This is why we are leaving: From Grape Juice to Red Wine Part V
I really don’t like Christians right now.
I really don’t want to be called one.
I am not sure what that means yet.
Wednesday morning I published a post about World Vision’s decision to let legally married gay folks work for them. I wrote about the evangelical backlash to the news – in which Christians came out of the woodworks to curse World Vision for letting the gays drag them to hell – and I encouraged my friends to give them grace.
And then World Vision retracted their decision a few hours later, apologizing for their “mistake”.
Yes, I still believe in affirming the humanity. Giving grace because we have received it. Leaving space for people to grow. Trying to understand where they are coming from. The principle remains and I stand behind it.
But after yesterday’s announcement, I’m finding it so hard. If you want grace, go read the piece I wrote Wednesday morning. There you’ll find all the grace I believe in deep down but just don’t feel right now.
Because right now, I’m angry. I’m sad, and confused, and discouraged and sickened.
World Vision President Richard Stearns, in an interview with Religion News Service on Thursday, said nearly 5,000 sponsored children were dropped in the 48 hours the organization decided to let gay people serve along side them. Five thousand kids were held hostage by Americans who held put their hatred for gay people above their compassion for third world children.
The world heard it loud and clear: Christians really, really hate gay people. And we’ll go to the grave defending why we think there is no place for them in the Kingdom of God.
Stearns said that several World Vision employees quit over stress from the backlash.
“You can imagine some of the folks in our call center that are answering our 800 line. They’re receiving an earful of anger. I think we had a few people who couldn’t handle the stress and the anxiety created by the incoming calls…Within an hour of the reversal, the call volume dropped. The angry calls stopped and dropped to a much lower level. Some of the sponsors called back to reinstate their sponsorships,” Stearns told RNS.
Within an hour, the angry calls dropped.
Meanwhile, the Assemblies of God is asking its 3-million members to once again support World Vision, after urging them to drop their sponsored children cold earlier this week.
The message I’m hearing is: Evangelicals, it’s time to turn your compassion switches back on – don’t worry, the gays are gone!
For the past few months I’ve been working toward forgiveness toward the Church – but this week was rough for me and so many others who feel pushed to the margins of our religion.
We are done identifying with a group that points to a few Bible verses to support bigotry for an entire population.
This is why we left. This is why we are leaving. This is why evangelical leaders sit around trying to figure out how to attract young people in their churches. They try hipper music, they dress the preacher in skinny jeans, they let you sip your lattes during service, they hire a worship pastor with a cool cross tattoo, they offer programs and ministries and free babysitting and pizza.
But none of it works because underneath all that, we find it all so hateful.
The Episcopal Church welcomes you. I keep hearing it in my head.
Sometimes I wonder if we know the same Jesus.
The Jesus I know didn’t mention homosexuality once as recorded in the Gospels. He did, however talk a lot about serving the poor. Loving people. Mercy. Inviting everyone to the table.
Regardless of your view of homosexuality, I think we can agree that as a Church, we have failed our LGBT brothers and sisters. We have alienated, ostracized, demonized, and ultimately have driven them away. You are unclean, we say, and you are beyond the grace of God. This is Jesus’ party, and you are not on the guest list.
Go stand outside.
I’ll let smarter, more theologically inclined writers talk about homosexuality and the Bible, such as Patheos blogger David R. Henson, who wrote Wednesday:
Evangelicals have a hate problem when it comes to homosexuality. Period. I know that’s extreme language. But it’s true. We can disagree over an issue and still find common ground in aiding the very poor and disenfranchised. We can work side-by-side in the work of Christ and not agree on every single marginal issue. And homosexuality, as it relates to the Bible’s message and meaning, is marginal. There are 31,000 verses. Only around 8 or 9 can really be said to have anything to do with homosexuality. (None are actually about homosexuality — monogamous, committed relations — as we understand it.)
That’s around 0.026% of Scripture.
And yet that fraction of Scripture has become central to the public identity of evangelicalism.
They have placed homophobia at the center of the Gospel.
Somehow, my chosen view of homosexuality has become the fundamentalists’ way of testing whether I am a True Christian. It has become a method of separating the wheat from the chaff.
If treating people with dignity means I’m chaff, then chaff I will be.
But I’m not writing for them – I’m writing for you, oh fellow Jesus Misfit. To you, on the outskirts of the Christian franchise. To you, who has felt beat up this week. To you, who is confused about what this means for your faith. To you, who is desperate to see hope in all of this.
The fundamentalists demonstrated their power this week. But now there are thousands of Christians uniting under a revived passion for LGBT justice. We will fight – not by dropping sponsorships or screaming at a World Vision employee – but by quietly, firmly not letting go of hope.
If you want to read something moving, inspiring, eloquent and heartbreaking on this topic, read Benjamin Moberg’s piece. It’s seriously good.
I have no pretty words. I am just here to grieve with you.
This is the fifth installment of “From Grape Juice to Red Wine” – a series featuring stories from evangelicals migrating to the liturgical church. When I launched the series, I told you that the stories would be raw and unpolished, to capture the process of change, not looking back on a change. I think this post delivers on the promise of being “raw”.