I grew up in the small town of Wiarton, Ontario. Like many other towns, it has a small population (2,291) yet contains at least 10 distinct churches. Growing up, I had many people (classmates and adults alike) lecture me about not going to church. However church had no attraction for me, especially as those I spoke to didn’t seem interested in inviting me to join the church as the body of Christ, but only to tell me why their church was superior to everyone else’s, and to make sure that I started going to the “right one”.
Any person with this attitude gives me a great deal of concern, for the damage they do to the global church body by believing that their way is the only way. It damages relationships, and it stunts potential spiritual growth. I began to avoid the company of people who would try to lead me to join their church, no matter how well-meaning their invitations may be. It was only until college that I met a chaplain that was a leader at Fanshawe, and through many conversations and cups of coffee that I explored my spirituality, and ultimately became a believer in Christ.
As I continue on my journey, I have become more and more concerned about the damage the church does when it chooses to condemn. Living in Wiarton, I encountered many forms of prejudice, but perhaps especially homophobia, and most especially from those that I consider to be the most devout church-goers. This always surprised and appalled me, because the impression I had from my limited understanding of the Bible was that Christ had died on the cross for all people and all sin, and that all were welcome to partake in and share the Good News. In my child’s mind, these two realities shouldn’t have anything to do with each other.
It wasn’t based on real-world understandings of homosexuals. Several of my classmates have come out since graduating from school and moving from Wiarton. Unfortunately the atmosphere there was far too oppressive for anyone to be willing to be open about their sexuality while still there. It seemed no one that I knew had encountered a “real” homosexual, they only knew that the Bible told them (and often, their priest/pastor preached) that it was a sin.
All too often, the Bible is used to denounce behavior we disagree with by lifting convenient passages and quoting them out of context (a topic I covered in a previous blog post). All too often, passages of the Bible that call all that follow Jesus to stand up for the oppressed are omitted or ignored so that those that practice it may continue to feel their prejudice and judgement is Biblically supported. Jesus teaches us:
“Do not judge, or you too shall be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all a time there is a plank in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 NIV)
As well, there are the Beatitudes of Jesus, that present Christian ideals of love and humility, mercy and compassion. They are:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those that are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 5:3-10 NIV)
I firmly believe that Jesus would have us stand up for our LGBT brothers and sisters, instead of being part of the force that stands against them. Before the Pride London parade, I happened to meet Karen Low from Sabbath Place, and heard her pre-parade sermon delivered in Queen’s Park. She was kind enough to share her sermon notes with me, I’d like to share a portion of it here.
In a few moments we will take to the street to take our place amongst our community, wearing the colours of the rainbow and claiming our identities. On this day we will march, banners flying, declaring our pride in who we were created to be. We will dance in sheer exuberance and irresistible joy as a living vision of justice and equity; all will be welcome, all will be included, all will be safe. We will be every size, colour, gender and type, each with the right of self-expression, each with the right to love and live and be free. We will look around and see the beauty of creation on every face and in every heart. We will feel uncontainable wonder at the truth within us and around us…
And as we gratefully look into this circle of the spirit, we also turn our attention outward to see the millions who live lives of quiet desperation, to feel the suffering of those who exist without freedom, to hear the cries of those who struggle against the bars of injustice, praying and striving for the realization of that day when love becomes a palpable force in all lives and where all people know of their essential unity.
Here at home as well as all around the world, the LGBT community continues to be oppressed, partially by Christians, despite the fact that sexuality isn’t a choice someone makes for themselves. As we contemplate Karen’s message, we must remember Jesus’ message of peace, love, acceptance and understanding. I believe that Christ would have us stand with our LGBT brethren, not against them.