The most memorable class I had throughout my college experience had to be my ethics class. I’m a relatively big nerd so the ethical debates and controversies are more than enough to peak my interests, but that isn’t what made it memorable; it was the way that my professor addressed the ethical topics that made it unforgettable. Dr. Davis attacked each topic with the innovation, excitement and energy any college student would hope for. He also approached the topics different from any other professor at my Christian University. He often had us debate topics without using the Bible. We had to rely on our worldview, prior knowledge and critical thinking skills to debate topics of Christian importance through a lens of morality, as opposed to theology. At the time, I didn’t fully understand how to do this or why it was even relevant to me or us, but with some recent events, that experience has proven itself more than useful.
Over the past few months some Christians have made national news for their comments about homosexuals and gay rights. Past that, the gay rights debate has heated up in a negative way and it has further come to light just how far apart the LGBT community and the Christian community actually are. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ track “Same Love,” off of their critically acclaimed debut record “The Heist” raised plenty of eyebrows in the Christian community. Macklemore raps:
“The right-wing conservatives think it’s a decision
And you can be cured with some treatment and religion
Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition, playing God
Ahh, nah, here we go
America the brave still fears what we don’t know
And “God loves all his children” is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written thirty-five hundred years ago
I don’t know”
These bars ruffled more than a few Christian feathers and had many in the music industry (and America in general) standing and cheering. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson made news by sharing his crass beliefs of homosexuality. He ignited a nation wide debate as to what is right and wrong concerning gay rights, with much of this light shinning overly negative on the conservative (“charismatic” as their labeled politically) Christians. Most recently, Bizzle joined the debate with his response to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love.” He also made big news in the negative light with his brash comparisons and aggressive presentation. Many news outlets, including the Huffington Post, caught wind of the song and commented using Bizzle as an example of bigoted Christians striking again.
Watching these events unfold and listening to the commentary surrounding it has clearly shown that the LGBT community and the Christian community couldn’t be farther apart on this issue. To make matters worse, these two communities can’t talk and share beliefs and opinions at all without it being a demeaning, mudslinging and disrespectful argument. I don’t believe all hope is lost however, I truly believe that a common understanding can be reached between the two communities. If not that, at least a more civil and respectful way of presenting opposing sides. But, it has to start with us. Christians have to be the ones who step out first in trying to bridge this gap. It won’t be easy and it will be different, but it is definitely possible. Here’s how.
How Christians Can Approach Gay Rights
Understanding the Nation We Live In
This is a tough and touchy topic to navigate, but to say it bluntly, The United States of America is not a “Christian” nation. I know this doesn’t seem like a grand revelation, but let’s unpack this idea. If this country was founded on Christian principles and ideas (which is relatively debatable) then as it sits right now, we are farther than ever from that. This means, if the idea of America being a “Christian” nation is no longer true, this changes a lot of the traditional ideals that the Christian community has clung to and have used as a defense. This would then mean that applying a Christian standard and universal law or fact in a non-Christian country, to non-Christian people, becomes a violation of their individual rights as Americans to have an expressed belief. This is true just as much as it is a violation of our rights to take away our freedom to practice our religion. Accepting the premise that America is not a Christian nation leads us to the obvious question of “What is America?”
The United States at its core was meant to be an accepting and tolerant country. One that encourages freedom, no matter the package that it comes in. Originally, the pilgrims came fleeing from religious persecution in the hopes of being able to express their religion freely. Our Constitution clearly states that people are free to believe and practice any religion as they so choose. I understand that homosexuality isn’t a religion, it’s considered to be a lifestyle, but because it is a core belief (and it doesn’t bring harm to anyone or violate anyone else’s rights) then it is covered as a freedom they can rightly express. Whether we agree or disagree in the beliefs being expressed do not matter because we have to offer the same respect and tolerance that we demand from everyone else. This understanding has to become more of a priority for the Christian, because how exactly can you fight the fight God intended us to without having a clear understanding of the circumstances in which you fight?
Understanding the Way Christians are Viewed in this Nation
Just as our nation has grown and changed, so has the perception of Christianity and its beliefs. Christians were once viewed with respect because of their morality, but that no longer seems to be the case (especially in the political world). Christians now seem to be viewed as narrow-minded, traditional and judgmental. This is clearly a brash generalization, but it is something I have heard time and time again, and has become the narrative when a Christian speaks out against something they consider wrong. Since some Christians have taken aggressive (and some would consider disrespectful) approaches to things opposite of their beliefs, the perception of the Christian community has turned into a negative one.
This is an important concept to grasp because if we as Christians can understand how we’re viewed, then we can adjust our message to change the perception and gain more traction with the overall message. I get that “perception isn’t always reality”, but I think that just opening up our minds to how this perception can harm our message, makes the understanding become that much more important. I also understand that the phrase “adjust our message” can be a bit scary, but I mean adjust in reference to tone and delivery, not in compromising the overall message. If we as a community can clearly express our belief’s (when prompted outside of the church) and share the love of Christ with everyone, that will go a long way in changing the perception of the Christian church. If we can change the overall perception of the Christian church, then we can bridge this ever-widening gap between the LGBT community and ours.
How Do We Bridge the Gap?
This is where things can become particularly difficult and frustrating. Trying to bridge this gap may seem impossible but I think the value of it is well worth the effort. It all starts with acceptance. By acceptance I don’t mean a co-sign or an agreement with their actions. I more so mean a general acceptance that the LGBT community is allowed to believe and live how they want (as long as they don’t bring harm to others). With this acceptance, then comes respect. Respecting one’s beliefs and lifestyle are fundamental ideals in America. This leads back to an earlier point about not speaking out against something a religion calls wrong unprompted (or outside of that church or fellow believers). I’m not saying to never say you disagree with someone or to not vocalize that disagreement, but I’m saying that to just offer up your disagreement with a lifestyle or belief can be seen (and taken as) an unprompted attack. This makes it difficult to have conversations and open dialogue about issues.
With acceptance and respect, then comes love. Love is so important, more so now than ever. People who don’t know Christ need us to love them, not condemn them. We have to show them that we love them regardless of how we feel about their actions. If we can do that we can start to bridge this gap. If we can bridge this gap, it makes our country a better place and allows us to share our beliefs and message onto willing ears.
My goal here is not for an overnight victory. It’s not to call a single person or group of people wrong. It’s not even to be the savior of the LGBT community. My goal is to try and bring people together. Just because Christians believe different than people in the LGBT community doesn’t mean there should be this wide of a gap between the two. Love, communication and relationships can still be built even though there is a disagreement. Fruitful relationships can flourish in spite of differences in religious, political or lifestyle beliefs. I don’t expect this to change overnight, and I understand that these two communities may never come together but that is no reason not to try. Changes like this don’t come easy or quick but the benefits of coming to a mutual understanding and respect far outweigh the negatives.
Why this is Important
This is so important to me (and our community) because this is the fundamental message of Christ. When Jesus walked this earth, he did it with love, acceptance and grace. He did share his views and never compromised in them, but he also reached out to everyone. I believe we can do the same. I believe we can reach out and love the LGBT community without compromising in our beliefs. Showing their community the action of love the same way God showed us, is what this world needs and the exact reason why we are here. We are to show love to people, not save them. We are not saviors, God is the only savior. I believe the way we do our job in this time is by understanding the time we live in, understanding where we fit in and communicate our beliefs respectfully and clearly. That means standing in the face of persecution and rejection. This may not be a well-received message or approach, but that should have no effect on how we act and move as Christians. As a community, we should move exactly as Christ moves, with the purpose of communicating and giving his love to all people.