Opinion

Heartland of the matter: Christians vs. homophobia | Amy Johnson

(An Open Letter to Rev. Eric Elnes, Countryside Community Church, Omaha, Neb.)

Dear Rev. Elnes,

I am writing to say that I really admire your work with the Heartland Proclamation and getting more than 150 pastors in the Omaha, Neb., and surrounding area to sign it. You were quoted as saying your motivation was, “we were just fed up with the popular notion that the Christian point of view is anti-gay.”

I really get it. You see, I can count on negative feedback when I write about Jesus and sexual orientation in the same Sex in the Suburbs article. I’ve been sent lots of Scripture passages and lengthy, scathing letters. I’ve even been told I can’t be a Christian with my beliefs. My intelligence, faith, logic and values have all been criticized by people I don’t even know when I dare to put God, faith, inclusion and homosexuality in the same article.

I see that you understand that this issue is not — nor has it ever been — simply about allowing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people to openly be who they are when they walk through a church door. It’s about their family, friends and colleagues who often don’t feel welcome in church if they come out of the closet in support of their loved ones. It’s about the growing schism between preaching about unconditional love and forgiveness, and excluding people because of who they are.

I love how you stated, “We believe homosexuality is not a sin. It’s not a birth defect or a choice. God created people this way. And if God created them this way, they need to be honored for who they are, and fully included in church life and wider society.” This prompted me to raise a hearty “Praise the Lord!” And it reminds me to mention that your mission isn’t over. Churches need to embrace human sexuality as a part of our incarnation as fully human beings, and educate people in our faith communities about more than what to say to teens, how to treat a gay person, and what to do when clergy misbehave.

We have a lot of work to do to help people understand sexuality education as a ministry to bring about wholeness in people as much as they understand a ministry for people who are hungry or have no shelter.

I also like the apology you included in the proclamation for the damage the silence of clergy on this subject has caused. I talk to youth about this all the time and ask, “Do you object when a gay joke is told?” As you can imagine, some are afraid of retribution for being someone who questions the gay basher. That fear is real. For every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teen who is bullied because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, another four straight students are bullied because they are perceived to be LGBT.

It’s much easier said than done to break the silence around prejudice against sexual orientation and gender identity, so kudos to you, Reverend Elnes.

Just be aware: You might get angry letters criticizing your religious beliefs and intelligence. You might even lose a few Facebook friends.

In closing, I am reminded of a quote from a great philosopher of our time. I leave you with his words, along with my sincere and deep appreciation, respect, and camaraderie on this path:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr. Seuss

Sincerely,

Amy Johnson

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