The first thing we all must understand is that there is a difference between validation and affirmation, as they are two completely independent constructs. Yet surrounding the topic of homosexuality, many in the Church take the stance that if I am to validate a GLBT person’s life and experiences as legitimate to them—their life—their story, that automatically means that I am leaping to affirming a pro-gay theological belief system. And that conclusion is just not right (or appropriate)! How am I to live within Christ’s come-as-you-are-culture if I’m not willing to even put in the time or effort to meet people exactly where they are without invalidating their entire known existence? It is imperative to be engaged with exactly what the GLBT community understands as truth, especially if it does not fully align with your understanding of truth. I believe that you can never see into someone’s heart and soul as much as we all think we can.
The finger pointing and the negative assumptions happen all of the time to both the straight Christian and the GLBT person—and it’s no wonder why GLBT people for the most part want nothing to do with us or our churches. Christians have to stretch themselves as they realize that validation to a gay or lesbian’s experience as it has pertained to their life is indeed as real and valid to them as any of your experiences. My belief is that discrediting those things are the same as losing faith in the understanding that God is in control of any situation or life—no matter where they are coming from. That might be a harsh analogy, but the severity of this invalidation pandemic is plaguing this culture war and perpetuating the very real disconnect that exists in being able to productively build a bridge from both communities. Many GLBT people are not willing to even entertain the idea of Christ from an evangelical perspective because they are too (I would even say rightly so) caught up in the fear of having their lives and experiences quashed by Christians who won’t think twice about it.
Just because someone’s life and experiences are validated does not mean that automatically affirms what others might not believe. I am not asking or expecting either community to believe in something they don’t believe in. But the conversation has always attempted to just force both sides into affirming one belief over the other (which will never systemically happen) rather than start with the base level understanding of validation—which provides space for all of us to start willfully living in this place of constructive tension. Change the conversation to humanly validation as relevant to legitimate life experiences, and all of a sudden you have changed the course of a potential relationship/significant place of growth socially and in Christ as well.
We must start to own a mindset that passes beyond the knee-jerk actions that traditionally cause reactionary offensive attacks towards each other. We have to work on the hang-ups when hearing a variety of traditionally hostile and divisive constructs, in order to fulfill our goal of being a productive bridge builder for the Kingdom.
Once that happens, we are all indeed starting from a level playing field.