Loving All God's Children Equally

Today's church, the Body of Christ, is at a crossroads. Some denominations are trying to wear an accommodating mask under the guise of phrases like "hate the sin, love the sinner," but upon closer examination, we see that these words have a less-than-Christ-like tone.

How can love be a sin?

The "sin" here is love, a love that people have no choice about. My hope and prayer is for the church to fully embrace all LGBTQI people. This will have a dramatic impact for many, but most especially for our youth, who do not need to be shamed, "healed," or merely tolerated, but fully embraced and loved just as they are, beautifully created in God's image.

How should the church show Christ's love to all? What does that love look like for my gay brothers and sisters in Christ? How do we create a safe and inclusive faith community where all God's children can come together to worship? Today's church needs to address these questions.

I think all Christians can come together on the truth that God is love and God's whole Word speaks to His love for us and the love we should have for our neighbors. I know much about the outpouring of love: I was surrounded by a large outpouring of love from many after the death of my son, Tyler Clementi, most especially from the faith community that Tyler had called home for over 12 years.

They showered our family with great love and support after Tyler's death, and I am so very grateful for that.

After Tyler's death, in the silence of my shattered world, as I looked deeply into God's Word and listened, He continually and clearly spoke of His unconditional love for all. He spoke about how we should exhibit God's love to others with kindness and compassion, always seeking unity, giving life, being respectful and welcoming with hospitality and inclusion, always allowing everyone to be at peace with who they are and how God has created them, perfectly and wonderfully made in God's image. Why have we lost this message? The church must start to embrace these truths and stop preaching hate.

Sadly, as I look back—almost as if through Tyler's eyes—I see things so very differently now. Looking through the eyes of a far-less-mature believer, a child with many uncertainties, and a vulnerable youth with much less confidence in how his sexual orientation fit into God's plan or God's kingdom, I now see the harm and pain that is caused by the misinterpretation of scripture that homosexuality is a sin.

Regrettably, Tyler received a clear message from our faith community, whether it was in youth group, Sunday school, the infrequent short sentences that were spoken on rare occasions in the sermon, or maybe even the silence—the shameful, silent disapproval, and judgment of how God created him to be different. But Tyler got the message loud and clear, and clearly that is not a message of love for a young person sitting in the pews next to you.

I know Tyler received this message because when Tyler came out to me, he told me he could not be gay and a Christian.

Sadly, I too had received this message—almost without even hearing those few sentences occasionally preached. I too struggled. I knew without question that Tyler was a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. God had showed me that long ago, so I was stunned, my heart broken, when he said, "That works for you, Mom, but not for me." Sadly, the only words I had to share with Tyler that night were, "I love you, and so does God." I said those words out of love, but it has been pointed out to me that Tyler probably perceived those words as rejecting, since Tyler was not seeing God as accepting of his sexual orientation.

Faith communities must stop being the bully, exerting their power and influence over their members with such harmful doctrines. The church must stop teaching that homosexuality is a sin. Causing people to feel broken and separated from God because of how God has created them has devastating effects on our youth, as well as on their parents, siblings, grandparents and friends. Faith communities must stop interfering with legislation that would allow all people to share in equal rights, benefits and protections. By not recognizing the love of our gay brothers and sisters in Christ, we tell them that their love is not valid or valued. This causes our gay youth to also think that their love and possibly even they themselves are "less than" and not equal to their straight peers. This is wrong.

This message of disapproval is so very harmful—please do not let another child hear this untruth!

The answer is simple: We must reexamine those six scriptural passages with open hearts and minds and understand that what Paul was saying to first-century Christians does not translate to what we understand today in 2014 about loving, committed same-sex relationships.

We must stop judging, and we must stop imposing shame. The church, the Body of Christ, needs to acknowledge that homosexuality is not a sin. The church should apologize, put up a rainbow flag on their church sign and welcome all to God's family.

That is how to love our gay Christian brothers and sisters: Love them like God does.

Originally published on The Huffington Post; Image provided by the Clementi family

Comments (13)

"...always allowing everyone to be at peace with who they are and how God has created them, perfectly and wonderfully made in God's image. Why have we lost this message?"
We ave "lost" that message because that is not the gospel or the message of the Bible. Mrs. Clementi's well meaning but naive theology totally overlooks the Fall and its effects. We are not called to help everyone be at peace with themselves, and we are not created perfect. If we were, we wouldn't need a Savior! We are to call people to Christ, and that means renouncing sin rather than embracing it. We can and should have the debate about the proper interpretation of biblical passages on sexual ethics (far more than six of those!), but let's not so casually embrace everything that exists as being good. How could you condemn hate and intolerance unless you thought otherwise?

Thank you! I was raised in a strict Southern Baptist home and wasted more than half my life hating myself because I happen to be gay. I made multiple suicide attempts as I felt God hated me and I hated me so since I could not change me there was no reason to continue to live. I also turned to alcohol to numb the pain. I turned my back on God and hated religion because I felt that they both hated me so I had no use for either of them. I was in my late 30's before I finally started letting go of the hate and moving into self acceptance. Thankfully since then I have been blessed with Christians who actually follow Christs teachings and instead of spewing hate opened their arms to me in love and acceptance. Through them the wounds have started to heal but even today the scars are still there. I am so thankful when I see Christians like yourself who choose to send a message of love rather than hate. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" is a hateful message as I can not change the gay part of me anymore than I can change the color of my skin so when someone hates that part of me they are hating me. I have always wondered why if Christians actually believe in judgement day that they would choose to stand before God and explain why they drove people from him and into hell with a message of hate rather than stand before him and explain why they chose to love and accept someone and leave the judgements up to the one most qualified to do the judging, God himself. I am afraid that if judgement day is real there will be a lot of shocked "Christians" sitting in hell for all the hate they preached and all the people they condemned and hurt with their judgements.

From the 14th century mystic writer, the Cloud of Unknowing, tells us all we need to know to make the bible safe to read again "For He can be well beloved, but He cannot be thought. By love he can be grasped and held, but by thought, neither grasped nor held".
Theology is, after all, just a form of human thought, subject to error and confusion.

Thank you Ms. Clementi. I love your thoughts on this topic. It's painful that your remarkable son felt separated from a loving God. My faith is very important to me. Religion less so. People such as Andy who think they know more about the the love we feel in our heart from a Loving God play into that.

Please hear this as spoken with a gentle voice.

The universalist theology of we all are born in a state of condemnation and doomed to eternal conscious punishment is a theology that arose well after Jesus and the Disciples. It is contrary to the original Good News message that Divine love and grace is unrestrained and unconditional and that the Kingdom of God is here and now. The Good News preaches against the merciless wielding of power and wealth for political and economic self-enrichment. The Good News preaches for the people who have lives of debt and daily bread and who need peace, justice, and compassion.

The view that monogamous loving same-sex relationships are a sin has no biblical basis. The theology of blood, sacrifice, and atonement is abusive and is more about maintaining medieval social structures and protecting a powerful elite than it is about anything remotely approaching salvation.

Our gay sisters and brothers are not our enemies. Our gay sisters and brothers are not the scapegoats we send into the desert to carry away our sins of bigotry and willful ignorance and unholy exclusion. Our gay sisters and brothers are who they naturally are and they are OK and normal and healthy. They are not just like us, they are us. There is no secular basis or justification and there is no biblical basis or justification for the way we are treating, for the way we are abusing our gay sisters and brothers and it needs to stop now. Why? Because we do not treat people the way we are treating our gay sisters and brothers. We are divinely called to offer justice that is fair and restorative. We are to offer compassion that is generous and hospitable and healthy. Why? Because we are followers of Jesus. Because we worship a God of unrestrained love and unconditional grace.

Viewing other sexual orientations and other sexual identities as a sin is not a view or attitude than can be held for free – it has a terrible cost and a heinous effect. It hurts people in ways that are needless and unjustifiable. It enables and provokes an environment in which our sisters and brothers are excluded and bullied and murdered. It creates an environment in which our sisters and brothers find self-destructive behaviors, even suicide, preferable to life. We can neither afford nor justify the biblically untenable view of other sexual orientations and other sexual identities as a sin. It is wrong. It was wrong. It has always been wrong.

Andy: this is a comment written by a grieving mother. You have no possible way to stand in her shoes and know what she is discerning or where God is leading her. If you don't agree, go to another page. Condescending rhetoric from you helps no one here. Take your thinly veiled hate and move on.

All, I do not question that Jane's grief is real and profound; while I have not lost a child, I am a parent as well. What I object to is the assumption you all make that her grief gives automatic credibility to her theological and biblical speculation. The appeal to emotion is rhetorically powerful but inadequate to carry an argument. She chose to write a public column, and consequently her thoughts are subject to critique. Jane's experience is clearly her primary authority (as yours is for many of you), and that betrays what is at the root of this debate. I would rather that Christians ground their thinking and find their authority in the Bible and in centuries of church reflection and theology. To do otherwise is to depart from historic, mainstream Christianity, despite your comments that attack me.

P.S. I also find it interesting how most of you ignored my point about several core Christian beliefs: "We are not called to help everyone be at peace with themselves, and we are not created perfect. If we were, we wouldn't need a Savior! We are to call people to Christ, and that means renouncing sin rather than embracing it." Doug has to rewrite history to "refute" this, but at least he attempts to address it.

Andy, the Bible has been used to justify slavery, keeping women from having equal rights with men, and many other issues that today most Christians would not condone using their Bible to justify. Why should this issue be any different than that? No longer is it acceptable for men to have multiple wives or take their slaves as concubines, or make blood sacrifices but in the Bible that was perfectly acceptable behavior. The Bible has adapted over time with changing societies. Why when it is quite clear people are being grievously harmed by the hateful judgmental speech that is being presented as Biblical truth are you still insisting on holding to that when I am sure you would not condone slavery, multiple wives, or blood sacrifices? Do you eat shellfish? There is a passage in the Bible against that. Do you eat pork? There is a passage in the Bible against that. How does my love for another human being harm you? How does my happiness harm you? How does my relationship with God good, bad or indifferent harm you? What right do you have to judge me? Where in the Bible does it give you that right? Why do you insist that you have the right to cause others so much pain that they take their own lives because you insist that they are horrible enough that God could not even love them? That is exactly what I have heard the majority of my life out of so called Christians like yourself. People like Jane have been a breath of fresh air and have allowed me and others like me to stop feeling like God and all Christians hate and judge us. They allow us to stop hating God and open our hearts and minds to God rather than be driven away by hate filled rhetoric. You might feel that you have the right to be judge, jury and executioner but the bottom line is you do not.

Judith, you raise the important issue of how to decide which of the Bible's teachings are conditional and which are more permanent. It is an important question and there are ample explanations should you choose to explore them. What is ironic is that you yourself are choosing which biblical teachings are relevant to you and which are not. How do you decide? How do you know that you are not misusing Scripture for your own ends? I argued above that Christian tradition and theology serve as guides, and that individuals who interpret Scripture based on their own experience are on shaky ground. I stand by that and ask you to articulate your view of Scripture. How much weight does the Bible hold for you? If God's word is authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we must take it seriously when it speaks to same sex relationships, no matter what we think makes us happy.
A further irony: you accuse me of being judgmental, all the while you are judging me and ascribing words and attitudes to me that I have not used. I am trying to think clearly about this; I advise you to do the same without all the name calling.

Andy, I never have done name calling. Also I am not certain how I feel about religion and the Bible at this point in my life. I am just now at a place where I can consider opening my heart and mind again to God because of people like Jane who stopped that message of hatred and judgment unlike yourself. I do not understand why you insist on trying to drive me and others like me away from God if you truly believe that he is the only way to salvation. Who are you to dictate my relationship with God and tell me how I am to interpret Bible and God's meaning in my life? When you insist that your interpretation of the Bible is the only correct one and it is a message of hate that drives people away from God when their lives have nothing to do with your relationship with God one has to wonder why you are so insistent upon your right to judge how others live their lives to the point of causing them enough pain that many kill themselves. Isn't it time that you focus on your relationship with God and stop trying to force others to live by your interpretation of the Bible? I am not trying to force you to live by my interpretation of the Bible as you can live your life any way you choose all I am asking is that you allow me the same freedom from persecution. I do not tell you that you are going to hell because of who you are all I ask is that you do the same. Your relationship with God is between you and God and mine is between me and my God. You have no business trying to be some go between in that relationship. By spewing a message of hate you become a go between in that relationship for many people and only drive them from God. If you truly believe in judgment day why would you rather explain to God why you chose to send a message of hate, judgment, and division causing so much pain and death, driving people away from God rather than sending a message of love and acceptance and leaving the judgments up to the one who is actually qualified to judge, God himself? Personally, I know I would much rather send a message of love which allows people the opportunity to find God rather than be driven from him by a message of hate. But then you might be one of those people who believe that I should be stoned to death because I am gay. I have heard enough hate in my life from people like yourself. I am done talking to you as I have learned that people like yourself don't change as you are too caught up in self importance and the belief that you are better than to accept others for who they are because if you did then you might actually have to come down from your high horse and realize you are not as special as you think you are.

Judith, I repeat: "you accuse me of being judgmental, all the while you are judging me and ascribing words and attitudes to me that I have not used." If you read all my comments posted above, you'll note for example that I make no claim about what I think the Bible teaches about homosexuality. You are speculating and accusing me of things I have not said. So I agree, we are done "talking," as you were not interested in a conversation but in a rant.

An offering to Andy; how about perusing a newly published book, which was written after an exhaustive reading of other such books, "God and the Gay Christian:
The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships" by Matthew Vines

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