A famous quotation widely attributed to Gandhi has been on my mind a lot lately: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
That simple statement holds a lot of truth and likely articulates what many non-Christians are thinking. Why are today's Christians such a departure from the actual person of Christ? If churchgoing, Bible-thumping Christians claim to love Christ and are striving toward the goal of becoming more like Him, then why don't their attitudes reflect the nature of the one they are trying to emulate?
Yes, there are some true Christians out there who generally try to exemplify Christ, but unfortunately, there are many more who are reflecting a foggy and distorted image. Unfortunately, this group tends to have the loudest voice when trying to deliver its message. Their misrepresentation of Christ is counterproductive to the Great Commission (you Bible-thumping Christians ought to know what that is) and is standing in the way of many would-be followers finding the Christ they claim to love so much.
The volatile relationship between fundamentalist Christians and the gay community is the perfect example to illustrate and punctuate the point attributed to Gandhi. Most fundamentalist Christians spend a great deal of their time, energy and resources condemning members of the gay community instead of expending resources trying to bridge the gaps between the two groups.
These Christians carefully craft catchy phrases and construct arguments to use the next time they have the opportunity to share their viewpoints on homosexuality. They cannot pass up the chance to tell the gay community that they are on their way to Hell and that God does not love them. They speak for God using words of hate that Jesus himself would not spew. They use hate-infused slurs and slanderous phrases that demean people because of their sexual orientation, all in the name of the Lord. Amen?
Imagine if Christians took everything the Bible points out as a sin and treated those who commit them in the same manner as they treat the members of the gay community. There would be no one left in the pews of America's churches.
Adulterers? Going to Hell.
Liars? Going to Hell!
You want a house like your neighbor? Guess what? That's coveting! You're going to Hell.
Overeating? Going to Hell. (See my "You're a Fat Ass and You're Going to Hell" post if you don't believe me!)
Missed church on Sunday? You just messed up on one of the Ten Commandments. Oops, you're going to Hell too.
Public service announcement (this is not a test): Everyone is going to hell.
Being who you are, being gay, is not a sin; that's how God made you. But even if you do think that being gay is a sin, you have no right to judge others. We're all sinners. I don't think that is a point that could or should be disputed. You're probably sinning right now as you read this note because no matter which side of the argument you are on, whether you've been a victim or a perpetrator of the hatred I speak of, you're likely to be angry. And we all know that "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." By the way, that's in Proverbs 23:7 in case you're one of the non-Bible-thumpers who is reading this, as I suspect that all those who knew where that passage was found have moved on to a different website.
Oddly enough, most Christians support missions to almost every group of people imaginable. Churches support soup kitchens for homeless people in America, orphanages in developing countries and digging wells in the heart of Africa. And while these are all worthy causes and certainly within the scope of the person of Christ, Christians are ignoring a huge population with needs. Not only do they not address the practical and spiritual needs of the gay community, but they downright condemn them. Many Christians intentionally alienate members of this community. They hate gays and aren't afraid to admit it, and they aren't willing to reach out to this group, simply because they don't agree with their "lifestyle" and are fearful of what it might look like should they embrace "those people."
The American Association of Suicidology shares some sobering statistics. They found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning teens are at least 3.4 times as likely as their straight peers to attempt suicide. Of course, there are other factors that may contribute to teen suicide, like substance abuse, being abused by parents and mental illness, but I'm confident that attitudes and messages disseminated from fundamentalist Christians and other haters on a rampage to spread their message of intolerance are also a contributing factor. The fundamentalist Christian crowd is likely to have a particularly large impact on those teens who come from religious families. How many young gay kids have chosen to end their own life because of the attitudes and message from the fundamentalists? How many more are going to do the same until Christians wake up and stop segregating the love of God?
The activities and attitudes of the fundamentalist crowd are what causes so many gay people to live their lives without God. It's not that gays have rejected Him or that they don't desire intimacy with the Almighty; it's simply that they feel that they are not allowed the privilege of having God in their lives, because that's what they have been told. They are told that they are not worthy of having a spiritual connection with their Creator or benefiting from conversation with Him. So many fundamentalist Christians have told them that He doesn't accept them that they actually believe it. They are assured that the real Jesus doesn't want them or love them, so they don't even try to get to know Him or His love.
Face it: The Jesus that most Christians preach about is not the real Jesus at all. In fact, the real Jesus was not busy poking fun at people or scarring them into submission. He was not spending His time intimidating people or abiding by a strict set of rules. He was living in the counterculture and loving those whom the church rejected.
Gay people can love God too. In fact, many openly gay people not only love God but serve Him. Contemporary Christian singers Ray Boltz and Jennifer Knapp have publicly discussed their homosexuality. Did the world come to a screeching halt? I think it might have been traumatizing enough to drive some deacons to drink, but overall, the world did not fall off its axis. (Maybe a few church members fell off their pews, but you know, no major crisis.) These brave souls declared to the world that they are gay and still have a relationship with Christ. They are paving the course for other gay people, particularly gay teens, who have been told that they are not worthy of the blood of Christ or the love and peace that comes from a relationship with Him. The fundamentalist Christian crowd could take a lesson from these pioneers.
Please consider how you represent Christ and the image you are reflecting. Don't be a stumbling block; be a stepping stone. I'm not asking anyone to change their beliefs and convictions, as those are between you and God. I am asking that you be considerate and compassionate in how you deal with others and how you convey your beliefs. Don't judge other people's lifestyles; just live your own and let God be the judge.
At the end of the day, we all just want to live freely and authentically. We want to experience the freedom to make our own decisions and to be true to the being that we are deep down in our souls. We just want to be happy and live without the threat of hate or judgment. And if your happiness is being gay, then be gay and still love God. Don't miss the opportunity to have the comfort of a loving Jesus in your life just because someone tells you Jesus doesn't love you as you are.