In Nothing, Something

The VMAs were this past Sunday, MTV’s ode to just about anything except music videos. This years show provoked a storm of commentary thanks to Twitter and its always-pushing-the-boundaries choice of performers. By most accounts this program was largely panned as the morally bankrupt extravaganza that it was. From Lady Gaga to Robin Thicke to Miley Cyrus there was surely little that could be redeemed from this epic failure of entertainment, right?

However I saw something while watching that I thought was important, was good,  and was in fact (at least partially) redeeming to the rest of the night. The pair of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis teamed up with Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson for a stirring rendition of their gay rights anthem “Same Love.”

For many Evangelical Christians this was the nail in the coffin for the evening; the last straw on a night that promoted far too much promiscuity and lewdness. Just another sign that the “gay agenda” has taken over our culture and our society, to the detriment of real, Bible-believing Christians.

This viewpoint, however genuine and sincere, is misplaced. “Same Love” is not an attack on the church, it is an appeal that the church can do so much better.

The line in the live performance that really resonated with me was something that was added in. Ms. Lambert and Ms. Hudson end the song by simply repeating back and forth to one another, “No more crying on Sunday.”

As Christians we talk about the gospel  as something filled with joy and hope and love. We talk about sin and death and sacrifice too of course but within all of that there is hope. Hope that Jesus does love us, did come to earth and did die on the cross. We preach that lives are eternally better when those lives live for God.

And yet even with all that hope and ministry and truth there is a tremendous blind spot for those who are LGBT individuals. For them Sunday is all too often not an oasis from the pain they received during the week from family, friends or others. In fact, Sunday is often the source of their agony, a huge blaring siren call that, in fact, they will never be good enough, they are irrevocably sinners, and so God cannot forgive them, or love them, or even bother to help them.

And so we have what you might expect. Gay teens are five times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. This is shocking, as it should be. But the real travesty is that the conservative evangelical church has not only ignored this problem but has now claimed persecution for themselves.

I realize many decent people are concerned about same-sex marriage. I realize that there are legitimate concerns about religious liberty and how it connects to gay rights.  But there needs to be a discussion backed up by solid steps to help these youth who are left with so little hope that they take their own lives. Preaching the gospel should lead to salvation, not suicide.

Macklemore’s song is a scathing indictment of the church’s treatment of LGBT people and youth up to this point. But I have hope that change can come not only from outside the church but from within. For this I am thankful.

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The Words We Use.

My blog about Louie Giglio last week was mostly inspired from reading other responses to the situation from a variety of perspectives. Some of what I found was thoughtful, some was depressing. What troubled me most was some of the word choices that conservative evangelicals seems to use in all their entries. The words we use are important. They are how we communicate and connect with others. James talk about how important the tongue is of course and regrettably some evangelicals are using words that are unhelpful, inaccurate, and deeply hurtful. I offer three examples.

Agenda- Many evangelicals love to bemoan the fact of a “Homosexual agenda” that seeks to undermine Christianity. Giglio himself falls into this in his statement declining the invitation when he states, “…it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration.” The implication is that the LGBT “agenda” is somehow “less-than.” The reality is LGBT people and advocates view their work as more promoting themselves as opposed to being “against” anything. Some LGBT people are faithful and genuine Christians. Of course where is the most fervent opposition to anything seen as “pro-gay” coming from? You guessed it, Christians. If you want to keep calling LGBT people’s calls for equal rights and recognition an “agenda” you can but evangelicals should at least be honest about the agenda that various conservative evangelicals leaders, groups and churches are leading themselves. Of course lamenting a gay “agenda” leads invariably to calls of…

Persecution- Many blogs are highlighting about how this incident is undeniable persecution of Giglio and his right to free speech in the public square. This is inaccurate on multiple levels. A website found an old sermon of his that they found repugnant and called him out on it. Rather than hold firm, renounce the sermon or defend his beliefs he offered a simple statement and backed out. If he had been arrested maybe persecution would be accurate. The ironic fact of the matter is that Giglio is benefiting immensely more from NOT speaking out than if he did. He is now able to go back to his pastoral duties and his ministry work. As I noted in my last entry, If he had renounced his sermon he would have likely lost all his leadership positions he currently holds. The persecution would come solely from his fellow Christians. Giglio is still allowed to work at and preach about whatever he likes. The fact that more people in the public square vehemently disagree with some of his beliefs is not persecution, it’s America.

Bullying– This is perhaps the most shocking word I have seen used but evangelicals have even used it in the titles of their blogs about Giglio. Just as many liberals know little about evangelical subculture, the use of this word to describe this situation shows how painfully unaware most evangelicals are to the experiences of LGBT people. LGBT young people more often report feeling unsafe in school and skipping school than almost any other group. Suicide rates among LGBT youth are tragically high. In the last few years, an “It gets better” campaign has started online where famous people tell young people that if they can survive school things will be better when they reach adulthood. To compare what Giglio has experienced to the torment many LGBT kids face on a daily basis is not only ludicrous it is unimaginably hurtful to LGBT youth and those who are seeking to make their lives better. Giglio was confronted on his beliefs, he was not bullied. He will continue leading an amazingly blessed life while too many LGBT kids see no alternative to their suffering.

If we want to have a conversation about the religious, political and social implications of the Giglio event, I support that.  I think we can have a serious conversation about the balance between religious liberty and individual freedoms in this country. But as long as the evangelical establishment (my personal faith) continues to demonize, undermine, and ignore the very real concerns of LGBT people and their advocates I see few positives occurring.