Part 3 of 4

The relationships among  the various Christian communities and the various LGBT communities are complex and difficult. There is misunderstanding, bigotry, assumptions, scapegoating, mistrust, defensiveness, cowardice, fear, hostility and ignorance on all sides. One of the biggest challenges for the different groups is to speak and act in ways that shatter the stereotypes and expectations they have of each other.

Among the mission minded Christians (or churches) you know, how many include LGBT persons on their priority list of unreached people groups? They need to be engaged with the same degree of commitment and preparation as we would if we were going to experience and engage the cultures of Central America, China or Africa.

If we are to engage any particular group, we must learn about their culture and the values systems that hold it together. Then we will have a better idea of how the unchanging truth of God’s word can be brought to bear on that culture.

So, what are some of the characteristics that mark the mainstream LGBT community as a distinct tribe? The few I list here are basic generalizations to get us thinking.

  • Political Values – Most Christians are aware of the vocal and influential positions of gay rights activism and advocacy.
  • Language & Vocabulary – Are Christians willing to learn the language and slang? To go beneath the labels? Terms like ‘queen’, ‘otter’, ‘butch’’, ‘questioning’, ‘transie’, ‘versatile’, ‘intersexed’, ‘zhoosh’ and ‘twink’ have very specific definitions.
  • Philosophical Values – The deep assumptions that hold the community together such as the presumption that homosexuality is genetically or biologically determined.
  • Worship Rituals – I would describe this as a range of behaviors and attitudes. It can include the adulation and seduction of the young and physically attractive. Emotional dependency. Pornography. The value placed on sensual fulfillment and pleasure. The ritualized behaviors and habits of sexual addiction.
  • Affirmation Rituals and Ceremonies – Such as gay pride parades, celebrations of same-sex unions and coming out celebrations. In the United States, June is LGBT Pride month and October is LGBT History month.
  • Economic Values – The strong financial bonds that hold this people group together (such as supporting gay friendly businesses and causes).
  • Social Values – This includes the rules of social behavior. And recreational pursuits that help to bond group members such as vacation spots, cruises, gay sporting leagues, etc. Also involves social questions such as, “what is marriage?” and “what does it mean to be a family?”

Too often Christians and churches fail to appreciate, understand or acknowledge the high price and cost one experiences when leaving (or challenging) the mainstream LGBT community. They often get little support and sympathy from church friends who think they should “just repent and be done with it”.

Remember, an individual may have a partner, a home, a network of friends, a job and an entire way of doing things. We can’t ignore the emotional and psychological investment in their community. For the “average straight Christian” it’s about politics or sex. For the lesbian or the gay man it’s about their social support, acceptance, security and identity.

Are churches ready to welcome those who are risking the loss of their careers, housing, livelihood and support systems? Are individual Christians ready? Are we willing to take the steps necessary to become better equipped and knowledgeable?

Interested in LGBT History?

If you’re a heterosexual Christian who is seeking to build bridges with LGBT people, documentaries are a great way to start educating yourself.  If LGBT history is something you would like to learn more about, Andrew Marin lists several in this post (click to open in a new window): LGBT Documentaries

A Special Plea For My Readers . . .

Please, do not (in your attitude or actions) stereotype all LGBT people as militant, political activists or sexually promiscuous drug addicts. The politics, ideology, behavior or motivation of a few cannot (and should not) be generalized to an entire group or to individuals. Christians MUST acknowledge the legitimate needs and real hardships faced by LGBT people. We MUST offer real-life solutions. And it IS okay for Christians to take a stand against the mistreatment of LGBT people.

Question: “We should focus our outreach efforts on investing in the life of a LGBT individual in a neutral setting.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?

Your comments are welcomed below.

Next post: Encouragement For Church Leaders


© Darrell Martin and, 2012.

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