As peacemakers following in the footsteps of Jesus, our motivation for confronting bias in the church must never be revenge. Yet even an insight offered thoughtfully can elicit strong reactions in others. In light of this, I want to preface today’s post with this clarification: the church included me; my parents loved me; and Jesus saved me. What I am about to write is not a working out of my own pain. If you sense “passion” in what you are about to read, I ask you to see a man writing out of concern for vulnerable young people among us.
Even as evangelical porn use continues at pandemic levels, I do not know any adult evangelical males using porn who have been “expelled” from their churches for immorality in accordance with 1 Corinthians 5. I do, however, know numerous LGBT+ teens and young adults who have been expelled or pushed away. I have heard a mother’s desperate cry as elders voted to kick her 16-year old son out of youth group. I have encountered parents who think they are reflecting Christ as they “cut off” their lesbian daughter. I have pleaded with pastors not to remove gay teens from nominal positions of service only to see them strip away any sense of spiritual identity in these young people. Too many times, we chop at the roots of faith.
As stated in prior posts, the justification for handling LGBT+ people differently is that they “celebrate” sin while porn users “feel bad” about sin. This fosters an atmosphere where grown men can click and feel bad, click and feel bad, click and feel bad – but teens wrestling with romantic attraction, identity confusion, teasing from peers, fear of family rejection and suicidal thoughts cross a line when they believe gay love is acceptable. This imbalance is why religious rejection is a leading risk factor for suicide among gay teens.
When I see this imbalance – this bias – play out in the lives of vulnerable young people, I think really strange thoughts. Like: Maybe we – as evangelical adults – should possess more of the power of God that we claim will “change” all those gay teens. Such teens may be more guilty of “wrong belief” rather than sexual sin given that many are not even sexually active. Is our wide acceptance of porn use among believers also “wrong belief?” No matter whose belief or behavior is wrong, my heart simply mourns how easily LGBT+ young people leak out of our churches feeling minimized, moralized, rejected and forgotten.
Do we ever go run after them? Or do we just let them go? Or do we not even notice they are gone? My friends, how can we ever reach the LGBT+ community if we cannot even keep the gay teens in our midst?
Principle Three: The third key principle to guide “reasonable self-determination” for inclusion of LGBT+ people in our evangelical churches is this – we will become a place where LGBT+ people can pursue a faith journey toward Christ when we learn to keep and nourish gay teens and young adults growing up in the church. Who are these gay kids? They are God’s children; they are our children.