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Christian Love and LGBT Folks

godloves

When I see critics respond to a Christian by telling them that they’re a bigot because of their loving beliefs, they’re telling that Christian he’s a liar – David French

I think this is a real possibility. But it would mean getting a handle on what love means.

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor

Romans 13:10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

1 Thessalonians 1:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

Love in such accounts is not a feeling of regard, a warmness to various individuals who may be LGBT. It is an active seeking of their good, of their well being. As one site puts it

Love means to seek and then foster the good of others in the context of their concrete situations.To seek and foster: To love means to be active, to find out what the other person needs and then use our power to do something about that need.The good of others: The good of others is the same good that we would want for ourselves.In the context of their concrete situations: Love respects a person as he/she is—not what we might wish her or him to be.When we love another person, we affirm that the other has value and that her or his development and needs are as important as our own.

I would add that this good should be recognizable by most and recognized by a reasonable observer as good. It is amazing how much mischief happens when love is only defined by one party and not by everybody else involved. If LGBT folks can’t recognize something as love, it probably is not loving.

What does that love look like at a minimum?

  1. Love means recognition. It’s a basic human need to be recognized and accepted. So the denial of our existence is the most flagrant violation of the principle of love. and yet a common piece of legislation the religious right has promoted over the years would forbid mentioning LGBT issues in the classroom. They also have unsuccessfully fought recognition of gay straight alliances in schools. They have opposed LGBT themed books in schools and libraries.  They have promoted conversion therapies to make gay and lesbian folks straight. And now they are fighting to deny the existence of transgender people. In their ideal LGBT folks do not exist and much of their activism should be understood in that light. But it is not loving to deny the reality of LGBT people and their lives.
  2. Love means supporting each other materially. At a minimum this means not obstructing people’s ability to secure employment, housing, health care, and basic services. But there is no federal legislation protecting LGBT folks from discrimination in these areas and the religious right has fought even local protections in cities and states to protect LGBT folks from denial of these basic needs.
  3.  Opposition to marriage equality remains a central identity marker among religious conservatives. But so much of who I am is my marriage to the man I love. And there’s so many economic and legal rights wrapped up into the legal recognition of that union. Opposition to marriage equality is opposition to the recognition and material support that many LGBT people now experience.
  4. Let me focus on children for a moment. Having a GSA makes an impact on stopping LGBT youth suicides. Recognizing the gender identity of transgender kids makes a big impact on stopping suicides. LGBT homelessness is inextricably tied to family religious objections to their identity. This is to say that children’s lives are tied to what theology you go with.

Most of these examples are fixable by legislation. But one area that is not is the church. And yes I agree with David French that churches are free to continue to oppose LGBT inclusion as matter of the first amendment. But to bring up 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other

I write as a Christian pastor, who believes that the church should be the most open, supportive, welcoming place for anyone who is LGBT and for much of the same reasons that we want this in secular society. And that if LGBT folks experience the denial of recognition, the rights of legal equality, and the loss of material support because of a certain theology that should not be considered love.

Dwight Welch is the campus minister at United Campus Ministry at Montana State University Billings
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