Farewell, Christians who won’t extend Jesus’ love to gay people

Student doing a bad signal over white background
Got in this:

Hi, John,

I got a Kindle for Christmas and the first book I loaded on it and read was UNFAIR. [Here.] It is a refreshing comfort to read about other Christians, gay and straight, who don’t think gay people are condemned to hell.

I got so much @#&% for agreeing with that that my husband finally resigned his pastorate of 12 years because of the crap people at his church were giving him. It was a dark valley that he and I walked through after that split—but always I remembered it’s a fraction of the grief, rejection and heartbreak that gay people face every day from some people and groups.

I had the clobber verses thrown in my face. Several people accused my husband of being a universalist, of preaching a “social gospel,” of coming to that church under false pretenses, of not having control of his wife, etc. This was a congregation that had always affirmed and shown love and respect for my husband prior to this. About half the congregation left from this smaller-sized Southern Baptist church when my husband resigned, pretty much everyone under 50 years old.

My husband is now working at a funeral home as a family service counselor, and he does like it and is doing well. It is kinda sad that he is not pursing ministry in another denomination, though, as he is a gifted minister. However he just hasn’t been ready to consider going back.

It has a been an ongoing journey to heal from the hurt caused by these people who I thought loved us like family.

I know that God loves everyone, and that everyone includes gay people.

Thank you for using your gifts to shine the light. I appreciate you and your ministry.

Key phrase in this good woman’s letter?

“… pretty much everyone under 50 years old.”

That being, of course, the people who left her husband’s Southern Baptist church when they discovered they were worshipping with Christians who were willing to extend the love of Jesus Christ to straight people, and no further.

These days of course everyone’s up in arms about the gay issue; I get hate mail about it every day from “Christians” whose raging apoplexy is matched only by their shocking illiteracy.

The whole gay-Christian “debate” is like watching a great ocean wave rising and cresting. Soon enough it crashes onto the shore, all thunderous fury and spray.

And then it is no more.

The anti-gay Christian bigots will grow old and die,* and a fresher, truer, more gracious, more enlightened Christianity will take its place. This will happen—this is happening—because God is good, God is fair, and above all God is love. And finally, ultimately, inevitably, love conquers all.

Farewell, anti-gay Christians. For as surely as one day follows the next, your time is coming to an end. May God show you more mercy in the next life than you showed gay people in this one.

* A couple of commenters below made the point that it is not, by a long shot, only young people who are choosing to leave denominations and churches that refuse to refute the toxic lie that God condemns homosexuality. That’s a good strong point I wanted to make sure to … well, jam in right here. Heck, I was 44 when this happened.

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  • lrfcowper

    I just wish the wave would crest already, ya know?

  • James Walker

    Amen, amen and amen!

  • Marc Rance

    you uh….didn’t make your point. You just said we were wrong and mean.

  • Michael Rowe

    He made the point perfectly. Maybe you didn’t get it. On the other hand, your own understanding of what he said will more than do, in a pinch.

  • That was the point.

  • But you are wrong and mean.

  • michael

    Well said. My wife and I are at the same point of our journeys- leaving behind the unhealthy rhetoric of hate and exclusion for one of love and inclusion has distanced us from many friends who cannot wrap their heads and hearts around the direction we are headed, but brought the two of us closer to each other and to God.

  • LostGrrl

    I wish people would quit saying that it’s just the younger generation leaving the church over LGBT and other issues. My husband are both in our 50s and have left the church and I know a number of other “over-50’s” who have left as well….This is *not* just the younger generation who are fed up with the Church’s hypocrisy!! I see so many articles that call this a phenomenon of just the younger generation….please, please know that many of us Boomers are saying “bye” to the Evangelical church as well! Please spread the word on this.

  • Hi Michael –
    Thanks for this. I’m curious how you started out on your journey toward inclusiveness if you were in that exclusive culture.

  • Ellen K.

    “God is good, God is fair, and above all God is love”. I like that.

  • michael

    Ford1968, thanks for inquiring. Ironically, my journey away from exclusion began while leading a book study of a book entitled, ‘loving but not affirming’ (a how-to book on ‘including’ gays in the church while vilifying their same-sex relationships). I was as Paul when he was Saul- strongly and vocally opposed to what I saw as a perversion to God (in my case, same-sex relationships) when I began to slowly realize just how deeply seated the fear and hatred of gays ran- not only in the slice of Christendom that I was a part of, but in the majority of Christians I met, learned from and read about. My wife is much more tolerant than I (which I used to attribute to having a ‘less fervent’ faith than my own) so when my eyes began to open to how unloved gays were by Christians, I began to see what she was seeing all along. It hasn’t been easy for either of us (I was asked to step down from my pastorate by the others I led with in my church at the time), but now we have moved on to a body of believers who view everyone as equals in the sight of God.

  • charlesmaynes

    “The whole gay-Christian “debate” is like watching a great ocean wave rising and cresting. Soon enough it crashes onto the shore, all thunderous fury and spray.

    And then it is no more.”

    the point.

  • Kenny Pierce

    Hi John,

    I consider myself emergent and am not sure what denomination I’d follow (Anglican/Episcopal, most likely). I’m sorry that the writer’s husband’s pastoral calling was derailed as such – they sound like very sensitive and compassionate souls. I greatly appreciated her embracing and affirming voice.

    There is something, however. I would be very, very careful about dismissing “anyone over 50” with baited breath, waiting for them to “die off.” This from a gay Christian man who will be turning 50 in August – I have a vested interest in not being shot for glue on August 2. 🙂

    It’s so true that the demographic driving the questions and change are in the millenials’ realm. But in my time at their age (two decades ago) I wanted nothing to do with the church. This was at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The fingers were pointed at us, in the name of “nature’s revenge” (as Pat Buchanan put it) or “God’s retribution” (a la Falwell) as we were dying. There was no “coming around” or talk about affirmation then. This is the demographic that I see many silencing or being dismissed as being the generation that’s at the “root of the problem” (basically we go with the bathwater as it’s thrown out).

    There is an entrenched ageism in society that spills over into the church that really irks me. Gay men lived through horrors in the 80s and 90s that most couldn’t imagine – largely exacerbated and fuelled by Christianity driving public policy. And this is all but forgotten by the younger crowd. This is not forgotten, however, by a legion bearing deep scars from that time, loathing of the church who took so many from them, and have passed them by.

    When a report on the escalating suicide rate of teens or 20-somethings hits the news, it’s an issue that’s widely disseminated. But similar rates of escalation occurring among the 50+ gay male contingent (something that is occurring) hardly warrants a notice. And I find that sad. There is much wisdom to be shared, and many probably more than willing to tell their stories should the church be willing and ready to reach out somehow, and atone for the sins of its past.

    This is probably off the subject of the piece, but I see a few comments on rampant ageism, and I picked up that tenor here right away. This, combined with a lack of older voices on blogs, podcasts, etc. gets to you after a while.

    Thank you for your advocacy, John, and your posts (as always). And for indulging this.

  • No, you (and Lost Grrl below) raise a good point. Let me go change what I said there. Good to hear from you, Kenny.

  • Lost: good/strong point. Lemme go change the text.

  • Kenny Pierce

    Thanks John (as always!)

  • Well, my fix wasn’t pretty (no time for to make it so, I’m afraid), but it does the job. Thanks for the helpful input.

  • Michael. You give me much needed hope today. Maybe something good can come from last week. Thanks for sharing.

  • Criselda Marquez

    I am sure some of the older members would leave as well if they had the emotional energy to search for a new church. Just because they stay does not mean they all agree. Perhaps this has been their church most of their life. For them, they will only leave when they die. That is how it is for some of the members where I used to attend. I know several who would leave if it were not for their spouse being a LONG-time member or if they were younger and had more energy to find a place where they agreed more.

  • Kenny Pierce

    Thanks John. You rock. Do they still say that? 🙂

  • Sharla Hulsey

    Well, no, it’s not just the under-50s who are Not All Like That… but it is fair to say that more under-50s than over-50s are Not Like That. However, many of us under 50 are Not Like That because we were raised by over-50s who are also Not Like That. My family, for instance… before I knew I had gay relatives, I had been cautioned by my parents not to make remarks that could be hurtful to gay folks, because I never knew who’d be hearing who would be hurt. And my mom, when I was in high school, wrote to our church’s national Sunday School curriculum publisher because her quarterly had language in it to the effect that “of course we all know” homosexuality is a grave sin. She wrote to say that of course we DON’T all agree on that, and they ought to be more careful about their assumptions. I learned years later that our pastor had counseled a gay relative of mine when that relative was a teen (late 1960s). His wise words to my relative were, “I am not going to try to change you; my job is to help you understand and accept who you are.”

    I imagine that even more of my generation’s children will have stories like mine to tell, rather than stories of how they had to rethink the hate they’d been taught in the name of faith. At least I hope so. It looks like we’re heading in that direction.

  • Jennifer

    I’ve just turned 60 and I wouldn’t even have attended a church like that. But I do think that young people are the leading edge & religion HAS to change, not onlly Christianity.

  • lrfcowper

    I think you may have hit an essential generational difference. While it is true that more millennials are affirming, it’s also true that the younger a person is, the less invested he or she is likely to be in a particular church. And, of course, as soon as your friends X, Y, and Z leave for another congregation, the more likely you are to follow them. So there’s peer pressure for older folks to remain with their more entrenched friends, while the younger folks have more peer pressure to leave with their friends.

  • LostGrrl

    Thanks John!

  • R Vogel

    Will it be replaced by a kinder, gentler christianity or will it simply go extinct? The numbers seem to suggest the second. Which I personally think is for the best. How many of those people under 50 who left went to find a new kinder, gentler christianity, or just left the faith and got on with their life? Speaking from personal experience, once you break the whole church thing and build your life without it, their is slim chance you will go back. There’s no room and no need for it. And since we won’t teach our kids to go to church with each generation the numbers dwindle at an increasing pace….at what point do the economics make it unsustainable?

  • Sounds like you pretty much got the point then.

  • michael

    Ford, you’re very welcome. Our stories are there to encourage each other along the way, and I hope my brief one plays a part in moving you to a greater space of grace.

  • Marc Rance

    Sounds like mom blog logic. “I’m right because I said so”

    Sent from my HTC One™ X, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

    —– Reply message —–

  • lymis

    I think – I hope – that this is partly about only being able to see things in the terms of what we are used to. The Protestant Reformation shook to the foundations what it meant to be church – which at the time was indistinguishable from things like royalty and politics.

    I don’t think “a kindler gentler Christianity” necessarily means the structure we are used to but with nicer people in it. I think the Holy Spirit is fully capable of inspiring something we can’t even conceive of, or that might even be distasteful or scary to many of us – imagine something like Facebook genuinely harnessed by the Spirit to create a community of compassion rather than sharing cute kitten pictures, or Kickstarter alerting people to communities in need. Even that’s just riffing off things that exist today.

    There was a time when the idea of countries without kings or churches without cathedrals was impossible to imagine. What might God be capable of?

    I think that the days of the kind of church we’re used to might be numbered, at least in their current form. That doesn’t mean God won’t break through.

  • I’m a mom, and I blog. You should listen to us. We are right, because we had to learn how to be three steps ahead of children, and to master that eyes in the back of our heads trick we do so well.

  • Jill

    Hi Kenny! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • R Vogel

    Not sure I would use the Protestant Reformation as the archetype since I don’t see any evidence that it shook any foundations to their core. It just changed the boss, like the one before it did 500 years earlier. Without skipping a beat it engaged in the same violence, oppression and empire building that the RC was so well known for, and has continued up until present day. Interestingly, in the US at least, christianity embracing American individualism sowed the seeds of its own destruction. Religion is a generally corporate enterprise. Good riddance, I say. It never produced anything valuable anyway. Sure there were good people that happened to be christian, and still are, but on all the big things christianity was and continues to be either silent or complicit.

    I would never say that something new couldn’t emerge – in fact it would be interesting to see what that might be. Maybe we can all try to do what Jesus actually wanted rather than trying to give in to the first temptation. I just don’t think the extinction of conservative hate-mongers means a resurrected church, in the sense of what church is today. It means the extinction of the whole deal. As you said, the data shows that young people are fleeing institutional christianity across the board not just the conservative types

  • R Vogel

    …and the young at heart too! ;p blessings

  • Matt

    Back then, the Reformation was revolutionary to its core. When Martin Luther decided to do his German translation of the Bible, it put knowledge back into common people’s hands in a way that wasn’t seen before. Allowing priests to marry also narrowed the gap between what was once a solitary, removed religious leader and the masses.

    I tend to think of the Reformation as bringing faith out of jeweled cathedrals and into the world where it has the potential to do the most good. That’s not nothing. And there is of course still lots of work to be done. It’s a process, like anything else worth having. Empires, kingdoms, paradigms, and ideologies rise and fall all the time. The question is simply whether the “new Christianity” will do largely good or evil while it has its 15 minutes in human history.

  • I agree. It was a 65ish friend of mine that got me thinking and challenged my beliefs on this many moons ago.

  • Like many Unfundamentalist Christians I find find myself in a bit of a free fall these days. As I commented on another blog. “All to often we forget that God calls us all to his table and that we
    don’t get to choose who he seats us next to. No one loves you like
    family and no one can break your heart like family.” I still believe that the we are to love one-another as Jesus loves us but some times people make that so damn hard. I also believe that it time to rescue Jesus from the Christian bigots. They have built a temple on the cornerstone hate and it’s time that we tore that temple down until there is not one stone left upon another and scatter their anti-gay gospel of intolerance to the four winds.

  • I’ve often said “We’re all at this dance together and God sent the invites.” I used to think we all had something special to contribute to the party. But I’ve discovered that some of the loudest guests are acting like assholes and insulting the Host. What do we do with that?!

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    LOL…..love it.

  • I honestly don’t know. I just know I don’t want to become one of the haters like them. In the end I still put my trust in God’s Grace and love.

  • LostGrrl

    Thanks John…I hope I didn’t sound too snarky there…I love all your posts! I’ve just seen other articles who make it sound like it’s just the millenials leaving the church.

  • Marc Rance

    Can’t argue with that logic……..

    Sent from my HTC One™ X, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

    —– Reply message —–

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    The point, Marc, is not simply that those who discriminate against LGBT people are wrong and mean, but that they are ALSO anti-Christian.

    What do you think the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan is? Help people beaten up by the side of the road? No, the point is that EVERYONE, regardless of who they are, is equally deserving of compassion. Jews (Judeans and Galileans, to be more specific) HATED Samaritans in Jesus’s time. To interact with a Samaritan was to become “unclean.” That Jesus advocated interacting with and even caring for Samaritans was incredibly radical.

    Substitute “gay” for “Samaritan” and you’ll understand the message. You’ll also understand that Christianity was never meant to be easy. You have to love and care for people who might make you feel icky. Back then it was Samaritans (Romans too). Today it’s LGBT folks (among many, many others).

  • Marc Rance

    You need to take a read through your bible. The Samaritan was the one that helped the beat up Jew….not the other way around. I’m not anti-gay, so if you want to be on the same team as me, you need to check your facts and test your logic. You are making us look bad.
    Sent from my HTC One™ X, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

    —– Reply message —–

  • Shaun G. Lynch

    Of course you’re right, Marc… about the Samaritan being the helper, not the victim.

    But that doesn’t change the message one iota. Jesus told the story to help his followers to answer the question, “Who is my neighbour?” The response was that the “neighbour” was the one who helped. So, to love one’s neighbour as oneself implied that Judeans and Galileans were required to love Samaritans.

    So, what does “not anti-gay” mean to you?

  • R Vogel

    Common people couldn’t read in the 16th century. Denominational Protestant Christianity is still a top down affair. I may be rich enough to own a book and educated enough to read it, but the guys in the hats still get to interpret it and enforce their creeds with an iron fist. As the prophet Roger Daltrey once said, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”

    Don’t knock those jewelled cathedrals too much, they are largely what held the western world together during the dark ages and preserved much of the western intellectual canon back to Aristotle. The Protestant Revolution strikes me much like the American Revolution. The underlying power structure remained in tact, just the face of the ultimate authority changed.

  • Matt

    I would never assert that the Reformation undid all oppression in one fell swoop, and I didn’t previously either. However, it also coincided with the Renaissance and a new interest in opening up knowledge, including teaching women. Catherine Parr was the first English queen to publish a book under her own name during this time (Prayers or Meditations), certainly not a secular book. This would have been previously unthinkable, as medieval queens were to be ornaments for the court and providers of royal children only.

    Henry VIII founded what would become the Church of England in his quest to marry Anne Boleyn also around this time. The Pope excommunicated him, but clearly the psychological grip that the Catholic Church had previously enjoyed was waning. Considering that the Pope’s endorsement had been crucial to being secure in a European throne, this was also a big departure.

    Something doesn’t have to obliterate all existing power structures forever and for always to radically shift the way in which we view the world.

  • Marc Rance

    What do I mean by “not anti-gay”??? I mean u do t hate gay people are treat them differently based on their sexuality. I really don’t treat anyone differently because of their sin. (I’m not going to even get into weather or not it is a sin because I can tell that your bible knowledge comes from assumption, not research)
    I don’t categorize anyone based on their sins of choice. I treat people like people.
    As a matter of fact, my gay Christian friends are kind of tired of people like you advocating for them so zealously. They don’t want to be defined by their sexuality…they don’t want be loved because of their sexuality. They just want to be treated normal. When I asked my gay christian friends what I should think about their sexuality, they tell me “I don’t think about yours. Don’t think about mine. ”
    Chill out.

    Sent from my HTC One™ X, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

    —– Reply message —–

  • Andy

    You are so completely wrong about where our biblical knowledge comes from.

    And if you indeed treat all your friends the same, regardless of their orientation, then you are not part of the biggest problem we oppose here, which is people that discriminate against them because of their orientation. I don’t agree with the “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing, but if everyone who thinks being gay is a sin practiced that, we wouldn’t have nearly the bigotry and oppression and violence against gays that we do still have.

  • Jonathan Kuperberg

    I am 20. I oppose sodomy. Anti-gay-sex, far-right, evangelical, fundamental Christianity will last FOREVER preserved by the minority of young defiant firebrands like me who reject generational norms and mainstream cultural respectability in Jesus’ Name. I will not move. I will not die. Deal with it.

  • Andy

    Tell us how you really feel.

  • anakinmcfly

    Well, I’m 24. I oppose bigotry and the senseless discrimination against people for loving those deemed to be the wrong people, and *this* brand of Christianity will likewise last FOREVER, preserved by the minority (yes, globally we are the minority, not you) of young defiant firebrands like me who reject generational norms (homophobia, transphobia) and mainstream cultural respectability (likewise) in Jesus’ Name.

  • Andy
  • Bones

    You are aware that many of us were probably a lot like you at some point.

    Then we grew up.

    And repented.

  • Bones

    You remind me so much more of Jesus than wankers like Frank Graham.

  • Bones

    Guys, Dan Haseltine, lead singer of Jars of Clay has come out with several tweets questioning the traditional stance on homosexuality.

    He’s taken some flak for that with the usual bullying tactics of pulling his music from Christian radio and the rest.


    Dan’s personal blog is here if you wish to post some encouragement.


  • Bones

    Another article on Dan Hasletine

    Shot For Asking A Question: What We Can Learn From The Jars of Clay Fallout

    Dan Haseltine, lead singer of Jars of Clay, is learning the hard way that questions are frowned upon in these parts.
    After a show in Australia he was invited to sit on a panel discussion where some of the co-panelists were lobbyists fighting against the legalization of same sex marriage. After the discussion, Haseltine realized he actually hadn’t given the entire subject enough thought, and wanted to process some questions to formulate a more thoughtful position. As he describes on his blog:
    “I was immediately aware that I had not given much attention to the dialogue about gay rights. I knew it was a focal topic for many people in the church, and that it was a major issue in the growing partisanship of American politics, I just had not had the opportunity to think about it much.”

    So, he did what someone should do when wrestling with an issue– he wanted to process the arguments. Unfortunately, he’s a public figure and decided to process the issue on twitter, which now has him feeling the Evangelical backlash.
    Perhaps what most set people off was his twitter admission that he realized he was finding the argument against the legalization of civil gay marriage to be less than compelling, and asked if anyone had other reason to convince him:
    “I’m trying to make sense of the conservative argument. But it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. Feels akin to women’s suffrage. Is the argument born of isolated application of scripture or is it combined with the knowledge born of friendship with someone who is gay? I just don’t see a negative effect to allowing gay marriage. No societal breakdown, no war on traditional marriage. ?? Anyone?”

    Let us just say, the tribe isn’t too happy about his questions. The response on their Facebook page was vile; fans saying they’re done, nearly every thread has been hijacked regardless of the actual original post, and there were even comments taunting same sex marriage supporters to commit suicide. One of the most disturbing aspects of the story is how the Conservative Christian Internet quickly began twisting his words into their headlines, especially the consistently dishonest folks over at Christian News Network. Headlines across the internet continue to read that Haseltine has “come out” as a gay marriage supporter, which continued to fuel the fire since that’s not what happened.
    And of course, we have Michael Brown over at Charisma News who is quickly becoming the angry father figure on the American Christian landscape. I suppose no news would be complete without Michael’s predictable response.
    All this, because he simply asked questions about the legality of civil, same sex marriage.


  • James Walker

    the trouble is that your stance is unscriptural. deal with it.

  • Matt

    The people who taught you to speak like this have a lot to answer for.