Fear & Courage in Lac La Biche

tony campolo
Dr.Tony Campolo, founder of The Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies

It’s terrifying for me to speak about LGTBQ+ people and the issues we… they… no, WE… THEY… we…. they… face. (???)

Clearly I’m still battling with even saying: “I find some women attractive

And men.

And women.

And men.

And…

Let’s put this on the shelf because if I think about it for much longer, I’m going to vomit.

I’m also terrified of backlash. Being an ally is one thing, but discussing my own orientation out loud is an entirely different beast. And it has been: there are more personal quips, jabs and condemnations when I dare to identify as bisexual than when I appear “straight-but-LGBTQ-affirming”. Does this mean life is easier for straight allies? Perhaps in some ways. But just ask parents of gay or transgender children and you’ll likely hear stories to make your hair curl. Allies don’t always have it easier. I’m only saying that in my personal experience, I have had more latitude as a “straight ally” than I ever have whispering: “I’m attracted to women as well as men”.

It’s a frightening thing to constantly gauge whether or not it’s safe to share about who I am, and I’m sure it’s the same for you. Is this person going to embrace me? Is this person going to throw Bible verses at me — ones I know too well? Is this person going include me/exclude me forever because I already stand condemned? Is this person going to love me so much that they’ll tell me how Jesus will “fix” me? Is this person going to see ME? Full stop? Period?

Tables turned, do I see people for who they are? Full stop? Period?

Today, Dr.Tony Campolo announced that he has come out as fully affirming and embracing of LGBTQ+ people. Click here to read the interview:

Tony Campolo Calls for Full Inclusion of Gay & Lesbians Christians

Dr.Campolo founded the grad school I attended (Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies). We butted heads initially, and I can’t say I agree with all of his theology. In fact, if I’m honest, I haven’t even read all of his books. And it was a long-standing story that his wife, Peggy, was already fully affirming and embracing while he held out with his reservations and Scripture verses.

Finally… FINALLY… as a spunky octogenarian, Dr.Campolo has declared that:

 It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” 

I understand some of the misgivings. He speaks specifically to gay couples, whereas the demographic of LGBTQ+ singles isn’t mentioned. LGBTQ+ people have long heard of “good starting points”, but have also then borne witness to little or nor follow through. How can this testimony be trusted? He waited until he was old to declare his support and affirmation. How easy was that to do?

I can’t answer that other than to say: Starting points are often shaky and small. Disappointment and grief are places no one wants to endure again and again. But unless we embrace shaky starting points again and again, we’ll miss out on the movement forward of our faith. I, for one, am proud that Dr.Campolo is publicly expressing the love of Christ through his words and actions.

My post here, however, is one of reassurance to church members who still believe the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in worship and community is inherently sinful or, at best, affirming mental illness. Some of these points have been repeated over and over ad nauseam by other people that it seems almost pointless to review. But I think it’s important, so I’m going to share them again anyway.

  • 1. We are not heretics, apostates, pagans, defilers, foul, evil, or “icky”. We most certainly are not pedophiles, child molesters, or sexual predators. We are beloved children of God, as we all are – Image Bearers.
  • 2. We aren’t sending the church to hell, watering down faith, or cutting up the Bible with scissors. We dig deep into the Scriptures, seek community with one another, have vibrant spiritual and religious lives, and trust that true love really does cast out all fear.
  • 3. We certainly aren’t mentally ill as LGBTQ+ people. As humans we are all prone to mental illness throughout our lifetimes. Period. Full stop. But our sexual orientations aren’t aberrations in need of conversion therapies. In fact, “praying the gay away” is considered spiritually abusive.
  • 4. We aren’t all “on the left”, “liberal”, “progressive” or “communists”. Using such loaded political terms to paintbrush entire people groups is illogical and skewed. And before we stand up and point at “those others” doing the same thing, let’s deal with our own propensities to try and box people before stamping down others and their behaviour.
  • 5. We aren’t out there trying to pass a “gay agenda”. What’s a “gay agenda”? If you feel like you’re being forced to live and believe in such a way that contradicts your sacred teachings, my experience has taught me that this is usually (at worst) discomfort. LGBTQ+ people know the importance of being secretive in all areas of life, church included. Documented physical, sexual and emotional violence against LGBTQ+ people has shown that even Christians have engaged in atrocious behaviour in the name of righteousness. Instead of seeking forgiveness, once again it’s argued that LGBTQ+ people are as much bigots and hypocrites as Christians. And if Christians feel like the arguments is then won, the matter is closed.
  • 6. The labels “hypocrite” and “bigot” are used almost flippantly now in our culture, and anyone using them needs to proceed with caution.
  • 7. Trying to have online discussions can be/is difficult. If you’re stance is that “God said it was wrong. That ends it”, that’s easy for you. Even if someone gets pissed off at you, it’s still easy. Remember: LGBTQ+ people are standing squarely in the religious line of fire about being honest over who we are, and have been for centuries. We carry tons of baggage containing abuse you know nothing about. Nothing justifies online abuse to anyone, but it would go a long way for people who disagree with LGBTQ+ people to understand the pain and guilt and shame we have to control in communicating with you… you, who already believe we are destined for hell and are creating a world that’s going the same way.
  • 8. Not all Christians are so extreme in these views described.
  • 9. Not all LGBTQ+ people are anti-Christian. In fact, many are incredibly faithful and vibrant in their spiritual lives.
  • 10. I’m working on communicating my thoughts and feelings better than I do. That fear in me can sound like hostility to others, or silence, or garbled spiritual language. But make no mistake: it IS fear. I’m afraid you’re going to call me evil again… sinful again… unloved by God again… like your interpretation of any sacred text is the final authority on anything, but you have power over me. I’ve let you have power over me. And I’m working on releasing those chains from around my neck.

I have a long way to go from where I am. I’m pleased Dr.Campolo has been brave enough to publicly support LGBTQ+ people who have been present in church and community all along, since the beginning. Maybe one day fear won’t make up such a part of my life, and I look forward to that day.

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