It's no wonder that my LGBT friends have often questioned my sanity when I have talked about my Christian faith. They were even more surprised when I eventually decided to go to seminary. Why would I want to be part of a religion that has caused LGBT people so much pain, and that has contributed to LGBT youth suicides and broken families and outright persecution of LGBT people?
My answer was and is simple: that is not Christianity.
I want to be a part of the voice of real Christianity that is focused on following Jesus. I want to be a part of God's mission of wholeness and justice for all people. I want to help people understand that being a person of faith does not mean being intolerant and bigoted.
But as a Christian activist for sexual justice, I've discovered a problem. When LGBT Christians ask for justice, we are often shamed by other Christians. We're told, contrary to what Lilla Watson said, that our liberation is NOT bound up with others'. We are told that other justice issues like poverty, or immigration, or hunger are more important than LGBT equality, as if those issues aren't our issues too.
President Obama has announced his intention to issue an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people in their hiring practices. Shortly after, on July 1, a group of faith leaders who are generally close to the President wrote to him, urging him to include a religious exemption in his executive order. They wrote, "…[W]e are asking that an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identity and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need."
They aren't the only ones. A group of 125 religious leaders organized by the National Association of Evangelicals sent a letter to President Obama on June 25 asking for a religious exemption. And the media reported that Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, was gathering a group of faith leaders to send a private letter to President Obama arguing this executive order “would create many problems for the important work faith-based communities.”
Let me say this clearly: Discrimination is not a Christian value.
LGBT equality does not come at the expense of Christian communities whose religious identityand beliefs motivate them to serve those in need. It does come at the expense of so-called Christian communities whose identity and beliefs motivate them to choose discrimination over serving those in need. If you choose discrimination over helping people who need food or shelter or clothing or medical care or anything else that you can provide, that's on you.
I can’t abide this zero-sum mentality that we can’t possibly focus on poverty, war, food insecurity, AND equal rights. Because that kind of thinking is not Jesus-thinking.
Jesus-thinking is this: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Jesus-thinking reminds us that there is enough—enough grace to forgive our enemies, enough bread to feed the crowd, enough love to sacrifice our very selves for the greater good.
Those of us who are working for God’s realm on earth have to stick together when we can because it’s hard, dangerous, risky work. It’s hard to trust that there really is enough love and justice to go around.
But there is enough love and justice to go around, and justice is not served unless we are working for everyone's liberation.
That's how Jesus operated, and so should we.
I am grateful that 98 civil rights leaders and 100 other faith leaders, including the president of the Religious Institute, have sent their own letters to President Obama outlining a truly Christian position on LGBT employment discrimination.
As Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary, said, "A growing multifaith movement of religious leaders is helping the faithful understand how religious teachings and texts compel acceptance—and celebration—of LGBT people and relationships, not rejection.”
Nothing less is acceptable. Nothing less is Christian.
Join our chorus of Christians as together, we proclaim: discrimination is not a Christian value! Pledge today to end discrimination against LGBT people.
Photo via flickr user More Good Foundation