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Spit or Swallow? A Gay Christian Challenge to Lukewarm Christian Moderates as the Supreme Court Swings Right

07/09/2014 11:37 am ET | Updated Sep 08, 2014

In the past week, Christian conservatives have bullied their way to powerful federal protections for their patriarchal culture -- the U. S. Supreme Court hypocritically eliminated buffer zones protecting women from harassment by religious bigots while seeking legal termination of early pregnancies (though the Court's OWN buffer zone remains intact) and eliminated protections of employees from discrimination on the basis of gender as long as the employer claims "religious freedom." On the heels of these new federal protections for religious bullying, even otherwise moderate Christian leaders like Sojourners' Jim Wallis have banded together to seek further exemption from the executive order protecting LGBTQ employees from termination on the basis of their LGBTQ identity alone.

"UNfundamentalist Christian" blogger and LGBTQ ally John Shore has responded with prayer and hope, calling our many heretofore silent allies to "come out". Yet many of us in or allied with the LGBTQ Christian community are so deeply discouraged that continued negotiation even with "moderates" who won't actively, boldly, and outspokenly fight this increasingly powerful Christian minority of bullying bigots seems like a luxury beyond my means. Only a few months ago, I joined LGBTQ Christians in responding with Christian grace to simialr discrimination -- continuing (for the sake of people in critical need) to support a Christian organization that had resumed denial of health coverage for LGBTQ married partners of its employees. However, the WorldVision flip-flop -- two days of just treatment of LGBTQ Christians undone entirely after financial and social bullying by Christian bigots -- has now become enshrined with federal protections. In light of this new situation, LGBTQ Christians and our allies can't afford to dilute our resources.

In the face of similar silence of German Christians during the rise of Nazi discrimination -- first against those with congenital disabilities, then against those identified as homosexual (those forced to wear the "pink triangle"), then against illegal immigrants ("gypsies"), and finally against Jewish Germans, pastor-theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer likewise lamented lamented the resignation and ineffectiveness of "privately virtuous" Christians who remained "reasonable." He called this out as "self-deceit" and proclaimed the necessity of "responsible action in a bold venture of faith" from followers who truly confess Christ with our whole lives. Reflecting on his previous ten years of ministry with this "Confessing Church" countercultural movement just before his imprisonment by Nazis for collaborating with the assassination of Hitler, Bonhoeffer too described the necessity of abandoning wasted efforts to argue with Christians who are apathetic or actively bigoted: "Foolishness can be overcome not by instruction but only by inward liberation....until that has taken place, we may as well abandon all attempts to convince the fool (Ps. 111.10)....To live a responsible life before God is the only real cure for folly." As apathy, silence and overt discrimination mount in the Church with the Supreme Court's help, the greatest stumbling block for those persecuted by bigotry then is not the overt Christian bigot (Westboro Baptist and their ilk) but the Christian moderate who refuses to take responsible action, who prefers a negative peace avoiding conflict to a positive peace built on justice as Martin Luther King wrote in his 1963 letter from a Birmingham jail.

Where education and "dialogue" with lukewarm Christian "allies" continues to be a one-sided effort to which only LGBTQ Christians and a handful of outspoken allies contribute, perhaps it's time to recognize what Jesus taught in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13). Instead of laboring in rocky and weed-choked places, our efforts make more sense in the places where growth can occur (as in the Christian witness and worship at last month's Pride celebrations all over the country). The Christian Bible claims that even God warned lukewarm moderate Christians about their silence and apathy (Revelation 3:16-21): "You are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold (I wish you were one or the other). So I am going to spit you out of my mouth." God's own solution to recover from this lukewarmness is that we should seek God actively and boldly, no matter the cost -- rather than pursuing the false security of wealth (remaining silent when other Christians discriminate against the marginalized members of the flock for the sake of one's own job security, for example).

Jesus Himself taught in Matthew 18 that when a self-proclaimed "believer" refuses to listen, dialogue or grow, after we have tried without success individually, then in small groups, and then again before the Church as a whole to reconcile, we must simply recognize that our fellowship has already been broken. At that point, we can only pray that God's own Spirit brings real and lasting change so the relationship can be healed and the Body of Christ can be restored. For years, LGBTQ Christians in this country have turned my cheek when struck by U.S. evangelicals with lies and hate speech (Matthew 5:39, Luke 6:29), have spoken truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), have prayed and still pray for those who persecute our LGBTQ community (Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:14) -- and for those who know better, may express private sympathy, but remain silent out of fear. However, as Jesus once counseled the apostles elsewhere, when people refuse to listen to the gospel of God's grace and unconditional love, preferring their own religious bigotry and self-righteousness, it's time to shake the dust off our sandals as we walk away (Matthew 10:14). I still believe (like King and the earliest Christians) in the long-awaited Beloved Community in which former enemies will no longer harm nor destroy one another but all will live together in peace (Isaiah 11.3-9) -- a miracle which only God can bring about while we who believe choose to live together in witness as if it is already true.