The other day I was on Twitter and saw a tweet come across my timeline that polled followers’ responses to the following question: “If you are LGBT and your pastor isn’t willing to speak out against homophobia, do you think they value you? Feel free to share why.” And it got me thinking, “do I?”
This is a struggle that LGBT+ Christians have to constantly confront, among others. In a time where the battle against homophobia — both on a social level and religious level — is alive and well (especially in America after its most recent election), do we feel welcomed at a place that doesn’t vocally speak out against the voices that put us down? Do we feel valued by a local community that sits idly by while we get mocked and torn down?
Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel once wrote, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Churches today seemingly have no problem talking about the LGBT+ community when it comes to condemning homosexuality in the name of Scripture, but when it comes to fighting against hate targeted at the community from the outside, it seems that churches fall silent nearly every time. I distinctly remember sitting in a megachurch in Cincinnati (not the one I currently attend) the morning following the Pulse shooting last June and the pastor didn’t make a single reference to it. No offerings to pray for the victim’s families, no offerings to pray for peace for the city of Orlando, no offerings to pray for peace for the LGBT+ community; nothing. I was sitting amongst a thousand or so people shaking in my seat from a combo of anxiety, anger, sadness, and distress over the fact that the largest mass shooting in U.S. history was targeted at the LGBT+ community — my community — and the pastor of this church idly sat by and didn’t speak out against it. In the days and weeks following this, I pondered this very thing: “do I feel valued at this church that didn’t even address the devastation that rocked this community?”
As I’ve mulled over that thought for the last almost-year now, I’ve shifted some of my thinking about the matter.“And I think that … we should be asking: do I feel valued by God?”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe that we as Christians have an obligation to speak out against hatred in any form when we see it because love is the focal point of the Gospel. But when I look at the question posted above, I see it as a broader two-fold question: “do I feel valued by this pastor?” and, “do I feel valued by this church community?” And I think that both of these questions, while important, miss the true question we should be asking: do I feel valued by God?
Of course, I do believe it is important to feel valued and respected by the community in which you live. I’ve never been a member of an affirming church before, and the megachurch I currently attend in Cincinnati isn’t affirming either. But, I’m a part of a small group (that’s connected with this church) that is supportive and welcoming and loving, and I cherish this group because of it. All of this means nothing, though, if I don’t feel valued by God. I can have all of the strength and support of thousands of people around me, but if I don’t believe that I, as a redeemed child of God filled with the Spirit, am valued by the Creator in whose image I am created, then what difference does that make?“But if the Gospel shows us that the Cross equalizes us all … then perhaps we need to focus inward on our value before we find our value from those around us.”
While we — LGBT+ Christians — face a plethora of battles within the Church, I think this is something we don’t talk about often. We’re so focused on finding other believers who will affirm our sexualities and gender identities as valid and real — which, for some, is of utmost importance — that we don’t often focus on the bigger issue of feeling personally valued by God. And the Church hasn’t done much in the way of helping with this; decades’ and centuries’ worth of saying “gays go to hell” doesn’t help us feel valued in light of the Cross and as members of the Kingdom of God. But if the Gospel shows us that the Cross equalizes us all and we, as children of God — no matter what our sexuality or gender identity — are loved and valued by the Creator, then perhaps we need to focus inward on our value before we find our value from those around us.
If I could rephrase the original question, I’d ask it like this: “when people fail to love and support you, do you still feel loved by God?“