I ended yesterday with yet another viewing of Love Actually. After a day bustling with tweets, posts, and articles stating concerns from both sides of the culture war regarding the Phil Robertson controversy (with both sides making legitimate points), it was good to get in touch with some of the fundamental human questions most gay Christians are concerned about: questions of faithfulness, friendship, love, longing, and belonging.
Whenever there’s an explosion in the culture war, it seems like the real people with genuine human struggles are shelved while we argue about rights and agendas. There are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed: How do we share our views in ways that highlight the value and dignity of people made in the image of God? Is there room for Christians to share their unpopular views freely, as there seems to be for folks who hold different values? When someone is directly asked for their opinions, are we ready to actually hear them? And in hearing them, can we respectfully agree or disagree instead of waging war? Can we consider fighting for the marginalized as passionately as we fight other sides in the debate?
There are serious questions that need to be addressed, and I’m grateful for thoughtful people who contribute in a kind manner. But in the midst of the volatile debates, I hope you’ll consider the emotionally complex human experience of the people you’re talking about. When you get riled up about the Gay Agenda and stand strong with someone like Phil when he shares his views in (what seems to us) a derogatory manner, it’s difficult for us to know whether you agree with Phil’s conservative Christian values, or if you agree with his inconsiderate statements that imply we’d be straight if we woke up to the glory of the opposite sex’s genitals.
It’s hard to figure out if we’re an “us” or a “them” when we’re both gay and Christian. I know you might feel like you’re talking about a liberal agenda that’s seeking to infringe on religious freedom, but that’s not the case with most gay people. Many of us share your values and seek daily to say “no” to our longings in order to say “yes” to the God we love with all our hearts. We do it in a culture that often tells us we’re crazy; we do it among Christians who often act like we don’t exist.
But we do exist. We’re sitting in small groups with you. We’re reading your facebook feeds, listening to your rants, resonating with your concerns yet feeling a strange sense of un-belonging at the same time. If I feel that—someone who’s open and accepted as a celibate gay Christian—I can’t imagine how those struggling in silence experience all of this. I can’t imagine how the 16 year old sitting in the family room feels.
I don’t want to minimize the concerns I hear Christians voicing—I share many of your concerns regarding Phil’s suspension for expressing his views. But I hope you’ll consider those among you who perceive you’re fighting against them when you rally around petitions about standing for truth, like Preston Sprinkle does in this excellent post. I hope you’ll consider standing for truth in ways that express solidarity with gay people. I hope you’ll seek ways to be a nourishing voice in the midst of culture war explosions that often demean the people argued about. I hope you’ll remember that many gay Christians are seeking to honor the Lord, to love others well, and to thrive in the midst of a church culture that can make it difficult to flourish.
When I read all of Phil’s statements, I found myself appreciating the fact that he emphasized loving others and leaving God to judge. I felt like Phil and I would get on alright if we launched into an off-road excursion together. I believe the best about Phil because I’ve gotten to know others like him, and I know their hearts are much softer than their words can sound. In the same way, I hope you’ll get to know more gay people and realize we’re not the enemy and we don’t have an agenda—we’re a group of people grappling with what it means to love, remain faithful, and flourish in your churches.