Last weekend felt a bit like a setup for a bad joke. A Mennonite-raised progressive evangelical wanders into a Jewish school with a crew of LGBTQ and SSA Mormons…
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I prepared for my trip to Salt Lake City to speak at the Circling the Wagons Conference. I was a little nervous – I wasn’t sure how to speak to a religious perspective (Mormonism) I had rarely encountered in the past. Would I use the wrong words? Would my message make sense in their culture and belief system? Would I accidentally step on toes, or incite further controversy in a conversation already fraught with divides? What if I was too evangelical?
We will not permit our personal or communal loyalties to ideology, labels, or tribes to prevent us from befriending each other. One of LOVEboldly’s core values is “Treasonous Friendship.” The meaning is simple. We will not permit our personal or communal loyalties to ideology, labels, or tribes to prevent us from befriending each other. We will embrace those with whom we disagree. We will open our hearts to one another, even when it seems threatening to us and those we love the most. We will trust that God is in the process of us befriending even our enemies.
When we can say, “Your words offend me but your presence at the table gives me joy,” we are accomplishing something miraculous. Last weekend, I found myself naturally drawn to some folks because we share the same joys, frustrations, and challenges. Paradoxically, I found myself naturally drawn to others, despite our many disagreements. It’s a very confusing experience to like a person so much yet disagree with them so vehemently. It’s disorienting and deeply gratifying all at the same time. That is the work of true dialogue. When we can say, “Your words offend me but your presence at the table gives me joy,” we are accomplishing something miraculous.
By the end of the weekend, I had shed more tears than I had expected, and shoved more down inside of me than I probably should have. To be honest, the intensity of the day had put me in total emotional and spiritual shutdown. I was hurting for those that seemed trapped and bound to a system of belief that felt utterly constraining to me. As an evangelical who believes so deeply in the radical love and grace of a God who fights for us, I couldn’t understand. I imagined myself in their shoes. How would it feel to believe that God was against you, and yet be so devoted to Him that you yearned to become more like Him? This understanding of God was not much different than those I’ve encountered before in some conservative Christian churches. Yet it troubled me. I believe in a God who is so willing to fight our battles for us that he actually packed a U-haul out of heaven and moved into our neighborhood. I believe a God who is for us, not against us.
The tendency to rank one another’s level of spirituality in the journey of reconciling faith and sexuality is not a conservative evangelical problem. This is a human problem.Nevertheless, despite our differences, I couldn’t have anticipated how much I would find my story, and the story of many I love, in the room with these lovely Mormons. I never could have imagined how very alike the LGBTQ and SSA struggles are – whatever faith community we exist in – as sexuality, identity, and faith collide. My worldview was broadened. My suspicions were confirmed. The tendency to dehumanize, delegitimize, and rank one another’s level of spirituality in the journey of reconciling faith and sexuality is not a conservative evangelical problem. This is a human problem.
I see the hope of something better, if straight, conservatively minded people of all faiths are willing to rise to the challenge. We can carve out more space for those on this journey, in hopes they encounter more of God’s love. Like Jesus did, we too could welcome treasonous friendships in our lives.
Dream with me. What if we (conservative straight Christians) committed to being a good friend to LGBTQ and SSA people? What if we made sure they had homes to live in, support systems to call on when they lose friends and family, jobs to work, and meals to eat? What if we gave them rides to the airport, invited them to family dinner, and embarrassed them by screaming their names from the audience when they accepted a diploma or finished a theatrical performance? What if we encouraged our kids to color them pictures to hang on the fridge? What if we made sure they had access to someone who would listen if they needed it, someone to help them process spiritual, emotional, or physical traumas they may have experienced? What if we packed up our U-hauls and moved into their neighborhoods to fight their battles with them rather than against them?
If we want to claim we really love the LGBTQ and SSA community, we should show it. If we want to claim we really love the LGBTQ and SSA community, we should show it. From a space of safety, maybe LGBTQ and SSA Christians in our midst could engage spiritual questions authentically, head-on, with an unshakable belief in a God who loves them relentlessly – because they’ve experienced it. What if we accepted the call to treasonous friendship today?