agree with them. It means we are uncomfortable and don’t always feel respected. We surrender our will to be right and our position to be supreme because we represent something greater and more powerful than anything, any issue, we might face on this earth.
Love is the cessation of war. If you do not want to be at war, learn how to put yourself aside and your own personal need to defend what you believe and have that validated so you can witness to others.
Nobody is trying to take away your beliefs; I am certainly not. No one is trying to force you to feel other than what you believe. But the reality is that Christians are always challenged because Christians are the ones who claim to believe in what I just spoke of. We are held to a higher standard, one that expects when we say we love others, we really mean it, whether we agree with what they do, or not. Somehow, some way, Christian bakers seem to be able to pull themselves together in order to make wedding cakes for Muslims and Hindus and atheists and pregnant, unwed teenagers or couples who have lived together forever without being married, but a gay couple wants a cake, and it is suddenly an assault to belief. This is not genuine belief; this is, at its heart, the very definition of discrimination. If it’s really about belief, then there will be a mighty short list of people such a company is willing to service. No, it’s about something else; it’s about picking and choosing the way that the Bible is understood to fit a bigger “meme,” if you will; a bigger picture, a bigger concept of comfort and a desire to remain as one is, without ever having to challenge that view, so one can remain the same.
Being on the other side of discrimination, genuine discrimination, is a hard and hurtful thing. I have met LGBT individuals who were thrown out of their homes, rejected by their families, thrown out of their churches, beaten, abused, fired from their jobs, thrown out of schools, and treated with contempt and disdain, all because they don’t fit into the bigger “meme” of someone else’s life. They weren’t given the chance to speak up and asked that everyone “agree to disagree.” They were told hateful things and treated with contempt, just because they are gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual. It wasn’t their opinions that people disagreed with; it was a part of who they are. There is no one, nowhere, who can tell me that the way these individuals were treated was or is right. But stick the fact that these things were often done in the name of the “Bible” or “faith,” and you have the situation we have today. People bicker and fight over this or that, but where are the people who are willing to lay down their lives – their need to be right, their flesh – to love others as they love themselves?
We can’t compare drunkenness, incest, or adultery to this issue because it’s not drunkenness, incest, or adultery. Nobody seems to have a problem witnessing to alcoholics, or to those who are incestuous, or those who are adulterous. Most churches go out of their way to talk against non-judgment and consider all the reasons why those issues are front and center in people’s lives. This matter within the church is its, own, and I’m not talking to a drunk, one who participates in incest, or an adulterer. Right now, I am not even talking to someone who is LGBT; I am talking to you, about your issues, about your perspectives, and about the fact that you have justified the way you treat and view an entire group of people based on your personal feelings about them.
And that is wrong, no matter how you want to spin it. If the issue is not special, as you seemed to indicate in your letter, then there should not be such a special backlash and defense against it. LGBT individuals should be treated by a Christian person the same way that everyone else is treated, without an “I, me, my” or a “but.”
I don’t have all the answers; I just know that I’ve studied that Bible and that it tells me the Gospel is for everyone, and that every last one of us needs it, because every last one of us is a sinner. That means no matter who I deal with, whether they be LGBT or not, I am going to treat them the same. I will rejoice when they rejoice, I will mourn when they mourn, I will love them just as I love everyone else. I will strive for a greater understanding of the Scriptures, because there is still so much about them we don’t know and don’t understand, and are still learning.
The issue isn’t really LGBT rights. It’s not really LGBT individuals. It’s not really the issue itself. It’s not even about loving God; because God has told us if we love Him, to care for others. The issue is whether or not we are understanding who we are supposed to be as Christians and how we can properly live our faith in a changing world. I want to learn; I want to do; I want to go. What about you? See, the problem is that nobody is asking you to choose between God and LGBT individuals. God certainly isn’t. In the Scriptures, in the Bible, He’s already told you how you are to treat others who are different from you and how loving them is an extension of your relationship with Him. The one who is making the contradiction, or the challenge, is you. It is my prayer you will delve more into the Scriptures to learn about just what He has to say to you, in this hour, and that He will reveal you, to you. That revelation changed me. Maybe it’s time for you to take the plunge and go to the uncomfortable, challenging places to learn what being a believer means beyond the ordinary and the comfortable.
If there is any way I can ever serve, I am here for you. God loves you, and He is here for you, too, when you are ready and willing to look at yourself.
(Apostle) Dr. Lee Ann B. Marino, Ph.D., D.Min., D.D.
Apostolic Fellowship International Ministries
(c) 2017 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.