Friday, March 27, 2015

Progressive Christianity: Loving Gay Christians

I've just finished reading Rachel Held Evans' chapter titled 'Adele the Oxymoron'. It was a short chapter, but it worked for me.

Rachel met Adele through her blog when she wrote a comment that attracted Rachel's attention. As a result, they struck up a friendship. That's when she learned more of Adele's story.

The more we talked, the more I learned about what life is like for gay and lesbian people who are followers of Jesus. The more I learned, the less I felt I knew. The less I felt I knew, the more I listened.         
As a fellow writer and friend, Adele inspired me to reexamine some of my assumptions.         
Being inspired to reexamine our assumptions is almost always good. Actually, it's a sign of humility. (The proud never think that they are wrong.)

So, first, here's a bit of Adele's story as Rachel recounts it. She grew up having crushes on other girls. But she felt the pressure to fit in and so she 'repressed those feelings'. God moved in her life, and she became a Christian during her college days. She attended a Christian graduate school where she had 'an on-again, off-again physical relationship with another woman'. She was told by her counselors that the relationship had to end because it violated Scripture. As a result, Adele worked hard to be rid of her same-sex attraction. As she puts it, she 'was determined to try to pray away the gay'. She tried all sorts of things from prayer to fasting to conferences and more. But in the end there was no change. So, as Adele recounts it,

I felt like a failure. I became deeply depressed and tried to kill myself, which twice landed me in a psychiatric hospital for over a month. It’s not that I really wanted to kill myself; I just didn’t want to live this awful life. Sometimes I self-mutilated by hitting myself because I seethed with so much loathing and disgust for myself. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t change.
And here's one result of all of that.

For a long time I despised God and the Bible. The Bible has always been used as an excuse to treat me with hatred and revulsion.

And that gets me to the first thought that hit me as I read this chapter. What happened to Adele was wrong. It would be wrong if rank pagans treated her in that way, 'with hatred and revulsion'. It is worse that Christians did it. It is shameful that Christians would treat this sister in this way. Here is someone who was struggling with something and needed to be loved. She needed her fellow Christians to hug her and cry with her and encourage her and guide her.  It is sad to say that there are many who are like Adele, Christians who have been treated so poorly by other Christians. That is so wrong and the Church needs to repent of it.

Here is the second thought that hit me as I read this chapter. While we all should feel deep compassion for Adele and the many others who, like her, have struggled so, that does not give us the answer this question: What does the Bible teach about our sexuality? That's a separate question. It's important to be aware that whatever the answer to that question is, it does not change how we are to love and care for our brothers and sisters. Love is to be the hallmark of the Christian Church. But love does not define truth. Having a deep concern and love for someone, whatever the problem that they struggle with, will not tell us what it means for them to follow Jesus well. Only the Scriptures can tell us what following Jesus looks like. What is needed is careful study of God's Word so that we all might be faithful disciples of Jesus.