I didn’t go to church much growing up, but that didn’t stop church ideas getting into me. They were just there, like an invisible, odorless gas that you couldn’t help but breathe in until they became part of you, blood and bone. It’s how I learned the Golden Rule, and also how I learned that Christians hated gays. Suffice it to say, there are better ways to learn about religion.
One of the biblical concepts I knew long before I knew God was “the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.” In a child’s mind, and isolated from its scriptural context, that one little clause told me a whole lot about who God was. Cruel. Unreliable. Capricious. He would tease you with Heaven, only to leave you in Hell on earth.
No wonder I wanted nothing to do with God.
If that God really existed, and really was all-powerful, the best thing I could do was keep my head down and pray He left me alone. It was a sad, scary way to be, and it made recognizing a loving Christ almost impossible.
That I believe at all is my own personal miracle, and I think the same can be said by many LGBT Christians.
Of course, now I know better, but first impressions are hard to forget. So when word came down that World Vision had caved in to the overwhelming pressure to recant on its decision to include legally married gay Christians among its staff, my first thought was, “Damn. He gives and takes away.” It’s so easy to go back to that place.
Maybe so—but much as this hurts, World Vision’s decision doesn’t mean God loves His LGBT children any less.
I’ve been here before—most LGBT Christians I know have.
Hope rises as your church or your pastor cracks open a door of welcome, only to fade with the ugliness of backlash and fail completely when the door is closed, the open hand turned into a slap in the face.
Having been there, all I can do is urge my brothers and sisters who are hurting now to remember that whenever that kind of door is shut, Jesus is on the outside with us, and He is still the God who opens doors, who makes a way where there seems to be no way. The church fails and with this has failed us yet again, but His love never will.
The fact is, we’re going to see more of this. As churches, organizations, and individual Christians feel more and more compelled to treat LGBT people with some measure of dignity and respect, we will see more doors creak open—and sometimes, those doors will close. Courage will fail, olive branches will break, the spirit will be willing but the flesh will be weak.
But as long as we call ourselves Christian, we can’t give up hope.
It is fitting that this happens in the midst of Lent, if for no other reason than because we can remember that followers of Jesus have been here before. We’ve had our hopes rise, greeting a champion with palm fronds and cheers, and we’ve seen that hope tortured, nailed to a cross, and put in the ground. We’ve seen people who were that hope’s best advocate turn around and deny it to His face.
And because we’ve seen this before, we know how the story ends. Love wins—and so we can patiently endure, and forgive those who know not what they do.
Image via flickr user Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade