Of course you can.
Of course you can be a Christian Fundamentalist and still affirm the LGBT people in your life–your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, your co-workers and yes, your fellow worshipers.
By “affirm,” I don’t mean “tolerate.” I don’t mean standing at a distance and attempting a sad sort of alternative wave that could be mistaken for your flicking a stray lock of hair out of your face. I mean walking up, shaking hands, and saying loudly enough for others to hear, “Hey, Mike, how’re you doing? And how’s Roger?” I mean not being embarrassed. I mean putting yourself out there as someone who loves the underdog, the minority, the “other” in the way Jesus told us to: as you love yourself.
The reason you don’t currently do this is simple. The voices telling you to be unaffirming are louder than the voices begging you to affirm. Pretty much the loudest anti-affirming voice is that of your pastor who has likely been rather insistent that your affirmation of your neighbor’s existence, relationship, marriage, and adoptions is somehow to participate in these activities, and that such participation will land you in hell.
Do you get how silly that is? Let’s say my neighbor is Sikh. Am I participating in his Sikhism by not railing against it every time I see him, not asking pointed, invasive questions about his turban, not stealth-witnessing (with candy!) to his little Sikhlings when I catch them minding their own business playing at the neighborhood park? Am I participating in my other neighbor’s paganism by buying essential oils from her? I’m just saying. Being nice to people is not participating in their lifestyle. You do not become gay by being nice to gay people. Rest easy, none of this is your fault, if fault there is, which there isn’t, but just to let you breathe a little easier.
Another reason you don’t currently affirm your niece’s marriage to her wife is that you are simply embarrassed by it. You don’t want to be called a gay-lover. Sit with that and ask yourself, “Why not?” Why would you not want to be known as someone who loves and affirms people who are in the minority? See two paragraphs above for the answer: you don’t want to hear from your pastor that you are going to hell, because somehow, a Christian pastor is going to tell a Christian believer (perhaps even a tither!) that affirming her son’s marriage to her son-in-law–an affirmation that will bring her close to her son and allow her more interaction with the grandchildren who may enter this home–that she is going to hell for her kindness.
It is time, my friend, that you exercise a little strength with your pastor and perhaps others at your Fundy church. Not by leaving, if you enjoy the church and are happy there, but by simple verbal clarity. “This is my son Mike. This is his husband Roger. Roger is a forensic odontologist.” When confronted later, as you surely will be, it is enough to hold up your hand to stop the speaker and say, “I have determined to love my son with kindness,” followed by, “And how is Calliope’s eating disorder?” You know by now how to converse with your friends in such a manner that you come out on top socially.
What’s needed is out loud affirmation. Not outing someone. That’s different. It is never your business to out someone who is closeted. But when the person opens the door and steps out into the light of day, having decided no longer to deny who she is and whom she loves, then you do the out loud affirmation: “This is my daughter Jayne and her partner Bea. They are graduate students. We’re very proud of them. Bea, tell the Morrisons about your dissertation topic.” The Morrisons can and will talk about this later, possibly with smelling salts. Whatever. You don’t care. You care about Jayne and Bea.
WON’T THEY THINK I NO LONGER THINK HOMOSEXUALITY IS THE WORST SIN IMAGINABLE?
I know. I know. There, there. It’s okay. I’m patting your back now, if you can’t tell. It’s true that some people, when you affirm your nephew’s husband and their three adorable children as a real family who can sit with you in church or sit by you at the family picnic, will gasp in horror and believe down to their marrow that you have “sold out” and have climbed the steps of the slippery slope ladder and are ready to don a boa yourself. You are going to have to take this. You can calm yourself by realizing that there are a lot of bad things in the world–African famine, ISIS, the opioid epidemic, and North Korean nukes–and that Joe and Johnny and the three little J’s (Jaye, Johnzy, and Jax) are just a normal American family.
WHAT ABOUT THE CLOBBER PASSAGES?
The “Clobber Passages” are those very few sections of Scripture that can be read in a way that might indicate homosexuality is sinful. But, as you very well know, you Fundamentalist you, lots of passages can be read to make all sorts of things sinful. For example, Ma’am, do you keep a menstrual chart with the days marked off so your husband knows which two weeks out of the month he may not approach you to lie with you? You do not, Mr. Gothard’s insistence notwithstanding.
The “Clobber Passages” are those about which I get books in the mail when I write an article like this. People imagine I haven’t read the Bible, or, having read it, have specifically ignored those passages. What’s being ignored, however, is that there may be unexamined context. I’m not going to exegete anything here, but I will say, as an example, that when the Apostle Paul notes that it is wrong to visit the ritual prostitutes at the pagan temple once one has professed Christ, I would agree with him. Indeed, were I to find that my own husband was frequenting ritual prostitutes at pagan temples, I would take issue with it, and you can hold me to that.
WHAT ABOUT THE PART WHERE MY PASTOR GETS TO TELL ME WHAT TO BELIEVE ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY?
What about it? Why is he even talking about it? And why so often, and why in front of minor children? Why is the Christian church so obsessed with this topic? Why are they not, for example, working to positively impact their local communities? Who even decided that a young man gets to tell you what to believe about anything? Have you not been taught about the priesthood of all believers? Do you not read the Bible? Have you not read, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Have you not read, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples–that you love one another”? The poor man is just saying what others have said to him, but maybe someday someone should mention to him: “Yo, Pastor Jared! Do you realize you’ve preached on the fictional Gay Agenda twelve times this year and only three times on how we can impact our neighborhood for Jesus? Dude! What is even up with that?”
BUT SHOULDN’T I WITNESS TO THEM?
If you want to talk to the LGBT people in your life about spiritual things, of course, certainly do that, but don’t do it based on what you believe is their failing. And don’t try to tweak their Christianity, if any. What I mean is this: if you start your finely-honed witnessing tactics with the old, “If you died tonight, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?” and the person answers, “Why yes, I do! I’m a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who died for my sins and is my risen Savior, sitting at the right hand of God, interceding for me!” then your work here is done and you can say, “Praise Jesus,” and grab the coffee-cake. No need to push further by (for example) asking “but WHICH Jesus are you trusting, the lame one who lets sodomites like you off the hook without obedience, or the strict Old Testament Jesus in whom I trust but actually I still go 70 on the freeway because some sins are not as bad as others, especially in Texas.” Don’t press onward into that well-rutted road of Lordship Salvation and/or Easy Believism. Just don’t. Have your coffee and ask about Jaye, Johnzy, and Jax and their potty-training, science project, and first crush, respectively. Also Johnny and his CPA business, especially if it’s near tax time. In fact, if it’s March or early April, wrap up the coffee cake and send it home. Johnny’s going to need it later.
WAIT, I THINK YOU’RE MAKING FUN OF ME
Ya think? Okay, I’m busted. Because, yes, I am. Fundamentalism was about “whatever the Bible says is so.” We’ve got the word of the Chief Hoo-Ha himself, Bob Jones, Sr., on that: “Whatever the Bible says is so.” In his inimitably simple style, he lays it out and even says, “We might disagree on what the Bible means, but we agree that whatever it says is so.”
It’s so that Jesus wants us to love each other.
It’s so that Jesus wants us to be kind to one another.
It’s so that people who confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead can be called Christians.
It’s your job to affirm the LGBTQIA people in your world, especially as to those who are in your church and your family.
WHAT ABOUT TOUGH LOVE?
Stop it already. On this issue of sexuality, you need to stop.
Stop asking your minor child if he masturbates. What is the matter with you? Are you crazy?
Stop telling your adult child anything about sexuality and how he or she should conduct his or her sexual life. It is not your business.
ATTEND your gay child’s wedding. Bring a lovely gift. Hug everyone. You are not going to hell for this. You are going to a party.
WHAT IF I REALIZE THAT I’VE BEEN HORRIBLE AND JUDGMENTAL TO MY GAY RELATIVE?
I know (more pat on the back). You’ve been horrible. You’ve gone after her with Romans 1 and I Corinthians, all the while ignoring true problems like the increased desertification of Africa and the annexation of the Crimea by Vlad the Invader. You’ve made your son cry. You’ve made his husband cry. It’s partly not your fault. You were misled by well-meaning people who told you it was your duty in the Lord to be cruel. That somehow, when you yelled, “Get outta my house, you faggot!” It would translate in your son’s mind to, “I love you so much it hurts, oh my god, I’m going to die because of this, I love him so much, Martha, help me.”
You might even be one of those awful people who has prayed over your child thusly: “God, whatever it takes for Mike to turn from this lifestyle . . . ” when what you mean is you’d like Roger the forensic odontologist to drill a hole through his own eye in a fit of remorse, or even that you’d like Mike himself to be hit by a car, as if God Above runs into people with vehicles to get their attention. Didn’t we learn in kindergarten Sunday school that God speaks through His Word and not necessarily via the neighborhood Mercedes Benz?
Indeed, why is it that people who pray that God will use “whatever it takes” never stumble onto the thought that the loss of a parent might be just the thing to get a child wondering about the hereafter? No one ever prays, “Lord, kill me if that’s what it would take.” No, it’s more like, “Lord, and could you rearrange Mike’s sexuality fast because Robert and I are going to renew our vows this August, and it would be so great if all the kids could be there? I’ve planned the loveliest luau, Lord. There will be roast pig if it’s Your will!”
You’ve been awful, okay. Here’s how to fix it. Say sorry. Call or go over there with a pan of brownies and say sorry. If your own spouse doesn’t want to go with you, who cares? Tell him or her, “I’m going to Mike and Roger’s to say sorry. I want them in my life. Are you coming or not?” And then just go. There’s no need to have a long conversation with anyone about this anymore than you would if you wanted to say sorry for anything else. You’ve been horrible. Go say sorry. If he gets all huffy and throws a fit over it, remind him about the upcoming luau. Does he want the roast pig or doesn’t he? Then go see the boys, share the brownies with them. And then never ever again be unaffirming.