LGBT Issues

Why the Church needs to stop reaching out

I was reading through my Facebook feed recently and saw that someone liked an interview with Jennifer Knapp. It was a person I do not generally associate with being LGBT affirming, so I was surprised to see an interview with a gay Christian where she spoke openly about her faith and orientation on their page.

As I read what they had to say, I gained a bit of understanding. They posted the article so that “Christians can minister to those in the gay community.”

I often hear (and have said myself) that the Church needs to reach out to those in the LGBT community. You may also hear that the Church needs to reach out to liberals. And agnostics. And atheists. And any number of “others.”

But here’s the thing.

They’re already there.

Whatever group it is that we think we need to reach out to, they are already attending your church. They’re sitting beside you in the seats. They’re taking communion with you. They’re holding your babies in the nursery. They’re singing on the worship team. They are all around you.

We have to stop thinking of groups as being outside of our churches. They might be outside of what your church teaches, but they are still inside of your church. No matter how small your congregation, some “other” is a part of it.

We also need to be wary of focusing on groups, because that can cause us to become lazy with our words. If we’re “reaching out” to gays, we might not be as careful with the crude caricature of an effeminate man from the pulpit. If we’re “reaching out” to atheists, we might be tempted to make a sweeping generalization about a lack of faith in our small group. If we’re “reaching out” to liberals, we might go ahead and make the Obama joke during sharing time.

Whenever we’re consumed with “reaching out,” we’re potentially neglecting those who are already among us.

Perhaps instead of reaching out, we should begin by embracing those we see around us. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love  one another.”

Rather than looking for opportunities to find groups of people to minister to, perhaps we can focus on loving the individuals right with us. Take time to get to know them. Share a meal together. Play a board game together. Create together.

Let’s treat the people that we go to church with as our mission field. Because it’s by loving them that we best reflect Christ.

By loving the individuals that we see each day, we begin to reach out.


Is there a group that you’re tempted to “reach out” to? Is there someone closer that you could get to know better?

Chick-fil-A and Hate Speech

Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A had an interview with Baptist Press where he confirmed that he is a Christian. And that his stores are closed on Sundays. And that he opposes marriage equality.

But this isn’t new.

Nevertheless, the internet got its panties in a wad over this.

And this is definitely not new.

Now I totally understand why my LGBT and LGBT-supporting friends are upset by some of Cathy’s statements. Being reduced to an issue rather than a person is demeaning and I can appreciate that it is frustrating to see your life and your relationship debated in the public square. I hate seeing my friends being turned into an academic or theological exercise.

Too often we hear things that are upsetting, like Cathy’s remarks, and we go a little crazy (I am the chief of sinners of this). We start using our own language that is inflammatory and extreme. We get into arguments with people who we like. We start saying that comments like, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that,” are hate speech.

When we do this, we do the conversation disservice. We cheapen that phrase “hate speech” by applying it to people who say things with which we disagree. Legitimate hurt gets lost in the midst of emotionally charged language.

We can acknowledge that there is a difference between hurtful words and hateful ones. We should acknowledge that.

But, what also gets lost in this is the actual hate speech that is going on, not with Dan Cathy, but with Chick-fil-A.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and is protected under the first amendment.

One thing that Chick-fil-A has done is to donate corporate funds (not Dan Cathy’s private money that he earned from his job, but rather money from the corporation itself) to a hate group.

In 2010, Chick-fil-A made a small donation ($1000) to Family Research Council. Family Research Council (FRC) has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A hate group. Like the Ku Klux Klan or White Aryan Resistance. 

The folks at FRC engage in hate speech. For example:

  • “One of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”
    -1999 FRC pamphlet, Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex with Boys
  • “Now, back in the 80′s and early 90′s I worked with the state department in anti-terrorism and we trained about fifty different countries in defending against terrorism, and it’s, at its base, what terrorism is, it’s a strike against the general populace simply to spread fear and intimidation so that they can disrupt and destabilize the system of government. That’s what the homosexuals are doing here to the legal system.” -FRC President Tony Perkins, Washington Watch, April 2011
  • “While activists like to claim that pedophilia is a completely distinct orientation from homosexuality, evidence shows a disproportionate overlap between the two. … It is a homosexual problem.”
    -FRC President Tony Perkins, FRC website, 2010

They lie about the LGBT community and they spread hatred. Not mere disagreement, but actual hatred.

This is a group that Chick-fil-A, the company, not Dan Cathy the person, has supported financially.

It is a small contribution. I understand that. In the grand scheme of things, $1000 is a puny amount. But if they donated $1000 to Westboro Baptist Church, I would be upset. If they donated $1000 to the KKK or the Aryan Nations, I would be upset. The amount is not the issue, it’s to whom the donation was made.

Money is speech and Chick-fil-A used money to promote hate.

This is why I, and many others, choose not to patronize Chick-fil-A. Not because we disagree with the owner’s views on marriage equality. Not because we believe that denying marriage rights means that you hate those to whom you are denying those rights. Not because we believe that Dan Cathy’s statements constitute hate speech.

But because Chick-fil-A has funded a hate group.

When people dismiss folks who have chosen to boycott Chick-fil-A for this reason, they perpetuate the idea that genuine hatred is acceptable when dealing with the LGBT community. Not because they actually believe that hatred is okay, but because they either mock those who acknowledge it, or they turn a blind eye to the hatred itself.

And this, like choosing to ascribe inflammatory language to mere disagreement, is hurtful. It causes pain and cuts off dialogue.

But I believe we can have a fruitful discussion.

I don’t think we’re going to agree. Not about whether or not to eat at Chick-fil-A. Not about marriage equality.

But we can ask for forgiveness when our words cause pain. We can acknowledge where there are genuine concerns. We can acknowledge ways to move forward together to stop actual damage.

We can move beyond hate speech into something that is pleasing.

Let my words and my thoughts
    be pleasing to you, Lord,
    because you are my mighty rock
    and my protector.

Psalm 19:14


How do you help keep perspective in the midst of hurt?

Dear Child

I spent most of yesterday afternoon crying about the words said by Sean Harris to his congregation about kids who don’t meet gender norms. As the mom of kids who don’t fit most stereotypes, it breaks my heart to hear that kind of harsh treatment suggested for young children. I’ll let others who are more eloquent speak about the pastor. Today I’m just writing to the kids in his congregation.


Dear Child,

Do you know that you are dear? If you hear nothing else, read that and hold it in your heart. Keep it close, because I know you may have heard that you’re not dear. But with all of my heart today, I want you to know that you are.

I’ve listened to the words that your pastor shared with your parents and I just want to hold you. I want to hold you if your parents take his advice and hurt you because of the way that you are. I’m so sorry that you are enduring abuse at the hands of people who have been entrusted with the position of caring for you. You are a treasure and a gift and should be treated as such. Your mannerisms, your sexuality – none of these should detract from the love that your parents show you.

Even if they don’t hit you, I want to hold you because those words damage without any direct action. Hearing that you “need to be attractive” if you’re a girl can hurt you if you don’t feel like you’re attractive enough. Hearing that you have to dig ditches if you’re a boy may cut at you, especially if that’s not your idea of a good time. When the way that you look or the things that you enjoy or the people you love are criticized by your pastor, the shame of that goes deep.

But, my dear child, please know that love goes deeper.

Photo by A. Witt

You are not a cockroach. You are not a problem that needs to be fixed. Your value is not based on your looks. Your worth is not tied to your ability to do “manly” things.

I’m sorry that this is a lesson that you’re being taught at church. In a place where you should be loved, you are taught that you are unlovable. In a place where your unique gifts and abilities should be celebrated, you are taught that you must fall within certain parameters to receive praise. In a place where you should never have to earn love, you are taught that receiving love depends on your behavior.

Dear child, you are beautiful just the way you are. Not because you look or act a certain way, but because you bear the image of God. He delights in you. He sings over you. He dances because of you.

He loves you. I love you.

If I could hold you right now (and oh, I want to hold you right now), I would whisper that to you over and over.

He loves you, I love you, we love you. You are loved.

Dear child, I’m telling you that today. And if you need to hear it years from now, I’ll say it again.

Because no matter your age, you are, and always will be, a dear child.

My Big Gay Post

I’m Alise, and I affirm gay relationships.

This wasn’t something that I came to lightly. Rather, this has been a long journey that I have spent years waffling, thinking, studying, and praying about before finally coming to a decision.

I don’t think I’ve ever thought that being gay was a sin. It never made sense to me that being attracted to someone could be inherently wrong and nothing in the Scripture seemed to indicate that it was sinful. Everything seemed to be related to action rather than attraction, so I made my peace with it and just camped there for a long time. Of course, living in a small town and having no friends who were out certainly made it easier to simply not think about it and when I went to college any gay friends that I had were decidedly not Christian, so their sexual orientation didn’t really have any bearing on my theology.

And then things changed.

Tina helping me dye my hair at Camp Happy

My closest friend from high school was in a climbing accident that left her severely injured and which killed her best friend. And as we sat on the deck of her parents’ house, her covered in bruises with a broken eye-socket and grieving, she told me that her friend was more than simply a good friend. She had lost someone not only who she loved, but with whom she was in love. All of a sudden, everything that I knew about being a gay Christian was challenged.

For fourteen years I rolled this issue around in my head. I went online and talked to gay Christians who had no problem embracing their sexual orientation and their faith. I read articles and books about the difficult passages of Scripture that seem to condemn homosexual behavior. I examined nearly every avenue I could in trying to come to some peace, but peace would not be found.

If I came to the conclusion that homosexuality was not a sin, there could be a rift in relationships with a number of people – people who probably thought I believed the way I did on nearly everything else just to be contentious. I didn’t know how to look at a pastor and say, “I think you and most of your colleagues with years of biblical training are wrong about this issue.” I didn’t know how to tell my family, “Add this to the list of thing that I don’t agree with you about.” I didn’t know how to tell my kids, “You’re probably going to be told that homosexuality is a sin, but I don’t think it is.”

I could do this with things that affected me more directly. I could explain why I primarily vote Democrat and consider myself a liberal. I could carry on a discussion about why I accept theistic evolution and have a real problem with things like the Creation Museum. I could talk about social justice and the importance of caring for the poor. But gay stuff? Why would I put my neck out on the line for that? I’m a straight, married, stay-at-home mom of four. What’s the up-side to me not just supporting gay rights, but going one step further and affirming gay relationships in the Church?

Of course, if I came to the conclusion that homosexuality was a sin, there was only one person where there could be a relational shift. But that one person was important to me. She was a person with whom I had shared fake birthdays. She was a person who invented games with me. She was a person who had been my best friend during my unbearably awkward teenage years. And she was a person who wanted what I had – to share her life with someone that she loved.

I spent years agonizing over this.

And then it clicked.

God is love.

Tina and me at a friend’s wedding

I want to make it more complicated than that, but that’s it. God is love. Two people wanting to share love is of God. John 13:35 tells us how we know we’re being disciples of Jesus – we love. Love isn’t something that needs to be fixed or healed or redeemed. It’s already the highest law. It’s what God created us to do.

There are other reasons why I’ve come to this conclusion (I highly recommend Jack Rogers’s excellent resource, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality for a more thorough examination of the Scriptures and history surrounding the issue), but the primary reason is because of love. So maybe I can change my opening statement just a little bit.

I’m Alise, and I affirm love.