The New Testament records Jesus performing a staggering number of miracles for the benefit of those around Him. He fed a multitude with a paltry quantity of food, walked on water, calmed storms, and changed water to wine.
But the majority of Jesus’ miracles have to do with curing the sick.
Healing is Christ’s legacy, and Christianity has struggled to live up to it, especially with regards to persecuting members of our beloved community—inlcuding mentally ill and LGBTQIA people.
To be sure, Christian organizations have always been involved in healing the body. There are plenty of church-affiliated hospitals and medical relief groups that still do good work. But ironically, ailments of the non-physical realm—diseases of our society like hatred against the LGBTQIA community and the stigmatization of the mentally ill—are where Christianity, despite its supposed authority in matters spiritual, fails.
There is a long and shameful history of Christians persecuting not only queer people, in the name of curing the alleged disease of not being straight, but also neurodivergent people, who have at various times in Christian history been considered possessed, moral failures, or mistakes of God. This is all to say nothing of the conflation of non-heterosexuality with mental illness, which continued until quite late into the 20th century, and resulted in the institutionalization and torture of countless LGBTQIA people, all with the blessing of “Godly” people.
The healing work of Christ doesn’t just pertain to raising Lazarus from the grave or curing lepers.
It also means that we should continually work to correct the diseases of our society. It is primarily because of the sicknesses like homophobia, transphobia, and ableism that it is so difficult to be non-straight, non-cisgender, or neurodivergent.
If LGBTQIA teens didn’t need to live in fear of parental disownment, violence, or conversion “therapy”, all threats from overwhelmingly Christian families, then suicide and self-harm rates in that segment of the population would not nearly be as high as they are. And if mentally ill people didn’t have to hear that they “just need prayer,” and received accommodation and support from a Christian community that claims to promote universal love for humanity, it’s difficult to estimate how much better conditions for them would be.
Here is the prescription: Straight or neurotypical Christians, who may be empathetic to LGBTQIA or neurodivergent concerns but don’t know what to do about it, ought to apply another fundamental value of Christ. This means humility.
They must recognize that they don’t “know what’s best.”
There are no easy solutions, not even in Scripture, and above all—it is our job to listen rather than talk. It is not our job to argue about whether certain grievances are legitimate. We cannot shirk responsibility for society’s violence against LGBTQIA people or those who are neurodivergent.
“I love gay people!” does not absolve a straight person of the enormous advantages they have simply for being straight, such as not worrying about sexuality-related assaults and never having anyone question their romantic relationships.
Thankfully for straight or neurotypical Christian allies, this position of relative power is exactly what allows them to help in the day-to-day struggle. They ought to condemn the homophobia and ableism they hear from their Christian peers, even and especially from the pulpit. This means disputing, if possible, official church policies that discriminate, such as a refusal to sanction same-gender marriages or to ordain LGBTQIA people.
They ought to work on just doing the basics–feeding the hungry and housing the homeless–especially when those people are hungry or homeless because of their gender, sexuality, or neurotype.
Above all, they ought to focus on their own greatest and most cherished commandment.
To love their neighbors as themselves, to be humble enough to recognize their own innate prejudices and not simply hope to ignore them, and to strive to emulate God’s flawless love instead of a flawed, Earthly model.
Photo via flickr user Esther Gibbons