I knew at some point this article would have to be written, and for well over a year it has been something that has been on my heart to do, but out of fear, I have restrained myself from writing it.
However, I sense that now is the time to address one of the more sensitive and divisive topics in our culture today. That is, the conflict there appears to be between many of those who are Christians and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.
I write “appears” because it is my belief that there are fundamental misunderstandings on both sides of this conflict that have brought this “culture war” to a tipping point and probably the most recent manifestation is the president’s issuing “guidance” to public schools on how to support transgender students and the state of Georgia resisting it.
The older I get the more I realize how growing up in a non-religious household and only coming to Christ at the end of my teen years has equipped me to see cultural issues from a different perspective.
When I first became a Christian, I was devoid of virtually any knowledge of Christian traditions and culture. I just knew that there was a God who loved me so much that he died for my sins so that I could have a holy, loving relationship with him, then he rose from the dead, giving me hope for eternal life with him.
I did not filter it through political or philosophical implications — that would come later. However, the culture war between Christianity and the LGBT community soon hit home when my brother revealed that he was gay. Another family member, whom I loved, was also bisexual, and yet another was transgender.
I share this with you because the position that I have in this culture war is not without deep and personal connection both to my family and to my faith. Those within the LGBT community, like anyone else, desire love and acceptance.
I have seen my brother racked with fear, wondering if I will accept him because of my faith in Christ, and I share with you what I shared with him. That is, I love my brother. I have known him all my life, and I don’t see how his coming out could change that. More importantly, he needs to know that God created him, and that God loves him much more than I do.
As a Christian, I have prayed and asked God to show me what the Bible really says about this issue. I am drawn to a fundamental truth and that is that the body is sacred, and sex is a sacred act only blessed inside of a marriage — which is also a sacred covenant a man and woman make before God.
However, our society portrays sex as simply some physical, instinctual, self-gratifying act and marriage as merely a legal or social contract among individuals with ever-shifting levels of commitment and sexual attractions towards one another.
Unfortunately, even many within the Christian community have failed to hold sexual purity as the standard in this culture war. We come off as being hateful to those in the LGBT community because we seem to hold their sexual expression as wrong, but not those committed by heterosexuals.
I would argue that pornography, self-gratification, premarital sex, and even lust are as wrong and harmful to those in our society as any other sexual expression. However, with the acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle in popular culture, I know that this position is offensive. Even identifying it as a “lifestyle,” rather than identity, has automatically labeled me as a “hater” among staunch LGBT advocates (if they even read this far).
This leads to the misunderstanding of those within the LGBT community who automatically assume that Christians hate them — when the very opposite is true. I do not hate my brother. I love him! It does not make sense to me that someone who is gay would ever think that just because someone is a Christian, they hate them.
It wasn’t until I had a conversation with my brother one day and asked him what he thought about the most. His answer finally helped me to understand. He said the number one thing he thought about was his sexuality.
My heart went out to him because it dawned on me that his entire identity was wrapped up in his sexuality. To say that his sexual expression was wrong was to reject him, for he would not distinguish the two, and I think this is true for many within the LGBT community.
With the popular culture endorsing the idea that one’s sexual preference is a point of identity to be embraced, rather than a behavior, or lifestyle, those who disagree are openly ridiculed, mocked, and punished severely. And this is why so many do not publicly offer dissenting opinions. They are afraid of the consequences of what others will do to them in the public arena. However, knowing that something is wrong and saying so, and being filled with hate, are two very different things.
How could I possibly hate my little brother? Every time I talk to him I want him to know how much I love him. I want him to know how much I miss him. I want him to know how much his nieces and nephews miss their uncle, but most of all, I want him to see in me, how much God loves him.
And just as God had to break me down and reshape my own self-concept and identify, I want him to see that God does the same for all of us each and every day.
If Christians and the LGBT community could shift our perspective from seeing the other side as an enemy because of our sexual preferences and begin to see each other as a brother, or a sister, and as a father or a mother, we could possibly find a resolution and not have so many casualties in this culture war.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]