February 20, 2018
How many who exclude LGBTQ have listened to the parents of the excluded?
To the editor:
I recently tweeted in response to a non-affirming letter to the editor regarding the recent findings of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Illumination Project Committee. Baptist News Global, on Twitter, suggested I write a letter to the editor expressing my thoughts.
I’ve started composing a few responses to the non-affirming letter, which in my opinion, was completely lacking in grace. As I typed, I realized my desire to fight for inclusion in a non-affirming Christian setting is waning. It seems to me an oxymoron (non-affirming and Christian.)
I became a Christian when I was 14 years old and also joined a Southern Baptist church. My husband and I switched to a much larger Southern Baptist church in Columbia, S.C., when we had children so our children would have more opportunities via a larger children’s and youth department as they grew up. We were members of the larger church for 20 years and very active.
Being young, and busy raising small children, it took a while for me to notice outside of my bubble that the Southern Baptist Convention was saying things with which I absolutely did not agree. I remember them boycotting Disney due to same-sex partner healthcare benefits. I remember asking my husband, “Why would Jesus want someone to not have healthcare?” It made no sense to me and seemed beyond mean-spirited. Then when the Southern Baptists said women could not be ministers, after having allowed women to go to seminary to become ministers, I was appalled. I don’t know why I didn’t walk out right then. I like to think I have matured since then and am more aware of things outside of my own bubble of existence.
I found out my son was gay when he was 11 and he came out to me when he was 12. I waited him out because I thought it was important for him to feel comfortable enough to come out to me. We have always had an open communicative relationship and I think that’s important between parents and their children. The way I found out is via a homework assignment he had left on the floor of his bedroom. I looked at it, while cleaning, to make sure it wasn’t something he needed to turn in. He started off responding to the question asked on the assignment, but then it became more like freehand writing as if he were writing in a journal. In this writing, he wrote about how he knew he was gay and was so worried about telling his parents because he went to a conservative Christian church which taught his state of being is a sin.
I remember sitting on his bed that day as I read and thinking, “The world will be unkind to him.” The world has in some ways, but we have not been. My child has grown up in a family where he is fully loved and affirmed. Sexual orientation is not something someone chooses. He didn’t wake up that day and say, “I choose to be gay.” It’s a ridiculous way to think about sexual orientation and it boggles my mind anyone who is rational and reasonably intelligent could think that based on things written within a context thousands of years ago.
This letter could become a novel if I say everything on my mind with regard to the horrific disservice I think the Southern Baptists, and other non-affirming Christians, are doing to LGBT people. It is very isolating and hurtful to be on the receiving end of their mean-spiritedness. You can dress it up any way you want — it’s mean-spiritedness, cruel and exclusive.
Through the years I have become hardened to some of the ignorant and cruel things I hear coming from supposed followers of Christ towards LGBT people. I’ve written letters to the editor, petitioned for our city to continue funding Pride after hearing a Southern Baptist convention member try to end funding, donated to LGBT-affirming causes, posted responses in the black hole that is Franklin Graham’s Facebook page, participated in a vigil for the Orlando victims, supported the South Carolina Pride Festival, been as encouraging and welcoming as I can be to LGBT people, and so on. It seems almost impossible to soften hardened and misguided hearts.
I wonder how many people who rail at LGBT people and/or “politely” exclude them even bother to listen to and consider the opinions of Christian parents and pastors who have decided to fully affirm and accept them? How many have bothered to study more deeply, consider context in the Bible, and actually meet, listen to and consider the opinions of LGBT Christians or even LGBT people who are not believers? How many even begin to consider what the medical community says about LGBT people? How many practice true empathy?
I had high hopes for the Illumination Project, and Cooperative Baptists in general, because the small CBF church we have found here in our city is affirming — or appears to mostly be. It took us eight years to want to be around church people again after leaving a Southern Baptist church. We finally joined a CBF church after I contacted the pastor to see if they were affirming. In October, I contacted and sent my story to the Illumination Project committee, even though they didn’t ask for it in our email exchange. I received a short email response, patting me on the head and encouraging my family and me in my journey, and that was that.
I have long since decided what non-affirming Christians do to LGBT people is wrong. My child has dignity. My child has worth. My child is not a sinner for being a homosexual. My child is loved by God and he did not put him on this earth to not have a full life. All LGBT people should be respected, affirmed, and fully loved. I will no longer petition people who say they follow Jesus for inclusion, love and grace. My family already has that from Jesus himself. It should be a given coming from fellow Christians.
The Southern Baptists are the ones who are wrong. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s decision is equally wrong. It is a sin to not love your neighbor. If you can’t figure out that simple directive, why say you follow Jesus at all?
That’s where I am at in regards to this decision. My son has no desire to go to church. He says Christians have not exactly been very nice to his people. I don’t blame him. I don’t want him around non-affirming people distorting Jesus’ love either. Why would anyone fight to be included in that group?
What a horrific message to be giving to LGBT children created by God. Do you not care about the increased rates of suicide among LGBT people? Do you not think marginalization is having a horrible effect? What about the Greatest Commandments? What if it were you or your child? How did you get up on that perch if you understand the love of Jesus? You may as well hang out a “LGBT People Not Welcome” banner. That would be more honest.
I reject your rejection.
Diane Blevins Smith, Columbia, S.C.