While our nation publicly battles over The
Great Chicken War of 2012, I want to transcend the inconsequential nature
of this poultry debate with a real-life case of discrimination against an LGBT+ friend.
This is important since so many evangelicals are asking: “Why do gay people
think we hate them?”
Josh (29) sat listening to my presentation at Gordon-Conwell
Theological Seminary earlier this year. He later contacted me to share his
story of coming to terms with his sexuality. He battled through many years of
repression, which left him exhausted. As his emotional health shut
down, he could no longer cope. In coming out, he sought relief
from inner pain. Sadly, other pains soon surfaced as he lost
several evangelical friends. One friend simply said: “I cannot in good
conscience remain your friend.”
Well, personally speaking, I
am privileged to call Josh my friend. Our theology on homosexuality is
different, but we are unified in a mutual desire to know and follow Christ. I
see Josh as my brother who is attempting to move forward in his life – like the
rest of us. Among many pursuits, he has applied for a position in the military.
This brings us to the heart of the story.
has excellent credentials according to a former boss. He earns extremely high
marks for honor, integrity, people skills and work performance. The challenge
is that this boss – a fellow evangelical – refused to offer a
positive recommendation after recently finding out that Josh is gay.
evangelicals ask, “Why do gay people think we hate them?,” I tell them that the
hate is hard to see behind a smiling face, a beautiful family portrait, a
genuine faith, and the kind words that “Tom” expresses for Josh’s capabilities.
Yet when we deny a worthy person his pursuit of a secular career because of sexual orientation, this is hate. It is
homophobia; it is bigotry.
was privileged to have a thoughtful conversation with Tom. What astounded me most
was the gap between his confidence in Josh’s capabilities (and character) and his
refusal to assist Josh. Within days after our discussion, Tom moved a bit. He agreed
to offer Josh a positive recommendation but only with a written disclosure that
Josh is gay. He felt it was his Christian obligation to warn the military about
Josh’s sexual orientation. In his view, Josh might not qualify to serve with high
it is an entirely different topic, I believe it is important to note that Tom’s view
is partially formed by an enmeshing of evangelical and military identity. For many
people, these two identities merge together. I need to be careful to note that evangelical
ministries that pray for servicepersons in harm’s way and serve their families are
tremendously valuable! Thank God for this connection between the faith
community and those who risk their lives to protect us. It is not my intention to minimize or criticize this faith-military connection.
evangelicals believe, however, that it is our religious duty to inform the military
that an applicant is gay, this faith-military connection crosses a line: our discomfort with homosexuality becomes
discrimination. As of September 20, 2011, the United States Armed Forces
terminated the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or DADT policy that prevented LGBT+
persons from openly serving. The military
has determined that LGBT+ persons do not pose a threat to military operations or
other armed forces.
Efforts to encourage Tom to forgo the disclosure of Josh’s sexuality ultimately
failed. Understandably, Josh did not feel it wise to submit Tom’s
recommendation, since he would never
refer to his sexuality in a job interview. He said: “Bill, this is a painful
experience that comes right when I am rebuilding my life after a season of depression.
I am hurting, but in the power of Jesus I forgive Tom. He is my brother in Christ.
I want nothing but the best blessings for Tom and his family.”
As we ended a recent call, Josh said: “I believe that
God will help me.” Josh, I do too.
What Can You Do?
of boycotting or over-eating chicken sandwiches, I invite you to join me on a
more peaceful and enduring mission.
Pray for Josh: that God will comfort him and open career doors for him.
Pray for Tom: that God will bless him and his family
Ponder this thought: how powerful our witness will be when we learn to love,
welcome, serve and assist others the way we would want to be loved, welcomed, served
Note: Lead Them Home continues to foster a needed “posture shift”
throughout the evangelical community proving that we can radically love, care
for and serve LGBT+ family and friends in the midst of difference in belief. This posture
will not threaten our doctrinal beliefs, but it will radically change our actions,
attitudes and words. For more information about our Posture Shift training for ministry teams and whole congregations, contact me.
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