Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Elevating the Conversation

Sometimes it seems like the conversation between the church and the gay community looks like the above intersection in Nashville, TN. You're forced to choose one camp or the other. On Sunday evening, I spoke with our college group about building bridges between the church and the gay and lesbian community. It's a conversation that I'm not sure has ever happened at Red Mountain, but I was extremely encouraged by the candor, wisdom, and humility expressed by the college students. College dialogues are often turned into vicious debates or free-for-all opinion-sharing, so it's remarkable to have a conversation filled with conflict, tension, and anger while also containing humility and love. I stayed late for over an hour talking with students and listening to their stories, concerns, and questions.

I've been reading Andrew Marin's fantastic book Love Is an Orientation, and it's completely wrecking me. Andrew shares his story about being a straight evangelical Christian living in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, incarnating himself in the GLBTQ community in order to love people. He shares a statistic in the book that the average age a person feels same-sex attraction is 13 years old. This stat is particularly relevant to us in junior high ministry. This means that junior high students need a safe environment and loving relationships to navigate their emerging sexuality. It's not an issue that is "out there" in urban settings or in the political arena. There are students experiencing same-sex attraction in youth groups all over the country.

This divide between the gay community and evangelicals is one of the biggest elephants in the church. It's an elephant because talking about the issue requires an open-mindedness on both sides. It's much easier to dismiss people or hold onto simplistic views based on cultural stereotypes than it is to build loving relationships. All Christians can't be reduced to angry fundamentalists; neither can gays or lesbians be reduced to flamboyant stereotypes. We need to ask tough questions. How can a person experiencing same-sex attraction come to know Jesus when the church doesn't seem like a safe place for them? How can a Christian speak truth while also extending the grace Christ extends to all of us? What does Scripture really say about same-sex attraction? What can the church do to elevate the conversation beyond angry rhetoric or political battles?

How is your church elevating the conversation between Christianity and the gay and lesbian community? Youth workers, how do you address this with young people?

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