Jun 05 2008
There Is Only One Side
She is not the other side of the issue!
That’s all I could think while the television cameraman put a wireless microphone on the woman, preparing to interview her.
She is not the other side of the issue!
The woman had approached our group, about twenty of us, as we held a silent vigil outside a concert hall in Columbia, South Carolina. She began to yell at us, wagging her finger, one hand on her hip.
“God hates you!” she cried at the top of her lungs. “Whoever told you God loves you was wrong. That’s a lie from the pit of hell!”
We were holding our vigil to protest the inclusion of an antigay gospel singer at a fundraising concert for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in September 2007. We were vastly outnumbered by the hundreds of concertgoers and Obama supporters who crowded around the theater entrance on the other side of the road. We had largely been ignored or simply stared at by those waiting for the doors to open. But we were this woman’s personal crusade.
“God made man and wo-man!” she proclaimed, leaning into her scolding like the mother of an unruly child.
News organizations from around the country were there to cover the controversy, and one by one, they clipped a microphone to this woman and rolled tape. She refused to give her name but was proud to spout her venom for the cameras. When a reporter finally asked me my opinion, I tried to explain that this woman did not represent the other side of the issue. The reporter wanted to know why.
“Because there is no other side to this issue.”
For years, the media have attempted to “balance” the “homosexual issue” with voices from the “other side.” That “other side” has traditionally been voices from religion, specifically the Christian religion. I’m not quite sure how religious voices got to be the “other side” of this issue other than that is the side that has screamed the loudest against the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people in church and society. Since that’s the only voice of opposition that has been raised, the media reason that it must then be the “other side” of the issue. What has resulted has been the false dichotomy of “gays versus God.” The media perpetuate the myth that either you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender or you’re religious, and never the twain shall meet. If they do, it’s the GLBT religious person that is suspect—or made to be an oddity—and not the non-GLBT religious person.
Religion is not the “other side” of the “homosexual issue” any more than people who believe in a flat earth are the “other side” of the global warming issue or any more than the Ku Klux Klan is the “other side” of the black civil rights movement. Despite the media’s relentless search for the “other side,” for some issues, there simply isn’t a viable “other side.” This issue is one of them.
If there really were an authentic “other side” to this issue, it would come from science. Alfred Kinsey, in 1948, theorized that sexual orientation is more fluid and more nuanced than simply heterosexual or homosexual. His research produced the Kinsey Scale, which traced sexuality on a continuum. Most people fall somewhere between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual. More recent research has produced strong evidence that sexual orientation (and often gender identity) has some biological roots. The issue of environmental influence is yet to be resolved, but science seems to be bearing out that GLBT people are “that way” because they were created “that way.” Mounting evidence convinced the American Psychological Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973. Scientists now understand that sexual orientation is not a religious issue but a biological issue that should be studied in a neutral and scientific manner—not through the lens of morality.
That’s not to say, of course, that being born gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender automatically confers morality. Heterosexuality is presumed to be an inborn trait, yet that, in and of itself, does not make a person moral. Some inborn traits are certainly harmful, such as a biological leaning toward addiction, disease, or mental illness. Sexual orientation itself, however—be it heterosexual, homosexual, or somewhere in between on the spectrum—is neither a moral issue nor harmful in and of itself. A person’s innate sexual orientation is irrelevant to concepts of morality.
The question of morality intersects with sexual orientation only in consideration of how we use our sexuality. The scriptures can be a valid guide here, but arguments regarding morality must apply to persons of all sexual orientations. The scriptures address sexual immorality in three main categories addressed: adultery, prostitution, and rape. Adultery breaks a covenant of commitment between partners, prostitution is the practice of using another person for sexual gratification, and rape is the abuse of another in a sexual manner. Eugene Peterson captures it perfectly in his translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 (a passage frequently used to condemn GLBT people) in The Message: “Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.”
Nevertheless, the Bible contains numerous accounts of people who behave immorally whose acts are not condemned: King David commits adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2–5) but is still identified as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Lot offers his daughters to be raped by the population of Sodom in Genesis 19 but is still counted as a righteous man by God (2 Peter 2:7). In Judges 19:14–29, a Levite visiting Gibeah is taken in by a farmer. Men appear at the farmer’s door threatening to attack the Levite. Instead, the farmer’s virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine are offered to the crowd, which takes the concubine and rapes her all night long. She dies from the attack. Yet none of these instances of heterosexual immorality is used to condemn heterosexuality per se.
Despite these passages of dubious morality, the Bible elsewhere condemns all forms of sexual abuse and the sexual violation of the covenant that exists between couples. Indeed, when the Bible speaks of relationships on all levels, the most blessed relationship is one of love: “If we love one another, God abides in us and God’s love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).
Love is the measure of all relationships; no mention is made of sexual orientation or even gender. If love, commitment, and fidelity are present, so is God, no matter what the configuration of the couple. Not one word in the Bible condemns loving, committed relationships. God calls us all, not just heterosexuals, to be moral in our sexuality—keeping our covenants and refusing to use or abuse anyone sexually. This is the only role religion plays in sexuality. It is a guide to responsible sexuality regardless of orientation.
Once we understand that there is no valid “other side” to the “homosexual issue,” our faith can grow and become bulletproof. When we hear arguments against us based on Scripture, we know they hold no water—they have no power over us.
You hold in your hands a guide to becoming bulletproof. Like any worthwhile undertaking, becoming bulletproof takes time. Simply understanding, on an intellectual level, what makes one spiritually bulletproof is only half the battle. You can have all the knowledge you want, but that won’t help you when emotions run high in an argument with friends or family. It’s only when we develop the heart knowledge of God’s unconditional and enduring love for us that we can become bulletproof—calm and assured even when emotions are high.
This book will guide you through the minefield of condemnation and persecution faced daily by GLBT Christians. Some of you may object to the concept of becoming “bulletproof,” arguing that the term is too violent or militaristic. However, I believe that the vitriol that stems from the deep homophobia of our society demands such a severe title. To survive the dire attacks our community faces, you truly have to be bulletproof or you will die—if not physically, then at least spiritually.
Let’s put it this way: What would it take for me to convince you to commit suicide? Let’s say I harangued you daily. I called you on the phone, text-messaged you, and sent you e-mails every single day telling you how worthless you are, what a jerk you are, how the world would be a better place without you, and how much God hates people like you. Could I convince you to kill yourself? Probably not. Instead, you’d probably think I was a kook and would get a restraining order against me. One person telling you that you’re worthless is simply a nuisance.
Now let’s say the message that you are worthless and hated by God permeated the society where you lived. You receive this message daily from your family, your friends, your church, your society, and your government. Day after day, you are told that you are sick and sinful, an abomination before God, and doomed to eternal damnation. In addition, your government denies you basic civil rights. That kind of constant abuse from the world could, very easily, lead to thoughts of suicide. At the very least, it could lead you to give up on God and abandon your spirituality.
The effects of this kind of ongoing social and religious abuse are real. The U.S. government issued a report in 1989 showing that gay and lesbian youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people and may account for as many as 30 percent of completed youth suicides annually. That research has been disputed and the numbers may be lower, but a 1991 University of Minnesota study of 150 gay and lesbian youths in Minneapolis revealed that more than 30 percent said they had attempted suicide at least once as a teenager. What’s not in dispute, however, is that stress, violence, lack of support, family problems, and substance abuse are prevalent in our community because society doesn’t accept us or support us.
To face this kind of society, we need to be bulletproof. We must realize that our enemies are real and are working not just to deny us basic rights in society but to annihilate us altogether. Becoming bulletproof is really our only viable option, or the result may be suicide—physical or spiritual.
We’re told in Ephesians 6:13–17 to put on “the whole armor of God.” That armor includes righteousness, truth, peace, salvation, and Spirit. It’s no coincidence that faith is our shield to “quench all the flaming arrows” that come our way. This is the ancient Christian equivalent of the bulletproof vest, and it had to be arrow- and spear-proof. Our modern-day shield of faith has to be strong enough to protect us from all attacks so that we emerge safe and secure. Without this shield of faith, we cannot survive as GLBT Christians in this world. As you venture into a world hostile to GLBT people, and especially GLBT people of faith, take this book as your guide, put on the whole armor of God, and become bulletproof.
Order Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians
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