All you post about is gay things… Is there something that we need to know about you? Damn, enough is enough. We get it!!! Not everyone hates gay people!!! – Tammy (a cisgender-heterosexual Christian, posted on my Facebook timeline)
Some days someone just crystallizes everything that you feel is wrong, in a neat, tidy little package. Tammy gave me such a gift yesterday.
In a very compacted space, she managed to include it all: rudeness, privilege, arrogance, apathy, exaggeration—and a good old-fashioned cheap shot involving my sexuality.
Sadly, the content of Tammy’s message isn’t anything new to me. Four years ago a blog post called If I Have Gay Children went viral, and though I’d been a gay-affirming pastor for many years, by that afternoon I’d unexpectedly become an official, globally visible LGBTQ ally, with all that accompanies such a title:
Since then I’ve been attacked and berated daily by snarling Conservative Evangelicals, continually assuring me with great joy of my waiting, extra crispy little corner of Hell.
After losing my job, I’ve since lost a few hundred friends from my former churches, who have either unfriended or unfollowed me, or more often simply gone silent and disconnected from my life.
I’ve been perceived by some members of the extreme Left as using the gay community and having ulterior motives in my ministry.
I’ve been passed over by privately supportive but frightened mainstream Christian publishers for being too vocal on LGBTQ issues, and excluded from Progressive events by those questioning my heart for marginalized people.
And while I can’t honestly say that I love it all, I do gladly welcome it all because it helps me understand in even the smallest of ways what LGBTQ people face every single day and it daily clarifies my calling. It keeps me learning and keeps me focused.
There is nothing about any of the above that I don’t treasure, embrace, and fully rejoice in—and the reason is a response like Tammy’s.
Her brazen, unsolicited, uninformed salvo saddened me greatly for a number of reasons:
Tammy was a member of a church where I served as a pastor for nearly a decade and knows my heart and my family. I’d considered her a friend. This was the first communication I’d ever received from her on social media. Tammy and I both live in North Carolina, which right now is ground zero for the battle over LGBTQ rights. She is a Christian and in my experience, a very nice person.
Given all that, what’s so sad about Tammy’s comments is that she should know better but she doesn’t,
that she should have more compassion and empathy for hurting folks but she doesn’t,
that she should be using her voice to defend the incessant attacks on the LGBTQ community right now but she isn’t,
that the way she does speak into the fray is to tell me that she’s sick of all my “gay things”.
And this, is why I am an LGBTQ ally; a consistent, loud, unapologetic, unrelenting ally.
I do what I do, not because it’s easy or because I enjoy conflict or to anger former friends or to win the praise of any group of people. I do what I do because I despise inequality, because inequality is being openly championed in the Church and in the courts, because I am so weary of Christian people who are OK with that or simply silent. I do this because my faith compels me to.
Anyone paying attention to the 400+ posts here knows that I talk about far more than simply LGBTQ issues, but the exaggeration is itself illuminating. White, straight, middle class, Christian privilege creates a very low threshold on compassion for the gay community, a quick saturation point after which interest quickly dries up, a short time before “enough is enough.” When you have privilege, any move toward balance is threatening, every word of affirmation seems louder, each victory feels magnified.
In Tammy’s eyes we should be finished with this issue, and people like me should move on to other pressing matters.
But Tammy doesn’t get to choose the matters that are pressing upon my heart. No one does. Not even me.
In areas of equality you don’t stop speaking when people grow weary of hearing you or when adversity comes or even when some progress comes.
You stop speaking when the work is done.
Until the LGBTQ community have every civil right that is afforded to all citizens of the United States, the work is not yet done.
While business are allowed to terminate or refuse service to people for their gender identity and sexual orientation, the work is not yet done.
While LGBTQ people are not welcomed fully into the life of our churches, the work is not yet done.
Until LGBTQ teens are not bullied by peers and families to the point that their only option feels like suicide, the work is not yet done.
I’ll admit it friends, I’m tired right now.
I’m tired of standing in the center of a swirling sh*t storm ever single day.
I’m tired of hateful followers of Jesus claiming that Christ compels them to be horrible to people in the name of loving them.
I’m tired of the same badly interpreted Bible verses being tossed out again and again to justify discrimination.
I’m tired from the heart-wrenching stories LGBTQ people send to me and share with me, because the pastors around them won’t listen or don’t care, or because their Christian parents have shut or kicked them out.
I’m tired of loving families of faith being forced by their churches to choose God or their children.
I’m tired of social media Christian tirades that trivialize the lives, families, loves, and inherent value of people made fully in the image of God.
I’m tired of celebrity evangelists, high-profile pastors, and opportunistic politicians brokering in lazy theology and willingly damaging the people they are charged with protecting.
I’m tired of religious extremists on either side seeing a small fragment of me and thinking they know my totality.
And I’m tired of seeing people like Tammy trying to police someone else’s burden, who want to make people feel guilty for their convictions, and who act as though silence is an option while there is so much work to be done and while so many people still hurting.
I have disappointing news for Tammy and for anyone else who is tired of my many “gay things”:
I’m going to continue to write and share and speak on the topics and in the manner and with the frequency I feel called to, because for me being an ally isn’t a fad or a trend or some cozy, little niche I’m temporarily filling until something else comes along.
It isn’t even voluntary. It’s the authentic response of my heart in real-time to what God has placed there.
To my fellow straight allies and those who are quietly amen-ing right now: Keep going. Speak loudly and repeatedly in your circles of influence. It matters. Share the work of LGBTQ writers who are speaking their truth.
To my friends who are LGBTQ and to their families: I love and respect you, and because I do I will keep speaking, despite any small difficulties I may encounter. I know they all greatly pale in comparison to those you’ve endured and still endure. My allyship is about you.
It’s an honor to know you, to stand beside you and when I can, to take some of the slings and arrows so you don’t have to.
This is what friends do.
Stay tuned social media family:
Many more gay things on the way…