This I Believe: The Church Faces a Massive Problem

I believe that within the Christian collection of scriptures, what Christians call The Bible or Old and New Testaments, there is fundamental truth. I think even many skeptics could be convinced of that if it weren’t for this massive problem. This problem that stands between many people and the opportunity to explore that fundamental truth is a whole bunch of stuff we have made up.

Over the years, we have made some interpretations of what parts or all of these scriptures mean. That got codified by theologians and church leaders and made up on the fly by preachers in hundreds of languages around the world. And then we Christians got to fighting about whose interpretation is correct. This has been going on for centuries and has become a big problem. And, it is a problem that appears to be getting worse. It is a problem that is keeping people away from this fundamental truth. Unfortunately, it is even worse than that. It is a problem that is hurting people.

There are plenty of biblical scholars who have studied scripture far more than I have and many self-proclaimed experts who have studied far less. Nevertheless, I’ve read and studied the Old Testament (otherwise known as the Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament (the uniquely Christian texts) in prayer, study, and preparation for preaching and teaching.

I learned enough Hebrew and Greek to read some of the texts in their original languages. I have also read the whole thing through from the beginning to end at least twice in a relatively short period (90 days) to get a feel for the overarching story, message, and truth. I have a seminary degree, have been ordained by The United Methodist Church, and spent about 12 years working as a pastor. Still, I don’t consider myself an expert, but I wanted you to know that I have put a little time into this thinking.

Given all that I have read and studied, it has become clear to me in my understanding that the creator revealed to us in the Bible, the one revealed in that fundamental truth, would look upon the ways we are treating our LGBTQ fellow humans and not be pleased.

Some within the Christian church believe that only heterosexual or heteronormative people are worthy of the full measure of our creator’s unconditional love.

And, if you are ready with your pithy, “Oh, God loves them, just not their behavior,” I will offer my reply and save you the trouble.

First of all, being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer is not a behavior.

Goodness, turn off the TV and do some actual research.

Second, when you love in the way scripture describes, you love the whole package.

You may disagree with me on how the Bible describes the creator’s love, but that is my belief. It makes sense. I have two boys. I love them so deeply that I will love them no matter what they do, AND I will love them for whatever they become.

This does not preclude me from attempting to intervene if I feel they are going astray. I may get frustrated, upset, or disappointed. But I will get over it because that is what loving my children means.

We may even become estranged if being around my boys brings one or more of us harm but not even separation will change my love for them. As I read and understand, God is far better at that kind of love than I am.

Oh, but what about sin? Sin is defined in scripture in the depth of a long list of Hebrew and Greek words carrying multiple meanings, words often only understood in the context of the original author. Sin is woven through the entire Christian Bible. I am somewhat convinced that those who speak about sin the most fail to understand the complexity of the topic. But if you want to talk about sin, let’s talk about sin.

The sin I see is the wrath that some who call themselves Christian are pouring out upon the LGBTQ community. So let’s talk about sin, taking people who are already struggling with discrimination, hatred, and violence, leading to depression and suicide, and trying to make it worse by telling them that God thinks there is something wrong with them—shame on you.

There is good news, though. A clear point I take away from my time with scripture isthis: the creator is always on the side of the poor and oppressed. That truth is woven throughout the whole of the Bible. It is like a beautiful golden thread of truth.

God is never on the side of the powerful. I look at scripture, and I look at my LGBTQ fellow humans, and I know that God is on their side. I don’t need any other evidence other than what I see. I see how we who are in power are treating them.

If anyone takes the time and energy needed to trudge through this, it is possible the Christian Correctionalists (I just made that up, but I like it) will be along soon to tell me the errors in my thinking. Before you reply with chapter and verse, just know that I believe the labeling of Bibles with chapters and verses may be a giant mistake. No doubt, it is great when you want to look deeper into the words, but it may give the reader the impression that it is just a bunch of pieces. However, it’s a whole thing, and you have to read the whole thing to have any idea of what it is about.

To the LGBTQ community, I tremble when I include you in my words because I know how much harm words can do, even if well-intentioned. If I have written something insensitive, false, harmful, or just plain wrong, I hope you might gift me by telling me. You shouldn’t have to. I should know better. But I will listen. And I don’t expect you to be friendly or polite. You shouldn’t have to worry about my feelings when I failed to worry about yours for so long.

4 comments

  1. Good to hear from you, Will. It was my sons that revealed Godly love to me much in the way you describe. I would like to offer a different take on your comment, “I [we] should know better.” I’ve heard this numerous times regarding different issues. The affect it has typically had on me is shaming me into silence, which simply leaves me ignorant and confused, which leads to frustration, embarrassment and eventually, anger. Then, feeling shamed about my anger, the cycle starts all over again, To me, grace is a two-way exchange in relationship. The more “shoulds” we include, the less room there is for grace. Why can’t we, on both sides of every issue, exercise patience to educate, and humility to be enlightened? I think the shame is not in ignorance, but in refusal to see and to hear each other “because [The Other] should know better”. Namaste. 💕

  2. Hi! I agree with the sentiment. Still, I was careful to say that “I” should know better. I included that because I am convicted that I should know better and that the amount of grace and patience that has already been made available to me has been more than enough. In this case, at least for me, I am not owed any more patience by an oppressed community. They have suffered long enough. Perhaps others are in a different place. Grace is always a good thing, but I need to be careful not to use it as an excuse.

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