This morning as I was doing my IG-scroll over my cup of coffee, I stumbled on this post from Jen Hatmaker, where she warmly shares her support and affirmation of all our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. Her words are beautiful, compelling, and moving; she shares statements like this: “You are so incredibly precious and wonderful and needed. You are gorgeously created, every molecule. We love you. You are our friends and teachers, our co-creators and fellow members of the mysterious body of Christ. Nobody decides if you ‘get to come to church’ or ‘get to serve the church’ or ‘get to lead the church.’ You ARE the church.”
I was nodding my head along with her words – and I know I’m not alone. But I also know that ten years ago, my response would have been completely different. In the past, I would have been clutching my pearls and writing Jen off as someone who had fallen away from the faith. I used to believe that we were called to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Now I know that isn’t possible. Now I know we are called to love, period. And for me personally, in my theology, I am called not only to love, but to accept and affirm.
So how did I get here?
In the comments below Jen’s Instagram post, as you can probably imagine, there is a wide array of responses – ranging from complete support, to utter disdain. But what impacted me the most was seeing just how many questions were asking about Jen’s theology and exactly HOW it has shifted to become inclusive and affirming. I can’t speak to Jen’s experience; I can only share from my own journey, which is what I’ll do here in this post.
Many of the questions were wondering about resources – people genuinely asking how to do the work of learning, seeking, and trying to reconcile their beliefs with this new way of living and loving in the world. Is it possible to be a Christ-follower, while also fully accepting and affirming our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters?
Opening your heart to a change in theology
This is SUCH a huge topic, and my post today is not meant to be a dissertation on the Biblical texts or a scholarly article to convince you what to believe. I simply hope to share with you some guidance on how to proceed through this process, if you are in a place like I was about 5 years ago. If you’re wondering what the passages of the Bible really do have to say about homosexuality, I’d love to talk to you about my experience. And if you’re angry about how LGBTQ+ people in the Church have been treated – if you’re recognizing that it’s impossible to be a loving presence in the world when our faith won’t truly love and accept this entire population of humans – you’re not alone. If this is where you’re at right now, I’d love to share some ideas with you on where to go next in your journey. Not as a specific roadmap, but rather a guidepost, from a fellow traveler who has walked a similar road.
Now, I also realize that this article may seem out of place on this brand new blog. I haven’t shared much of my journey in this space, or how I personally shifted into the space of completely affirming our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. I would love to walk through my own experience and share more of that here in later posts. But for now, I’m bypassing my own longer story, for the sake of jumping straight into this, because I think this is so important and necessary.
One more quick disclaimer: This post is meant to speak to other wanderers who are truly interested in finding out how to reconcile their past beliefs with their present truths. This is not meant to speak to any of my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, or to speak FOR them. I am a white, cis-gender, heterosexual woman, and I’m simply sharing my own journey of how my beliefs have shifted to affirm all people in the LGBTQ+ community. However, if you are an LGBTQ+ person of faith, and if you have anything to add to the discussion or any advice to share with me, please feel free to send me a message, because I’m listening.
So here is my response to the genuine questions from people who are truly wanting to learn why so many of us who have come from a similar evangelical faith tradition are shifting and changing the way we see LGBTQ+ community. How we’ve moved (or are in the process of moving) from that old ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ mentality – to a fully accepting and affirming view of humanity, and specifically the LGBTQ+ community.
If you are in that space of wondering and questioning, this is what I recommend.
1. Research scientific studies on homosexuality, transgenderism, and other identity studies.
For me, this was an important step in the process of shifting my beliefs that I had been taught. I had always received the message that ‘gay people choose to be gay.’ Only now as I look back, I’ve begun to recognize how this ‘gay choice’ mentality is incredibly harmful. This message teaches us that because a person is choosing this part of themselves, they are therefore choosing their sin. If that is a belief you’re operating under, then it absolutely makes sense that you would be able to continue in your ‘hate the sin’ belief. (And, as an aside, conversion therapy was one of the most horrific practices to have arisen out of this foundational belief – take some time to research that to get another view of the trauma that has happened, and is still happening in some states, because some people still believe that being gay is a choice).
However, what happens to that belief if you were to shift the foundational belief – recognizing that this is not something a person chooses? What if God knit you together in your mother’s womb, fully knowing, fully creating you perfectly… gay? If being gay is not a choice – then it is absolutely impossible to separate the person from the ‘sin.’ Instead, this person is now a fully integrated, beautiful human – and by calling their sexuality ‘sinful’ – you are saying that something God created is sinful.
I recommend that you take some time to really think through what you believe about humans and their sexuality. Not only that, but please do some research. See what professional studies have discovered about people who are LGBTQ+. Read, ask, search, and seek to understand.
2. Research the Biblical passages yourself.
Now, before I share more on this one – I first have to say that how much weight you put on this point will also depend on your view and approach of reading the Bible in general. If you are clinging to this collection of ancient texts as a rulebook for living, or if you believe it is 100% historical/infallible/inerrant, then you will definitely be approaching this from a different place than me. I have a lot more to say about my experience and how I no longer approach or hold this library of writings and letters as I used to. But for now, even if you DO hold the Bible as divinely-inspired or inerrant, then I want you to ask yourself this one simple question:
What does the Bible actually have to say about homosexuality?
If this is a question that you are genuinely asking, then you must start by researching that word (homosexual/homosexuality) in the Bible, and discover where and how it is used. Because, my friend, even that word is a new word that has been added in newer translations of our Bible that we use – starting around the 1940s. This means that the infallible and inerrant Word of God has been using different words for these passages up until about 80 years ago. Let that sink in.
So if you are really going to hold onto these passages as the foundation for how you are viewing and treating an entire community of people, I highly recommend that you truly take the time to dig a little deeper. Here are some questions that you might find helpful as you work through this discovery process for yourself: What were the original words that were used in these passages? What did those words mean to the community and the culture of the time in which they were written? Who was the author, and what was the TYPE of writing from each of these passages (wisdom literature, the law, historical narrative, or letters to a specific group of people?) Where else were those original words used throughout Scripture, and what did they mean in other passages?
In case you’d like to research more specifically the passages I’m referring to, they are:
- Genesis 19:1-38
- Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
- 1 Timothy 1:9-10
- Jude 6-7
- Romans 1:25-27
I would also encourage you to seek out interpretations from a variety of different Biblical scholars… especially those that may be from a different tradition that you are coming from. You probably already know exactly what the scholars within your particular vein of faith believe, and most likely you don’t need to remind yourself of what they would say about these passages. Instead, why not seek to listen to other voices, that you haven’t ever heard from before? Do not hold a belief structure simply because you have only heard from one perspective your entire life. Open your mind up to other views and see how these passages have been interpreted by others. And lastly, pray through the process, if prayer is a part of your faith practice right now (if not that is fine too). Seek truth and wisdom. Use your God-given intellect and do the work.
3. Connect with PEOPLE & listen to their STORIES.
Please remember this as you are researching and learning and seeking: this is not an “issue” – these are human beings. We can talk about theory and theology, interpretation and ideologies… but when we stay there, we forget that this is about real people, living in this world and in our faith communities.
This is about people.
Never forget that.
And so, as you are doing this work for yourself, a necessary part of the process will be to hear from people in the LGBTQ community. Get to know them. Listen to their stories. Seek out books, podcasts, and spaces where people are sharing about their own journeys.
This is so crucial because it takes this from a theoretical ‘issue’ and brings it into the everyday, our living and waking and breathing interactions with humanity. We must listen to the LGBTQ+ community. We must ask them questions. We must hear their stories.
4. Listen to others who have shifted.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to find people who have gone through a similar shift in their theology, specifically in the realm of the LGBTQ community and reconciling our beliefs with our faith. Hearing from others may help us see from a new perspective or a different angle, so if you really want to discover what you believe, it might be incredibly helpful to hear from others who have been there before.
Reach out to people in different faith communities. Ask to talk with someone on staff at an LGBTQ-affirming church. Seek friendships online or in person and ask others what their process looked like as they began to reconcile their beliefs and shift their approach.
And do this all with an open mind and heart.
Ok, so if you are still with me here – I applaud you for reading this long post and making it this far. At this point I want to point you toward a few resources that may be helpful to you as you begin digging and learning. This list is just a starting place and an introdution to some of the resources that have impacted me in my own journey. There are many different subtopics that I would love to delve into in the future surrounding this issue, bringing further resources to other topics.
There are also SO many amazing resources out there, from incredible scholars who are digging through and researching these topics. There are SO many amazing LGBTQ people who are sharing their stories and experiences. My goal is to eventually have a space on this website to highlight MANY of these, with a long list of resources. But for the sake of giving a short list that won’t be too overwhelming, for now I am only going to share a few from each of these areas: podcast episodes, books, and podcast series.
“The Bible And The Gay Christian” | The Bible for Normal People Episode 14
“LGBTQ” | The Liturgists Episode 20
“Sara Cunningham Gives Free Mom Hugs to LGBTQ Community” | For The Love Episode 05 (Podcast hosted by Jen Hatmaker / featuring Sara Cunningham from Free Mom Hugs)
“For God So Loved His Gay Sons and Daughters” | Heretic Happy Hour featuring Eric Reitan (episode really starts at 12:50, if you want to skip through the long intro)
“Being an Openly Gay Christian” | God is Grey Episode 01
Jennifer Knapp interviews: There are simply too many good ones for me to list them all. Jennifer shares her story with honesty and truth, and with a blanket of grace and love for her roots in evangelicalism. Here are just a few to check out: “Jennifer Knapp on Music, God, and Speaking Her Truth” [For the Love Podcast] & “Christian Part 2” [The Liturgists]
Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee
God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines
Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships by James Brownson
Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu
These next books are on my reading list for this year; I can’t recommend them personally but they have been recommended to me:
The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic by Eric Reitan
Unclobber: Rethinking our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality by Colby Martin
Changing Our Mind: Definitive 3rd Edition of the Landmark Call for Inclusion of LGBTQ Christians with Response to Critics by David Gushee
The Bible, Christianity, & Homosexuality by Justin Cannon
True Inclusion: Creating Communities of Radical Embrace by Brandan Robertson
*Note: there are NO affiliate links on this post. All of these links are here simply because I’ve found them to be helpful.
Queerology by Matthias Roberts
Blue Babies Pink by Brett Trapp
A Tiny Revolution by Kevin Garia
Moving Mountains by Lacey Wright and Laura Crook
Lord Have Mercy by Crystal Cheatham
LGBT Bible Podcast by Queer Theology
A Starting Point.
I know I said this previously, but want to remind you once again that this is NOT an exhaustive list of resources. This is a brand new website/blog, and I hope to continue to add more and more resources to a separate section of the site soon. If you have any resources you’d like to add, please feel free to contact me and let me know! (Best way to reach me at this time is via direct message on Instagram) 🙂