Last month The Church of Scotland, once considered arch-conservative, voted to allow its clergy to conduct same-sex marriages. Which obliged people to ask that if such a grand and respected Presbyterian institution can change thus, why not the rest of Christendom? Yet while many denominations have indeed reformed, others certainly haven’t. And it has to be said that the main and sometimes only opposition—not only to equal marriage but also to simple LGBTQ2 equality—is based in Christian communities.
I say this with enormous pain but I know it to be true. Last year during Pride, for example, I wrote a column for another publication with the headline, “What would Jesus do during Pride? Simple — he’d wave the rainbow flag and march in the parade.” To say it polarized readers would be a gentle conclusion. The degree of love given was deeply moving, but the intensity and amount of the hatred quite astounding. It came almost without exception from self-described Christians.
I can understand dissent and disagreement. Traditional feelings and beliefs take time to lessen and disappear. It’s the level of venom and anger that always shocks me, coming as it does from people who claim to be motivated by and to follow the gentle, forgiving, Messiah who founded Christianity.
I’ve made the theological arguments many times before. In brief, scripture is ambiguous on the subject of homosexuality, hardly ever mentions it and, anyway, has to be read through the prism of faith, experience, and intellect. Jesus himself never mentions the issue but may, in his encounter with a centurion who asks for his slave to be healed, have been giving blessing to a same-sex union. In general, he is radically indifferent to what others regarded as sexual sin.
St. Paul’s negative comments, if understood properly rather than treated anachronistically, concern pagan rituals and straight men abusing teenage boys rather than consenting same-sex romance. Most important of all, the sweet, perfect theme of the Gospels is love, acceptance, and a permanent revolution of grace.
Please, save your emails and letters of disagreement because I’ve heard all of the arguments before and, with all due humility, spent years working on this subject at various levels and in various languages.
Most important of all, the sweet, perfect theme of the Gospels is love, acceptance, and a permanent revolution of grace
But I don’t suppose what I just wrote will prevent the attacks. People who say nothing about mistreating the poor or waging unjust wars — infinitely more central to the Bible than gay people simply being gay — will likely send me the usual condemning and insulting letters and tweets. If this happens to me, boringly heterosexual and married, imagine the experience of countless LGBTQ2 people.
When I underwent a profound change of view on all of this eight years ago I was treated to a whole circus of nastiness. I can look back at it now and sound brave and tough. Truth is, at the time it left bloody wounds. We move on, but there’s one incident that I can’t expunge from memory or psyche.
A conservative Christian media platform had written yet another dishonest and cruel article about me. Beneath it were comments, and it’s never a good idea to pay them any attention. But this day for some reason I took a look. The first one was abusive. The reply below it explained that while the writer hated me, people needed to understand that my child was gay and so my heresy could be partly understood.
The original commentator then wrote this. “I didn’t know that. I can’t forgive him but it does make sense now. I’d rather my child had cancer than was gay.” I promise you that this is completely true.
In fact, all of our four children are straight, not that I or they could care less. If they were LGBTQ2 I’d be proud of them. If they were homophobic, however, I’d be ashamed. Be defined not by who you love but how you love and that you love.
This is why Pride matters, and Pride Month has to continue because the battle for truth and decency is far from over. I know that people argue that it’s all rather irrelevant now, and that LGBTQ2 people have achieved full equality. That, alas, is untrue in Canada, let alone the rest of the world — it’s still illegal to be gay or to be involved in a same-sex relationship in many countries.
To most of you out there, please do the right thing. To my fellow Christians, pray for understanding and empathy. For some of you, pray for forgiveness too. ◆