In his book ground-breaking research book unChristian, David Kinneman reports that the number one description of Christians by the younger generation today (of those outside the church) is "anti-homosexual," followed not too far by "judgmental" and "hyprocritical." Out of twenty attributes that were assessed, both positive and negative, as they related to Christianity, the perception of being anti-homosexual was at the top of the list. More than nine out of ten (91%) of outsiders said "anti-homosexual" accurately describes present-day Christians. [This research was done in the USA]
Anti-homosexual, gay-hater, homophobic - is this what Jesus called us to be?
To quote Kinneman (p.96) .... "It is one thing to be against homosexuality, to affirm that the Bible rejects the practice of same-sex lifestyles, but it is another to be against homosexuals, to let your disagreement with their behaviour spill out in your feelings and words towards them as people. It is unChristian to lose your sense that everyone's fallen nature affects all aspects of his or her life, including sexuality, and to forget God's commands to love people in order to point them to Jesus."
He continues ... "It is unChristian to focus our animosity on another human being regardless of what they do or what they look life. Billy Graham, one of the most respected Christian leaders in American history, made this observation about homosexuality during a press conference: 'I'm going to quote the Bible now, not myself, that it (homosexuality) is wrong, it's a sin. But there are other sins. Why do we jump on that sin as though it's the greatest sin? The greatest sin in the Bible is idolatry, worshiping other things besides the true and living God. Jealousy is a sin. Pride is a sin. All of these things are sins. Homosexuality is also a sin and needs to be dealt with and needs to be forgiven, and that's why Christ came and died on the cross.'"
Here is a letter from a young man named Levi that I read in my interview with Deb Hirsch on the weekend (from unChristian, p.117-18).
"I believe that almost every man who deals with homosexuality has a defining moment when he realises that everything that is going on in his body, in his mind, and in the secret place of his heart is what is called 'gay'. It is an extremely frightening moment that is usually never forgotten.
I remember my moment clearly. I was sitting in my youth pastor's office in a counseling session with my father. I was fourteen years old, I had been kicked out of school, I had tried to kill myself twice, and no one knew how to help me or love me. I was acting out - I was hurting so severely. I didn't know why.
With the best of intentions, my youth pastor tried to get to the bottom of my issues. The result, instead, was that I realised I was gay, that is was something really bad, and as much as I loved church, I would never be accepted there.
In a way, I was relieved, because the kids at my church called me 'fag' and 'queer' and rejected me, and so did the kids at my Christian school. Everywhere I went I ran into rejection ... everywhere. Except with other gays. I did not go back to church again. Not until about four years ago.
It took twenty years of depression, twelve years of drug addiction and dealing, and several suicide attempts to find myself searching for Jesus where I had wanted to be back when I was a teenager. There I met a compassionate God who loved me and understood me. When my search for answers was most desperate, my family, my friends, and my church were ill-equipped to handle my situation. Unfortunately, the hardest things for me to overcome were the hateful words and rejection that came from people who called themselves Christians."
Somehow, we have to do better than this as a community of Christ followers.