And Know My Heart, I Pray
Last week it was my privilege to present a workshop at the national PFLAG conference in Nashville, Tennessee. PFLAG is a non-profit created by parents and family members of lesbians, gays, and transgender people. PFLAG is story based. They believe if families tell their stories, friends and neighbors will listen and the world will change. I believe they are right.
When an enemy is “out there,” it is easy to vilify them. But when that person becomes human, all but the hardest hearts begin to reexamine their opposition. When I preached at Highlands Church in Denver in August, I looked out over an audience of several hundred people, a sizeable portion of whom were gay or lesbian. About sixty seconds into my message I almost had to stop and gather myself. I saw mothers and fathers holding their children, showing a powerful passion for Christ, filled to the brim with love for one another. I tried to imagine Jesus standing before that audience and saying, “I am so sorry. Satan has deceived you. You are all headed to the fires of hell.” There was not one tiny piece of my heart that could imagine such a Jesus.
I know some of you can, in fact, imagine that Jesus. I invite you to stand before that same audience and preach. Pick a favorite passage on a subject that does not address the sexual identity of the audience. Speak for 25 minutes, talk with the audience afterwards, and see if you do not find your own theology to be troubling.
Too often we act as though our theological positions are without real world consequences. Until you walk a mile in the shoes of another, your theological positions are just that, positions. Until they become people, they have not faced the litmus test of conscience. “Could it be there is nothing wrong with these people? Could it be my hermeneutic is askew, and not this dear person’s life.”
At the PFLAG workshop I spoke to dozens of moms and dads and other family members of LGBTQ individuals. Most in the room called themselves followers of Jesus. One after another, with tears in their eyes, they told their stories of rejection, of churches casting out their children. In the name of Jesus they had all been hurt.
I know many of you reading this blog are disappointed I have taken this stand. But I invite you to listen to the stories these people tell, and see if your conscience is not pricked to its core. Once your conscience begins to fight with your belief systems, feel the cognitive dissonance. Don’t run from it. Ponder it. This is how, over the centuries, the church changed its stance on slavery, women’s rights, interracial marriage, divorce and remarriage, and a plethora of other issues.
At the end of my talk a gentle 74-year-old man talked about his 32-year relationship with his husband. He asked if I knew about a megachurch in his city, one I do know well. He said, “There is a young man on the preaching team who is a marvelous communicator and seems like a good human being, but his arrogance is unbecoming.” I knew of whom he spoke and could not disagree. On this subject and others, his arrogance is unbecoming.
I would love for this sweet man and his husband to become friends with the young, gifted pastor, and sit back and watch what happens. That is how lives change, one relationship at a time, arrogance replaced with understanding, judgment replaced with love.
And, God willing, so it goes.