When we get sick, we go to a doctor. When our cars break down, we go to a mechanic. When we have spiritual questions, we go to a pastor. After all, each one of these professionals has specialized training and education in their areas of expertise to help us with our specific needs; right?
But what if that’s not always the case? Pastors might not have better insight to issues of the spirit than anyone else. I say this from a place of love and respect for many great pastors who I have known. The best pastors are always questioning and seeking God’s will for mankind. But like any other human being, pastors are fallible.
Take for example the pastors who were absolutely convinced that slavery and racial inequality was what God wanted for mankind. They read scripture. They saw these issues talked about by several of scripture’s authors. They openly supported the institution of slavery:
18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:18-21).
These pastors likely didn’t venture out into the cotton fields and slaves quarters to ask those in bondage, “Do you feel from your masters the neighborly love that Christ commands of us all ?”
As slaves began to adopt Christianity and read about Christ’s commandment to us all to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, they began to realize the hypocrisy of the “traditional Christian values” of their day. They began to question their fate. They began to seek justice and pray and fight for their freedom.
I’m sure there were deeply devout pastors who saw the groundswell of support to end slavery as an assault on their beliefs; just as there were pastors who viewed the concept of racial equality as unacceptable.
It’s easy for us in hindsight to believe that these pastors were totally misguided. “If only they had understood scripture more thoroughly.”, we argue. “How on earth could they have supported the buying and selling of human beings and then forcing them to endure excessive labor and inhumane living conditions?”, we ask ourselves.
It’s from this same perspective that many LGBT individuals ask similar questions today. “How can they say that they love us, but hate our lifestyle?” “How can they claim to be followers of Christ, but want the right to actively discriminate against us?”
Pastors and other religious leaders seem to utilize scripture as their primary source of guidance when they are faced with a variety of issues. This is particularly the case when it comes to issues concerning the LGBT community. They do not understand that to gay and lesbian Christians, the issue of God’s love; His purpose in creating us; and His desire for us to live a happy and fulfilling life has been answered. They do not understand that gay Christians have had to struggle with these issues and have gone directly to God; just as slaves, women, various races, and other minorities have done in the past.
When it comes to understanding God’s desires for His LGBT creation, we often have MORE to offer on the subject than the heterosexual men and women of faith who have NEVER had to struggle to understand our community’s place in God’s creation. We need pastors to listen to us—to hear our testimonies. We need them to not only hear, but also to BELIEVE us when we say, “We have gone to God and have it on good authority that we are not abominations; we are an expression of God’s will.”
I’m happy that there are more church leaders today, than ever before, who support the LGBT community. Yet I still hear pastors who say things like, “I can support and love my gay friends, but I cannot accept their lifestyle. I can be happy that they are in a relationship, but I could never support their marriage.”
I’ve often said, “If you want to know about homosexuality as it relates to Christianity, ask a gay Christian.” We’ve lived through the struggle. We’ve gone to God for answers. And we are adamant that He created us, loves us, has purpose for us, and wants us to be happy.