Why it’s sinful *not* to be affirming of LGBTQ+ persons

Author’s note: I am a heterosexual cis male, married for 30 years to my amazing wife. I cannot begin to comprehend the issues experienced by my brothers, sisters, and non-binary family. I am trying, but even if I can intellectually grasp the things going on I will never fully understand.
This piece is not intended to imply that I ‘get it’. Rather it is directed at the church (in general, not all churches) to encourage Christians to really, honestly consider their stance on the LGBT+ community members and why they think/feel the way they do. Most of what is presented here is opinion (mine) but I hope to reach people. Love is love. Let love be love. God is love. God loves you in spite of what anyone else says.


There’s a phrase used often in Christian churches and by Christians, meant as a positive, but is actually a negative. I hate it. Hate. It.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

The implication of this quote, in my mind, is that while a person has to be loved, there is something about them that is hate-able. Something that has to be changed. Forced out. Destroyed.

I hate the phrase. I don’t use it (anymore). It’s not something Jesus ever said. It’s not something He ever implied.

What makes this phrase particularly despicable is that it is almost always used in only one context. You don’t hear it used to talk about alcoholics or divorced couples or other ‘sins’, but only and specifically about homosexuality.

Love the LGBT+ person, hate the LGBT+ out of them.

Force them to change until they aren’t LGBT+ anymore. By any means necessary (in some churches).

And I’m here to tell you, as a Christian, as one who has spent a great deal of time studying the Bible, who has taken some seminary classes, who has studied some of the Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic as exists in the manuscripts we have that have been translated into our modern English Bible, that that way of thinking is so seriously so shockingly wrong that not only is it bad, it’s sinful.

It is literally a sin not to be accepting and AFFIRMING of everyone, especially LGBT+ people.

Let me say that again.

It is a sin NOT to be affirming of LGBT+ people.

Not just accepting, affirming.

Sin.

A sin the church immediately needs to stop.

 

What does that mean, affirming?

In this context, let’s define how it’s different from just accepting. Many churches and churchgoers claim to be accepting. But going back to that despicable phrase accepting means only that you are doing the first part,  the “love the sinner” part. I accept you, the person. But I don’t welcome all of you. There’s a part of you that is ‘bad’.

That is the way most churches define accepting. We’ll let you in, but we’re still going to try to change you.

Affirming, on the other hand, is very different. Affirmation, in this context, is to value, uphold, defend. It’s beyond accepting to the point of “I defend everything you are”.

To affirm LGBT+ people we need to uphold and defend everything they are.

But what about that verse in Leviticus? What about that verse in Romans? What about…. what about…. what about….?

I am not going to rehash the entire “Biblical” argument ‘against’ homosexuality. Much has been written on the topic, including by me. If you don’t understand how the traditional interpretation of the Bible against homosexuality is wrong (not the Bible, the INTERPRETATION of those verses in the Bible) then I strongly encourage you to do some homework. For starters, I recommend this blog post by my friend Mark Sandlin.

 

That being said, here’s my bigger point, my biggest point:

You cannot love someone into changing what they are.

The church cannot love people into changing their core being.

People cannot be loved into changing the way they were made.

 

Not long ago, my church had a good ministry called “Celebrate Recovery”.

(There are issues with the way CR is executed at many churches, and the source materials are very anti-LGBT+, so I won’t recommend it for all churches, rather this is just an anecdote of my own experiences as it relates to this blog post.)

CR is heavily based on the concept behind Alcoholics Anonymous and other recovery group programs, that together people can change things we struggle with. We were a very small church so we had a very small group. Within the group, we had several ‘issues’ that we were all trying to help each other with. Substances, yes, but other addictions and behaviors. I won’t ‘out’ anyone, and I’m not quite comfortable sharing the reasons I was in the group but I’ll make my point (while respecting the anonymity of others).

“The guys” and I spoke a lot about a lot of things in our group. But above all, we acknowledged that for better or worse there were ‘things’ that were ‘built in’ to us. That we were ‘wired’ a certain way. Some of those things we needed help with because, ultimately, medically, they were self-destructive, literally. Others we needed to learn to live with. And others we actually needed to embrace because if we’re built that way, and God doesn’t make mistakes, then we should not only learn to live with it, we should take joy in who we are.

If you’re at all familiar with AA, then you’ve probably heard the Serenity Prayer. In many places, they use the ‘abridged’ version, but in CR we used the entire prayer:

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.

Serenity, acceptance, courage, living, enjoying, trusting, and ultimately, happiness. It goes beyond just saying “oh well, this is how it is”, it’s finding peace and happiness in the things that are part of what we are.

And that is how the church should be! In the bigger, broader, greater sense we need to take JOY in our differences. Just as we wouldn’t kick out someone who was struggling with addiction to substances that damage their body, we shouldn’t kick out people who identify their gender or sexuality differently than how we view as ‘traditional’ gender and sexuality.

I am in no way comparing gender identity and sexuality to alcoholism. The latter is a disease that can (and in thousands of cases does), if ‘given in’ to, kill you. The former is, well, what it is. But in both cases, the church should view them as ‘the way people are wired’, rather than accepting the disease by shunning the other.

I hope that makes sense. What I’m trying to say is that we, the church, have been hypocritical and that, in itself, is a sin.

But let’s go further.

There’s another expression that gets thrown around a lot in the Christian community:

WWJD?

What Would Jesus Do?

“Well,” some church leaders might say, “Jesus was a good Jewish man, He would have followed the Old Testament which says in Leviticus blah blah blah…”

But we actually KNOW what Jesus would do. Because we know what He DID. At least some of what He did as recorded in the Gospels.

And what He did was this: love people.

Let me rephrase that: He DANGEROUSLY loved people.

By far the best example is the woman caught in adultery. (Again, not comparing being LGBT+ to adultery, but bear with me.)

To paraphrase the story, the religious leaders of the time brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. By their laws, it was required she be executed by having rocks thrown at her until she was dead. A brutal, painful, and I imagine a slow way to die.

So they bring her to Him and say “what would you do? Our laws demand she be executed!”

Jesus says “let those among you who have never sinned throw the first stone.”

One by one they drop their stones and leave.

That took some serious guts.

By the law that these religious leaders followed (most of which was made up junk on top of the laws of Moses that they claimed to have followed), they could have not only executed her, but Him as well. On the spot.

In the story, the Pharisees pose the question and Jesus doesn’t immediately answer. He IGNORES them and bends down and writes something in the dirt. (We don’t know what it was, he could have been playing tic-tac-toe, who knows?) They ask him again, and he tells them “if you’re sinless, throw the stones” and GOES BACK TO WRITING IN THE DIRT!

He not only takes a dangerous stand, He has the gall (from their point of view) not only to take a stand against them but to basically blow them off.

Dangerous.

He loved her, in spite of her actions, and he did so in a way that could have immediately resulted in his death.

And this isn’t the only example.

There’s the Samaritan woman at the well. The Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed. The centurion and his servant, the possessed man who lived in a graveyard (a Gentile – non-Hebrew – which we know because the people nearby raised pigs)…

These are all people that the religious leaders of the day saw as outsiders or worse. Even his closest disciples were sometimes like “Dude, what are you doing?”

Jesus loved people, no matter what their condition, location, or circumstanced and He did so dangerously. Wrecklessly.

And then He told us to do the same. The greatest commandment. The one He said that all the others hang one: “Love your God and Love Your Neighbor as yourself”.

While Jesus took these words from the Old Testament laws, He also flipped them. While the Old Testament command to love God was an order, something you had to do, and the rules about your neighbor were things you were to avoid (“don’t do this to them, don’t do that to them”) Jesus used a very different word.

That word is “ἀγαπάω” (agapaō). You might have heard the English word “agape” (ah GAH peh).

Rather than being passive or an avoiding of certain actions, agape is ACTIVE. And not like an order, the Greek word implies a flowing out, something that exudes from you.

Like joy.

A way to think about it is a child at their own birthday party. Imagine that joy, that delight and squealing with happiness, as love for your neighbor.

That.

But then Jesus goes further. Who is your neighbor?

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. But what many modern readers miss is who the characters are in the story.

There’s the victim. We don’t know who he is. The only thing Jesus tells us is where he was coming from and where he was going. Other than that we don’t know his nationality or anything. Generic man.

There’s the robbers. Mentioned in passing, they beat and strip the victim. They’re not important to the story.

Then there’s the three main characters.

A priest. A Levite. And a Samaritan.

The priest and the Levite are important people. They work in the Temple and care for it. They teach the law and lead the songs and more than anyone else they should know what God wants people to do.

Think of them like a preacher and a worship team leader. They stand before the congregation and teach people about who God is and what God wants.

But both of them leave the victim there. Broken and bleeding and naked, they ignore him. Worse, they go out of their way to go around them. Like road-kill. Imagine you’re driving on the road and there’s a large animal, maybe a deer in the road. What do you do? You go into the other lane to get around it. That’s what these guys did to the victim.

But then there is the Samaritan. It’s important to know that this guy is a Samaritan. To the people Jesus is talking to the very word Samaritan would have been shocking.

To be blunt, the Israelite people of Jesus’ time saw the Samaritans as… well, mutts. They were the descendants of Israelites but they had ‘muddied’ themselves by marrying outside the tribes of Israel. But WORSE, they had also polluted the religion of the Israelites and worshiped God in places other than the Temple.

To the Israelites of Jesus time, they were, in essence, terrorists.

But here comes this Samaritan, and he sees the victim that the priest and Levite had ignored and had gone out of their way to avoid, and he takes the poor guy and not only cares for him, but when he has to continue on his way pays the inn keeper to care for him and to send him the bill.

And Jesus holds this guy up as the example to follow. Someone who everyone sees as a terrorist is the example to follow in loving your neighbor.

Love dangerously. The Samaritan loved the guy dangerously. He didn’t know who the guy was. If the victim was also a priest or a Levite they guy would have acted violently toward the Samaritan, but he didn’t care and took care of the guy anyway.

Love. Dangerously.

The greatest commandment. To paraphrase given the example Jesus gave in the parable: Love God and Love even those who are extremely different from you and do so in a way that risks your own life.

If that is our greatest commandment, and the word Jesus used implies an active, flowing, uplifting love, then to do any less for anyone in our midst is a sin.

And that includes not only includes but INSISTS the LGBT+ community.

To not affirm people as they are, as they define themselves (if such affirmation is not including self or other harming, like addiction) is, by definition, breaking the greatest commandment.

And to break that commandment is the greatest sin.

This entire post is way off on a rant and ramble, but this is something I feel very strongly about.

Love is love.

God is love.

WWJD? Love.

Too many people, too much of church teaching hinges on a couple of verses that are taken completely out of context and in our English Bibles are translated improperly. Homosexuality, in the context of the Bible as a whole, is not even really there. It’s not in the Ten Commandments, it’s not in any of the teachings of Christ and I, personally, feel that we as a church, as a faith, as a community need to move beyond it to the bigger broader teaching of Jesus. And that is to love, to actively, violently, DANGEROUSLY love people where they are. As they are. To AFFIRM them as they are, so long as what they are does not involve self-harm or other harm. And if it does then that is the part we heal. Everything else we embrace.

To do any less is breaking the greatest commandment. And is the greatest sin.

 

Ok, I’m done ranting. I love you. I violently dangerously love you. I mean that.

 

 

Ten Commandment Monuments Don't Belong On Government Property

In the news the last couple days, kind of drowned out by the news of yet another mass murder in our country, is the story of the Ten Commandments monument being removed, by order of the Supreme Court, from the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol. The deal was “either allow other religions to be represented or move it”, and when the so-called Church of Satan commissioned a statue to be placed on the grounds, the governor caved and removed the Ten Commandments.

Another chapter to this story is unfolding right here in my hometown. But it’s not the state capitol, it’s city hall. As the picture above shows, the monument is right by the door, it’s the last thing citizens see upon entering the building. Other monuments have since been placed by the same private donor featuring the Gettysburg Address and the Bill of Rights. The Ten Commandments, however, have been there the longest and the law was changed after they were placed to allow private donations of “sculptures” on city-owned land. However, to date, no other artworks have been allowed to be placed of any nature, religious in nature or otherwise.

There is a case that has already gone to the Supreme Court, just like the Oklahoma case, and likewise the city has been ordered to remove it. The case has been appealed based on the fact that the donation came from a private citizen and should therefore be free speech. Even though the free speech of others seems to be suppressed (because the law still requires city council approval, hardly free speech) under the law that was written after the fact to justify the Ten Commandments monument.

I am frustrated by the money that is being spent by the city council to defend something that was supposedly a private donation. There are much better ways to spend the money than on lawyers, our schools for example. (I admit I am biased on that one because my wife is a teacher in this district and my kids go there, but because of that I know how woefully underfunded the schools are).

I have previously written on this issue. When I shared my blog post on Reddit it sparked a conversation about why the  monument should be allowed to remain. The number one reason everyone gave me was: “The laws of this country are based on the Ten Commandments, so they aren’t religious, they’re history.”

Ugh.

Really? I mean really really?

I love and respect the Ten Commandments and their place in the Biblical stories of the Israelites. They’re important. They are good guidelines for the life of any believer. But the basis of American laws?

Let’s take a look:

From Exodus 20, starting at verse 3

1. You shall have no other gods before me.

To my knowledge, there exists no federal law declaring the God of Moses and the Israelites to be the “top most god”. It’s not mentioned in the Constitution. If it’s there, I can’t find it.

So that’s one down.

2. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 

This verse goes on to say that you aren’t to bow down to said idols and violators are punished to the third and fourth generation.

To my knowledge, there exists no federal law that makes building an idol and bowing to it illegal. In fact there are some that would argue that some churches practice this all the time, having statues of saints and Jesus on the cross.  It’s not mentioned in the Constitution. If it’s there, I can’t find it.

So that’s two down.

3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God

A more common translation is “don’t take the Lord’s name in vain”.

To my knowledge, there exists no federal law that makes wrongfully using the name of God illegal. In fact, it happens a billion times a day by American facebook users, often in the shorthand “OMG” (oops, I did it again). It’s not in the Constitution. If it’s there, I can’t find it.

I did find some mentions of counties and cities that have passed and enforced blasphemy laws. So there is that. But there aren’t any federal laws that I can find.

So that’s three down.

4. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work

This one used to be common practice, everything used to be closed on Sunday,  but I don’t find any record of it being a federal law. To my knowledge, there exists no federal law making working 7 days a week a crime. In fact, there are companies that work their employees all the time. It’s not in the Constitution. If it’s there, I can’t find it.

On top of that, we can’t even decide what is that Sabbath, is it Saturday or Sunday? When does it start? Some would say sundown Friday. Others would say Midnight Sunday morning. Others have other ideas.

So that’s four down. We’re more than a third of the way and we haven’t found one United STates Federal Law based on the Ten Commandments.

5. Honor your father and your mother

There exists Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I’ll give you that. But that doesn’t mean it’s a law to honor them. To my knowledge, there exists no federal law requiring us to honor our parents. It’s not in the Constitution. If it’s there, I can’t find it.

That’s five down. Half the commandments’aren’t reflected in federal law. So far.

6. You shall not murder

Yes. One. Murder is a crime. Not in the Constitution, though. (Yes, I’m being facetious, there really aren’t any of theses anywhere near the Constitution. But it’s a running gag that I like, and it’s my blog. So there.)

7. You shall not commit adultery

This did used to be law. In some states it still is. Audultery being defined as “breaking the marriage covenant”. (There are some that argue that this commandment means “don’t break any contract” not just the marriage contract, but that’s another blog post.) So I’ll give you this one. Not a federal law, though. Also not in the constitution. If it’s there, I can’t find it. (Tired of that joke yet? Not me.)

So that’s 5-2.

8. You shall not steal.

I’ll give you this one too.

If you’re keeping score that’s 5-3. 5 that have no laws based on them, 3 that do.

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

I’ll give you this one also. Not because lying, in general, is a crime, but because there do exist laws pertaining to “contempt of court” and “purgery”. So in the strictest legal sense, yes this one has laws based on it.

5-4! Will the last one at least be a tie?

10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

In other words, “don’t be jealous of anything your neighbor has”.

Not only is there no law against jealousy, jealousy is the basis of our economy. “Keeping up with the Joneses”.

To my knowledge there exists no federal law against jealousy. It’s not in the Constitution. If it’s there, I can’t find it.

Final score 6-4. Only 4 of the “Big 10” are reflected in law, not all of the 4 are reflected in Federal law.

So can we still say that the Ten Commandments is the basis of our legal system in the United States?

No. Not by a longshot. To say it is reflects bias toward religion and ignorance of the law.

It also reflects an ignorance of history and archeology. There are law codes much older than the Ten Commandments that some argue that the Ten Commandments draw from. The Code of Hammurabi dates back to almost 2000 BC. There are Egyptian laws that are much older than that. Then there are the Romans, the Greeks, Phonecians, Native Americans, etc. etc. etc.

In other words, there are common sense things that were included in the Ten Commandments that are not unique to them.

More than that, if the Ten Commandments was important to our founding fathers, the ones that wrote the Constitution and many of our earliest laws, we would find significant mention of it in their speeches, letters, books, and other writings. They almost never mention them, or any other religious writings as the basis of law. (Here’s a brief filed by 41 law professors and historians in the 11th circuit court of appeals in Alabama)

So do the Ten Commandments belong on Government property?
No.  Not at all. However, if, as was the case in Oklahoma, and as it should be in in Bloomfield New Mexico with our law of allowing private donations of art, even though no others have been approved, we allow any and all expressions of religion no matter how offensive they may be to some, then we can keep our Ten Commandments.

Until then, no. Play fair, or don’t play.