Integrating who we love with our love for God

Speaking to a meeting of Hasidic Jewish leaders on Sunday, New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said, “I don’t … Continued

Speaking to a meeting of Hasidic Jewish leaders on Sunday, New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said, “I don’t want [children] to be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid or successful option” to heterosexuality.

Religious organizations and people frequently lead opposition to gay rights in the United States.

In the August ruling which overturned California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, a witness asserted, “Religion is the chief obstacle for gay and lesbian political progress.”

Why does religion play such a central role in debates about homosexuality?

Last week I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in response to recent news of the tragic suicides of multiple lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teenagers. In it, I called on people of faith to step up in their faith communities and neighborhoods to show our children that no matter who they are, they are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image and loved by Jesus.

Some of those who commented on the piece disagreed with me, saying that “religion is part of the problem,” not the solution. I say it is both.

Our love for and service to God is the core of my faith and the foundation of all religions. Unfortunately, many of our religious institutions and communities — my Christian denomination included — continue to struggle with God’s commandments to “judge not” and “love your neighbor.” Instead of choosing to make real in this world God’s love and inclusion, they focus, and in some cases obsess, over something humans can’t choose — who we love.

The reason religion plays such a central role in debates over LGBT issues is because many of our religious institutions and believers haven’t yet accepted that LGBT people of faith have integrated who they love with their love for God. And that God loves them for it.

The failure on the part of many in the church to recognize this integration and to live into God’s loving inclusion has caused real hurt and violence to LGBT people. It’s created a modern-day class of Samaritans. This is a terrible problem. Yet, shunning religion has failed as a solution. Doing so cuts LGBT people, and especially these teens in desperate need of comfort, off from one of the most powerful forces that could help to heal the suffering that’s been inflicted on them — our faith communities.

The solution is for the church to get to know its own wonderful LGBT children and its own LGBT neighbors. We need to hear the stories and witness the love for God and for each other that radiates like the sun from LGBT faithful. And the church needs to learn that it can indeed integrate love for God and genuine love for LGBT people. A great step toward this was taken at the Believe Out Loud Power Summit held last week in Orlando, Florida.

As a long-time minister, I want our failure in love to end with our generation. I want the next generation to know that no matter who they are and who they love, they have a safe, welcoming place in the church. I call on people of faith to step up in their spiritual homes and their neighborhoods to fully embrace all God’s children.

As God’s arms and legs in the world, our goal should be making sure religion plays a central role in the lives of LGBT people and not a central role in debates about LGBT people.

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