I used to obsess over what anti-gay Christians thought — here’s why I stopped caring
For years, I cared what anti-gay Christians thought about me. Deeply. I spent countless hours arguing the finer points of scriptural history and interpretation with them – especially the “clobber passages” – those six or seven passages that they claim unequivocally condemn homosexuality. I cared so much that I created an Whosoever, an online magazine – back in 1996 with the mission of arguing against anti-gay Christians and equipping my fellow LGBT Christians to do the same. I even wrote a book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, to help others who deeply cared about what anti-gay Christians believed and said cope with the ongoing battle for our right as LGBT Christians to actually exist.
Now, two decades after starting that magazine and nearly 10 years after the book’s publication, I have no more fucks left to give. I can’t pinpoint the moment of my epiphany, but I do remember, sometime last year, reading a typical story about a typical anti-gay Christian saying the tired typical stuff about how LGBT people are an abomination, condemned by God, and not as good at dancing as they believe. (Okay, I made that last part up, but I had to so the article would hold my interest.)
In that moment, I remember thinking, “Who gives a fuck what they say? Who gives a fuck what they believe?”
Now, with the release of the Nashville Statement, a 14-point manifesto on human sexuality endorsed by a group of evangelical leaders this past week shows why every person of good will should give zero fucks about their ill-founded and hateful opinions about LGBT people.
Yes, I know. What they say and what they believe has been the source of suffering for many LGBT people who have prostrated themselves before anti-gay religious organizations promising to “fix them” and teach them how to pray away the gay. They enter hopeful that they’ll emerge as “normal” (meaning heteronormative, of course) and when they don’t, they suffer more emotional and spiritual abuse as they’re blamed for their lack of “healing.”
But, I contend that this kind of damage has only been done to the LGBT community because we have given them the authority to do it. Our community has allowed it to happen – to ourselves and to others. For some reason, we have agreed that the orthodox, evangelical, literal-translating “Bible believers” ideas about God and homosexuality actually have some sort of authoritative merit. Here’s the news flash: They don’t.
It’s high time we stop giving a fuck what the evangelical, anti-gay Christians say, or believe, about homosexuality. Why? Because they don’t have a clue. Not just about science and biology and years and years of research around the subject, but because they don’t have a clue about Jesus or God or anything they claim to have a corner on. In reality, they are just as dumb as any of us about the reality of God’s will, God’s nature or God’s intention for any of us. To take their word about homosexuality as “gospel” (which is a complete bastardization of the “good news” such a word is meant to convey) is to give them a source of authority that they do not possess.
What would be our authority to stop believing them? Let me tell you about this guy named Jesus. Back in his day, there were fundamentalists—those religious leaders who had set themselves up as keepers of the orthodox flame. They did, back then, what modern day fundamentalists do: They took scripture, meant to open up all humans – the Jew, the widow, the outcast, the leper and poor – to life-giving transformations that would bring them into closer personal and corporate relationship with their maker, and calcified them into rote rules and regulations meant to clearly delineate the clean and unclean, the righteous and the sinner, for easy ejection from the congregation.
We still do that today and not just in the churches. The latest White House resident carries on this grand tradition by using civil rights laws to further discrimination, the power of the education department to increase segregation in schools, the power of the interior department to accelerate the decimation of the environment, the power of the justice department to inflict injustice and the power of the EPA to further foul our nest.
As Marianne Williamson says: “Evil is the power of God inverted.”
This is what evil people do – they use holy, life-giving words and concepts mean to gather in a disparate population of humans and creation and turn them on their head, and even inside out, to use them to divide, destroy, demean, discriminate and decimate all those they see as “other.”
Jesus, though, didn’t give a fuck what the fundamentalists of his day thought or said. He challenged them on their exclusive interpretation of scripture, broke their laws right in front of them, overturned their corrupt power and economic systems and called them names to their faces.
Jesus never tried to conform his life to the religious mores of his day. Instead, he went about doing God’s work of bringing more love into this world. He began his own community where there was only one rule: “Love one another as I have loved you.” He wasn’t concerned if his disciples had their doctrines and dogmas right. In fact, he knew they’d fuck it all up and he loved them anyway. He didn’t build a church, or hire musicians with a smoke machine, or start auxiliary ministries or denominations.
Instead he spent his time loving, healing and building relationships with those considered as “other.” This is the calling of anyone who wants to build an inclusive society—let alone an inclusive religion or spirituality.
I acknowledge, however, with deep gratitude, all of the LGBT people who have fought, and won, many hard battles to reform various Christian denominations in this world. They are brave and they understand what the Apostle Paul said when he told us our fight is not against each other, but the powers and principalities of this world.
They have used love to transform both the people and the institutions they love. I applaud them.
But, every time we allow the principalities and powers to set the parameters of the argument, or challenge us to “disprove” their orthodoxy, the deck is already stacked against us. Each time we engage in an argument on their terms, we relinquish our power, and give them authority over us. It’s time to stop giving our power away and instead find ways to come together with others, as Jesus did, and be the loving community of God in the world.
I’m not asking us to found yet another organization. What I am asking is that we stop giving a fuck about what anti-gay Christians have to say. They can say whatever they want, but we must give it no authority over our own lives, or over larger society. We must work to discredit them, to show that the evangelical emperor has no clothes. We do that by reclaiming our authority to teach and interpret scripture in the way it was meant to be heard – as an invitation to transform ourselves, and the world, from a place of fear and hatred to love. It’s what Jesus did and it’s what many on the religious left, such as Moral Monday founder Rev. William Barber, are continuing to do.
Like Jesus, we’ll get a ton of pushback. It certainly came with a high price tag for Jesus and may for us as well—if we do it right. We’re not called to save the whole world, but we are called to live our lives from a place of Holy integrity and love that has an organic authority of its own. It’s that integrity that will let us know when to speak and act, and when to walk away.
Jesus says when you’ve tried your best—you’ve made your best arguments against the powers that be, in love, and they still don’t get it, let them know, in no uncertain terms, that you have zero fucks left to give.
Wipe the dust off your feet.