Friday, December 26, 2014

The Gospel, Homosexuality, & the Future of Marriage Conference: Talking About LGBTQs But Not With Them

To read about Albert Mohler's talk at "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage" conference, click here. To read about Denny Burk's talk, click here.

One of the most striking things about "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage" conference this fall was how speakers talked about LGBTQ people instead of with them. Most of the speakers at the conference were heterosexual religious leaders, and several frowned on same-sex marriage, transgender status, and so for.

This is a longstanding trend among the Religious Right, who declare LGBTQ status sinful while rarely inviting LGBTQ people to the conversation -- not so-called "ex-gay" speakers who fight their sexual orientation and frame it as a "struggle", but LGBTQ people who accept their sexual orientation without shame.

At the Southern Baptist Convention's ERLC conference, Christians and the LGBTQ community were understood as two separate categories. The idea that LGBTQ Christians exist and might want to take part in the conversation was not considered, apparently. This occurred to me as I listened to Rosaria Butterfield's conversation with Russell Moore. Butterfield, the author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, was a former professor at Syracuse University who had been in relationships with women, but is the wife of a pastor and a homeschooling mother.

At the 1:20 mark, Moore asked Butterfield what she thought the Christian community misunderstood about the LGBTQ community. This puzzled me, since it assumed that LGBTQ status and Christian faith were exclusive categories. What about LGBTQ Christians? They have a foot in both communities, so wouldn't they be the best people to ask? I thought.
MOORE: What do evangelical Christians just not get about the LGBT community?

BUTTERFIELD: One of the first things that I firmly believe you don't get is that in this very room and in all of your encounters, you will meet and know and love people whose original sin has left the thumbprint of unwanted homosexual desire. People are not different. Original sin is the great leveling playing field. It has democratized everything, and without meaning to ... you are presuming that without even knowing the people with whom you're speaking that they need to be fixed and fixed up in a specific way. 
At the 3:33 mark, Moore asked Butterfield what she thought the LGBTQ community should know about Christians.
MOORE: What do you think the LGBT community does not understand about evangelical Christians?

BUTTERFIELD: Well, I think it would be impossible for anyone apart from the bounded system of the Christian church to know anything about the means of grace. I think the means of grace are things that we have at our fingertips. It is part of the great spiritual inheritance of being a child of the living God.
There is a reason why openly LGBTQ Christians are not invited to such conversations, why the Religious Right talks about LGBTQ people as that group over there instead of with them. It's easy to objectify a group over there. It's much more difficult to objectify people when you engage with them as people. When LGBTQ people discuss the truths of their lives -- their thoughts, feelings, hopes, and experiences -- it challenges onlookers to accept them as human beings who deserve respect. Condemning a group as sinful, unbiblical, and unhealthy becomes much more difficult when one hears their stories, stories that demand validation.

Where there is ignorance, intolerance thrives. Enlightened people must replace bigotry with knowledge and empathy.


  1. It's much more difficult to objectify people when you engage with them as people.

    Of course. Especially when the goal is to objectify those people as the bogeyman.

    The bogeyman isn't somebody you chat with and get to know. Thet would destroy his purpose.

    1. Infidel -- True. Still, I have hope. As more LGBTQ people come out, people will be forced to acknowledge that they AREN'T boogeymen, and anti-gay rhetoric like this will fall flat.

    2. I think that has already happened on an overwhelming scale with the mainstream masses of people, and it's a big part of the reason for the mass change of attitudes in the broader culture in the last 15 years or so. It's the fundie/puritan subculture which continues to demonize gays as the bogeyman and treat them as some inhuman alien menace. That very dichotomy is leading the broader culture to reject and isolate the fundies.


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