Let me start by saying "Love Song for a Savior" on Jars of Clay's Flood album helped me survive the darkest moments of 8th grade.
Jennifer Knapp's Kansas album carried me through high school.
These artists understood contemporary Evangelical youth. They facilitated inclusion in the '90s pop music scene while being true to what Plugged In said they could and couldn't listen to.
Where would the WWJD generation be without DC Talk's wildly successful Jesus Freak album that set them squarely in the mainstream?
Despite the bifurcated in the world but not of the world existence, many left this '90s Evangelical movement shattered.
In the world, meeting an ex-Evangelical, a non-practicing Evangelical, a home-based Evangelical, a recovering Evangelical, or an exiled Evangelical is like meeting a person that fluently speaks a secret and detailed code. This code may include messy and complicated feelings about leaving. It might involve painful struggles to resolve remaining in a religious community and not identifying with its agenda.
These Evangelicals did not just leave because the Rapture didn't materialize during Y2K or that they were not healed at a Benny Hinn service. They didn't cease attending Sunday services merely because they were one of the statistical 90 percent that made an abstinence pledge and broke it.
Generally, there weren't simple reasons to walk away from this world.
However, one of the most prominent and unifying reasons for a Millennial's exit of the church was the humiliating treatment of LGBT people. It came from the pulpit, the pew, and the home. These former Evangelicals have family members that are LGBT, friends that are LGBT, or they themselves are LGBT.
For those remaining in the mainstream church, consider that a Wednesday night youth group may have been an LGBT kid's only accessible option for a safe space. Since around 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT, it is plausible that one of them may have wandered into a local youth group. Instead of finding acceptance, were they reminded of institutionalized prejudice? Were they prayed for in a love the sinner hate the sin platitude? Were they labeled with perceived bondage instead of receiving acceptance for how they were created? Were they placed into some form of conversion therapy?
Efforts to torment and change LGBT's were illuminated by Exodus International. But, even this organization had an ethical transformation. Last year, Exodus International closed its doors and apologized for the harm done to LGBT's. They went even further to make things right by speaking love.
LGBT people are murdered and tortured around the world. American Evangelical faith leaders could actually be the spark of love that lights the way for the protection of LGBT's. Due to their global presence, the Evangelical church is uniquely equipped to reach out to safeguard LGBT's everywhere. They have a powerful responsibility to do so. Sadly, in the past few weeks, many failed to recognize this opportunity. Recent events with respect to World Vision and Jars of Clay are sobering reminders of why being a LGBT people in this environment is so traumatic.
However, not every prominent Evangelical responds to these types of events with hate and judgment. In fact, there is a potential Evangelical schism brewing. There are pioneers inside the church that recognize the urgency of rectifying the church's comprehensive damage to LGBT people. They are working to change the hearts and minds of the Evangelical establishment and to create safe places for LGBT people in houses of worship.
These trailblazers include Jennifer Knapp. Through her ministry Inside Out Faith she embraces her faith and who she is. The Reverend Jim Wallis and the author Rachel Held Evans are also at the forefront.
In many ways, Evangelicals have had a beautiful history of standing up to injustice and helping victims of atrocities. They work hard to end child slavery. They reach out to help heal and support survivors of human trafficking and, they are stewards of the earth that are fighting for a safer environment.
The list is impressive, endless and growing.
Unfortunately, the stalwart base of the Evangelical movement maintains its relentless agenda to prevent legal protections for LGBT people.
In light of the backlash against World Vision and Jars of Clay, it begs a few questions. When did "they will know we are Christians by our love" turn into they will know we are Christians by holding hostage funding to aid Syrian refugees and hate tweeting Dan Haseltine? Why would anyone with a heart full of love in the modern age want to join or return to a hate filled movement like that?
With new awareness and understanding it is clear that sustained, sanctioned prejudice against LGBT people falls on the wrong side of history, justice and mercy. In the past, the church fully transformed regarding slavery. It revisited and reinterpreted verses that supported former horrific prejudice and transformed. Perhaps, they can begin to do the same with this issue.
Will Dan Haseltine and World Vision find the courage and support to embrace that they may have started the whispers and rumblings of an internal revolution? Will more Christian artists, charities, NGO's, and lead pastors come forward and support equality? Will they be able to do this without having to fear threats to their livelihood? Could there be a creation of a new mainstream church?
LGBT's have an abundance of talent and compassion to offer in a house of worship.
They have just rarely, if ever, been given the opportunity.