A Welcome and an Expiration Date
I do not understand how Christianity went from a religion of love to one of conditional judgment. Rather than listen to the Jesus who talked about loving enemies, we somehow gravitate toward the desert religions and their economy of scarcity. Only a few can win. Everyone else must lose. The problem is no one wants to admit they see life that way. They want to project a different image, one that includes a warmer embrace. They know their judgment is a marketing problem and a public relations nightmare, so they feign acceptance. But in so many ways that embrace is disingenuous.
Christians often tell us God accepts us as we are, but we are also clearly informed if we do not change to become what the powers that be want us to become, we will ultimately be rejected. The window open for the required change may vary from one Evangelical camp to another, but in all of them it eventually closes with an ominous thud. We are left on the outside because we did not perform as expected. Love does not win. Judgment wins.
We have recently seen many Evangelical churches telling the LGBTQ community they are welcome just as they are. What is reserved for later is the more ominous message that unless they change their fundamental identity, their welcome has an expiration date. These churches have every right to hold their opinions, but I wish they would stop their bait and switch tactics. Put the expiration date in large letters on the outside of the package. Warning: Unless you stop your sinful behavior, God will not allow you into his heaven.
In my neck of the woods, the senior pastor of one megachurch spoke from the pulpit about his acceptance of a transgender member, and even wrote about it in one of his books. Yet he later informed her she was living a sinful life. I have no idea whether the decision was his or was handed down from the church elders, but the bottom line is that a woman was horribly misled.
I was asked by a social service agency to vet an Evangelical pastor who wanted to provide services to the agency. I decided not to waste anyone’s time and forthrightly asked, “Do you believe all homosexual relationships are sinful?” The pastor said, “We judge no one.” I politely suggested he had not answered the question.
I asked again, “Do you believe all homosexual relationships are sinful?” After half an hour of evasive answers the pastor finally admitted, “Yes, I do.” I thanked him for his honesty. He expected me to argue that his church should be fully inclusive. I said, “You have every right to hold whatever position you want to hold. You are a smart guy and this is an independent church. But we cannot allow you to host meetings with gay teens in the agency office when we know eventually, some day, somewhere, you are going to tell them acting on their homosexuality is a sin.” I have not heard from the pastor since.
To all who want to show your “acceptance” of LGBTQ people, but know good and well your theology is not going to change on the subject, do everyone a favor. Please stop leading these people on. These souls want a church family who will love and accept them as they are. They do not need to hear you tell them about your struggle with being overweight, or your inability to eliminate your lusts or control your anger. They do not need your evasive metaphors. They need the truth. If you cannot accept their sexuality, let them go. Please.
10 thoughts on “A Welcome and an Expiration Date”
This is very timely. I just had a conversation yesterday with a a fundamentalist Christian. He went on to say how he loved and accepted the lesbian folks in our organization and then followed up by saying that it was sin. I thought for a second that it might be worth forwarding this blog to him. Just for one second…
This once again is a timely blog. I was recently invited to have lunch with a former classmate of mine who wanted to discuss my “choices” that I have made. He informed me that “gays” were welcome in his church, in spite of their “choice” and we wanted to discuss our lives growing up together. I told him I would love to have lunch with him but I feel the only choice I made was to live an honest life to give glory to God. I feel my life has been stolen to some degree by our brotherhood but I must move on and grieve the loss and find what God wants me to do with the time that remains for me in this world. Thank you Paula for hitting the nail on the head each and every time and may God bless your Boldness and Courage in our Fellowship that is just beginning to open the doors to us. David
Amen! Thanks, Paula and Leland.
Great post! I love that you call out the real issue here. I feel thankful for my distance from the American church and these types of issues, but I know that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist…
Are you coming in November with Jen and Eric?! I hope so! We are looking forward to meeting you and hopefully showing you around. 🙂
Hope you are having a good week!
Wow, Paula! You really took the gloves off this time! The message of Christ is NOT ambiguous, as an old hymn that’s been going through my head states:
Sinners Jesus will receive;
Sound this word of grace to all
Who the heavenly pathway leave,
All who linger, all who fall.
Sing it o’er and o’er again;
Christ receiveth sinful men;
MAKE THE MESSAGE CLEAR AND PLAIN:
CHRIST RECEIVETH SINFUL MEN.
Your words are worthy of an Old Testament prophet,
calling the New Testament church to repentance . . .
Do we know when change will happen? Living in the context of the church is it not possible for both sides of the issue to gain respect and a new perspective? Maybe you have all the right answers already and the rest of us are still on a journey? How do I know what, when or how I might change my mind on this issue or any other? So by your advice — just put out the unwelcome sign? Can I not be sincere and uncertain at the same time? Do I have to accept your position because you said “It is so.”? Did it take you 63 years to get to where you are and I have to get there right now? I am trying to listen, I really am!
Notice I am not suggesting anyone become inclusive who is not able to do so. I am suggesting if we are not able to be fully inclusive, we simply state it clearly, up front, and unapologetically. We owe that to the LGBTQ people among us.
But my question is how do I know if I will be inclusive or not? Would not my experience give me a better perspective? So my only choice is to be unwelcoming or be all inclusive? That just sounds too narrow. Isn’t that the danger in loving someone — feelings maybe hurt no matter their orientation. I think C.S. Lewis addresses that idea in the Four Loves. If you love there is a possibility to be hurt. But not to love is to cut yourself off from the world. “The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.” p.169 I understand you are not suggesting we must be fully inclusive but your only other suggestion is — be unwelcoming — there has got to be something in the middle.
That’s helpful Buddy. I decided not to address that issue in this post, but keep it to those who knew where they stood but weren’t very open about it. The truth is that if someone does not know where they stand – truly and honestly – I have absolutely no problem with them saying that. If the lgbtq person is also confused, they can study it together. That’s a lot of the approach of Justin Lee at gaychristian.net, and I deeply respect their ministry.
I am not a trained theologian. That may explain why the discussion of sin has always confused me. I studied it greatly when I transitioned from male to female. My conclusion was that, in Christ, the discussion of sin is moot. All have sinned and all sin is the same in the eyes of God. Sin’s hierarchy is a human construct. In my analysis, either the Blood cleanses all sin or it cleanses none. If it cleanses all, there is no sin for those in Christ. And if there is no sin, what is there to judge?