Sojourners Ad Rejection Triggers Controversy

by Gwen Ashby

In the wake of Sojourners’ decision to not accept LGBT-affirming ads from Believe Out Loud, there have been some 75 news reports and blogs written about the controversy. While the articles themselves are compelling, the comments posted by readers are equally informative. Read selections below:

“I am a Christian who happens to be gay. The central spiritual dilemma in my life is whether I can be both. I am a member of a highly inclusive, progressive Episcopal parish where I feel affirmed. Yet still, stories like the one about Sojourners distress me. They claim they are ‘progressive’ yet reject this positive and harmless ad. My non-Christian gay friends feel that as a gay man I am ‘identifying with the oppressor’ by being a Christian. Activities like Sojourners rejection of this ad make me feel as if maybe my friends have a point. “ – Posted by Brian on The Advocate, 5/12/11

“As lesbian Christian pastors, we love this video! But unfortunately what Sojourner’s is supposed to be known for, justice and Christianity, is in this case, neither. Too often this is the reaction LGBTQ persons and their families have when they go to church – and it is, to use the word, an abomination. Followers of Jesus who exclude others for who they love are not following Jesus after all, but listening to their own prejudice. Frankly, it’s hard sometimes to be gay and Christian, but we choose to stay Christian and join with others who see all expressions of love for what they are – gifts of God.”  – Posted by Cathedral of Hope Salt Lake City on The Advocate, 5/11/11

“About 2 years ago, I came out as affirming. And yes, it cost me some support. But it has totally been worth it.” – Posted by Hugh Hollowell on Theoblogy, 5/10/11

Just when you think you’re making progress … you get told that your community has to stay out of sight for the greater good. Hopefully there’s a silver lining here: like getting more people aware of the need to “Believe Out Loud” – online, in print, and in the pews.”  –Posted by Max Niedzweicki on Sojourners, 5/12/11

“There cannot be justice for anyone, until there is justice for everyone. We cannot in good conscience advocate for justice for the poor, the hungry, the homeless without also advocating justice for our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters. – Posted by Charlie Ellis on Sojourners, 5/12/11

I don’t know why gay people want to go to church anyway…I’m not gay, but I don’t go to church anymore. I don’t see love in churches, just concern about money, judgment and condemnation of others. My best friend is a gay man…he did not “choose” to be, but was created that way by God. I am sickened by the hatred I see spewed from the mouths of so called “religious” people. I feel the love of Jesus far more sitting by myself in a field of grass then I ever did in any church. I am embarrassed to be called a “christian” because it is now a negative term for me. The Jesus of these Churches is a stranger to me and not someone I would want to know. I will stick with the Jesus I know who loves ALL his children just the way he created them. – Posted by Dakotagal47 on Sojourners, 5/12/11

I watched the ad and felt such a strong connection to it as a mother with a beloved gay son. It is a beautiful ad. We have felt the “unwelcome” of many churches as a family. It is painful. This ad addressed those feelings with grace and love. My son is not an issue. He is a beautiful child of God.” – Posted by Randi Reitan on Sojourners, 5/14/11

Jesus welcomed the prostitute, the tax-collector (collaborator with the Romans), and the leper to the table. Think that was controversial at the time? The gospel is about standing up for the oppressed in the face of opposition from those claiming to be followers of God. If you follow Jesus, you cannot relegate oppressed people to the category of “untouchable controversial issue”. – Posted by Nancy Whelan-Stevens on Sojourners, 5/14/11

Thank you for your editorial, without which I would not have heard the faithful and prophetic words of Believe Out Loud. … I believe Elie Wiesel speaks for me when he says “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  A community whose narrative claims to be about God’s justice and mercy cannot be neutral.” – Posted by A. on Sojourners, 5/15/11

I’m probably the king of the atheists (lol), but I have to admit, the video this group put out (check out the link) is very well-done and quite heart-warming. It gives me hope that there are indeed some good religious people out there. – Posted by The Lone Ranger on The Advocate, 5/7/11

“Welcome, everyone!” That is the benchmark. There is a vast difference between moralistic defensiveness and a morality based on inclusive compassion and love. Looks like the human race has a bit more evolving to do.” – Posted by Alexandra Rodda on on 5/13/11

“Gods, that ad made me cry, and me not a Christian! I am familiar though with the feeling of faith and community and acceptance which is supposed to be a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Not all of us LGBQT’s (I’m sure I got the stupid dyslexic confounding letters mixed up) are atheists, or like me, self-worshiping heathens.

“It’s sad they didn’t run the ad, but I’m just not going to get into that. It was beautiful, and I’m glad people HERE can see it at least. It’s a good thing, to show the side of Christianity that Christ himself would approve of.” – Posted by Heather O. on, 5/12/11

“…I am also a lesbian PK and have spent the better part of my adult life resenting the church and Christianity in general. My dad was a UCC minister and welcomed all who wanted to join him in his search for what it means to be a follower of Christ. It wasn’t until I grew up and left his church that I learned how un-Christian many Christians can be. I don’t know if I can ever find the church a comfort or a source of spiritual direction again, but I will always appreciate and join in with the voices that hold it to higher account.” – Posted by Ellen on MojoJules, 5/10/11

“…I didn’t know about Believe Out Loud before this and the existence of that group helped restore some of my faith in Christianity….” – Posted by Bryan on Love Is An Orientation, 5/10/11

“I’d go to church if I could believe I could be accepted without having to hide who I was. I’d have to be someone else if I ever decided to go to church…in fear of being hated or talked about…or experiencing the feeling of being shunned and not accepted. I kind of wish I had the chance go, to experience Christinanity like a straight person could…I’ve been in a loving and awesome relationship for three years now, with a wonderful woman, I love her dearly and wish I could do so without fear. :/ I wonder if that day will ever come.” –Posted by Josie Medel on Unicorn Booty, 5/11/11

I was once very opposed to gay marriage and gay inclusion into the church. It has taken a recent radical shift in my theology and a re-reading of the Gospels to really understand how inclusive Jesus was. I don’t have all the theology down, but I know in my heart that people need community and love. – Posted by David J. Spuria on SeekingSophia, 5/10/11

“Several years ago I was asked by some church members to participate in a city-wide rally against a bill to redefine marriage in Canada. I wasn’t thrilled to go but at the time believed it was still a worthwhile cause to support (I still tend to favor civil unions) and I also didn’t want to offend those who were asking me to come. At the rally I expected the speakers to make a concise and balanced argument and to speak on behalf of traditional marriage. Instead I heard a hateful tirade of anti-gay messages (the typical “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” kind of stuff) and a shameful attempt to get the crowd’s emotions worked up.

At the exit of the public park where the rally was held, stood a small group of Christians from a “liberal” United Church, silently, praying, holding up signs that said “God loves gay people too”. I felt in my spirit that I should be standing with them instead of continuing on with the crowd. I didn’t have the guts. I feared the repercussions. I didn’t want to lose my job as a pastor. I resisted and grieved the Holy Spirit. I felt so ashamed. I still do. I did ask God for forgiveness but I’m asking my gay brothers and sisters who may be reading this now to forgive me as well. I wasn’t just silent when I should have spoken up. I kept walking with those who condemned you. I am truly sorry!” – Posted by jshmueller Dancing on Saturday, 5/12/11

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