Attitude toward homosexuals in the church lacks love in action

Christians should be compassionate and loving toward homosexuals, rather than judgmental.

Andrew Oxenham, Writer

Recently, a 13-year-old boy from Tehachapi, Calif. died after spending seven days on life support. Seth Walsh was hospitalized after attempted suicide, after the teasing and bullying he endured for being openly gay. The injuries from his suicide attempt caused his eventual death. Not too long before that, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his homosexual encounter was broadcast over the web by his roommate.

In light of these, and other similar events, large amounts of criticism have been aimed at the religious right, the most outspoken opponents of the homosexual lifestyle. An article in The Stranger, a progressive Seattle newspaper, gained some traction on the web this week, claiming “The religious right points to the suicide rate among gay teenagers —which the religious right works so hard to drive up — as evidence that the gay lifestyle is destructive.”

Let this absurdity be dispatched with truth; there is no member of the Christian faith who purposefully works to drive up the suicide rate among gay teenagers. If there was a person who did work towards that purpose, he is not a true Christian. The love of Christ is absent from these actions.

The article went on to say, “The dehumanizing bigotries that fall from lips of ‘faithful Christians,’ and the lies that spew forth from the pulpit of the churches, ‘faithful Christians’… give their straight children a license to verbally abuse, humiliate and condemn the gay children they encounter.”

Unfortunately for those who want to point the finger at the Christian right, this is not the message presented from the pulpits of most evangelical churches. Those that do are on the fringe, right up there with the Westboro Baptist “God hates fags” people: an embarrassing misrepresentative of the faith.

But as Christians continue to uphold the often unpopular demands of Scripture, this is the kind of bashing they are going to have to be prepared to listen and respond to. We will be lumped in with the rogue, hateful members of the faith and our message of love will be drowned out.

When it comes time to make a response, two things need to be made clear. First, when responding to criticisms, it is imperative that Christians be slow to speak, making sure that their response is done in love. Regardless of whether the accusations are true or false, anger and frustration comes from somewhere, and seeing through to that central issue (often referred to as the heart of the matter) is a must.

The author of the above-mentioned piece clearly has experienced the mistakes of some Christians, and it has doubtless embittered him towards them. Christians should see matters of this type as a chance to heal relationships rather than as an attack to be repelled. Presenting the Christian worldview in the proper light of love is the first step.

The second thing to be said on the topic of responding is a heavy one. We, as Christians, have a long way to go in learning how to respond to those who profess homosexuality.

Mention a homosexual friend in a group of Christians and watch people stiffen or get “that look.” This is unacceptable behavior. Christ clearly calls us to love our enemies, those who hate us, those who aren’t like us.

This last one is the most difficult, and consequently, Christians are bad at it. If we are to love those not like us, we must treat them as we treat those we love — our family and our best friends. If we are to have friends outside of our comfort zone, we must follow the old cliché and love the sinner while hating the sin.

Now let it be clear that hating the sin doesn’t mean constantly bringing up the topic of sexuality and morals with a homosexual person. The topic of one’s sexuality is private and should only be discussed in a forum in which there is mutual trust and respect. The only way to successfully discuss this issue is with humility and an open mind. Dogmatic ranting will never achieve the goal of mutual understanding; it will only serve to push others farther away.

No one will enter the doors of a church where they fear being hated, oppressed or attacked. If our churches are known for producing children who mock homosexuals, and our parishioners carry “God hates fags” signs to funerals, our ministry to the world is over before it can begin.

Once Christians become synonymous with love, respect and courageous care –– even for even those lifestyles that don’t jive with our own –– they might be more open to Christianity. God’s work can begin in our actions. In the end, it takes the power of God to change the hearts of the lost. It’s not our job to be offended by the world. It is our job to feel compassion for it and draw the lost into the light.

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