Why the LGBT community might not feel loved by Christians

Why the LGBT community might not feel loved by ChristiansPhoto credit

Note: I consider myself a recent but very imperfect LGBTQ ally and also a Christian. So if I say things that are hurtful or incorrect to those who belong to either/both camps, I apologize in advance. And I’m aware that there are affirming churches out there, so I’m not talking about them when I say LGBTQ people might not feel loved by “Christians.” I’m talking about those individuals and groups that express the attitude I’m describing below.

As many of you are probably aware, there has been much debate and discussion around the new Beauty and the Beast movie in the Christian community. Much of it has to do with the inclusion of what the director has called an “exclusively gay moment,” and whether or not parents should let their children watch it.

This post is not about that. (But I will say that I took my daughter to see the movie, IT WAS DELIGHTFUL, and that any hints towards homosexuality were very, very subtle.)

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about was something I read in one of those well-circulated articles by a Christian mom debating the merits of the movie.

Overall, the article is a very thoughtful, kind and gentle reflection on the kinds of things we want to share with our children. She doesn’t tell us whether or not we should watch the movie with our kids, — in fact, she seems unsure herself — only that we ought to be thoughtful about such decisions.

Here’s the part that stood out to me, though, and made me pause. It comes at the end of the post:

…if you are one of my gay friends, and you read this and heard me hating you or disrespecting you or looking down on you, hear me now: I love you. I love you more than you think I do. I pray for you – not to not be gay. I pray you have a good day, that your kids are protected and grow up kind and strong. I pray you are happy and loved. I pray you’ll know Jesus in an intimate and amazing way. I pray you’ll know His love for you. [Italics in original]

Outwardly, this seems like a very loving and respectful sentiment. She loves gay people! She wishes them well! She doesn’t even want to change their sexuality! Who could object to that? I’ve heard this sentiment repeated over and over by many wonderful, caring Christians, and it sounds really loving.

But something didn’t sit right with me, and it took a couple of seconds to figure it out.

The part that bothered me was this: “I pray you’ll know Jesus in an intimate and amazing way. I pray you’ll know His love for you.”

Future tense.

The author seems to assume the gay reader doesn’t already know Jesus in an intimate way, or already know Jesus’ love for them.

The author appears to assume that the gay reader isn’t already a Christian.

That’s what bothered me. How can she possibly know that they aren’t already Christians? Maybe the gay reader already feels perfectly aligned and in tune with God, in a perfect, loving relationship.

It seems really presumptuous to assume that because the person is gay, that necessarily means they are not already a Christian. Maybe that person has a different interpretation of Scripture which allows them to feel they are already in good standing with God . . . while still being gay. Heck, maybe they’re better Christians than the author!

After reading this passage, reiterating a sentiment I’ve heard a hundred times and even shared myself in the past, I couldn’t help thinking that LGBTQ people will always feel unloved and unwelcome by the church as long as we believe you can’t be gay and Christian at the same time.

(Of course I can’t speak for how gay people feel, as I’m not one of them. But when I imagine myself in a situation where the dominant group thought it was impossible for me to be one of them on account of my sexuality, I think this is how I would feel. I’ve heard from LGBTQ people expressing similar feelings.)

This isn’t about the author specifically, but about all Christians who say they love gay people but believe they are living in sin. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just saying I’m not surprised if gay people aren’t flocking to their doors for church invitations.

If you think it’s impossible to be gay and also be in a good relationship with Jesus, I suspect you will never feel like a completely safe person for an LGBTQ person to be around.

I couldn’t help but think that if I was one of the author’s gay friends, I still wouldn’t really feel loved or accepted, no matter how nicely she told me she loved me. Because she doesn’t think I’m in a good relationship with Jesus!

It made me think of how insulted I feel when an evangelist comes to my door and starts trying to convert me to their particular brand of Christianity without learning a thing about me first. I’m already a Christian! I want to tell them. How do you know I need saving? How do you know I shouldn’t be teaching you about spirituality??

It reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. Some friends were talking about Ellen Degeneres and her show, and how much she amuses us. Ellen is one funny lady! Then one friend piped up, “Too bad she’s going to hell.” And everyone nodded sadly in agreement.

Wait, what? I thought. How do we know anything about Ellen’s soul and her eternal destination? We’ve never even met her in person! And even if we had, how much do we really know about a person’s relationship with God? How can we possibly know if someone is “going to hell”? Who are we to say we know such a thing? But it’s fairly common among many Christian circles to assume that people living “the gay lifestyle” ( <– a really problematic phrase, BTW) are destined for hell unless they change something dramatic.

Again, if I was gay, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable hanging around people who “knew” I was going to hell. I wouldn’t feel loved. I would feel judged. Even if everyone was polite and friendly.

If you do believe being gay or being in a homosexual relationship is a sin, I am not trying to argue with you. I think it’s your right to believe that. I know it’s possible to hold that belief and be perfectly civil to people who disagree with you. We can live in harmony and hold different beliefs. I’m just saying, don’t be surprised or confused if gay people don’t really want to be around you or listen to you.

Would you want to be around someone who thought you were living in sin and going to hell? Even if they repeatedly told you they loved you?? I just don’t think I would. I would want to seek out people who thought I was their complete equal in Christ.

That’s all I’m trying to say here. You may think you love gay people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they feel it.

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Comments

  1. PepperReed says:

    100% THIS. As the Quakers say, “This F/friend speaks my mind.” Thank you so very much for posting about this, as I hadn’t read the original article.

    I have family on both sides of this issue; specifically a gay Sister and a Cousin who LOVES her… and thinks Sister is going to Hell. How is that Loving? Cousin just doesn’t even understand how hurtful and non-Loving that behavior is! It’s almost like Cousin is more interested in showing what a Good, Loving Christian they are in word, by their profession of Love in spite if the Sin, than actually Loving Sister as they are, where they are, in deed.

    Besides, the assumption that any person can know or determine God’s Love (and relationship and soul connection) with another is ludicrous; we don’t know and we don’t get to determine that relationship for anyone other than ourselves. The idea that any of us gets to deny any other person (regardless of what their Sin is, and/or what we think of that Sin) a connection to God’s Divine Love is the *opposite* of Jesus’ message.

    What an awful thing it is to deprive someone the knowledge that God Loves them — unconditionally — or lead them to believe that they are not welcome to be held in close relationship with the Holy. And yet, there’s a whole lot of ‘christianity’ that follows that false teaching. That is a grievous Sin, in deed.

  2. Love this blog post, Kathleen. It’s very true. Most of the queer- or trans-identified people I’ve spoken with don’t feel like religion is for them because of the intolerance and judgment around their thoughts and behaviours. My roommate is gay and very Catholic, and has found a way to embrace both identities even if they appear contradictory to others.

  3. Thank you for writing this. This is a big issue for me. My evangelical Christian friends don’t understand why. I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote here and I feel like this is one of the reasons I don’t go to church anymore. When I was in a non denominational church there was so much emphasis on homosexuality being a sin. I never understood that? Maybe because growing up my uncle was gay and I was taught to love and accept him without judgement. The attitude in church seemed to be we love and accept them but we want them to change. When I asked my Christian friends if they’d ever gotten to know someone who was gay, the answer was always no. I’ve tried going to open and affirming churches in my town and while they were nice enough I felt like they belonged to the gay community and I didn’t feel like I fit in there. So I just don’t go to church anymore. I honestly wish it wasn’t such an issue for me but it is.

  4. Your post could also apply to atheists and other non-Christians. How does it feel to be around people who tell you are going to hell, have no reason to live because you’re not Christian and are inferior for a multitude of reasons? The sad fact is many times evangelicals don’t act loving.

    • PepperReed says:

      That’s a very good point! I have friends who are a/non-theist and they are more accepting of other’s faith than some folks are of their non-belief.

    • As a Christian…I believe whole heartedly that it is my duty to lead people ‘to become fully devoted followers of Christ’. Each and every single person was created by God, wether they believe it or not and He loves each and every single one of us. He hates sin NOT the sinner. We all sin but its repenting and turning away from that sin that separates us from those that continue to live in sin – that is how you know an LGBT identified individual can’t be a Christian..because if they were they would repent and turn away from that sin. The same way a drug addict would, or an alcoholic. I socialize with a variety of people (gay, atheist, Christians, Catholics, blacks, whites, etc etc.) and I show nothing but kindness and love to everyone I encounter. I can love someone even when I don’t agree with them.

      I also understand that for those of you who are not Christians, this concept sounds ridiculous and makes no sense to you.

      • J, I appreciate your eloquently stated words, but I think your statement holds some of the same bias and inherent issues as Kathleen spoke about in her article. I am not a Christian and I perfectly understand what you’re saying. I think that can be another issue with Christians vs. non-Christians. It’s not an issue of not understanding, which makes non-Christians somehow come off as “less than” (aka, we can’t understand your point of view because we just aren’t as enlightened) , it’s the fact that the concept you spoke of isn’t something many in the LGBT or non-Christian community believe to be true. We can disagree without some sort of unequal footing on our ability to understand the motives of Christians.

        On a different note, equating being LGBT to being a drug addict is such a painful idea – so because a gay person loves someone is this world that is so often filled with hate, they are unworthy or a sinner? That notion of being able to love someone – while feeling they are somehow less than you – isn’t love. It’s also not a “love” I’m interested in receiving from Christians.

        I hope this doesn’t come across as argumentative, just a thoughtful response to a common idea that I’m sure many in the LGBT and non-Christian community hear from Christians.

      • “We all sin but its repenting and turning away from that sin that separates us from those that continue to live in sin – that is how you know an LGBT identified individual can’t be a Christian..because if they were they would repent and turn away from that sin.”

        I don’t believe there is anyone that has successfully recognized, repented and fully turned away from every sin in their lives. So technically aren’t we all “living in sin” of various kinds? By your logic you say then that none can be saved. We don’t become saved by turning away from all sin and living a 100% pure life.

  5. Yes! This!!! I was trying to explain this exact thing to my husband today, so thank you for putting it into words.

  6. Trudy Leslie says:

    Thank you for writing this post it has articulated some feelings i hadnt really identified. I am gay and a Christian but in the last couple of years have stopped going to church and have distanced myself from friends who are Christian and love me but believe my relationship is sinful.

    I recently got married and pregnant which are the most momentous things to ever happen to me but i havent shared this news with Christian friends because i know they wont wholeheartedly share in my joy.

  7. I think this can be taken even deeper.. what IS “love”? The definition of love has become so broad and vague; basically supporting whatever makes someone happy. But isn’t love more about protecting someone from harm, whether physical or spiritual? For example, if a child wants a bowl of sugar for dinner every night, even if it would make said child supremely happy, the parent wouldn’t support this out of love for the child knowing in the long run it will do the child harm. If a child wants to run into a busy highway, the parent out of love will not let the child do so. A doctor encourages a patient to stop smoking, not because he hates the patient and wants to take away his enjoyment, but because the smoking can actually harm the patient. So it is with anything that can harm the soul… to truly love someone means not to encourage their sinful behaviour, but to encourage them in good, for in the long run, the sin (without repentance) can harm the sinner.
    That being said, WE ARE ALL SINNERS. Repentance is between the sinner and God. There are many forms of sin and many levels of sin, depending on the severity of the sin itself and the intent of the sinner (venial sin and mortal sin). If someone enjoys and finds happiness in being a serial killer, or pornography, or being a thief, or cheating on their spouse, etc, (or being gluttonous, or greedy, or envious, or covetous, or lustful, etc)… it doesn’t mean that a person doesn’t love the sinner if they don’t accept the sin. If anything, TRUE love would entail helping the sinner away from their sin and repenting of it, or at least not supporting it, due to wishing eternal happiness for the sinner (heaven) instead of eternal damnation (hell).
    I think the best example is the story of Mary Magdalene. Jesus loved her, and helped her away from her sinful lifestyle. He loves us no matter our sins, but there are still *consequences* for sin, and that is where Jesus steps in out of LOVE to help us away from sin so that we don’t endure the eventual consequences. (On that note, noone can know the state of anyone else’s soul and what their consequences will be! Again, that is strictly between the sinner and God.) Jesus ALSO said, and this is super important and what I feel your blog post is trying to say, in essence: “let any of you without sin cast the first stone!” Jesus helped Mary Magdalene away from her sins BECAUSE he loved her. He also made it clear to not look down our noses at others, because there is NOT ONE OF US without sin. We all have our own weaknesses, our challenges, our sinful ways to overcome. The problem is we all want to “cast stones,” and THAT is where a sinner will feel unloved. Casting stones, and helping, are two different things. Casting stones comes from a place of hate. Helping comes from a place of love. We can all use help. We are all sinners. (To clarify.. this doesn’t mean forcing our help upon others. Jesus doesn’t force us to do what’s right, He asks us. We have free will.)
    I may have done a bad job at expressing myself here. And my examples may not be great ones. But it’s simply to say that maybe it’s the definition of “love” that needs to be clarified.
    (And all of this is not to pinpoint any specific sins. Again, that is between the person and God. For example, in the Catholic Church, eating meat on a Friday in Lent may be considered a sin.. IF you are of age, not pregnant, not medically unstable, etc. See, a sin is dependent on so much criteria specific to each individual person and set of circumstances. We can never truly know what’s in another person’s heart. Cannot emphasize enough the “Let any of you without sin cast the first stone!”

    • Thank you for putting this concern into such compassionate words. I am not LGBTQ or exclusively “Christian” but, I have experienced the kind of “love” that you speak of in this article. The kind that implies deep caring while perpetually excluding one from true acceptance. It’s an implication that can hurt more than a direct objection because it always indicates “Oh. We love you BUT we would love you so much better/more if only you…fill in the blank.”

      I am truly thankful that all of the comments posted here about this potentially provocative topic are well spoken and said with compassion. However, there is one thing that has not been addressed in many of these comments…unless I missed it. There is this assumption that a person who IS LGBTQ is so BY CHOICE. To my understanding, sin and “turning away from it” involves A CHOICE. This is the fundamental difference between this “sin” and the numerous other examples of sin provided here in comparison. LGBTQ isn’t what a person DOES it is part of WHO they ARE. The inability to understand or know this fundamental difference at a deeply internal level is perhaps the cause of such Christian “rejection”. No matter how subtle or unintentional it may be, it has a damaging impact and, I suspect, is a pronounced deterrent to those who might otherwise be more involved in a Christian community or church. A broader understanding of the nature of identity vs. choice may well be the key to true loving acceptance for all humanity.

      • Thanks for your thoughts, Sheila. Also: YES. I think the thing that supported my transition to becoming an LGBTQ ally was the realization that sexual identity is not a choice or something that can be changed. Then it was a slow journey of trying to understand what, then, an LGBTQ person should do with that identity. Most Christians who recognize that sexual identity can’t be changed would say, “remain celibate.” (I held this position for years). And I still can’t say I have landed hard and fast on this question, but it does seem heartless to me that God would insist an LGBTQ person MUST be along for the rest of his/her life.

      • http://www.beginningcatholic.com/mortal-sin

        This is not to pinpoint any action or perceived “sin.” Not homosexuality, not heterosexuality, not anything!
        It’s simply to show that there is SO much criteria that goes into a “sin,” and explains better than I can word myself. And it is different for every person, and circumstance, and so many other factors! Exactly why we can’t judge eachother. Noone knows exactly what’s in anyone else’s heart.

  8. As a long time reader as well as a gay Christian, I thank you for this.

  9. Thank you for this. At the end of the day (and the beginning…and the middle) we are all “living in sin.”

  10. Angela Nunn says:

    We’re all made in God’s image… every last one of us. We’re all equal and God loves us all. Loving is the closest we come to being like God (see John’s first letter, chapter 4; ‘Beloved, let us love one another for love is of God…etc) Some of the folk who say LGBTQ people are going to hell have created a hierarchy of sins that exists only in their minds. What do they think will happen to the permanently greedy/angry/gossip? Life would be lovelier all round if we just got on with trying to love and stopped judging – that’s God’s job, not our.

  11. This is a wonderful discussion and all the comments and points of view have been very thought-provoking!! It seems the question of “what is or isn’t a sin” can be debated FOREVER, as can the interpretation of the Bible. (That is why Christ set up his infallible Church before He left this earth… to save all us lowly human beings from arguing with eachother and trying to figure it out ourselves. But that is another discussion, lol.) What a person does or doesn’t do is strictly between the person and God, noone else; as long as noone else is being hurt, of course. I think we ALL have the tendency to be like the Pharisee… “I thank you God that I am not like the rest of men”… whether it comes to looking down our noses at whomever we perceive to be “sinning,” OR feeling we are more “compassionate” and “loving” when we are striving to be non-judgmental and accepting l. I think there is a great danger in both. I think everyone in essence is just trying to do the right thing; but I think we could ALL use a little more humility. Isn’t THAT what being “Christian” is all about?

  12. I recently was visiting family out of state and went to their church with them while we were there. The pastor literally made a 180 during the course of his sermon. He started off by saying “No one can know the state of another’s relationship with God. You cannot judge someone’s salvation by their lifestyle.” I don’t really remember what the body of the sermon was about because I was distracted by my baby, but I do remember that he ended with something along the lines of “There is no practicing homosexual who is going to heaven. There is no practicing adulterer that is going to heaven. You can’t sin like that and be saved.” And I was just like, wait what? Didn’t you just say that we can’t judge other people’s salvation based on their lifestyle? What is even happening here?

    It feels like lots of churches are super lax and accepting of certain sins and brush them off as “something everyone struggles with” or “not that big of a deal” but then other sins give you licence to judge that person’s salvation. Even if you are beyond a doubt convinced that being LGBTQ is a sin, why don’t you treat it the same as other sins? One doesn’t say, “I see you bought something outside your means because you were jealous of your peers, so see you never.” I don’t get it.

    • Re: Your last paragraph. For a long time I too was under the notion that being LGBT was a ‘bigger’ sin than the rest but over the last few years I have grown in my faith and come to realize that all sin is equal. Unfortunately, most christians are still under that impression and I think therein lies the biggest problem.

  13. I am very much in alignment with your beliefs on this subject, as far as I can tell from this post. I am a “rainbow fish,” as I like to call it (the term is not my creation though.) Thanks for being one of the Christians who speaks out on this important matter! My only critical thought when reading this was that from the quote you shared, the other writer said “my gay friends,” not “my gay readers.” Which to me meant that quite possibly she was speaking to people she personally knows are gay and also not Christians. So she may have not been making an assumption at all. ;) It is also possible she does assume most gay people are not Christians, and from what I have seen most of them are not, simply because most of them have not experienced a Christian church that is inclusive and welcoming. That also doesn’t mean that she believes you can’t be gay and Christian, just that most gay people don’t find Jesus because the church is in the way. (I use the term “most” very loosely, of course.) On the other hand, there are many, many, many gay Christians, which is wonderful, and shows that God can work and reach people even when the world is pointing them away from him. And, it is also possible she didn’t mean anything by using the future tense. She could have meant that she prays they will know him in an even more intimate way and know his love even more every day, if they were already Christian. It doesn’t necessarily mean she assumes they aren’t Christian. Just some thoughts! But again, I love that you posted about this, and I think your underlying message is so important.

  14. catillanina says:

    Great post. I actually relate to this as an Atheist. My husband and I were both raised Christian and still hold many Christian values and beliefs, such as modesty, honesty, charity, humility, etc. It’s part of the culture we grew up in so it’s part of who were are as people. Heck, I even believe in waiting until marriage to engage in sexual relations, not for religious reasons but because it’s more practical– avoiding stds, having a permanent lifemate before risking pregnancy, and so on. I’m far more similar to my Christian friends than I am different from them, and I have absolutely no problem with any religion, yet often once a person finds out I’m non-religious and don’t believe in God they either argue with me that I’m making terrible life choices and living in sin– try to convince me to attend services–or ignore me completely. As a result I end up feeling rejected and not good enough as I am in their presence, so I don’t want to be around them. I don’t try to convince others that God isn’t real and I’m not interested in arguing with others about their religious beliefs, but I already know the right path for myself and I just want them to be who they are and let me be who I am. I honestly feel if God is real he’s not going to judge me depending on whether or not I believed in him or attended church during my lifetime, he’ll look at what I did in life that was helpful and kind to both myself and others. Before you think I’m just bashing on Christians, I know plenty of Atheists who are just as guilty of trying to argue and cause conflict, and reject others for being religious, and I just don’t see the point of it. Not everyone is like this of course, and I really value the friendships I have with my open-minded Christian and Atheist friends.

  15. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. Romans 1:27

    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
    Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
    1 Corinthians 6:9-10

    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

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