Recently someone told me that despite their beliefs about gay marriage, they still felt they could welcome LGBTQ people and show them the love of God. I’ve heard people say this many times and it’s always made me uneasy. This time in particular upset me because I happen to know that at this person’s church there was a family with a Queer teenager who left because of the attitudes of the leaders of the church. I know that this person means well. I know that they sincerely believe that the Bible condemns people who are gay. I know they think they are offering the best compromise they can.
But here’s the thing: it’s not loving, and it’s not welcoming. When someone is told that who they were born, something they cannot change about themselves, is a sin, they do not feel loved. When someone is told that God loves them BUT in order to truly know God they must put aside their “sin” and either remain celibate or pretend to be something they are not, they do not feel welcomed. As my friend and colleague once said, you cannot thrive in that situation, you can only survive.
Celibacy is not an option for most people. Even Paul believed that only certain people are called to celibacy and it is better for people to marry if celibacy is not their calling (1 Corinthians 7:1-7). Being gay is not a sign that you are called to celibacy. LGBTQ people cannot choose not to be queer either. If you think they can, try being gay for a few weeks and then come back and tell me how it worked for you. Reparative therapy, changing someone’s orientation through prayer and therapy does not work. It only causes emotional distress from being told that something they cannot change is keeping them from the love of God. LGBTQ youth who are rejected by their communities are more than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide as their peers.
Church, if you are driving people to attempt suicide, you are not sharing the love of God.
Imagine for a moment that the Bible says only people of a certain height can know Jesus Christ. If you are short, imagine it says only people over a certain height (and vice versa if you are tall). You cannot change your height. You could slump and crouch, or you could wear high heels, but the reality is you can never actually change your height. Now imagine you were told by the church that despite your height, God still loves you, and wants to know you, if only you can change your height. Would you feel welcomed? Would you feel loved? No, you would feel as though you will never be part of that community. You would curse God for making you so tall or so short, for preventing you from having a relationship with God. And you would leave. You might look for a church that tells you all heights are created and loved by God. Or you might turn your back on God entirely, because why bother trying to be something you are not.
When you tell LGBTQ people they must change to know Christ, you are telling them to change their height. When you think loving and welcoming them is “helping” them turn away from their “sin” you are not being loving or welcoming.
I do not believe being gay is a sin. I believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were punished for being cruel and inhospitable and wanting to rape strangers. I believe that the verses in Leviticus and 1 Corinthians and Romans are written to prohibit the pagan practices of male shrine prostitution. I don’t believe that Moses or Paul understood homosexuality as we understand it today. If we ignore the context in which scripture was written, if we ignore the cultural norms, taboos, beliefs, and practices which would have informed the understanding of the original audience, we run the risk of distorting the Word of God.
God created each and every one of us, including LGBTQ people, in God’s image. To quote one of my favorite musicals, “God don’t make no trash.” When the church denies that God created LGBTQ people as they are (yes, even creating transgender people to be transgender), when the church says they must change to be accepted, there is no way to claim the church is also being welcoming and showing the love of God.
 Bare, A Pop Opera follows the story of two gay teenagers in a Catholic boarding school