Loving LGBTQ+ Neighbors

I’m just going to jump right into this- I am a celibate gay Christian. I came out of the closet a little over a year ago. I told my school that I was gay in a newspaper article about my theological views on same-sex relationships. Then, I told my family in a series of letters. The people that God has placed in my life have been nothing but supportive and affirming in my journey. My close friends have created space in their lives for me to discuss the tension I feel between my faith and my sexual orientation. I have been covered in love since I told everyone about this piece of my life. For me, coming out has meant being supported on a deeper level by close friends and family. This is not the case for many other LGBTQ+ teens and young adults.

For many, coming out of the closet means a lifetime of rejection from their parents. For others, telling people they’re gay means years of torment from their peers. And tragically, for countless teens across America, coming out of the closet is a death wish. Bullying from students, parents, teachers, and church members alike has led to the unfortunate truth behind the suicide rates of LGBTQ+ youth.

This is not comfortable for us to come face-to-face with, but it is the harsh reality we must face. I think that too many Christians give a default response to the LGBTQ+ community, saying that they disagree with their lifestyle. However, teen suicide is not a matter of whether or not you support same-sex relationships. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a much higher risk for self-harm and suicide than the average American. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight youth. And those that have been rejected by family and/or friends are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBTQ+ youth who have not been rejected. The statistics go on and on.

I am not okay with this- nobody should be. There are not as many statistics about this, but I would not be shocked if many teens who have been rejected by their families have grown up in a church. That saddens me. As Christians, it is our duty to love our neighbor regardless of the circumstances. Love is patient and kind. Love is not self-seeking, it’s not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Why doesn’t that description of love define how we treat members of the LGBTQ+ community? Why is it that so many young people are rejected by their families, bullied in school, and feel little to no support?

There is a misconception among Evangelicals that the legalization of gay marriage has made LGBTQ+ among the widely accepted group of people, with Christians being the ones who are persecuted in schools. I graduated public high school as a Christian in the #1 most post-Christian city in America. The “persecution” I faced was at its worst, a teacher asking me not to reference the Bible in a research paper, or a group of students mocking my disagreement with abortion. This is hardly persecution. I was not “out” in high school, but I watched my gay and lesbian friends become the victims of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. In fact, a huge reason why I did not tell many people in high school that I was gay was because of the bullying that my friends faced, as well as the fear of being rejected by my own church.

We as humans cannot not communicate. We communicate through our affirmation and rejection, through our hugs and our glares, and through our vocalization and through our silence. The heaviest of these (in my opinion) is silence. When we see the statistics and meet the faces of rejection and then say nothing, we are contributing to the problem. We need to listen to our LGBTQ+ neighbors. We need to see them as Christ sees them- as people. Silence dehumanizes people because it often communicates that they are not worthy of our time or attention.

What I’m not saying is that you need to change your theological stance and affirm same-sex relationships. I simply believe that you can be loving to the LGBTQ+ community and still hold your theological views. I think what stops a lot of Christians from loving their queer neighbors is the fact that they do not affirm same-sex relationships and don’t want anyone walking away with the impression that they do. I believe in my heart of hearts that you can absolutely be conservative in your theological views and still be safe and loving people for LGBTQ+ friends to come to in a time of crisis. All it takes is a simple, “I love you”, or listening to their stories without a prepared statement of the doctrine that you subscribe to. Whether or not you agree with same-sex marriages is a highly debated, theological discussion. The concept of loving your neighbor is not.

I think the church needs us to step up and speak life into situations, especially situations covered in suicide and despair. We can speak life by telling our neighbors that they are so loved and valued by the King of Heaven, that they have been wonderfully made in the image of their Creator. We can speak life by telling them that Jesus died on a criminal’s cross in order to bring us life and salvation. We can speak life by making ourselves safe people to talk to. But the narrative that says the LGBTQ+ are our enemies and people to be afraid of has not produced good fruit. Condemning them before they even get a chance to speak has led to the untimely deaths of many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens. Again, this is not me saying you need to change your theology. This is me saying that your views about what God thinks about same-sex relationships should not create a blockade in the way of Christ’s love for the outcasts.

If you’re interested in my theological stance:

http://www.houghtonstar.com/2015/11/14/the-missing-voice-lgbt-discussion/

 

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