After watching the emotionally-wrenching “It Gets Better” video from Oral Roberts’ grandson, Randy Roberts Potts, no one could deny that LGBT people have their most formidable “enemy” in the right-wing Christian church. In the video, Randy reads a letter he has written to his gay Uncle Ronnie, who took his own life on June 10, 1982.
(Full disclosure: I am not a member of a right-wing Christian church, but of a church which has struggled with all the issues in the contemporary sexuality wars and come out to a place which welcomes and affirms LGBT people.)
As if anybody would have doubted this, there is a smoking gun that now tries to connect the alarming rate of gay/teen suicides and the homophobia of right-wing Christian churches. The Public Religion Research Institute (based in Washington D.C.) has recently published this: “Two-thirds see connections between messages coming from America’s places of worship and higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth.”
Over a thousand people were asked their opinions about church and homosexuality, but only five questions were asked. The Institute summarized their findings:
But if you are a young person trying to discern and understand your own sexuality, and coming to the realization that you are indeed homosexual, the choices are entirely different. You may: (a) try to convince yourself you are not really gay; (b) begin to think that God and the church don’t want you around and look for the nearest exit; (c) feel deeply shamed and conflicted; (d) hate yourself enough to think of a “final solution”—taking your own life. Don’t!!!
Clearly, there is no one Christian message about human sexuality these days. The worst thing churches do is to speak forcefully and authoritatively when they haven’t done their homework and haven’t listened to the personal stories and testimony of the people they’re talking about. The personal coming out stories of individuals to their families, friends and fellow-church members is the single most powerful tool for changing public attitudes.
When Rev. Jim Swilley of Church in the Now in Conyers, Georgia came out to his congregation as a gay man last month—at enormous risk to himself and his mega-church to be sure—he nonetheless contributed to changing social attitudes. Some people in the “bishop’s” church got up and walked out, apparently during his sensitive, honest coming out speech (over an hour long). Others, including many from all of the country, applauded his courage and honesty.
But the bottom line is that integrity and honesty demand us to take the risks we take in telling our stories. Those who can handle the truth remain our friends and maintain our family ties. But parents, siblings and friends who can’t handle it are choosing to destroy important relationships that don’t conform to their expectations.
For me, the bottom line is not a scorecard on how American houses of worship are handling homosexuality, but how they handle the truth.
(a) We’re here, we’re queer. Get used to it.
(b) God loves the whole world. No exceptions.
(c) The Bible is a book of God’s gracious promises, not a weapon.
(d) Human beings don’t “choose” our sexual orientation, but discover it.
(e) In spite of everything, many LGBT love God and remain faithful to the Christian faith.
(f) All of the above.
— Pastor Dan Hooper