World Vision was founded in 1950. So LGBT Christians have been working for World Vision since, oh, about 1951.
This is not a New Thing nor is it unusual, and it is certainly not unique to World Vision. Gay Christians have been working for almost all Christian organizations for as long as Christians have had organizations. This has been true even of some of the most vehemently anti-gay Christian organizations. You want names? We can name names: Mel White was a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell and for Billy Graham. James Alexander Langteaux worked for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. Ted Haggard was president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
World Vision International has more than 44,000 employees. Some of them are LGBT. World Vision knows this. You know this. Everyone knows this.
It is not plausible for anyone — including the tribal gatekeepers of white evangelicalism and their lackeys — to claim not to have known this. The bloggers of The Gospel Coalition who claim to be shocked … shocked … that World Vision has LGBT Christians on its payroll, well, they’re lying.
And they know this. They know this because their “Gospel Coalition” is a sprawling network of denominations and institutions. And those denominations and institutions — Tim Keller’s church, John Piper’s church, Mark Driscoll’s church, TEDS, Southern Seminary, the PCA — all employ LGBT Christians. They know this. We know this. They know that we know this.
So what’s the actual difference between World Vision and the organizations run by their fellow Christians in The Gospel Coalition? Two things. Or, rather, one thing in two parts.
The first part is that the anti-gay groups that make up TGC have explicit policies forbidding LGBT Christians from working for them. You want to be a part of their ministry, then you’re going to have to sign a sheet of paper denying that you’re gay. It’s just like the military required before the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and it’s just as effective for the TGC folks as it was for the military — meaning not at all. Such policies have never been a means of forbidding LGBT people from serving, but rather have always been a formal, structural requirement that LGBT people agree to lie in order to serve while the institution itself lies about their service.
And, again, they know this. Everyone knows this.
And that is the two-part difference between World Vision and The Gospel Coalition. World Vision does not have a policy forbidding LGBT Christians from ministry, and therefore World Vision does not have a formal policy committing itself and its employees to telling lies. World Vision doesn’t make the closet a condition of ministry.
Such honesty is intolerable for anyone who wants to maintain the lie. The Gospel Coalition is thus very upset with World Vision for refusing to participate in the lie they have carefully codified. How dare they expose this lie by refusing to play along?
Maintaining such a lie as an integral part of one’s institutional identity is hard work. It is a heavy burden to carry for folks like those in the Gospel Coalition and other anti-gay Christian organizations. Surely at some level, some of those folks must have seen World Vision’s outburst of institutional honesty as a potential opportunity — a chance to at last lay that burden down and to finally stop having to expend all of that institutional energy maintaining such a transparent lie.
But, alas, no. Turns out they’re like poor old Brooks in Shawshank. “These walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them.” The lies have been such an integral part of their institutions for so long that they cannot imagine living without them. Nothing terrifies them more than a truth that could set them free.
So instead they’ve doubled down on their institutional lies. To shore up that first, unsustainable lie of “No LGBT Christians work for our organizations” they have latched onto an even more outrageous lie — “There is no such thing as a gay Christian.”
That is the lie that erupted all over the Internet this week in response to World Vision’s announcement. It was endlessly repeated on Twitter, in blog posts and in blog comments.
It is an outlandish, audacious, and laughably obvious lie — the kind of foolish lie that can only be told by people who don’t care that everyone knows they are lying. It is the kind of lie that can only be told by people who are proud to identify as liars who don’t give a withered fig about the truth.
It is also the kind of unspeakably cruel lie that can only be told by people who are proud to be the enemies of love.
Both of those aspects of this lie leave me flabbergasted. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to attempt such a lie. Try to picture doing this. You walk up to another person, you look them in the eye, human face to human face, and you say, “You do not exist.”
In what universe can you imagine that such a lie could ever be persuasive? What is the expectation there? Is the other person supposed to just blink out of existence? I mean, usually when you tell a lie, you’re trying to get the other person to agree with you, but in this case you can’t want that, because if this person agrees with you — if they say, “You’re right. I believe that what you’re saying is true” — then that would still disprove the lie.
So since the intent of this lie cannot possibly be to persuade others that it is true, then logically it seems the only reason this lie is being told is out of cruelty. It seems the only explanation for such a lie is that the liars themselves enjoy and delight in such cruelty.
They are, in theological terms, just being assholes.
That’s the best-case scenario. That’s the best possible thing that can be said about them and that is what I desperately hope is true of them. Because if they’re not just being assholes — if they’re not just telling cruel lies for the sake of delighting in cruelty — then it must be that they’re telling lies to deny the humanity of others for the other reason that such lies are told. Never again.
The good news, such as it is, is that this latest lie is easily disproved. “There is no such thing as a gay Christian,” they say. “No gay person can really be a Christian,” they say.
They exist. They are real and true — every bit as real and far more true than the fools repeating the outrageous lie that they don’t exist.
They are real and they are my brothers and sisters. They are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. So if anyone wants to claim those folks don’t exist, they’re going to have to say the same thing about me, and about God, and about Christ.