They Took a Stand
Their choice made all the difference. They did not have to take a stand that would prove unpopular in the world they inhabited, but they did. They did not have to make a decision that would cause their churches to lose money and people, but they did. They chose to boldly follow their hearts and minds, even if it affected their wallets. To whom am I referring? I’m talking about Christian leaders from the evangelical world who chose to become LGBTQ affirming. They chose to do the right thing because they had become convinced it was the right thing. There is a word for that – character.
I am talking about friends in the Open Network, like Mark Tidd, Rachael McClair, Ryan Gear, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Jen Fisher, Ben Grace, Travis Eades, Jonathan Williams, Ryan Phipps, Stan Mitchell, Colby Martin, Josh Scott, Fred Harrell, Charlie Dean, Laura Truax and many more who took the first stand, the one with all of the consequences, the stand that initiated a movement.
There are a lot of us who serve alongside those named above, but we didn’t really have a choice when we took our stand. Traditional evangelical churches rejected us just for being who we are. If we wanted to serve in God’s Kingdom, we had to find churches willing to take us in. Those named above, and a whole cloud of others, invited us into their churches, where we found acceptance, love and hope.
As you might sadly expect, I have been the recipient of a new wave of vitriol unleashed by those empowered by the candidacy and election of Donald Trump. I can weather the attacks, though to be honest, I am appropriately frightened. I knew I had detractors. I did not know how many. Now, more than ever, I am indebted to these courageous pioneers who come from a long line of those who followed Jesus and protected the oppressed, even if it meant following Jesus to the cross.
Of course, evangelicals opposed to LGBTQ rights also believe they are following Jesus to the cross. I understand they have their theological convictions, but I might ask, “Who are the oppressed for whom you stand?” Some would say they are the oppressed, the ones whose worldview has been challenged. I don’t see how you can claim to be the oppressed when you hold the power. Maybe they mistake being uncomfortable with being oppressed, I don’t know. Again, I don’t begrudge them their convictions, just their claim to be standing up for the oppressed.
I do know my LGBTQ friends make evangelicals uncomfortable. They do it through the integrity of their lives and the fruit they produce. It is not supposed to be like that. We are supposed to be devoid of character and lost in debased behavior. But we are not. Evangelicals opposed to the LGBTQ community (which by the way, does not include 51 percent of Millennial evangelicals) have a choice. They can change their minds or they can dig in their heels. As recent events illustrate, doubling down is what they will do. They would rather die than change. That is not following Jesus to the cross.
I stand in awe of those who have come alongside me in these times of trial. I am humbled by their support and moved by their love. Their love is not idle words. It has arms that hold me, feet that walk with me, eyes that cry with me, and hearts that are unyielding.
Shortly after the election, two of my dear friends were greeted by a homophobic slur as they shopped at a Denver store. Though they had experienced such treatment when they lived in the south, this was the first time it had happened in Colorado. Upon hearing of their frightening experience, one of our friends, Eric Jepsen, took flowers to their home and penned a note of support. His note even used a hidden acrostic to redeem the slur hurled at them. Eric’s wife, Jen, has been one of my fiercest protectors. She knew Paul, but she moved through her discomfort to embrace Paula, and I don’t know what I’d do without her.
Eric and Jen and that cloud of witnesses named above, these are the people who stand firm against the evangelical white tide of prejudice. They just stand there and stand, defiant and strong. And that, my friends, is what Jesus looks like.