During my last year of seminary, I decided I needed to spend some time talking with the very people for whom my heart beats in terms of ministry, LGBT-identified youth. Times have changed since the days of my high school experience. Many youth come out earlier now; I didn’t dare! If I had come out earlier, I have no doubt that there would have been dire consequences. Honestly, I think I would have probably been disciplined at my church for just having attractions toward the same-sex. Trust me…this would have devastated me because I already hated myself for being ‘deviant.’
Prior to seminary, I taught middle school students. These same kids were now in high school or college. I asked a couple of them if they had friends within the LGBT community who they thought would be willing to talk to me. Having this connection helped because they could assure their friends that I wasn’t a weirdo trying to bash or convert them.
I thought it was important to talk with today’s LGBT youth about their views concerning Christianity and the Church because it seems that things are more open to differences these days. Sure, the news is full of stories about clashes between Christians and the LGBT community, but we all know that the media tends to live by the mantra “the more outrageous, the better.” I assumed that LGBT youth feel more at ease in their churches than when I was their ages. Boy, am I wrong!
Here is a basic summary of my conversations with these LGBT youth:
All had come out to family and friends. All have had mostly positive experiences concerning their ‘coming out’ among their high school peers. All seemed well-rounded and successful at school.
Seems promising, but here are things that shocked me:
None currently attend church or claim to adhere to the Christian faith. Most of them had grown up attending church with their families but feel they are no longer welcome because of their sexual orientation. When pressed further for the reasoning behind not pursuing the faith of their childhoods, I learned that they did not necessarily dislike or disagree with Jesus Christ. Instead, they said that they feel that they have no choice in the matter. They experience same-sex attractions, so they couldn’t possibly be Christian.
My heart was and is broken! Why do these precious youth think they can’t pursue Christ? I don’t doubt one second that the Triune God loves them and desires to be reconciled, even if they are LGBT.
Whether you adhere to a traditional Christian sexual ethic (same-sex behavior is sin) or a progressive Christian sexual ethic (homosexuality is not sin), I feel that this should break your heart, too.
So, how do we as the Church reach out to this group in a way that they see that God loves and desires relationship with them?