If you're a Christian--whatever you think about homosexuality (I've written about some of my feelings here)--this statistic should be disheartening and embarrassing. We're trying to follow Jesus and tell the world that God wants to be with you, that God wants to be reconciled to you, and we've done such a terrible job and/or had such selective and terrible publicity that all people can say is, 'oh, Christians. Right. They're anti-gay'. Even if you do believe that homosexual intercourse is a sin, you have to recognize the failure here.
Part of the reason this is such a wide-spread perception is probably because people just care about this question. Everybody has a gay friend or a cousin who's a lesbian, someone you know and love, and so when someone hears that you're a Christian, they want to know your position, and they'll ask you directly. So the topic comes up again and again, and whatever else you say, the part people will remember is the 'yes' or the 'no' they wring out of you.
Well I encountered the question again today, this time in a popular Q&A forum on another blog. The person being interviewed is a young Christian writer named Shane Clairborne, author of several books, including The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Claiborne's known for his radical (nothing ordinary about it) Christian commitments, like living among poor and homeless people in inner city Philadelphia, eschewing material comforts, and vocal anti-war and non-violence convictions. Yet, Claiborne seems to have more traditional views on sexuality, and so, sure enough, when given the chance, one person asked him directly:
Shane what is your position on same sex relationships? I remember a clip I saw of you... discussing this and sounded like you supported celibacy for gay folks. Am I correct? Also, what are your thoughts on the state of the culture war raging over gay rights? How do we redeem it? Where do you see it headed?
I've lost count of the number of times I've heard someone try to answer the question, "what is your position on same-sex relationships," but, for me, Shane Claiborne's response was stirring. In the middle of it he mentions the Barna statistic:
It must break God’s heart that this is what we have become known for. Jesus said they will know we are Christians by our love. So my admonition on this is that we become known for our love again.
Claiborne never actually gives a 'yea' or 'nay' here. I'm sure if it had be a live conversation rather than an online, ask-ahead Q&A, someone would have pointed that out and demanded an answer. But that would have only distracted from the things he did say that we absolutely need to hear. The Church's call is to go and love people. And considering how many GLBT folks have been hurt by Christians and churches, we should go out of our way to love them.
'Progressives' and 'conservatives' both need to hear this. If you're convinced that Christians need to affirm the biblical picture of marriage as 'one man, one woman', and you've never taken the time to get to know a gay man, to listen to him, and to show him God's unconditional love and grace, then you haven't done anything for the Kingdom. If you think Christians need to accept gay and lesbian individuals and bless same-sex unions, but all you really do is read DC's Earth 2 comic book or tell people how much you enjoyed Brokeback Mountain, then you haven't done one thing to take the gospel to people in need. And we're all in need.
What are we going to be known for? For our love--the way we embody God's unfailing love for his world? Or for the judgment we pass on a particular group of people?
I've written more than I meant to; this post was really supposed to be nothing more than a recommendation of this Shane Claiborne interview. Oops. But really, please do read the interview, or at least this one question and response. It's worth your time. The quotation from Billy Graham alone is worth your time. You can find it all here. The question about same-sex relationships is the second-to-last.