As a wise man (muppet) once said:
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
I doubt that Yoda was referring to LGBTQ rights but I do believe that his words are important to heed when fighting the good fight. That is to say, that when facing prejudice and inequality, we must be careful not to become the thing we hate the most.
Because a lot of stories will paint religious groups – particularly Christians – as the bad guys. They are the Storm Troopers, while we are the rebel fighters.
Every time we try to make progress with regards to marriage, parental rights or even the right to buy a cake with a gay message on it… it seems that there is some Christian group there to oppose us.
And if the media is to be believed, they all think we’re going to hell as well.
Freedom of speech is just as important as the freedom to love whomever you want. But when people are using that freedom of speech to try and take away the freedom of others: even when it doesn’t affect them in any way, it’s hard to be understanding.
But religion is not the enemy. And what is crucial to remember is that not every Christian is anti-gay.
What’s happening instead, is that certain hateful, intolerant and bigoted people have chosen to use religion as an excuse for their homophobic behavior.
This is nothing new. It has been happening throughout history.
We all believe we are doing the right thing – otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. We all justify what we do in our own minds. And so when we choose to oppose gay marriage, or to petition against an advert depicting a happy gay couple, it is very comforting to think that it’s because God told us to.
And those in power know that they can use God as an indisputable authority. If God agrees with you, then how can anyone argue?
Those of us in the LGBTQ are indeed victims here. Frightened and backward people are attempting to turn God against us (which is just rude, even if we aren’t religious). But Christians are also victims. Because the vast majority of them are perfectly welcoming and open and tolerant. In fact, these are central tenets of their belief system. But sadly, a few ‘bad eggs’ end up damaging their reputation and tearing their loyalties.
And of course many Christians are also gay (just as many gay people are also Christian!), which puts them in a difficult position.
All they can do is to remember this. That Christianity is not inherently homophobic (no matter what some people would have you believe) and that the Bible does not express any outright homophobic sentiments anywhere. Yes, there are certain phrases that can be construed as warning against homosexuality but they are very ambiguous and sparse. And there are lines in the Bible that can be seen to support or condemn pretty much anything that you can think of!
LGBTQ Affirming Christian Churches and Denominations
You can find a long list of churches and denominations that support the LGBTQ cause on this Wikipedia page. These include:
- Affirming Pentecostal Church International
- Alliance of Baptists
- American Baptist Churches USA
- Anglican Church of Canada
- The Anthem Network
- Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
- AXIOS – Eastern and Orthodox Gay and Lesbian Christians
And that is just the A’s!
So for those with Christian beliefs who want to be able to practice them without being judged, there are plenty of places you can go.
Same Sex Marriage in Church
In 2015, the Presbyterian Church – a large and well-known denomination – voted to redefine marriage as ‘a commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman’. This was a somewhat begrudging formal statement allowing same-sex marriage within the church.
Three other major churches in the US also allow same-sex marriage. These include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which allows for same-sex couples to get married but still leaves it up to the ministers of the congregation. Their 2009 resolution reads:
“There is nothing that prescribes who a congregation pastor can marry or not marry, so long as it is consistent with state law.”
The Episcopal Church meanwhile established a ‘rite of blessing for same sex couples’ and in 2012 went on to prohibit discrimination against transgender people. Gay people have actually been welcomed in the church since 1976 when the General Convention dictated that ‘homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church’. There is no official policy on same-sex marriage.
The United Church of Christ meanwhile has been allowing same-sex couples to get married since 2005 and the 25th General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Atlanta affirmed equal marriage rights for couples regardless of their gender. The church went on to declare that ‘the government should not interfere with couples regardless of gender who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities and commitment of legally recognized marriage’. This was the first major Protestant denomination to take this stance. So if you’re looking for a church to support, this might make a good candidate!
Unfortunately, it is not the same for Catholic churches, which ultimately get their mandate from Rome. And while it doesn’t look like things are going to change in that regard any time soon, we can at least take some solace in the Pope’s attempt to ‘apologise’ to gay people. Even if the pontiff did describe being gay as a ‘condition’ in the same breath.
But let’s focus on the good for a change. There are plenty of churches out there that are happy to welcome gay people and that will even marry them – and some of those churches are even more forward thinking than our own government (okay, so that’s not exactly a massive claim to fame…).
The point to remember here is that we are not fighting any one group but rather a set of ideals.