What It Feels Like

What does "being gay" in an evangelical world feel like, particularly when your evangelical friends and/or family members view your loving, same-gendered relationship as a "sinful choice," or worse, an abomination to God? Well, it sucks, and it sucks big time. Actually, this more than merely sucks, but it hurts on a very deep level. Friends, the reason why so many LGBTQ people reject Christ is for this very reason, we are made to feel disgusting, unloved, and overtly hated by the Church, by Christ, by God.

When I met my now boyfriend Matt, I had not considered the significance of his wishes regarding family, because I was too enamored in getting to know him, to love him, to share my life with him. (This relationship was not grounded sexually; I wanted, more than anything, to love and to be loved.) But he also wanted to share his life not only with his soul mate but with the family of his soul mate. So I had to approach the subject of sharing my life with Matt very patiently and carefully, very tenderly, to my conservative evangelical parents and brother. What was the outcome?

"Your father will never accept this," says mom, and I already figured that this would be the conclusion. He has been taught that homosexuality in toto is a sin, an abomination, and that God will not allow into God's presence and coming Kingdom anyone who engages him- or herself in a loving albeit same-gendered relationship. In conservative evangelicalism, we are taught to "hate the sin but love the sinner," which then amounts to some semblance of "hating the sin while keeping an arm's length from the sinner and making that sinner feel guilt and shame for the sin."

Many evangelicals do not care how this makes the LGBTQ person feel. "Feelings do not matter; what matters is the Word of God." That is spoken like a true Pharisee. Often did Jesus say, "You have heard it said, but I say to you." (cf. Matt. 5:21, 22, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 34, 38, 39, 43, 44) So, while the Pharisees were busy "defending the Word of God," Jesus challenges those literalistic and legalistic readings and interpretations and views any given issue through the lens of grace, and mercy, as we learn elsewhere, "mercy triumphs over judgment," for "judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful." (James 2:13 NIV) Jesus emphatically states: "For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged." (Matt. 7:2 NLT)

Hate the sin but love the sinner: Okay, but what, exactly, do you mean by "love the sinner," because the love of Jesus is not what I feel from you evangelicals who use this unbiblical motto. What I feel -- what I sense in the looks and the whispers and the secret gossip (which I find out about) and the "unfriending" on Facebook by evangelicals and the words that "slip out" -- is judgment, and condemnation, not love. You forget: I, by the grace of God, am trusting in Jesus Christ to save me. I was regenerated in May 1995. I am a born again believer. I have been taught by the Word of God that there is no condemnation for the one who is trusting in Christ. (Rom. 8:1) This is not how I am made to feel by evangelicals.

But I have caught some of you in quite the conundrum. You claim that feelings do not matter, and that what matters is the Word of God, and yet you get your feelings hurt on this site all the live-long day when I criticize your politics, your conservative evangelicalism, and your idols (e.g., Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Michael Brown, Robert Jeffress, John Piper, Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell, Jr., Mike Pence, Al Mohler, Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, and too many others I could name). No, my brothers, what matters is not your feelings but truth -- objective truth.

Well, let me lay out some objective truth for you right here, the truth of how hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner-evangelicals make me feel. You make me feel that you care more about your theology (even your politics) than about me as a metaphysically eternal being created in the image of God. You often make me feel like a project than a human being. You make me feel like a broken toy that you have adopted to fix. You make me feel disgusting, loathed, hated by God, apostate, heretical, rejected and unatoned by Christ, unredeemed, outside the boundaries of the orthodox Christianity that you have, conveniently, defined for yourself and your theological ilk. You make me feel like you hate both the sin and the sinner.

You may ask: How can we change that unfortunate state of mind? I am glad you care to ask. You could start by actually caring about my feelings more than your theology or politics. I realize that you think you are right, theologically, just as I think I am right. But we both cannot be right. As a matter of fact, with all the theological and philosophical views, in the world of Christianity, none of us is entirely accurate on all points, perhaps even some significant, though perhaps not essential, points.



But your theology is not God. You should not equate your theology with loving God. You also should not love your theology more than you love people. What did Jesus teach? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself." (Luke 10:27) Love God and love your neighbor. Jesus does not list "love your theology" as an essential property of following His teachings. What does genuinely loving me entail?

I am glad you asked. According to Scripture, genuine love is self-sacrificial, even at the cost of your life. (John 15:13; 1 John 3:16) If you genuinely love me, even at the cost of your life, then you will be less concerned about judging me and more concerned about displaying grace and mercy. This does not mean that you must avoid critiquing my views. I will certainly critique your evangelical views. But loving me will include banishing motifs such as "hate the sin and love the sinner," for you know as well as do I that this phrase is reserved solely for LGBTQ persons, and is utilized as a rhetorical scheme to appear biblical, and godly, while heaping condemnation generally upon an entire group of people who are engaged in a life-experience for which not one among us asked.

Also, I need you to stop viewing "homosexuality" sexually -- meaning, stop treating me and others in the LGBTQ community as sexual objects, as though we do not possess a soul, feelings and loyalty, integrity and gratefulness, ingenuity and creativity, and, most importantly, love. Do not relegate us to a sex act that you find repulsive. Like heterosexuals, members in an LGBTQ context want to love and to be loved, even if that love will include momentary consensual sexual encounters. We are, like you, human beings created in the image of the same Creator God.

Above all: Treat us as you want to be treated. I once read that notion somewhere and I think that the statement is worthy of a life-motto. (Matt. 7:12) If you hold the traditionalist view of relationships and marriage, and you realize that I hold to the progressive view, then refuse to allow your view to disrupt treating me like a human being of such value that God would give the life of Christ Jesus to save my soul. I will do the same. I think your view is a misreading and misinterpretation of the scriptures, as do you of mine, and I think your views can cause irreparable damage to the lives of LGBTQ people. But I will still treat you for what you are: a human being created in the image of God. I ask the same of you.

If you attempt to take away my right to hold the progressive view, and to live out this view by legally marrying the guy I love, I will fight you ideologically, theologically, and politically. But I will still treat you for what you are: a human being created in the image of God. I will even lay down my life for your sake, for the cause of Christ, even though I disagree with you. (Yes, even for Franklin Graham.) I ask the same. To this we are called of Christ as His followers. But I think you need to know how I am made to feel by some of you. I am praying that you care enough to change.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.