A Challenge to Those on the Fence about LGBTQ Affirmation

Pride Flag
Image credit: lillen, Pixabay.com.

I get it. You don’t hate LGBTQ people. You sincerely do want to love them as best as you can. If possible, you’d even like to fully affirm them. And maybe, if it were left entirely up to you and to your own intuitions, you’d already be affirming them.

But you’re a Christian. So you also want to be faithful to God. And you simply don’t know whether God approves. The debate surrounding affirmation is really confusing. There are so many arguments on both sides, and you’re just not sure where you stand on all of it. I get it.

I get it because this is exactly where I was for a long time. Two years ago, on my previous blog, I wrote a post titled “I Don’t Know Where I Stand, but I Support Gays.” Here’s a bit of what I said at that point:

[I apologize for my use of the potentially offensive term homosexuality; I was still learning and have adjusted my vocabulary since then.]

Everywhere I look, I see people who appear to be absolutely certain that they know whether homosexuality is acceptable in God’s sight. I’m talking about fellow Christians—brothers and sisters in Christ who are equally committed to living out his love.

And you know what? They completely disagree with one another. …

The issue is complicated further by its intensely personal nature. Being gay is not a choice; it’s an identity that defines the way a person feels. So if I condemn homosexuality and I’m wrong, then I’ve condemned the identity of countless brothers and sisters—for nothing! I’d be telling them to deny who God made them to be.

On the other hand, if homosexuality is sin—if it is a result of the fall, displeasing to God and harmful to humans—then how could I condone it, knowing that it will lead these brothers and sisters to their own self-inflicted suffering?

But here’s the thing. I just don’t know. I’ve read the likes of Vines and Sprinkle and many others; I’ve studied the Bible thoroughly on the matter, examining context and keeping God’s love at the forefront; I’ve tried as best as I know how to put myself in the place of others and interact with those who disagree; I’ve heard many really good (and really bad) arguments on both sides; and I just don’t know what the truth is. …

I choose to support gays because if I must err, I would rather err on the side of love. This does not mean I affirm that homosexuality is pleasing to God. I have to be honest and say that I don’t know whether it is or not.

Over the course of the next year, I moved from this place of uncertain “support,” to a place of full affirmation. And today, I can’t imagine ever going back. But the thing is, at the moment when I first made the switch to fully affirm my LGBTQ friends, I still wasn’t 100% certain about it. I still had lingering doubts. But I realized that I was causing much greater harm by withholding my affirmation than what I risked by becoming affirming.

Worst-case scenario, if I was wrong and if LGBTQ relationships actually were sinful, then I was at least certain about God’s grace. Surely, God would pardon those who sincerely believed that their actions were pleasing to him. Surely, God would understand how hard it was for them—understand that they didn’t choose this—and respond to them in grace and love. God would clear up all the confusion one day, and I’d just trust him to sort it out with them then.

However, real people are being hurt right here and now as a direct consequence of our withheld affirmation. Parents are disowning their children. Hate crimes and even murders are being committed against the LGBTQ community. People are leaving the faith because churches will not welcome them. And many are taking their own lives because they just don’t know what else to do. They need hope. They need support. They need love. And they need affirmation.

Being affirmed for who we are is one of our most basic needs as humans. Yes—it absolutely is a need! And withholding that affirmation causes incredible harm. So how could I continue harming the very people I was supposed to be loving? I couldn’t. I had to make the decision and affirm them.

But you know what? Once I did give my full affirmation, those remaining doubts just started to disappear. All the arguments against affirmation, which once seemed so compelling, simply didn’t make sense any more. I was able to see them for what they really are—desperate attempts to maintain an antiquated idea of morality that God never endorsed.

There is no longer even the slightest doubt in my mind that God is pleased with loving LGBTQ relationships. And I don’t think I could have ever achieved this level of assurance through intellectual arguments alone. I had to actually live out affirmation before I could truly be sure of it at the deepest level.

So my challenge to you, if you are on the fence about this, is to simply start affirming your LGBTQ friends. Just make the switch, and see what happens. I’m not asking you to say anything you don’t really mean, but as much as you can, start living out affirmation right now.

  • Support your LGBTQ friends however possible. Ask them what your support should look like.
  • Truly listen to everything they have to say, without pushing back or arguing. (But remember that it isn’t their responsibility to educate you.)
  • Get to know them as real people. Hear their stories.
  • Learn the correct terminology, and use it. Honor their preferred pronouns.
  • Rejoice with them when they rejoice, and weep with them when they weep.
  • Attend their weddings and celebrations and maybe even a pride parade.
  • Lend your effort to causes that promote equal rights for the LGBTQ community, and oppose that which would marginalize or discriminate against them.

And as soon as you possibly can, say the words, “I affirm you.”

"Oh is that your plan? Or do you think it's already categorized as a mental ..."

It’s Time for the Church to ..."
"Fred - you are not the only one reporting heavy-duty antagonism on the atheist side ..."

Thoughts on the Eucharist: Mystical not ..."
"at the end of the day, it's the atheists on Patheos that are driving me ..."

Thoughts on the Eucharist: Mystical not ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Etranger

    It is very refreshing to hear stories like yours. I feel bad for all Christians who are raised in a religious tradition where they even have to confront this issue and not conclude immediately that there is no reason to be against gay people at all or gay sexuality activity. Take away your religious lens and think about it rationally, you realize there is no harm done by a person being gay, engaging in gay sex (consensual, in or outside of a committed relationship), etc. So simple without the religious mumbo jumbo!!

    • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight

      Indeed! It’s so discouraging to me (from my present viewpoint, at least) to see how Christianity, which is meant to urge us on to greater love, so often becomes a stumbling block to the very end for which it was intended.

  • Sebastian Conan

    Another well made post. Affirming is so important… when I dropped out of faith and embraced the LGBTQ community I’ve come to realize most of my judgement has disappeared (still there, just in different forms.)

    And it made me see more hate than ever before in Christians, letting go of it, letting go of your judgement on the community will really set you free. You don’t feel “disheartened” when a character turns out gay on tv. My parents always express discomfort, and with my five year old nephew wanting to try walking in high heels…. My sister was very upset, saying “He better not be gay in the name of Jesus!”

    It’s hateful. It might not seem hateful if you do these things but when you let go of it, you see the hate. It’s underlying and toxic. It’s no way Jesus would act. Good stuff, Chuck.

    • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight

      Thanks, Sebastian. Your second paragraph really resonates. It’s so much nicer to just enjoy life and all the wonderfully different people therein, without constantly being consumed by judgment on the “other.”

      • http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/ Tony Cutty

        And in that way, you have been set free too. It works both ways :)

        • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight

          Absolutely!

  • http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/ Tony Cutty

    This is brilliant. I pray that this article will touch many hearts and steer them in the direction in which you point with this article.

    This is what God is doing in these days. As He did in times of old. He’s reaching out with His love to the outcasts, to the ‘unacceptable’ and to those whom the Religious would reject.

    I too used to be anti-gay, but Jesus turned me around. The Conservative right wing call for ‘Repentance’, but when it happens like it did to me, they don’t like it. So be it. I would rather repent towards God than men any day of the week.

    • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight

      Thank you, Tony. I know it took quite a few articles like this one, along with lots of conversation, to bring me around to full affirmation. I hope I can be of some help to others in that regard too.

  • http://www.johnfrey.cc John

    Great post. The kingdom comes near as we affirm and protect the humanity and belovedness of all people, with particular emphasis on those who society and/or religious zealots seek to marginalize.

    • Justin

      I just want to say that that is a beautiful statement.

      • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight

        Agreed.

  • Paul M. Turner

    Well written, Well intentioned, Well timed. Speaking as an openly, unapologetic gay man who is a pastor of a “Church Without Walls”, this is what we need to see and hear from our straight friends. I have been with my husband for 35 years and have never understood how that didn’t count with God. I don’t think folks from my community need the straight communities approval, but we do need the love that Christ commanded us to practice. Thank you sir for taking the time to let God’s love work in your life!

    • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight

      Thirty-five years. That’s fantastic! Congrats to you and your husband! And thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    So, is the question really whether one wants “to be faithful to God” and to know”whether God approves”? No, not for Chuck, his real concern is whether he feels he is “causing much greater harm by withholding my affirmation than what I risked by becoming affirming.” So, the question could be who defines what real harm is, God or us? But for many that isn’t an actual intellectual or spiritual or theological debate. If someone says they are being harmed then they are. In the middle of that certainty there could be a question of whether the purposes and will of God is being harmed, but that isn’t a question any longer on the table for discussion. People feeling that they are being harmed by God’s failure to affirm them means God must be wrong. “You can’t hurt me like that God, so I’ll ignore your will, redefine the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, and do my will instead.” To reject the God of scriptural history in favor of one of our own devising is just about as close and one can get to the original sin as portrayed in the Bible. “But that is just your interpretation,” right? Could be, but I think you have a lot more splainin’ to do than I do. Moving on from full affirmation of the teaching of the Bible is not that hard to do and since it makes so many people feel better–how can that be wrong? Well, pleasing people rather than God has always been easier.

    • Lark62

      Unless god has physically popped down, walked into your living room and said “this is what I think of gays,” you do not “know” what god thinks. You simply do not.

      That’s the point.

      You know what other people tell you, but they don’t know either.

      You know what people wrote 2000 to 3000 years ago, but these same people wrote that slaves should obey their masters and people who violate the Sabbath should be put to death.

      So your choices are 1. Not know for sure, and with your behavior drive people to damaged relationships, rejection of your deity and possible suicide or 2. Not know for sure, and with your behavior drive people to improve relationships, seek out your deity and restore hope.

      Why is this hard?

      Didn’t your own god tell you “and what do I require of you, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your god.”

      As someone who, after about 35 years as a christian, figured out that it is all nonsense, all I can say is “keep up the good work.” It is people like you who make people like me open their eyes.

      • Cathy

        Why does loving gay people require affirming them in this way? My father is a prescription drug addict and I’m able to love him without affirming that. That’s the super natural
        power Jesus gives me. I will love my children if they make sinful choices. But loving them doesn’t mean condoning them. By affirming you are still ‘judge’. Why can’t we focus on sharing our own supernatural amazing experiences of Christ? When my gay friends approach me and want to know what I think of their lifestyle I tell them, I don’t. But I sure do love them and enjoy their friendship so much-The point in this article of try and see how it feels is so dangerous- oh you think sex out of wedlock is sin? Try it and you might change your mind…and so on. It preaches to live by your feelings/heart- and we know what the Bible says about our hearts. This side of the debate your preaching is getting just as ugly as the conservative side. Only your disgust is at other believers rather than our LBGT friends.
        Imagine abiding in Christ so constantly that all that tension towards anyone on any issue just dissipates genuinly. That you can give truth in love without causing any pain to anyone. Kinda sounds like Jesus huh?

        • Lark62

          40% of homeless teens are gay, having been kicked out of their homes by “loving” christian parents with the blessing or, often, the insistance of their church. How does that not qualify as causing harm?

          The high suicide rates of teens who happen to be LGBT is directly related to the public abuse they get for simply existing. The suicide rate drops in communities and countries that accept that gay humans are just people worthy of dignity. Newsflash. Driving people to suicide harms them.

          How hard is it to understand that being attracted to a consenting adult person of one gender has no more moral implications as being attracted to any other consenting adult person?

          For centuries, being left handed was treated as a moral failing and a choice. School kids were shamed and beaten by generations of teachers for their immoral choice to hold a pen or pencil in their left hand. Now we shake our heads at such ignorance.

          Being attracted to this gender rather than that gender is a normal human variation with no moral implications.

          Not too long ago, it was a moral failing to love, marry and have intimate relations with a person whose ancestors came from the wrong geographic region of our planet. Some ignorant people still believe this.

          There is nothing immoral about being in a loving, caring consensual relationship with another adult. There is nothing to “judge” because there is nothing wrong or harmful about caring for another person.

          You said “When my gay friends approach me and want to know what I think of their lifestyle I tell them.” Really? If you have any friendships with gay people that survived your contempt for their very existence, I seriously doubt they come to you asking to be told you find them disgusting. Most people have more pleasant hings to do than converse with people like that, like scrubbing toilets and picking hair out of the tub drain.

          And back to my original point, you cannot blame your hate, judgment and contempt on your deity. All you have is what you believe a supernatural deity thinks and what other humans tell you what they think a supernatural deity thinks. It’s all make believe.

          (Edited to fix typo.)

          • Cathy

            Did you actually read my post? You may want to. I said, when they ask me what I think of their lifestyle I said I tell them “I DONT”. I don’t think about it. Cause I love THEM. Where on earth did you read anything in my post with contempt? The only contempt I’m seeing is from you towards anything your tainted filter perceives as not ok with, whether it actually says what you think or not. I said there should be NO judgement whether it be affirming or not, because both put you in a place of judgement. And where did I say there’s no harm being done? Your rage is clouding your vision. And your hatred of people who you PERCEIVE as not agreeing with you is the same as those condemning LBGTQ.
            My point is, stop focusing on people in any sort of judgement- and to do that you must be abiding in Christ always. Since your words were dripping with disdain and hatred, you might want to consider it.

          • Lark62

            Gee. I thought you compared being LGBT to being a drug addict.

            Oh yeah, you did:

            Why does loving gay people require affirming them in this way? My father is a prescription drug addict and I’m able to love him without affirming that.

            I will take you at your word that you believe you act loving toward gays. But I challenge you to reread what you wrote. Only everyplace where you refer to gays, change it to “left handed.” Then try it again, changing LGBT to “Irish.” Then again with other demographics. You will quickly see that your attitude is not in fact loving at all.

            LGBT comprises natural human variations. Refusing to “affirm” their humanity is not loving.

            For example would call this loving?

            Why does loving gay christian people require affirming them in this way? My father is a prescription drug addict and I’m able to love him without affirming that. … I will love my children if they make sinful ignorant choices. But loving them doesn’t mean condoning them. By affirming you are still ‘judge’. … When my gay christian friends approach me and want to know what I think of their lifestyle I tell them, I don’t. But I sure do love them and enjoy their friendship so much.

  • https://donewithreligion.com Done with Religion

    Good article. I went through some of the same questioning when I was younger. I have always loved people but had the ‘hate the sin love the sinner’ mind-set. Fortunately God has opened my eyes to see that He created us all. He loves us all. Behind the labels we attach to each other is a human being that is loved by God. Jesus said for us to love God and love our neighbor. He did not say love only our neighbor who we agreed with or who thought the same as us. We are to love our white, black, gay, straight, atheist, religious, male, female neighbor. It is time for us who follow the example of Jesus to live the life of love we are called to and stop being condemning and judgmental. We will not all agree with one another, yet we can show love and acceptance to our fellow human beings and respect each other even in our differences.

  • Cathy

    Why does loving gay people require affirming them in this way? My father is a prescription drug addict and I’m able to love him without affirming that. That’s the super natural
    power Jesus gives me. I will love my children if they make sinful choices. But loving them doesn’t mean condoning them. By affirming you are still ‘judge’. Why can’t we focus on sharing our own supernatural amazing experiences of Christ? When my gay friends approach me and want to know what I think of their lifestyle I tell them, I don’t. But I sure do love them and enjoy their friendship so much-The point in this article of try and see how it feels is so dangerous- oh you think sex out of wedlock is sin? Try it and you might change your mind…and so on. It preaches to live by your feelings/heart- and we know what the Bible says about our hearts. This side of the debate your preaching is getting just as ugly as the conservative side. Only your disgust is at other believers rather than our LBGT friends.
    Imagine abiding in Christ so constantly that all that tension towards anyone on any issue just dissipates genuinly. That you can give truth in love without causing any pain to anyone. Kinda sounds like Jesus huh?

  • TMJack

    Given the title, I was expecting to find citations of biblical passages you believed were affirming of an LGBTQ lifestyle. Do you believe there are such passages in the bible that teach this, or do you reject the bible as a moral authority or God’s word? I feel like you have probably addressed this somewhere else and I am late in the conversation. I am admittedly not on the fence. I think the bible clearly teaches that having sexual relations with someone of the same sex is sinful. Just so you know where I am coming from. But of course, if God did not love people who were in sin we would all be in trouble and he would not have come in the first place.

    As to being “born this way”, I believe a “sexual orientation” can be properly understood as a desire. Even if you could show that you were born with a predisposition for certain sexual desires, this does nothing to show the sexual desire is admirable or that carrying out the desire should be celebrated as a good. This is not applicable to just sexual desires, but any desire.

    It can be shown, I am told, that there is a genetic inclination towards alcoholism. We would all agree (I would hope) that alcoholism shouldn’t be celebrated or viewed as an integral part of your identity to embrace. If you decide to call alcoholism an “orientation”, this does nothing to change the nature of binge drinking. Therefore, the fact that you are born with certain desires or “orientations” does not entail that they are good, whether they are sexual or not.