Friday, April 25, 2014

A Better Conversation about Homosexuality (Part 2): 4 Reasons We Need to Talk

One of the most common responses to this series so far is: “Why do we even need to talk about this?”  My conservative brothers and sisters feel that discussion is pointless because the Bible gives a clear prohibition against homosexual activity in all forms.  As one friend said, “Are we going to decide that God was wrong?”
Here are 4 reasons we need to talk about homosexuality.

1. Kids are dying.  LBGT (Lesbian, Bi, Gay, Transgender) teens and young adults are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight kids.  When LBGT kids experience rejection from their families, they are eight times more likely to try to kill themselves.  No matter our theological position, we have an ethical responsibility to cultivate an environment that keeps our kids alive, no matter their questions and orientations.

2. The world is talking about this.  Not only are our collective opinions changing rapidly, but also as a culture, we're having this conversation openly.  Even people who don't identify as Christians or frequent a church are actively making religious connections in this conversation about homosexuality.  Consider this song by Macklemore and Mary Lambert:

     Any time the world outside the church is spending this much energy discussing an issue (and especially when they are being explicitly theological), then the Church needs to be active participants in this conversation.  Regardless of your perspective on the debatable issues here, this conversation is an important open door for Christians to engage an issue that is extremely important to our culture right now.
     However, to walk through this open door, we need to learn to have a better conversation about homosexuality.  And that's why I'm writing this series.

3. The Church is talking about this.  Roughly 1/3 of Christian denominations have decided to affirm gay marriage.  And more young Christians than ever are either undecided or affirming about gay marriage.  (Look here for more.)  If your church isn't talking openly about this yet, then (a) you're late and (b) it's coming.  You better be ready to have a good conversation.  If you're church is already talking about this - especially if you are in a conservative church - then the chances are your conversation is condescending, condemning, and homophobic. 
     We need some serious intervention to help us have a productive and meaningful conversation.  We need a dialog that respects the "other" as a person of dignity and intelligence.  We don't need more gripe sessions about how the world is dragging us all down to hell in a gay hand-basket.  Somehow, especially on this issue, we've forgotten that people can disagree with us and still deserve our highest respect and kindness.

4. We are driving people away from Jesus.  Our poor handling of the discussion about homosexuality is driving an eternity-sized wedge between people (both gay and straight) and Christ and his Church.  One third of millennials who left the church cited their church's negative conversation on homosexuality as a key reason for leaving.  70% of millennials say that the church is alienating young people by being “being too judgmental on gay and lesbian issues.” 
     I'm an evangelical.  That label comes from the Greek word for good news: "evangelion," and this is also where we get the word evangelism (which means helping people experience the good news of grace and transformation through Jesus).  Because my life calling is evangelism, I get pretty angry when we start making it harder for people to love Jesus. 
     The simple truth is we Christians are screwing this up.  We are deeply committed to the Bible, and we are rightly concerned that we make intelligent and God-honoring decisions about ethics.  I am still 100% committed to the Bible as our guide for faith and life.  In fact, it is my evangelical commitment to Jesus and the Bible that drives me to call the church to a better conversation on homosexuality.  No matter what the Church decides on this over the next 50-100 years, we have a responsibility for this generation now. 
     We can't afford to screw this up any longer.  We desperately need a better conversation on homosexuality right now.
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