Nadia Bolz-Weber, the Orlando Tragedy, and Conservative Evangelicalism’s Not-So-Peachy Relationship with the Gay Community

While we are on the subject of Nadia Bolz-Weber, I would like to direct your attention to a sermon she preached in response to the Orlando tragedy a couple of weeks back.

In my review of Accidental Saints, I noted that there is much about her life and story to shove the evangelical gag reflexes into overdrive.  There is the progressive politics for which her strain of Lutheranism is known, the radical activism and resulting swath of scorched earth and burned bridges and denial of the existence of very real human differences, all in the name of tolerance and inclusiveness.  This shines through clearly in her response to a tragic shooting which was targeted directly at the gay community.

She references a piece by blogger Ben Moberg from his response to the tragedy:

And this is what I love about God: The Church has driven out LGBTQ people for centuries, with an especially intense malice over the last several decades, and in response to this, God just says, okay, fine, we’re good out here. Where you chase my people, I will be with them. Where they gather, I will be there. Clubs. Conversations. Protests. In lament and anger and tears and laughter and way too many drinks. I will be with them and make this right for them. I will love them more fiercely for their wounds. I will draw them close. I will know them and they will know me. They will tell you my name.

…and one almost gets the impression that there is a certain sanctity inherent in gays and other minorities by virtue of the fact that they suffer persecution at the hands of mainstream society.  In fact, the Moberg piece screams “Look at us (the queer community) if you want to see God moving in the world today”, a sentiment which I find equally distasteful whether it is coming from the Tim Challies and Al Mohlers of the world or from one of the oppressed and marginalized who are the special focus of God’s care and concern.  It is as if homosexuality is all part of God’s good and beautiful order for the world.

Heads up, people:  It’s not.

Homosexuality was never part of the divine pattern for marriage.  All along it was one man and one woman for life, and it was never anything different.  That is a conversation we have to have at some point, and I don’t see very many places in progressive Christianity where that conversation is being had.  So if your evangelical gag reflexes are kicking in at this point, I am totally with you.

And yet, this haunts me.  It grabs hold of my heart and will not let go.  Why?  Because it is the voice of a people who are oppressed and marginalized, a voice crying out to God to see their suffering, hear their anguish, and make it right for them.  Though there is no automatic sanctity for gays by virtue of their oppressed minority status, though homosexuality is not by any stretch of the imagination part of the divine pattern for marriage or part of God’s good order for our world–even so, God still hears their cries.  He will make things right for them.  He will call the perpetrators of this injustice to account.

For though homosexuality is not part of God’s good order for our world, the fact remains that we live in a fallen world.  Many things do not function the way God intended.  Human sexuality is one of them.  Thus it stands to reason that a small percentage of the population will be homosexual, or at least be predisposed toward homosexuality.  Some of these people are going to be in our churches, whether we want them there or not, whether we even know they are there or not.  We must make space for these people, in some form or fashion.

Our movement has, by and large, done a horrible job of this.  Though we are called by God to love all people, we see the biblical prohibitions of homosexual activity as clear license to shit on gays and the gay community and any who sympathise with them.  Well-known and respected evangelical leaders opine about the importance of the “gag reflex” when discussing homosexuality, while others opine that any attempt to make space for gays in our midst is “cultural capitulation” and is to be denounced in the strongest possible terms.  And when a well-known Christian organization announces that it will in limited circumstances hire gays, we howl and yell and scream so loud that in only days they reverse that decision.

That is not right, people.

Though it may push the evangelical gag reflex into overdrive when it seems that gays are accorded a certain sanctity by sheer virtue of the fact that they suffer persecution and discrimination (and believe me I’m right there with you, feeling the gag reflex too), the reality is that God has made it immensely clear that He is concerned with how other people are treated.  There is an abundance of Scripture to back this up.  So more than likely God is going to have some things to say about our engagement with the gay community.  And they will not be good.

Every person you will ever come eyeball-to-eyeball with is a person for whom Jesus died.  As a church we are going to have to answer for our treatment of people for whom Jesus died.  So even if there is no sanctity inherent in the gay community merely because they experience persecution and hate from mainstream society (there isn’t), the truth remains that they are people for whom Christ died.  For that reason God is immensely concerned with how we treat them.  God sees their suffering and marginalization, and He will make it right for them and call the perpetrators and all who support them to account.

We have got to figure out ways to make space for gays in our church communities.  It is no longer good enough (as if it ever was) to say that being gay is an automatic bar to being Christian.  Otherwise, we are just as bad as the liberals who, in the name of tolerance and inclusiveness, deny that there are any differences between human beings (any that matter, at any rate) and reduce us all to identical, interchangeable parts in the machine that is human society.