Warning: Every once in a while I write a controversial blog post. Today is such a day. As you read it, please understand that I am writing as a concerned individual, not as someone seeking to judge. If anything, I want to find ways to foster dialogue within our churches, especially in areas that are so commonly lacking. I’d love to hear your thoughts and engage further with you! Please drop me a line in the comments 🙂
An Open Letter to Christian Churches in General:
Before you press the panic button or start tuning out because you think I am going to start espousing some type of uber-liberal theology that you may or may not disagree with, I ask that you hear me out.
This letter is written not to one church in particular, but to all churches across North America. It’s not aimed at exploring the shortcomings of the Mennonite, Baptist, or Presbyterian Church. It’s not pointing fingers at the Anglican, Lutheran, or Roman Catholics. And it’s certainly not finding fault with the Orthodox or the Pentecostal. Instead, this letter is written to all Christians, even to those who don’t go to church on a regular basis. In other words: if you say that you’re a Christian whether that be of the brethren, the Seventh Day Adventists, or the Reformed flavour, this letter is for you.
Now before you start making assumptions about what the two words “open letter” truly stand for, I just want to clarify a few things. Don’t worry! I’m not about to come out of the closet (for anyone wondering I’m straight) and I’m also not about to divulge some deep dark secret that not even my closest friends know about, instead, I am going to speak on behalf of the minority.
You see, the LGBTQ issue has been getting a lot of press lately and I don’t fault them for that. I think that for a long time these group of individuals have had their voices suppressed, have been relegated to the sidelines on the basis of committing some kind of “unforgivable” sin, and have unfortunately been the brunt of many prejudicial jokes (how many times have we flippantly heard someone say “that’s so gay”? Now take it a step further and ask yourself, how many times you have heard someone say “that’s so straight?”). Why is it that we, even those of us who are Christians, the very people who are supposed to live differently than the rest of the world, still find ourselves putting down a certain minority group? Why is it that the minute a Christian wants to genuinely explore this debate we try to silence them writing it off right away as a sin? Or conversely the minute someone wants to respectfully discuss how their understanding of the Bible (whether right or wrong) points to an informed understanding that it is indeed a sin, those in the more liberal streams have the temptation to right away label said people as “gay bashers” with phrases like “see, this is exactly what I don’t like about Christians. They are just so judgmental!”
But that’s really not what I’m here to talk about today. At all. You see, I feel that lately all of the open letters I’ve been reading on blogs or as I scroll down people’s Facebook feeds seem to relate to this one issue. People who identify themselves as Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual openly and explicitly telling their churches that they have felt left out. Excluded. Left for dead. Instead of gracefully being accepted into the very organization that should be the least segregated in the world; the very institution that Jesus created in order to bring in those who were otherwise left on the margins. I’m not trying to downplay these individual’s experiences. I’m not trying to negate the profoundly dangerous emotional, psychological, and most importantly, spiritual effects these unfortunate episodes have created. AT ALL. However, I’d like to encourage all of us to take a step back and I’d like to suggest something radical.
PEOPLE WHO ARE GAY, LESBIAN, OR BISEXUAL MAY HAVE A RIGHT TO AIR THEIR OPEN LETTERS TO THEIR CHURCH, BUT SO DO A VARIETY OF OTHER GROUPS OF PEOPLE WHO WE NEVER SEEM TO READ OPEN LETTERS FROM.
What about the single mothers in our congregation who are working hard financially and emotionally to raise their two children after their husband abandoned them? What about the young mother widowed in her early thirties after her forty year old husband was in a serious car accident? And what about the teenage girl who was recently raped at 17 and now, because she is pro-life, is carrying a child inside of her scared out of her mind because she isn’t sure how she will be able to finish school?
What about that young man in your youth group who has grown up his entire life thinking that he is not truly masculine enough because he isn’t good at sports, has never had the courage to ask a girl out on a date, and prefers dance to rap? What about that homeless man down the street who faithfully comes into our church every Sunday despite the fact that he never has anything to put into the offering plate? What about that 25 year old university student who has grown up in your church his entire life but now that he is 25 and unmarried he suddenly feels out of place? Too old to be in youth group, but not eligible for the young married group, struggling to figure out how he can still be part of something that has always been so meaningful to him and yet not sure how to continue to have those weekly social interactions?
What about that young family who just immigrated from Nepal, struggling to learn the language and to find a job here in Canada? The mom’s a doctor, the dad’s an engineer, but the best they can do is get a job driving taxis? What about the young woman who struggles with severe depression who has a hard time believing that God could ever truly love her? What about the man who has been battling cancer for years being told over and over again that if he were to simply have more faith God would just miraculously heal him?
You see, I’m not saying AT ALL that we need to silence the voice of our LGBTQ partners. They have a right to have their opinions expressed and at the very least listened to. But I’m also suggesting, in a radical way, that no matter how open and accepting our churches might be, they are missing out on reaching at least half the population.
We seem to be uncomfortable as a body of Christ discussing the very things that Jesus died for. We have a hard time getting messy. We like church to be neat and orderly, all the while forgetting that Christ gave up His life for the depressed, the disillusioned, and those who were demon possessed. Here’s a question for those of you who aren’t charismatic: when is the last time your church talked about those who were demonically oppressed never mind possessed?
As a church, as an entire body of Christ, I believe we can do better. I believe we can reach out to women who have been victims of rape, sexual assault, and domestic abuse just as much as we channel energy into stopping sex trafficking and modern day slavery. I believe we can reach out to the men who find themselves struggling with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder just as much as we channel energy into including people who identify as LGBTQ in our churches. I believe we can make the church welcoming to the homeless, those who have developmental disabilities, and those who otherwise are not able to find their place in society just as much as we channel energy into welcoming young married couples into our midst.
There are many minority groups in our churches that hardly ever get their voices heard. Single young adults (especially those who feel called to celibacy), those who have low self-esteem and never thought they would be “smart” enough to get an education, and those who are so painfully shy that stringing a sentence together seems to take the utmost of their effort.
As Christians, I really think we can do better. As Christians, I think we can open up our hearts and our lives to EVERYONE. Not just the select few who we think might fit the criteria of what a “true” Christian looks like, but EVERYONE.
I hope you will join me in this effort. I hope that next time you see someone in your church who seems a bit unsure of why they are there, that instead of avoiding them for the sake of awkwardness, you will have the boldness and courage to approach them, say hi, and maybe invite them to share a cup of coffee with you. It is only by doing this that we will be able to work towards extending the Kingdom of God.