…but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. Acts 10:28(b)
Loving everyone is not affirming. Why would I pick Easter Sunday to write about this? Isn’t this one of those holidays where we invite our friends to church? Isn’t this one of those days where we talk about loving everyone? Why yes, it is. That is why it is exactly the right time to write about this. So, now let’s get into the meat of this topic. Let’s expose some lies the church does very well. Let me paint a picture for you.
A church member, let’s call her Martha, invites her coworker to the Easter service. He, let’s call him Steve, is openly gay. He naturally has some concerns about going to Martha’s church. So, he asks the obvious questions. What does your church think about gay people? Martha gives the canned response, “at my church, we love everyone”…” at my church everyone is welcome”…” at my church, you are free to come as you are.” Steve has heard this before. He knows that it is probably not true. He thinks to himself that maybe this time it is true. After all, Martha has been very nice. He relents and says he will come.
Easter Sunday comes. Steve shows up wearing something maybe a little wilder than usual. Martha gives him a quick look over with a slightly disappointed look on her face. Steve looks down at himself and asks if this is not OK? I thought you said I would be welcome as I am. Martha laughs it off quickly and says something like “of course, of course, everyone is welcome here.” As Steve looks around, he notices the glaring difference between what Martha has said and what this congregation looks like. Everyone is dressed nice. They all look like clones of each other. Steve begins to get nervous and thinks that this was a mistake. But he is here now. Might as well make the best of it. He sits with Martha and her friends. He overhears her explain to one friend in a whispered tone. “This is Steve from work”…and then in an even quieter voice “he’s gay.”
Steve is not dumb. He has been in this type of place before. They don’t really love everyone. You are not really allowed to come as you are. They don’t really welcome everyone. Well, maybe they do in the beginning. Then comes the talks. Then comes the lectures. Then comes the “helping”. Then come the questions. Does god really want you to be gay? Don’t you think that maybe this is just a spirit of homosexuality living in you? Steve knows that he will never be more than another conquest for these people. He will never be accepted the way he is. This is another church in a long list of churches that says they love everyone, but that is a bald-faced lie.
Let’s finish the story. Steve sits beside Martha for the entire service. He has to admit, the preacher did a good job. He said the right words. He brought about the right emotions. He created a sermon that was moving. He talked about love. He talked about acceptance. He talked about coming to Jesus just as you are. Steve understands what the pastor is doing. This isn’t a sermon. This is a sales pitch. The pastor knows that he has more people in his church today than any other day, except maybe Christmas. He needs to work extra hard today to convince these newcomers to come back. He needs to put a little love in their hearts along with a healthy dose of conviction. The pastor is laying the groundwork for long-term change in these “heathens” hearts. Steve can see through the bullshit. Steve can see through the façade. This is not Steve’s first rodeo. Others have tried to “save” him before. Why do I still go? Steve asks himself. The same reason people still buy lottery tickets. This one just might be the one. This might be the million-dollar ticket. Unfortunately, Steve can also see a fraud a million miles away. Sadly, he realizes that he is sitting next to a “friend” all be it a “work friend” that in all actuality does not truly have his back. Martha is another one in a long line of “friends” that think they can fix Steve. Steve sighs, looks down at his feet, and quietly gives up on another friend. Oh sure, he will still be cordial to Martha at work. But just like many times before, a little piece of Steve has broken. Another layer of shame had been added to hide his pain. He scratched off the thin film on another lottery ticket only to find underneath was just plain paper with no winning numbers. At the end of the service, Martha asks Steve what he thought. He tells her he thought it was fine. He says something like “I will see you tomorrow at work.” Martha invites Steve to a Sunday brunch some of the church members are going to. Steve makes an excuse that he has stuff to do. Martha says something like “well, maybe next time.” Steve nods as he walks out of the church. Dejected, Steve heads home.
Sadly, this scenario is far too common. This scenario is the rule, not the exception in almost every church. Don’t get me wrong. I think churches should invite people to their services. Especially services that are deemed more “important” than other services. This is an opportunity to talk with people that the church doesn’t always get to. But the church has failed more than it has succeeded in this area. Loving people is not enough. Welcoming people is not enough. Accepting people is no enough. And it has to start with the leadership of the churches. I am speaking to you now, pastors, elders, leaders. It is time to change from saying empty words and showing love in your actions. Dare to step up and proclaim that your church is affirming. Dare to step up and proclaim that there is nothing wrong with being gay. Dare to step up and partner with the LGBTQ+ community. It has to start from the top. It can’t be platitudes anymore. That thin veil of untruths no longer holds water. It is no longer enough to quietly sit on the sidelines and hide behind phrases like “we love everyone right where they are”. That is just code for “but at some point, we will try to fix you”
So, I write his on Easter Sunday with a request for Pastors in the coming years. Do better. Be better. Love better. Accept people better. We have a long way to go to heal what the church has done to the LGBTQ+ community. But, it is our responsibility TO BE BETTER.
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