Welcome back to the Our Emptying Church blog series! For the past three months, we have been exploring why Millennials (ages 18-30) have left or will leave the church. We’ve had some significant interviews with Millennials and are about to hear from some pretty great guest posters.
We are specifically addressing the six most common reasons why the number of religious unaffiliated Millennials is on the rise (in order, they are: antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, old-fashioned, out of touch with reality). Several weeks ago, in light of the coming presidential election, I addressed the church’s involvement in politics and today I wish to jump into the church and homosexuality. I realize this is an emotionally- infused topic, which is why I will attempt to write with honesty, objectivity, and grace. It is also why I only welcome graceful, constructive dialog in the comments section of this blog. It is certainly okay to disagree so long as it’s done in a constructive, kind manner. I don’t intend on changing your stance; however, I do hope to provide a little more perspective on why the church is overwhelmingly seen as anti-homosexual by Millennials and why, in my opinion, we are leaving the church because of this perception.
In times past, the church has not only offered strong objection to the gay lifestyle but made it an object of scorn, disdain, and dehumanization. Hostilely opposing the gay community hasn’t just become a cause of Christianity, it has, for some Christians, become intertwined in their identities. In his book unChristian, generational researcher, David Kinnaman writes:
“…hostility toward gays– not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals– has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith.” Kinnaman’s research showed that 9 out of 10 Mosaics and Busters (ages 18-41) who are unaffiliated with the church viewed Christians as anti-homosexual.
I see a lot of fear floating around these days and fear tends to make us dehumanize folks.
And there’s a big difference in disagreeing with someone and demeaning him/her.
I wonder if this distinction is a little too muddy in the church.
Millennials are wondering too.
As of late, post-presidential election in particular, I’ve been hearing and reading claims of religious persecution… that some Christians feel their rights have been infringed upon by recent legislation, ACLU lawsuits and the such. I think it important to remember that there are men and women murdered for their faith everyday and that our history is stained with story after story of religious martyrs. These are events of persecution. Being bullied, having Bibles thrown at you, being told regularly that God hates you, or picket signs stating your eternal damnation may constitute the term “persecution” too.
I think it’s important to try to step out of yourself and look objectively. How do you love people? How do you love those that you fear or disagree with? How do you love the LGBTQI+ community? Do you fear working for causes like ending HIV/AIDS? Would you entertain the idea that the legality of gay marriage is actually a civil and human rights issue?
Evangelical Christians have been heard loud and clear that homosexuality is a sin, that it is an unacceptable lifestyle, and that gay couples should not be allowed to marry each other. I’m not sure we Millennials need to keep on hearing it, as we already know where these folks stand. I’d love to hear a little more about how the church is going to fight sex trafficking in Tennessee. Can you tell me how many counties in Tennessee have reported a case of minor sex trafficking in the last two years? Can you even tell me what sex trafficking is? Perhaps we should talk a little more about such things instead of continuing to fight and legislate a culture war.
As stated above, the intent of this post is not to dive into the few Bible verses that mention homosexuality or to change your views on the ethics of the subject, those are personal and you are responsible for researching your own beliefs, but you are similarly responsible for your actions in loving people. Trying to establish Christianity’s primacy in American culture by voting for bans on gay marriage isn’t really a victory for Christians at all. In it, we are completely disenfranchising a group of Americans, of humans. Millennials see this and they are tired of the culture wars. They are tired of the control that Christians seem to feel they must have on all things culture.
I say this as a Millennial who still dearly loves the emptying church.
Teach me how to be a strong woman. Teach me about the women of the Bible. Teach me about human trafficking. Teach me how to hug someone I hate. Teach me how to prevent diseases through education and vaccines. Teach me how to meditate on scripture. Teach me how to trade the sword for the plow. Teach me how to change my heart. Teach me how to rid myself of arrogance and pride. Teach me how to lead by serving. Teach me how to speak with grace. Teach me how to preach. Teach me how to fast for a cause. Teach me how to persist. Teach me to weep for the hurting. Teach me how to take care of the earth. Teach me sustainable farming. Teach me how to live with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control. Teach me how to embrace life’s seasons. Teach me how to pastor. Teach me how not to hate. Teach me how to rid myself of prejudice. Teach me how to get off the couch after a broken heart. Teach me how to love. I beg you. There are so many hurting people in this world… teach me how to love them like Christ, not how to fight a culture war, I beg you. Teach me.
For those Christians who cannot condone homosexuality, yet who still love folks and treat them kindly regardless of their sexuality, thank you. You teach me a great deal. Thank you. I’m sorry that you are sometimes labeled bigoted for your personal beliefs. I know that’s unfair and hurtful.
Let us find the grace that we beg God for and extend it to each other. Let’s put a name to a face and listen to each others stories; I bet we’ll begin realizing that we aren’t so different after all. When we consciously chose love, I sincerely believe we send a loud and clear message to Millennials, much more so than a picket sign or buying waffle fries at the Chick-fil-A.
Feel free to post any constructive thoughts or experiences below.
This post is the ninth in a succession of the series Our Emptying Church. The purpose of this series is to explore why millions of Millennials are leaving the church. Check out these recent posts: Our Emptying Church, When Christianity Sometimes Looks UnChristian, Fake Smiles and Judging Eyes: OEC Interview with Millennial #1, Prioritizing Sin: OEC Interview #2, You’re Losing Us: OEC Interview #3, OEC Interview #4: One Last Chance, Our Beloved, Overly Political Church, Heroes in Disguise: OEC Interview #5, Good Church Folk: OEC Interview #6, OEC Guest Post: Mark and Tammy Edwards
I love the focus on not winning the culture war. The idea that Christians can love people and stand by their beliefs without having to claim a victory over another person. great post!
I 100% agree with every word of this! Well said. I actually watched a video today where members of the Westboro Church were being interviewed. During the interview, a few homosexual men were brought out. You could see immediately in their body language how turned off the Westboro people were. They were disgusted and treated the men as if they were lesser people. Granted, this is an extreme example. I wouldn't categorize the people of that church as Christian. But it DOES show how people that don't go to church see Christians. As a whole, the church has not shown love to the LGBT community. This stance against gay marriage has, in my opinion, done more harm than good for the church. We need to find our priorities as a community, and show love. Teach lessons from the pulpit that will make us better people. Don't preach hate. We are already good at that.
Thanks so much. I think these culture wars are destroying and will continue to destroy the church if we continue to fuel them. Peace!
I see alot of people turning from things that are different from them. This is no different from the segregation of blacks and whites. Now its just straight against gay, I think loving someone no matter what the circumstances is the best way to be Chirst like. Christ saw everyone as equal he didnt see poor and rich, weak and strong. He saw people as humans and loved them all the same. I think there are so many other things out there that need more attention than whether or not a man should marry a man. LOVE IS LOVE!! no matter who it is shown by or recieved by. It disgust me that people are so quick to judge when they should be focused on themselves. I dont care who people love or who they want to marry. As long as they are being treated right thats all that matters in my opinion. Love you KATE!!!
As a gay friend once taught me, it's not a lifestyle, it's a life. I realize that some LGBT individuals may have made a choice in their sexuality, but for many there was never a choice. They were hardwired into their sexuality every bit as much as a fish was hardwired to swim. I bring this up because even in the more tolerant churches there is a persistant belief that "if we love them enough, we'll get them to change." As long as that type of belief exists, the outreach will fail. How would you respond to that kind of conditional acceptance? "We love you and want you to be a part of us, but you can only be a full member (help us make decisions about our church, be in a position of trusted service) if you 1) make impossible changes to your genetic code 2) hide or lie about who you are." Yeah, yeah, the Bible preaches against homosexuality. It also gives permission for polygamy and the owning of slaves. The Bible has a lot of good rules for living, but it's time we got over this fantasy that the laws instituted for an ancient civilization still apply to today. You want to see some real change in the church? Start loving without an agenda. Start not being afraid of whether some will disapprove of a gay deacon, or pastor for that matter! It's stunning to me that in many churches a person who has committed murder will be accepted before a gay person will be.
Kate,I am always touched by your honest, graceful thought on your blog. I pray you will hear the tenderness with which I reply. It grieves me to read "picketers or protesters" that sounds to me like the hideously misguided, evil folks who call themselves believers from Westboro Baptist. They are in no way a representation of Christianity nor do they ever reflect the heart of Christ. Your comment suggests that this type of occurence is a common one,and I certainly would challenge that. I also am sad to bring the human trafficking issue into this conversation. That threat to multiple generations in our country and abroad that warrants it's own discussion…YOu are right…it is an under discussed issue that is huge, but the primary reason it is not front and center, is that the discussion pretty new in church, compared to many other social issues that have been in the spotlight for years and years. Ask Erin how much easier it was to raise support for clean water in Africa through Bloodwater than talk about trafficking in churches…but in time, with prayer and commitment, more believers will learn and rally to end this atrocity….I just don't think it ties to the discussion on homosexuality.My heart sank with the mention of the waffle fries…oh my. The CFA deal was so much more about free speech…about the right of a man who owns a business and being interviewed by a Christian magazine, to simply say he supported what he understood to be the biblical view of marriage…never a negative word about a gay person. So many CFA's employ gays and from what I have ever observed, their stellar commitment to customer service has never hinged on perceived sexual preference. That whole fiasco exploded after a well meaning politician suggested supporting CFA as a show of support for freedom of speech. CFA did not ask for that…certainly they profited from the record breaking crowds, but not in any way to thumb their noses at the gay community. I would not have even seen it had I not had to go pick up an order, but I saw nothing to even hint that the people there were homophobes as the vast majority were cruely lableled.allow me to get a bit more personal. I support the biblical view of marriage…not for any legalistic reason, but because I know in my spirit that His plan was designed for our good…for the health of our hearts. I have a very cherished friend who lost a ministry when he was "outed", and his story is compelling. He was (yrs later) my favorite bible teacher, he is a gifted counselor and head of a ministry that has touched countless lives of those struggling with same sex attraction. It took years to be able to share his story at all…hen openly..to find so much love and support from fellow believers who loved him.Did some react differently when they learned his testimony? yes, for sure. But that happens….no matter what the struggle….drugs, porn, gambling…you name it.We need relationships and the church to be a safe place where any of these issues or struggles can be shared with the hope that we grow together…we learn to be overcomers…we learn that even if we fall again, there is hope, there is grace…there is victory, there are NOT always easy answers…We all are in desperate need of discernment. Michael Easley, former pres of Moody, said something like this(should find the exact quote)…"Don't let the world teach you theology". There is an enemy who's sole mission is to deceive and destroy. When he can bring confusion and division…he thinks he wins…we need to keep seeking real truth…be safe to think out loud, to ask hard questions and hear hard answers. You have a gifted mind, sweet girl. My concern is that in the realm of politics and theology, it is possible for any of us to open our minds to some very cunning desception, and the deceiver is aiming lots of arrows at gifted young believers. Bring everything into the light of the Word…and keep writing and sharing your beautiful heart.You are loved.
Thanks for reading, Moss. I haven't seen the video, but I can imagine that it was an interesting interview to say the least as I classify Westboro as an extreme hate group. I absolutely agree that our priority, as a church, is to love and not exclude or demean. In doing so, we feign righteousness and lose the gospel. With you sister!
Jessica, I thoroughly appreciate your comment and your strong views on equality. I see equality/ egalitarianism in Jesus' teachings and I pray we will work towards it with our hands and our hearts.
And keep on shaking things up! It is not the job of any other person to convict you of what is right & wrong. That's the job of the Holy Spirit. Keep asking questions. Keep challenging the status quo. God isn't afraid of your ideas and won't punish you for them. Only people do that.
John, as always, I appreciate your comment here. Actually, I love it. I tend to agree that we've taken verses that were meant for the context in which they were written, and we've applied them to universal truths in today's society, thus creating much friction. I continue to stand by the "start loving without an agenda." and conditional acceptance… until that occurs, count Millennials out.
Lani– thanks for your comment here. I appreciate it and the grace you seem to be able to deliver all of your communication. It's good to have another perspective on the blog! I agree with you in that I consider Westboro Baptist a hate group and non-affiliated with Christianity even though they, unfortunately, bear the name "baptist" and do practice similar worship to those of a conservative baptist church. In the post, I was not only referring to this group, but even more importantly to other separate groups who have picketed, boycotted, encouraged discrimination through various means of bullying, etc. In one instance, a gay friend of mine had Bibles thrown at her. The whole CFA incident was a fiasco, in my opinion. Firstly that CFA financially supported hate groups, but secondly that outspoken politicians got a hold of the situation. All of the facebook postings of CFA pictures and ranting back and forth only further widened the cultural war chasm. I absolutely agree that the church should be safe place. A welcoming and loving and inclusive refuge. A place where we can dialog about our differences and similarities alike. A place where we can doubt, question, and worship in the same breath. I feel like we probably have some theological disagreements, but I always appreciate another perspective and the way you love people. I will say that I spend much time researching my interpretation of scripture– theology and hermeneutics– because it's extremely important to me and it's no one's responsibility but mine. Your grace is really beautiful, Lani. Peace to you, sister.
Amen! Thank you! Let's keep dialoging and questioning.