Will Anyone Care?
If, like me, you would like to see the Evangelical church fully welcome LGBTQ people, do not argue Scripture. Instead, spend your time studying church history and cultural anthropology. It will be a better use of your time.
As the Pulitzer Prize winner E. O. Wilson has written, humans are the only eusocial species that believes an enemy is necessary for a tribe to survive. Religion has been especially adept at creating enemies where none exist. There is no surprise in this behavior. It has been happening as long as there have been religions.
If you peruse church history, however, you also see the church never gets too far behind the culture at large. Because he believed the earth revolved around the sun, the church forced Galileo into eight years under house arrest. When was the last time you saw a church supporting the notion of a geocentric universe?
Though it took 100 years, the church eventually came around on slavery. Through the middle of the last century, Evangelicals would not allow people who had been divorced into church leadership. When is the last time you saw a divorced person barred from Evangelical leadership? The Bible says more about all of these subjects than it says about LGBTQ issues.
When we adopted our daughter from India 37 years ago, we became a transracial family. Some Christians from my Evangelical community believed we were “mixing the races,” which they saw as against the teaching of Scripture. I haven’t heard that complaint lately. As with so many other subjects, the Evangelical church eventually embraced transracial families and moved on. True, it is taking longer to see women in Evangelical leadership, but the trajectory is clear.
When it comes to marriage equality and other LGBTQ issues, the story will be the same. There is no evidence that living out one’s sexual or gender identity harms anyone. The only argument they have for rejecting the LGBTQ community is their own interpretation of a handful of Bible passages. That is not enough to sustain their opposition.
The Evangelical world is struggling, but change will come, because the Evangelical church is nimble. It does not have the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church or mainline Protestant denominations. Those institutions can take decades, even centuries, to pull the lever on change. When Evangelicals decide to shift gears, it happens fast.
Today’s influential Evangelicals are entrepreneurs who cut their teeth in a free market economy. They understand market share. Their leadership is lean and adaptable. Their roots do not extend to Rome or Canterbury. Their roots reach back to iconoclastic firebrands like Jonathan Edwards and Dwight L Moody. They know how to attract and keep a crowd. And they know when it is time to move on.
The activism we see today is a last gasp. Large Evangelical churches have been among the loudest supporters of the recently enacted hate laws in Houston, North Carolina and Mississippi. But if you look more closely, a greater number of influential Evangelical churches have remained silent. One megachurch senior pastor recently said, “I know when it comes to marriage equality the culture has moved on, but my money hasn’t.” Many of these churches are lying low, waiting for the opposition to die down before they begin playing catch up.
LGBTQ issues in the Evangelical church will not be decided in the theology departments of Evangelical seminaries. They will be decided in the boardrooms of today’s religious influencers, America’s large churches. And the decisions will ultimately be pragmatic. If we are patient, the landscape will change. We will be fully welcomed into these churches. I suppose the question is whether or not anyone in the LGBTQ community will care?