When it comes to how the Christian church has treated LGBT individuals, there are two ways to look at it.
You could say their overall intolerance has helped us as atheists. Teens just don’t want to be associated with the likes of James Dobson and Pat Robertson and any of those other bigots who have done everything possible to make life hell for the gay community. This issue — arguably moreso than any other — pushes young people away from the faith. (This is what Christianity teaches?)
At the same time, there are a lot of LGBT folks who happen to be Christian. They don’t see a conflict between their faith and their sexuality, but they’re constantly dealing with people who do. To be fair, I don’t know how they can reconcile the two… but it’s upsetting that they have to go through that on a regular basis.
Brian Kirk, a progressive Christian, wonders why more liberal Christians don’t speak up and seize the issue away from the conservatives:
How many progressive Christians love their GLBT brothers and sisters and yet keep it to themselves because they don’t believe in “cramming their beliefs down the throats of others like those conservatives do”? How many of our moderate and progressive mainline churches are completely welcoming of GLBT persons and yet offer no hint of this on their website or print material? “We are welcoming of all,” I’ve heard some say, “but does that mean we need to put a rainbow flag on our church sign?”
I think for the sake of children like Jamey Rodenmeyer, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chase, and other GLBT teens who have taken their lives in the last year the answer has to be “Yes.” It’s time for us to stop laying the blame for intolerance at the feet of conservative and fundamentalist Christians and take responsibility for our own complicity of silence when it comes to the oppression of GLBT persons.
It’s a nice sentiment… but as much as I’d love to see liberal Christians fight against the fundies, I think it’s a lost cause. Even the more liberal Christians say homosexual acts are inherently sinful (even though gay people deserve respect). They may not oppose gay marriage… but they’re rarely on the front lines fighting in favor of it.
I remember hearing popular pastor Rob Bell give a sermon during one of his tours. (Yep, I attended.) Someone asked a question about whether he felt homosexuality was a sin. The best response he could muster was that the Bible said very little about homosexuality and that Jesus didn’t address it at all. He basically avoided the actual issue.
Andrew Marin, a guy I’ve met and like very much, lives in the “gay neighborhood” in Chicago and his foundation works to get Christians to build bridges with the LGBT community… but even his website avoids answering the “controversial” questions (including a couple ridiculously easy ones).
Jim Wallis, the Christian the media goes to when they want a counterbalance to the anti-gay pastors, caused an uproar a few months ago when his group’s magazine rejected ads from an LGBT-friendly church group.
If this is the best progressive Christianity can offer, they’ve already lost the war. They can try to make up for the damage other Christians have done but it might be too little too late.