The tragedy at Pulse in Orlando hit me hard. But just like my heart was lifted by the overwhelming majority of my friends who changed their profile pictures to rainbow flags when gay marriage became legal nationwide – I’ve been engulfed in the shared pain and loss of the people in my community. I haven’t seen one friend share a link or post a status completely ignorant or hateful in the wake of the tragedy. I’ve seen expressions of pain and sorrow from all of my friends – especially my Christian friends who I’ve also seen apologizing on behalf of some of their ilk who sometimes use their religions platform to deliver messages of hate.
It’s a nice thing to see as a Mother who has always worried about her child’s safety, but now has news reports of mother’s discussing the last texts from their sons to go along with that worry.
But I do feel like I need to address something. I need to discuss language used by Christians who mean well, who I truly believe in their heart of hearts believe their words are full of love and nothing else. Language also used by politicians who have been asked about their previous stance against the legalization of gay marriage. Language also used by members of Congress who previously voted against equal rights for various members of the LGBTQ community.
It’s the language of Love masking beliefs of inequality. And it’s keeping the Christian community complacent.
Many struggling to rectify their social views of loving their gay friends and family, with their church views, have fallen back on some language that makes them feel like their professing love but they’re also not denying their church’s official statements on such issues. And I get it. I struggled with my conflicts with church for years. It’s hard sometimes to deny your church’s teachings when you love your church so whole heartedly. I loved my church. LOVED. I prayed the rosary every night. I wanted to be a nun. I understand the love you can have for God and for Jesus and how it can run through every molecule of your body. I also remember the pain of realizing my views conflicted with the views of my church.
Today there are churches around that profess their acceptance loudly: WE DO NOT THINK GAY LOVE IS A SIN!
But those churches are few and far between, especially in the South. And you want to stay with YOUR church. You love YOUR church and YOUR church hasn’t said that yet. And so you struggle. You love YOUR bible. It’s the word of God! You pray so much over it that it hurts. “Please, God, show me the way. I’m so confused.” Just writing that prayer makes me cry because I remember praying the same prayer for so long. And you deal with that struggle by using language around LGBTQ issues that allow you to speak the love you feel in your heart, without being in conflict with your church. I GET IT, I REALLY DO.
But we need to talk about the fact that the people on the other side of those words still see the message under the words, the hidden message that taints the love you think you’re conveying.
“Jesus did not judge or shun the sinners, he loved them all and so I do the same.”
I love this message when it applies to atheists like myself. I acknowledge that my lack of a belief in the Christian God means that I’m sinning in the eyes of many of my Christian friends, and that’s okay. I appreciate those who love me anyway, like Jesus would have.
But it’s not the same when your professing the same logic behind embracing your gay friends or family.
You need to understand that with statements like this you are still saying to the two women married on your street and raising a family: I believe the love you share with your spouse is a sin, but I will love you like Jesus would have loved you. And while you think you’re spreading a message of love to the gay community by committing to be more like Jesus and loving the sinners instead of hating them? You’re not. Because you’re still calling their love a sin. And that’s a painful message wrapped up in lovely words.
“I am a sinner too. Who am I to judge others when my sins might even be far worse?”
Again. If you’re delivering this message about someone who is addicted to gambling or meth, then I’m pretty sure they’ll stand by the implication that they are sinning. But if you deliver this message to a young man who recently got down on one knee and proposed to his boyfriend under the glow of the Eiffel Tower? That’s not the same. You’re still calling that love he has with his fianc? a sin. And calling someone’s love a sin is not, inherently, a message of love. Even if you’re calling out your own sins in the process. Your newly engaged gay friend does not want you to celebrate his engagement by comparing it to your bad habit of gossiping with the ladies in your book club.
“Just because I disagree with their lifestyle…”
I choose to not eat meat and I buy cruelty free cosmetics. Those are lifestyle choices. Loving someone is not. Reducing someone’s love to the word “lifestyle” is an insult. Sometimes people think who you love is a “choice” and it is to a certain degree. I was never attracted to the asshole I knew in college who said, “If I didn’t need my toilet cleaned or my dinner cooked I could totally be gay. Men are way cooler than women.” I chose NOT to be attracted to that guy, right? So maybe I could choose NOT to be attracted to women? Every Christian I know who believes homosexuality is a choice has an arsenal full of stories they know of people who “changed their mind” and who now say it was a choice. But once you feel love/attraction for someone, that is REAL no matter how many people you know who have told you that they thought they were gay in college but they’re really not. And that’s fine. Keep believing that those people telling those stories represent the millions of others who are never going to find someone of the opposite sex attractive. But know that the second you reduce someone’s love to a lifestyle choice? You’re not expressing the love towards them that you think you are.
“My mother was an addict and I loved her just like God loves her…”
I appreciate these sentiments demonstrating the power of God’s love and the power of your own capacity to overlook a huge sin to still love someone dear to you. I do. But equating the love someone feels towards someone else to being an addict…is just insulting. If you are using negative life choices and comparing them to the love someone feels to someone else, putting them on the same level of “sin”, then you are insulting the person doing the loving.
It’s simple, really. Members of the LGBTQ community – Queer, Gay, Trans, Bi – all of them…they want more than your love. That want equality. Not just legal equality. They want to be looked at as THE SAME and not THE OTHER. They want you to feel about them the same way you feel about cisgendered people in heterosexual relationships. When I married my husband no one said to me, “Just because I don’t agree with your lifestyle doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate your marriage and be happy for you!” And you can not, under any circumstances, give them that equality if you:
1) Believe they are choosing to be gay/trans and could just as easily choose not to be that way.
2) Believe the sexual relationship they have with someone of the same gender is a sin, or even watching something on the likes of a website such as shemale hd sex, is also a sin.
No matter how much you think you’re speaking the language of love and acceptance, you are not if those two things are still peppering your beliefs and your messages. The language of love is universal, although it can be quite a challenge to get through to someone who has a different mother tongue. I guess that’s why so many people try learning a new language, in order to communicate the message of love a little bit easier. That’s why the Effortless English Club can be so useful.
(Updated: If you believe these things, that’s fine. This entry isn’t for you. Feel free to continue using the fake language of love because it’s at least better than outright homophobic hatred. But, if you don’t believe either of those two things, you need to quit hiding real love behind this inherently judgemental language.)
It’s hard to change your mind or your belief about something. I grew up Catholic. Coming to terms with my lack of beliefs in anything even remotely close to Catholic dogma was a struggle. I would say words my church wanted me to say but in my heart I didn’t feel like I believed them. Then I started being open to my new set of personal spiritual ideations and suddenly I started feeling my words again. I started feeling the Faith behind my statements in my love of humanity and the ripple effect of Joy. But the transition is hard. And I have empathy for people who believe so wholeheartedly in the teachings of their church and struggle deeply with this one issue. But listen: you have choices that do NOT involve being an atheist like I am.
1) Loudly proclaim at every turn that you love your church and are dedicated to it but you don’t agree with their view on homosexuality and you want all of your gay friends and family to know that you don’t think their love is a sin and you’re hoping to be on the wave the bring change to the church. There are MORMONS FOR EQUALITY, so if people can push to be the voice of change in the Mormon church then anything is possible!
2) Find a church that supports the LGBTQ community by NOT believing that sexual relationships with someone of the same sex is a sin. And make sure YOUR church knows that’s why you’re leaving it.
IT IS SO HARD, I know. Church was such a huge part of my soul and disagreeing with my church was so painful I ended up leaving. But that doesn’t happen to everyone. I know plenty of Catholics and Mormons (I’m related to many of them!) using their love for people like my child to be the voice of change in their Church. I have Catholic friends who are pushing for the church to disavow the idea that gay love is a sin just like they disavowed the idea that women couldn’t distribute the Eucharist. (I was a female Eucharist Minister in a time when people would choose to go into a different line because me being female meant my body of Christ was not transubstantiated.) And I also know plenty who have simply found churches who don’t believe gay love/homosexul sex is a sin.
Because this fake language of love is keeping people complacent. It’s giving the illusion of acceptance without really accepting. Until you can say, “I love you because I believe God looks at you and I – and the love we feel towards our spouses – the exact same,” to the gay couple down the street…your language of love is tainted with judgement. And until the masses of people who really don’t believe gay love is a sin stand up in their church and admit that, the churches are going to keep preaching it’s a sin. And the profession of homosexuality as a sin is the foundation that radical hate is built upon. That may be a painful thing to acknowledge, but it’s true. Radical homophobic hate is build on teachings from religion. Until those religions teaching that message are the MINORITY, the hate is going to always find a fertile ground on which to grow.