Editor’s note: This article is the third of a five-part series. Part one is available here, part two here, part four here and part five here.

Ten steps on my journey toward full LGBTQ inclusion continued:

2. I became reminded of my most core understanding of the meaning of the gospel.

If you have ever been near a Baptist church, you may be familiar with this text: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).

After study of the situation in the churches regarding LGBTQ+ people, and then revisiting the texts so central to my own salvation, I concluded that traditionalist Christianity has not acted as if the world God loves includes gender and sexual minorities.

Indeed, I concluded that the posture of the church was almost guaranteed to drive such persons away from God, church and even salvation. The church had been doing anti-evangelism, anti-missions, toward LGBTQ+ people and – increasingly – toward those who are appalled at their rejection, their families, friends and allies.

A few critics have suggested that those of us fighting for full LGBTQ+ inclusion are compromising the gospel. That is because what they mean by “the gospel” is “everything we traditionalist Christians happen to believe about everything.”

I am convinced that far from compromising the gospel, I am fully living it out now, because now I am acting as if the good news of God’s love for people in Christ applies fully to everyone.

3. I took seriously the growing gap between cultural acceptance and progress for LGBTQ+ people versus Christian intransigence – and concluded that the culture was closer to being right.

It is a most common claim among traditionalists that those of us who have moved to a fully accepting place are simply surrendering to decadent liberal cultural trends. They see us as lacking the courage to stand up for true Christian convictions against the pressures of cultural liberalism.

This seemed a powerful argument for a while, at least to me. I have studied situations, as in Nazi Germany, where the church surrendered to a crazy cultural movement, and I have honored the resisters. Sometimes, Christians must stoutly resist dangerous cultural trends.

But it is not simply a given that every cultural movement for social change is evil. Sometimes movements for cultural change are good, that is, they reflect progress toward what is true, just and right.

The 1960s and 1970s marked significant breakthroughs in equality for Black people, women, divorced people and gay people. Many white Christian conservatives opposed every single one of these liberative movements; how does that look now? Only a down-the-line conservatism that always looks back to a golden past age and resists forward movement and change will simply reject all cultural change as bad.

It eventually struck me that cultural movements for full LGBTQ+ rights and dignity looked more like the gospel than what the guardians of the gospel themselves were saying. This reminded me of the way Jesus treated people and how he was opposed by the guardians of orthodoxy in his context.

Traditionalists see movement towards greater social tolerance and acceptance as welcoming and blessing sin. But Jesus’ way was to welcome and bless all kinds of people and to offer them grace.

The bad and good news, of course, is that we are all sinners, and that we all need grace. Cisgendered straight people must unlearn a long habit of pointing the finger at the perceived sins of others when, in Jesus’ eyes, it is that finger pointing itself that is the gravest sin (Matthew 7:1-5).

4. I rejected the perception that LGBT acceptance was part of an apostasy or cultural decline narrative and instead came to perceive it as part of a narrative of fuller participation of more people in gospel-shaped community.

This point builds on the last one. Instead of a narrative of cultural decline or decadence, instead of a narrative of Christian apostasy toward LGBTQ+ acceptance, I concluded that what we are witnessing in our time should be seen as a narrative of fuller participation in gospel-shaped community.

Here we encounter the amazing relevance of the striking stories of the early Jewish Christian movement finding its understanding of God and of Torah shattered by what God was evidently doing among the Gentiles. Much of the later Christian testament offers theological-exegetical wrestling with this crazy fact: that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was now welcoming Gentiles.

The Apostle Peter may have said it best in Acts 10:28: “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” LGBTQ+ people know in their bones what it feels like to be labeled profane and unclean.

The most relevant single biblical parallel, or paradigm, for what is happening now in this intra-Christian movement toward full dignity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ people is the Acts account of Gentiles being included in what had been a Jewish messianic movement.

This makes for another good example of how the Bible texts viewed as most relevant to a specific “issue” can change as our perceptions change. Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus and Romans 1 don’t seem nearly as relevant to LGBTQ+ issues as Acts 8 (the story of the Ethiopian eunuch) and Acts 10 (Peter and Cornelius).

Bible interpretation is just not as simple as literalist parsing of the passages that somebody authoritatively tells you are the most relevant to an issue. Sometimes the real issue is which passages are themselves viewed as most relevant.

I vote for Acts 10 because I see current developments in the perspective of the shattering of an exclusivist legalist religion by the inclusive movement of God’s Spirit as in the early church.

Share This