I went to a carnival yesterday. My boyfriend and I were running errands in Matthew, NC and ran into a street fair. Every road was blocked off so we decided to just park and join in on the festivities. As we walked toward the fair, there was someone standing on the corner protesting. One of those Christians, you know? He had a sign that said something to the effect of “America is going to hell because of science and homosexuals!!!” You all know me, I wanted to go up and talk to the man. But I was promptly told “you are not at work right now” so as I waited at the light to cross the street, using all the energy I had to hold my tongue, I witnessed a sad encounter between the man and a young woman. The woman, in great earnestness and with sincerity in her eyes, she said,
“You know, It’s not that I don’t believe in Jesus, I do not deny his existence. I just really want to know why are Christians so hateful? I have a really good friend, he’s transgender. Why, why do you hate him? You don’t even know him and you hate him!”
The man spouted off some trite tirade about sin and damnation and then the light changed and it was time to cross the street. I regret walking away from that conversation. It kept me up all night. I wanted so badly to tell the woman, “Listen, honey, the Christians who are yelling the loudest are not the best representatives of our faith, they are just the only ones we hear. I love Jesus. Jesus loves your friend. And it is his great desire for me to love your friend as well. I don’t even know him… and I love him.”
It kept me up all night. Her poignant question rings as clear as a bell,
“Why are Christians so hateful?”
It’s a good question. A question I pondered when I watched on the news, the story on repeat of Kim Davis, the Kentucky Clerk who refused to distribute marriage licenses to same sex couples. I watched as the Christian community called her a martyr, which is an insult to the legacy of Christian martyrdom. She is a martyr only of her own ignorance and hatred.
The questions rings as clear as a bell. It keeps me up at night:
Why are Christians so hateful?
Being a Christian today, it’s discouraging. It’s disconcerting. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.
It’s embarrassing to be affiliated with people like the man at the carnival- yelling at the top of his lungs that homosexuals were bound for hell.
It’s embarrassing to be affiliated with Kim Davis, refusing to sanction two people who are in love.
It’s so embarrassing to go to church, to go to church conferences, and listen to the archaic, uninformed, unimpressive conversations about homosexuality. As an institution, we the Church are so behind in our understanding of sexuality, homosexuality, in particular.
It is so exhausting to hear this tired conversation again and again, repeating this sames 3 or five verses condemning homosexuality.
We love to read these verses at the top of our lungs while not realizing that in the same chapter we regretfully do not acknowledge the fact that
we also love red lobster, that abominable shrimp is too good to pass up.
We also love our polyester blend, who really cares if we wear mixed fabric or not?
We also love our pig skin football. When God said “don’t eat pork, don’t even touch it” (Deuteronomy 14:8), surely he wasn’t talking about the Carolina Panther’s pig skin!”
The conversation about homosexuality is hypocritical, it’s uninformed, and it’s old. Ok. I said it. It’s so old. We have been having the same conversation for the last 50 years, at least. The world has changed. The understanding of sexuality has completely changed.
I don’t know if you spend any time with teenagers but their understanding of sexuality, the sexual self, is completely different from our own formation. Whenever a teenager wanders into my office I say “how is your boyfriend… or girlfriend?” Who knows what is going on with them! A teen is crying about his girlfriend one moment and introducing his boyfriend to you the next. There is a generation of people coming of age whose sexuality is so fluid. Things are different now.
And as quiet as it’s kept… that generation is not the only one. As much as we like to keep it a secret, sexuality is pretty fluid among our generation and our parent’s generation as well.
I mean you are as straight as they come… except that one time when you had too much tequila and woke up next to a man.
Or you love your husband and children so you don’t think about the three months in college when you had a girlfriend… it was only a phase after all…
We want homosexuality to be a clear cut, it’s a black and white issue. It’s a sin, being heterosexual is not a sin. We have the texts to prove it. But it isn’t black and white. It’s complex. It’s intricate. And as the Church, we don’t even have the language to even understand the different complexities of sexuality in society. That ends today. In this church we will, at the very least, consider the different fibers of sexuality. so let’s begin:
First, there is sex. Sex refers to a person’s biological makeup. Sexual organs. Things like gonads, reproductive organs, and chromosomes. Are you born XX or XY? Sex seems clear cut but not even sex is not black and white like we want to make it. Many children are born with both sexual organs. Or not enough. Or neither. Doctors and parents make the decision about the sex of a child more often than you think. It happens all of the time. You probably didn’t know that because the thing about sex is that
it is none of you business.
People are always asking “is that a boy or a girl?,” but really it is none of your concern. What is going on underneath my robe- unless you want to buy me a house, a car, and put a ring on my finger- it is none of your business. And neither is anyone else’s sex.
Second, there is gender. Gender refers to the ways that we act out behaviors associated with our sex. Gender is the performance of being male or female. My gender is the reason why I am currently wearing heels too high to walk in. Gender is the way that girls try to sway their hips when they become preteens. Gender is what makes little boys puff out their chest to make them look tough even though crocodile tears are flowing down their cheeks. Gender is boys in blue and girls in pink. Gender is behavior. Gender is a verb.
Then there is gender conforming and gender nonconforming. Gender conforming or gender normativity is when a person identifies with their own biological sex and behaves accordingly. The princesses who loved pink, grew up to love pink, and raised their own princesses. The boys who loved dirt, football, and burps and grew up to raise boys who love dirt, football, and burps. That is gender conforming.
Then there is gender nonconforming. Gender non-conformity is when a person’s sense of self is incongruous with their biological sex. You have seen them throughout your life. When I was little, I had two older brothers. I dressed and played, and acted like them. I despised dresses. I wanted nothing more to run and jump and get dirty on my dirt bike with my brothers. We call that being a tomboy. It’s called being gender nonconforming. We all know gender nonconformists. Little girls who hate dresses. Little boys who rather be cheerleaders than football players. We have seen it. Why are they not welcome at the Church?
And then there are those who are gender non-conforming and find that they so completely identify with the opposite sex that they totally disassociate with their own gender-transgender individuals,- or totally disassociate with their own sex- transsexuals. Caitlyn Jenner is transgender. She was born a man, became a famous Olympian but then realized that the person that she is on the inside is female and not male. So she began to dress, behave, and assume the identity of the woman that believed she was born to be. Why is she not welcome at the Church?
Then there is sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is external rather than internal. It is not about your body like sex, it’s not about your identity like gender, it is about your affinity. It is about who you are attracted to.
Heterosexuals are who we all pretend to be (I said it). Heterosexuals are those who are attracted to the opposite sex. When a man loves a woman, when a woman loves a man.
Homosexuals are those who are attracted to the same sex. When a man loves a man. When a woman loves a woman.
Bisexuals are those who are attracted to both men and women. Bisexuals get no love from either heterosexuals or homosexuals. We all think they need to pick a team.
There are asexuals, those who do not perceive any sexual attraction to either males or females.
Sexual orientation is complex. We want to make it a black and white issue but it is not. Are people born gay or do they decide to be gay? The answer is yes. We all have the nephew who we knew he was gay when he was three years old at the family reunion when he wanted to dance with the girls instead of play with the boys. We knew when he was three, before he had any idea what sex was so of course we weren’t surprised when he brought his boyfriend home for thanksgiving, how could be we be? Come on you know you had that nephew! Are homosexuals born gay? We all know that the answer is yes.
Do people decide to be gay? The answer is yes. If a little girl was habitually raped by her stepfather from the time that she was 6 until the time that she is 16 and does not find safety or intimacy in the arms of a man is she wrong for deciding to find love in the arms of a woman? Of course you have your opinion but who are you tell her how to give or receive love? Is homosexuality a decision? yes.
It is not black and white. It is complex. You can be a male, gender non-conforming heterosexual. You can be a female, gender-conforming homosexual. You can be a female, transgender, asexual or anything in between and no matter who you are or how you identify you should be welcome at the Church but such people typically are not welcome.
Christians are not welcoming.
Christians are not hospitable.
Christians are hypocritical.
Christians are hateful
to those who are not cis gender heterosexuals. And
it’s discouraging. It’s disconcerting. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.
And the only reason that I do not leave this institution is because I am a company woman. And I believe in the product of my company. I believe in our product. And our product is salvation. And we are selling our product at a very reasonable price. We are giving it away for free. I believe that the Church has something to give. serenity. and peace. and hope. and eternal life. We have the best product there is and his name is Jesus.
But we Christians, we the followers of Christ, We have lost our heritage. We have lost our identity entirely. We are the children of God. And God is love. How is it that we are marked by and known for our hate?
We have to reclaim our identity. We have to figure out again what does it actually mean to be Christian?
Paul, in the book of Galatians, asked the same question, “what does it really mean to be a Christian?”
Paul was preaching during a time when the Christian church was going through a major identity crisis. The first Christians were a group of rag-tag Jews who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. They believed that in order to accept Jesus you had to convert to the Jewish identity which included circumcision, a strict diet, and all sorts of rules that made a Jew a Jew.
To them, Christians shouldn’t eat shrimp (Which means No Red Lobster)
To them, Christians shouldn’t wear mixed fabric (Which means say good-bye to your favorite t-shirt because it is most assuredly 50% cotton and 50% polyester.)
To them Christians should not touch pork (Which means football season is canceled indefinitely).
Circumcision, eating shrimp, touching pork, these things don’t mean anything to you but to first century Christians, it meant everything. Being Jewish was everything. And they were so adamant about Jewish culture that it got in the way of spreading the Gospel because they came off as
Paul says in Galatians that we must reclaim and hold fast to our identity. Our identity is not our customs, it is not our ancient beliefs, our identity is in Christ. And whatever we need to do to get this message of Christ to the rest of the world, that is what we must do. Even if that means changing the thoughts that we held dear, whether it be about shrimp or sexuality, it simply doesn’t matter. Even if it means letting go of the things that we think are the most important, whether that is circumcision or homosexual marriage, it doesn’t matter.
His words ring as clear as a bell:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God though faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,
nor is there male or female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29).
He says so clearly that it doesn’t matter if you are Jew or gentile. It doesn’t matter your race or ethnicity, it doesn’t matter your gender, sex, or sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter if you are
we are all one in Christ.
It is time for us to heed the words of Paul and to put down our heritage of hatred and reclaim our heritage in the love of Jesus Christ. It is time for us to receive the Caitlyn Jenners of the world with welcoming, hospitable, sympathetic, and loving arms. For this is the Church. This is their home. We are all home here.