Against my better judgment, I recently got into an argument with someone about how much our placement in history influences our thinking. He couldn’t get it. He condemned slavery and racism, but he also condemned my assertion that if he were alive in the era of Jim Crow, he’d probably have been a racist himself. A Jesus-loving racist. And hey, maybe I would have been, too. But I was inspired to speak up by this quote from blogger Libby Anne:
Two centuries ago, many American Christians believed that slavery was ordained by God. Over time, Christian moral systems have changed, and today it is rare to find Christians who believe that dictatorship is a form of government favored by God, or that slavery is biblical and morally justified. Christian moral systems have changed in part because they have been influenced by secular moral systems, and not the other way around.
It is for this reason that I struggle to believe homosexuality or being transgender is a sin. Just like there were Christian-based abolitionist groups accused of “going against God’s design” for races, there are now LGBT-affirming Christian groups who are facing the exact same accusation. What a difference a century, half a century, or even a decade can make!
It’s really hard for me to accept that “the biblical view” on LGBT issues matters when, assuming the homosexuality issue follows the same track as the slavery issue, many Christians will eventually claim that scripture was just misinterpreted through the lenses of bigotry. By the time my future children reach high school, Christians might even say *they* were the ones on the front lines for LGBT equality all along!
Today, many (although I realize not all) Christians are against LGBT equality in one form or another. I’m pretty convinced that this is a matter of cultural influence over biblical interpretation, mostly because gender dysphoria as we understand it today is nowhere in scripture (it’s a bit more complex than just cross-dressing). There have always been LGBT people, but not until this century did science and psychology finally begin to understand the biological and psychological underpinnings that make gender and sexual identity so complex.I think this fear, disgust, and discrimination results from a lack of understanding, and Christians are just as guilty of this as anyone. Based on several Facebook posts, tweets, and blog forums, it’s pretty obvious who has taken the time to get to know and understand LGBT persons and who hasn’t. “But I have gay/transgender friends!” doesn’t really mean anything. Maybe you work with a transgender person and make small talk with him/her on a daily basis. But that’s nothing like sitting down and asking what it’s like to be in their skin, or being trapped in bodies that never felt like theirs.
That’s unimaginable to me, as a cis-gendered, heterosexual woman. And I confess, I don’t think I know any transgender people personally. But I do know what it’s like to go through life being misunderstood, and that motivates me to understand the struggles of others.
I want to broaden my horizons if my opinions are rooted in ignorance.
I want to be corrected if anything I do or say makes the world more difficult for people to simply be themselves.
We can tell people in the anti-equality worldview that the rhetoric they’re espousing is not only wrong, but dangerous. We can tell them that their words are literally killing people. We can present a list of facts showing how they are are misinformed. And it still won’t make a difference until the rest of us stand up and say something. For members of the transgender community to feel included and loved, we have to make it clear they are welcome in our world.
The hardest part of faith is not always the doctrine, but the actual people. I am so damn sick of being part of a group that routinely preaches ignorance. There are many wonderful Christian advocates out there, but they are overshadowed by the hateful ones. And the latter is where Jesus’ examples of loving the most unlovable are so poignant and necessary.
Beth Caplin Stoneburner is an author under the name Sarahbeth Caplin, and blogs about religion, feminism, and more at sbethcaplin.com. She lives in northern Colorado with her husband and two cat children, and is working on an MFA in Creative Writing at Colorado State.