As people who believe that Christianity has room for the LGBTQ community, we can be zealous about our efforts to win people to our side. We want people to understand that God truly does love everyone, that the Bible isn’t just a queer bashing book, and that people don’t have to throw away their faith to embrace their sexuality/gender. But in our zeal, we have to be careful not to fall into the same pitfalls as our more conservative siblings in faith.
Despite our best efforts, there will be people who don’t want anything to do with our faith.
Even though we know that God welcomes all at the heavenly table, God doesn’t approve or even need all of the methods that we use to get people to have a seat. As great as it is to welcome communities that have historically been oppressed in Christian spaces, we also have to remember that many people are not Christian simply because they do not connect with the faith. There isn’t a prayer that you can pray or a service you can plan that will change their mind.
This can be hard for us who work for Christian inclusion to come to terms with. While we work strongly against queerphobia in our midst, we often forget that Christianity has often been the carrier for a whole host of societal sins.
This is something that I had to learn over years of education, in and out of the classroom. While I didn’t grow up in church, my twenties were filled with evangelical formation. The impulse to “win” people to Christ (as if we were in a contest for souls) remained with me, even when my beliefs began to change. Despite my growing understanding of God’s expansive love, I still believed that Christianity was “right,” and that all Christianity needed was to add a few extra seats and extra meals to God’s table and we can go on as planned.
I was dreadfully wrong.
I see that now, and the past few years has been one of me reconciling with my Christian privilege and learning ways to not just sit people at the table, but flip the table over when quality love and compassion aren’t being served—even if it means I have to heavily critique the Church. It also means that I have to give people the space to distance themselves from Christianity because that may be the best option for them.
In our efforts to show the world that being Christian and queer aren’t mutually exclusive, we have to keep in mind that there will be plenty of people in the LGBTQ community who want nothing to do with Christianity, no matter how inclusive and liberation-themed we strive to make it.
While our intentions are good, Adam and Steve getting married in church does little to rectify the centuries of Christian-sanctioned empire, war, and death. It also does little to change how Christianity is still used in the public sphere as a stalwart of bigotry, racism, sexism, and a whole host of anti-Christ sentiments. And if we’re honest with ourselves, the institutional Church has frequently found itself on the wrong side of justice, frequently enough to warrant people looking for another religious path to bring justice into the world.
We also must keep in mind that Christianity was very often the religion of European domination.
People who are conscious of their ethnic group’s history are aware of the religions their ancestors practiced before the Christians came. Often, people reconnect with those belief systems in an effort to distance themselves from histories of violence.
God loves them, even though they don’t want our faith. I don’t believe that God is angry at their choice. As Christians, we should embrace and encourage people when they make this decision.
On a smaller scale, our efforts to present a more palatable faith produce the same errors as our more conservative counterparts. If we aren’t careful, we also can turn people into projects in the hopes that they’ll fill the pews of our latest liberal church. All the while, we forget that people have experienced sincerely deep church pain—historically and personally—which may eliminate their desire to be involved with Christianity at all.
When it’s all said and done, some people don’t connect with the idea that a Jewish man somehow facilitates a connection with God for them. In our advocacy, we have to make room for those people as well.
God’s love is for everyone; Christianity is not, and that is okay.
Also, as many theologians have pointed out, God is not a Christian. Christianity is one of many ways to understand and connect with the divine. It is our duty as Christians to love people right where they are, even if they never show up in our pews or want our faith. It’s the only true way to demonstrate love for all of God’s creation.
Photo via flickr user Diana Eftaiah