Sunday, May 21, 2023

Love and Acceptance

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

— Matthew 22:37-40


Christianity is in a time of crisis, and the LGBTQ+ community is suffering more and more because of it. We aren’t even allowed to be talked about in some schools. Books about us are banned from schools and libraries. When I hear someone say they are a Christian, I, sadly, have a visceral reaction and often equate it with homophobia and bigotry. Too many Christians, and especially the current Protestant leaders, are duplicitous, hypocritical bigots who do everything but follow the teachings of Christ. They wrap their words in biblical language while preaching hate and fear. They are the furthest from Christ’s teachings as they can be, yet they hide behind a cross. They are a disgrace to Christianity, and they are rejecting the teachings of Jesus for their own distorted and hate-filled beliefs. Jesus’s teachings can be summed up in two words: love and acceptance. Jesus’s love and acceptance are unconditional, yet for many Christians, it is very conditional. If you do not live by the hateful words spewed by Christian leaders, then you are rejected by their congregations. They may even claim they are accepting and affirming to all people, but they are only accepting and affirming on the condition that you follow their beliefs that have no basis in the teachings of Christ as seen in the Bible. When we look at the megachurches in the United States, you see ministers doing everything they can to get more and more people into their churches, but it’s not to grow Christianity and make the world a better place, it is so they can feed their greed for money and have control over people. It’s not about Christianity; it’s a power trip.


The need to control others leads to attempting to mold people into someone they are not. They want to preach the teachings of men and not the teachings of the Bible. God, who is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, created all things and knows all that has been and will ever be. Revelation 1:8 says, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” He created us in His image. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God, He created him; male and female He created them.” Therefore, how can someone hate another for the way they were born? When people in our lives want us to be something we are not and try to change who we are, then they fail as Christians. How can someone follow God and at the same time try to be God by molding someone into their distorted vision of who they should be? It is not possible because they are rejecting the belief that God created man in His image and that Jesus taught acceptance. When the scribes and Pharisees brought Jesus a woman caught in adultery and demanded that she be stoned, John 8:7 tells us that Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  

Yet, Christians today have declared a crusade against the LGBTQ+ community. Are they all without sin? No, Romans 3:22-24 says, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Christ commands us not to judge others. In Matthew 7:1-2, Jesus preached, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” We must remember that nowhere, not a single time, is the LGBTQ+ community mentioned in the teachings of Christ. In the Old Testament, Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” Yet this rule is amid numerous other laws that Christians ignore and do not follow. Eating bacon is just as much an abomination as lying with another man. So, is eating shellfish, wearing two different types of fabric, etc. Jesus came to this earth to bring a New Covenant. If the LGBTQ+ community should be condemned, Jesus would have mentioned it. Yet, there is nowhere in the Bible where He does. 


Being gay is an innate dimension of personality. For those of us who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, it is the way God made us in “His own image.” Sexual orientation was not even understood in biblical times. Yet, as stated before, God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. If He had felt that sexuality should be addressed, it would be mentioned in Jesus’s teachings. If you are like me and grew up in a rural area, you were not made aware of sexual diversity. Chasten Buttigieg, who I greatly admire and is the husband of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, described his struggles growing up gay in a small town:

“When I was growing up in conservative rural Michigan, I thought I was the only gay person in the world. I thought something was twisted and wrong with me. I thought something in my DNA was compromised, and I spent 18 years of my life hating this fact about me [but] when you embrace the qualities about yourself that make you weird or make you different or make you feel like you stand out from the crowd, you start to see what actually makes you truly powerful and unique and beautiful. [You see] you’re not defined by the opinions of other people.”

LGBTQ+ people were never discussed in my church. If they were discussed in other churches, it was to say they are an “abomination” and God is punishing them with AIDS. In fact, in all the years I attended church, only once did one of my preachers mention any LGBTQ+ issues, and that was after the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized gay marriage. That Sunday, my preacher gave a sermon in which he used verses out of context and verses exclusively from the Old Testament to condemn gay people. I wish I’d been brave enough to either stand up and tell him how wrong he was or had simply walked out of the church. Instead, I left at the end of the service and never went back. It angered me so much because I was raised Church of Christ, which is a New Testament church. We follow the teachings of Jesus, not the laws of Judaism. We don’t have musical instruments in church services because it is not mentioned in the New Testament, but musical instruments are mentioned as being part of Jewish religious celebrations. This preacher abandoned the beliefs of my church to preach hate and to twist the words of the Bible. Twisting the Words of God and abandoning the New Testament is an abomination in the beliefs of the Churches of Christ. Yet, the Churches of Christ are not an affirming Christian denomination. They have abandoned the teachings of the founders of the Christian Restoration Movement to put forward their own hatred of all things different.


When I was younger, and something bad would happen to me, I always thought it was because God was punishing me for being gay. I would have some gay things that I’d acquired, and I’d get rid of all of it. I’d throw any toys, magazines, or books away. I’d delete anything gay on my computer. I’d even delete my profiles on dating sites and the phone numbers of people I knew who were gay. I’d get rid of it all and try to make myself believe it would get better. If I just did away with my gayness, God would not punish me, and life would get better. But you know what? It didn’t. Either these bad things were because I caused them or just bad luck. They were not God punishing me. It took me years of prayer, meditation, and research to understand that I could not change who I am. I could not change my sexuality. Enforced celibacy was not the answer either. It just made me feel guilty and like a failure when I had gay thoughts or gay encounters. We need to have the option to find love, and romantic love does include intimacy. 

I think one of the reasons I gained weight is because it made me undesirable to other men. It wasn’t until I began to accept and love myself that I quit this destructive behavior and quit trying to do away with my sexuality. Everything I tried to do to make myself “straight” caused more problems, greater depression, and destructive behavior like drugs or alcohol. I used to drink way too much, though it was never to the point of being an alcoholic, and I never abused drugs too badly, but that was more because it usually made my migraines worse. I still get migraines if I smell marijuana. Those times when I struggled most with the denial of my sexuality were the times when my migraines were their absolute worst. I prayed at times for God to let me die just so the pain would stop. That led to using more powerful painkillers that could melt away the pain for a little while, but that just caused overmedication migraines which became a vicious cycle. Before I could stop that type of behavior, I had to love myself and accept my sexuality. It was the only way to heal. I still have migraines but for other reasons, not because I am struggling with my sexuality.


One of the things I have always endeavored to do with my Sunday devotionals is to give people who are looking for answers on how to be a good Christian and a gay Christian a place where they are welcomed. I wanted those who were struggling to see that they are not alone. Growing up, I felt very alone, and I thought something must be wrong with me. It took me a long time to come to terms with my sexuality because it went against what I was taught by my parents and community. When I realized that I could not change who I was and that God made me the way I am, I dove into the Bible for answers. James Neil Hollingworth, better known by the pseudonym Ambrose Redmoon, said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear." We must have the courage to believe in God’s Word. We need the courage to accept who we are. We need to fight for what is right and for the true message of Christianity. If we are Christians, we should not hate anyone, no matter what their beliefs are, but we can fight for what is right. James Baldwin is quoted as saying, "We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist." 


Too often throughout history, Christianity has been rooted in oppression and denial of the diversity of humanity and its right to exist. This is not God’s work. It is the work of evil and hatred. People who claim to be "Christian" yet are anything but completely reject Christ's teachings in their everyday lives, and Christianity is shrinking because of the hatred it fuels. While Christians continue to make up a majority of the U.S. populace, their share of the adult population was 12 points lower in 2021 than it was in 2011. Currently, about three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones”—people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. That number is nearly double what it was in 2007. Christians are driving people away from religion. In Acts 2:40, Peter said, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Today, we need to be saved from the perversity of Christians who are rejecting Christ for their own greed, desire to control others, and hunger for power. If Christianity in the world today continues on this trajectory, the “nones” will continue to grow.


Those who are attacked for their sexuality by “Christians” too often end their own lives. They are made to feel so guilty for how they choose to follow God’s word and to embrace their sexuality because God created them with a different sexuality than the majority of people. We must learn to love ourselves. If those who say they love us reject us and make us feel shame because of our sexuality, they do not really love us. They are putting conditions on their love, and by doing so, they reject all the teachings of Christ. They are doing evil’s work, not the work of God. Evil is destroying Christianity, and instead of fighting for what is right, too many are leaving the religion, or they try to mold themselves into the image that “Christians” want and end up destroying their own lives. There will always be people who care about you, who love you, and who want the best for you. Reach out to that person or those people and let them help you accept you for who you are. A true friend will not judge you. They will do everything they can to help you, but you can't be afraid to ask. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”


I leave you with this advice: Love who you are. Accept the person God created. Don’t be bullied by unchristian beliefs. Live your life in a way that makes Jesus proud. Spread God’s Word. Eschew hatred. Embrace LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. Seek out someone who truly loves you not for who they want you to be, but for who you are.

1 comment:

JiEL said...

AMEN! As I always said, LOVE is the main teaching to follow. The rest is only fables and fantasy stories.

IF every one would just apply this main law in all parts of their lives, the world would be a so nice place to live in.