The relationship between the evangelical church and the LGBT community has changed dramatically over the last two decades. The church used to be far more public in their condemnations of gay and lesbian people, failing to distinguish between biblical teaching and false and ignorant claims. For instance evangelical leaders used to say that people chose to be gay, that gay people were capable of becoming straight, that gays were child molesters, that they recruited children into homosexuality, and on and on.
Nowadays, you don't hear such talk dominating the airwaves, partly because many straight Christians have caught up on the learning curve. Christian kids started coming out to their parents, forcing parents to rethink everything they've been taught from the pulpit. Gay parents even started coming out to their kids, and friends came out to their Christian friends. It used to be too costly to risk these relationships by coming out, but once it started happening, people became emboldened by the examples of those who went before them. And once pastors became aware that they were accountable for what they said about gay people who were sitting right there in their pews (along with their family members), they started toning it down.
Society has also put the squeeze on. The more progress LGBT rights have made, the more politically incorrect it has become to fall back on the rhetoric of 1995. And now with social media passing on information so quickly, no one can be certain that what they say publicly will only be contained to a sympathetic audience. Maybe your congregation will be on board with a traditional interpretation of Romans 1, but you risk catching heat from outsiders if your sermon ends up getting passed along on YouTube or Facebook.
What that leaves is a certain population of the conservative Christian community who are holed up in trenches, who still buy into the old-school view of homosexuality but have been forced into a defensive posture. What some call compassion, they call cowardice. What some hail as enlightenment, they condemn as compromising the truth. Not long ago they were a dominant force in shaping the values of society, yet now they are suddenly ignored, ridiculed and shouted down. And pretty soon, they predict, they will be persecuted.
You do not have to be very old to remember a day when the tables were turned the other way; when it was the other odd-ball, strong-willed minority group in society that was ignored, ridiculed, shouted down, and very much persecuted. I have always thought it strange that the LGBT community and the evangelical community seem to have so much in common. And now that the tables are turned, and the one-time persecutors now fear that they will become the persecuted, I find myself having mixed feelings that often leave me staring at a blank screen when I think about what to say on this blog.
The Bible is full of verses that say, essentially, what goes around comes around. The merciful will be shown mercy, but for those who fail to show mercy . . . alas, that bad boomerang is guaranteed to circle back eventually. It's going to hit all of us, myself included, because I continue to be a part of the conservative church that is historically guilty of lacking mercy and compassion.
The scary thing is that even though more Christians than ever come up to me lamenting bitterly about how "you can't have a biblical view of homosexuality anymore without risking persecution," they seem to think that those of us who have been trying to love the LGBT community have caused the problem. Sort of implying that if only we had persecuted the gay community more we wouldn't be in this mess of letting them get the upper hand.
I never have the heart to suggest to these Christians that, actually, we may very well be reaping what we have sown. That maybe God has heard the cries of LGBT people of faith (I know that many, many prayers have been lifted up over the years), and he is finally giving them relief. If indeed it is God that we have to contend with, the question is whether we are spiritually sensitive enough to 1) recognize what is happening, and 2) respond in a way that spares us the full measure of his indignation.
It begins with having the humility to recognize that we have done wrong in the first place, and sadly I don't see that we're even close to taking that first step. But if we do get there by some miracle, I would suggest that we humbly ask God for forgiveness for our past sins in persecuting the LGBT community, and for grace to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. We need to ask for the kind of mercy for our sins that we should have given to them for theirs, and to be spared the kind of suffering that we caused them as we hardened our hearts to their needs and turned a deaf ear to their voices.
We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where God hardens his heart to us and turns a deaf ear to our prayers, but it is exactly what we ought to expect if we do not take a long look at ourselves in the mirror of his Word. Soon.