When I was a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church there are a lot of things that just didn’t click with me. Since coming out as bisexual and finding myself in a more progressive space, a lot has become clear.

A lot of people aren’t just leaving churches because they were hurt or offended. A lot of people have been deeply rejected to the point of being traumatized. They have been told they are unworthy, broken, inconvenient, going to hell, unholy, rebellious, and the list goes on and on. These words have been the reward for sincere questions and difficulties in many cases.

When I was a pastor, it was easy to rely on the idea that people hurt people, the church doesn’t. Since I’ve left I’ve realized that there are structural reasons in churches why certain people get ostracized and others are protected. There are gatekeepers who decide which sins are disqualifies. Those gatekeepers are judging the severity of the sin on no other qualification than how much of a threat the sin is to the protection of the status quo in churches.

That’s why public sin is more severe than private. That’s why doubt is worse than judgementalism. That’s why stealing money from the church bring more immediate action than anything else. That’s why questioning doctrine is more severe than treating people with disdain.

All this amounts to treating human being as objects. Members are resources to the goals and objectives of the organizations. Those people who contribute most to the organization are most valued. Those who detract are shamed or even expelled.

People aren’t resources. When you treat them as such you end up deeply wounding them. People walk away from churches with lingering fear that they will burn in hell. They walk away angry and cut to the core. They often walk away forever.

The greatest form of healing is ultimately found in new spiritual communities that are people focused instead of institutional focused. Communities that prioritize healing can bandage the open wounds and calm the lingering fears.

Often people who cause me the most pain are those who are genuinely and sincerely being as kind to me as they can. I find this confusing.

Most of the pain we cause each other happens in the gap between our own heart and mind and the heart and mind of the other. Rarely have I experienced a gap so large as the one between what I experience as a bisexual person when people who don’t accept my sexuality say things they believe to be kind.

Often traditionalists indicate that their words are kind, concilatory, and understanding. These same exact words fall on my skin like a slap and not the hand of mercy I know they were intended to be.

In fact, most of the people I know personally and who don’t accept my sexuality have been nice. Sometimes I’m even hurt by someone who doesn’t say a single word about my sexuality, even by those who reach out in concern, but who I know disagree with my decisions. I haven’t understood why.

This hurt I’m speaking about is not a mild aggitation. I heard one time that sometimes in prison someone marked for punishment will not be attacked outright. Instead one person after another will deliver a sharp and precise punch to their liver again and again, eventually causing serious injury.

That’s what it feels like. It’s taking another blow in the same bruised and battered organ, an organ I need to stay alive.

This analogy breaks down because in my case the injury is unintended, as hard as it is for me to remember that sometimes. But I should remember, because it wasn’t long ago that I probably did the same thing and was equally unaware and full of good intentions.

Still the hurt remains, and the anger that comes with it. I’ve had a hard time even understanding why it hurts so much. Why am I hurt by people who are trying to be kind to me? Am I just sensitive? Am I becoming the charicacture of the angry gay rights activist that I was so often warned about?

Managing my anger has been a big part of the last ten months since coming out. But managing is not enough. I also need to learn to deal with it. Dealing with my anger means forgiving those who have hurt me.

But how do I go about forgiving people who are trying to be caring? How do I forgive them when I don’t even understand the hurt or why it’s so deep and painful?

Often I find myself starting on a blog I’m unable to finish, despite knowing exactly what I want to say. I struggle to call people and having conversations that are important. It’s difficult to even keep up the ties with people I used to be close to when I don’t know how they feel about my life now.

It’s so hard to keep writing, keep working, keep trying to create change around this topic and advocate for LGBT+ Christians. Every act of advocacy meets internal resistance until I feel like I’m trudging through mud.

Why was I so bothered? Why couldn’t I just toughen up? Occasionally someone would even indicate that I needed to do just that.

Then one day it came to me, a thought I’d had a hundred times, but suddenly sharper and clearer: Trauma. I’m dealing with trauma.

Trauma is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot. It’s kind of like OCD in that people say it a lot without awareness of what actual Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is. “I have OCD” they say while they straighen out their bookshelf or pick the lint off their friend’s jacket. But that’s not what OCD is.

It’s similar with trauma. We throw the word around without knowing what it means. Real trauma, the type that is related to Acute or Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, means more than being hurt by something. Trauma is related to a real or perceived threat to one’s life.

I knew coming out was a legitimate struggle. Loss of place I experienced in the denomonination with which my life was inexorably entwined is no small matter. But in my mind it didn’t rise to the level of an actual trauma, not like the real threats that other people survive. I wasn’t assaulted. I didn’t think I was going to die.

But my search to understand my own pain has finally revealed what was perhaps obvious. This is real trauma. It’s serious. Whether I have an actual clinical disorder or not, I have experienced a legitimate traumatic event. Perhaps everyone does who comes out in an environment where their sexuality is not embraced and affirmed.

Being rejected by my community, as I have been and as many queer Christians are, is about more than hurt feelings. It’s a threat to my existance.

There are certain things we require to survive, literally to stay alive. We need water. We need food. We need shelter. And just as surely as we need these things, we also need community. None of us can make it in this world alone.

When I think of what my Seventh-day Adventist church community was to me, it’s evident that most of the meaning and joy I’ve experienced in life has been through them. Most of my resiliency and willingness to press forward and have hope for my future has come from this community as well.

Living my life without this support is something I never imagined. I was Adventist for life. But now, I must admit, I’m an illegitimate Adventist. My name only remains on the church books because church policy can’t always be enforced. I can never be employed in ministry by the church again, I can never be married to a woman in an Adventist church or by an Adventist minister unless that minister is willing to risk losing their job, and even volunteering at a church or getting involved in leadership would be fraught with difficulty and unease.

There are a couple Adventist churches that are exceptionally accepting and welcoming. Other than these churches, second-class is the best an LGBT+ person who is out can hope for in an Adventist church. I’d argue that this is true whether that person follows Adventist doctrine or not. The church doesn’t know how to treat out queer Adventists as equal.

I know queer Adventists who have found churches that are relatively accepting of them, but who know that they are always to a certain degree vulnerable to a new pastor coming in and changing everything. About the only thing I know for sure I can do unopposed is sit in the pew and give money, and even that is sometimes controversial (the sitting in the pew part, every church will take my money).

All of this amounts to a stark choice, participate as a second-class Adventist or don’t participate in the local church at all. So far returning to church has been impossible for me.

This loss may not come with the physical violence that we often associate with trauma, but this apparent innocence doesn’t make it any less potent.

If you know LGBT+ people, especially Christians from nonaffirming communities, they will often speak to you of the constant stress of remaining in relationships with people who don’t accept their marriages, way of dressing, or way of identifying.That can be threatening because community and family support are what we need to get us through times of transition, emergencies, and sometimes to help us get jobs or take care of children.

Too often this stress of not belonging goes unacknowleged or even unknown by those who are causing it. Perhaps speaking of being traumatized brings up defensiveness in those who are part of this rejection, yet who don’t intend to cause trauma, and who believe themselves to be loving and accepting. Many people take it for granted that if they are friendly, care for queer people, and state their beliefs as kindly as possible they are showing love and not causing harm at all.

If this is you, I see your heart, and I see that you are doing the best you can. What would be good for the LGBT+ people in your life is if you would explore this tension between what you believe is happening and what queer people are experiencing. I don’t think the church has adequately dealt with that tension.

Few LGBT+ Christians see this the same way as most nonaffirming Christians do. I think the reason why is that no matter how it is handled, rejection from one’s community is a legitimate threat to anyone’s survival in this world. We feel it. I’ve felt it since long before I could articulate it.

The way forward for me is in finding new ways to survive. I can’t simply grow tougher skin. What I can do is root myself firmly in my identity as a child of God. No matter how I’m treated, no matter where I do or do not belong, I have a place with God. And of course I’m also finding a new tribe who does appreciate me for all of who I am.

Even with all this progress, it’s harder still to learn not to turn to the Adventist community for the help I’ve always sought there. Like an amputee I keep feeling the phantom limb. It’s proving difficult for every part of me to accept the new reality of my outsider status. Yet just as it’s happening slowly, this healing also has an inevitability to it.

The less often I reach instinctively for the help that simply is not there and the more I seek sources of life that are open to me, the more progress I make. I’m gaining a sense of safety and a holistic kind of confidence that I will survive this. I’m starting to care less that I’m not accepted. I’m doing better than surviving. Life gets more beautiful every day.

I dedicate this post to the legion of people who have ever compared me to a pedophile, an alcoholic, or an adulterer. I know I’ve told you these comparisons aren’t worth discussing. I know you thought I was just being emotional. I know these seem like helpful comparisons. Well, you’ve finally convinced me to talk about it. This one’s for you.

These analogies come from the search to explain why same-sex relationships are a sin. I had a real exchange with a Baptist pastor that went like this:

Him: “How is homosexuality different than any other sin?”

Me: “How is it the same?”

And this is at the core of the matter. Does same-sex love pass the sin test? Does homosexuality belong on the sin list? Or should we take it off? That’s the point of analogies. To show how it belongs on the list. Every single one of the sins listed below is something to which my sexuality has been compared.

Bestiality

First, there’s the super obvious that having sex with an animals is nothing like a real connection with a human being.

Beyond that, I’ve spoken to people who have sex with animals. It’s one of the more unique aspects of doing intakes in juvenile corrections. You probably won’t be surprised to discover that the process is nothing like falling in love. It’s a sexual perversion, a type of addiction actually, that generally begins with pornography addiction at a young age that transitions to animal porn and then to acting out.

True sex addiction can escalate as people search for more and more deviant behaviors, the forbidden nature of which can bring them new excitement so they can get their chemical fix. That’s what bestiality is.

Pedophilia

This is a criminal act of assault on a child. Pedophilia involves sex not only with a minor (that’s statutory rape), but with a prepubescent child. I’ve interviewed many teens who have histories of assaulting children and treated many teens who were sexually assaulted as children.

Pedophilia causes serious emotional consequences for the victim if not properly supported and treated. It confuses them about what love is because they are being exploited in their first sexual experience. For the perpetrator, it’s by nature an avoidance of intimacy and not an embrace of relationships, because adults can’t have a intimate partnerships with children.

It’s amazing to me that I even have to explain these things, but such is the nature of homophobia. I have no problem using the word homophobia to describe people who can’t tell the difference between pedophilia and same-sex relationships.

Queer relationships are partnerships. We coined the application of the word “partner” for intimate relationships when we were legally barred from marriage. It works because it expresses the nature of our relationships. They are not exploitation; they are partnerships.

There is also a long history of non-affirming Christians accusing LGBT people of being pedophiles. Google “Anita Bryant” if you don’t believe me. Fortunately, because of the hard work and sacrifice of gay activists, this slur is dying out, but it’s certainly still around.

Incest

Incest violates an already established kinship relationships between two people, generally that of siblings or that of parent and child. You can’t stop being someone’s brother or someone’s mother. Violating this primary and foundation relationships in order to establish a romantic relationships is an attack on the entire family. I’ve also counseled families in this situation, and it’s a mess.

Of course, normalizing such relationships in society would also lead to genetic problems. Yet even if in an individual case that were not an issue, there is a sacredness to our family relationships, to be someone’s brother, sister, mother, or father is a rare and important place in someone’s life. It’s incompatible with sexual or romantic relationships, because it involves a special level of closeness but also the ability to separate and form new families.

Of course same-sex relationships do not threaten any previously established relationship. Also, normalizing same-sex relationships causes no threat to society in terms of child birth. The accusation that the inability to have children is a threat to the human population is unjustified.

Only about 5% of the population is LGB. Even if 5% of people married someone of the same gender, half the couples would be able to have children with artificial insemination. That would leave 2.5% of the population, male couples, who often adopt children who need a home.

So there is no risk to society there either, if anything it’s an advantage for children who need adoption. Besides, what do you want gay men to do? Marry your daughter?

Divorce

Divorce is the result of a broken relationship and a failure of fidelity that was once promised. It’s falling out of love, the painful failure of love, and a tragedy whether it happens to other-sex couples or same-sex couples couples. Divorce is the opposite, not the analogy, of two people of the same-gender falling in love.

There is one way in which there are similarities between the two, though. Both have historically been viewed an forbidden by the church on biblical grounds. So why has the view on divorce changed?

Jesus himself explicitly forbade divorce on any grounds but infidelity when he was asked explicitly about the subject. It’s quite remarkable that the church found a way to accept divorce as a regrettable but sometimes unavoidable aspect of life, but there is no room for reconsidering same-sex relationships. I’m guessing that things would be different if same-sex relationships directly effected the same number of people that divorce directly effects.

Alcoholism and Other Drug Addiction

Addiction is a compulsive substance use in order to attain a high. It involves increasing use of a substance, tolerance, withdrawal, and normally leads to an obsession with obtaining and using the drug.

This obsession causes the addict to lie, cheat, steal, and generally mistreat the people in his or her life. Addictions are often a way to escape from the reality of life. Queer relationships are not marked by such behavior any more than straight relationships are.

Yes, people can also become addicted to sex. Yes, sometimes the people who become addicted to sex are queer though usually they’re straight. No, that doesn’t mean the ex-gay person giving you the testimony at the non-affirming church about his gay sex addiction is representative of all gay people.

Non-affirming churches too often find gay sex addicts who have found God and say they left the “gay lifestyle.” Really they just left their sex addiction.

Same-sex couples get married, have children, raise families, and even if they don’t choose to do those things, reducing same-sex love to addiction is untrue and prejudicial. When non-affirming churches refuse to acknowledge this reality, and only share stories of broken and addicted LGBT people, they encourage bigotry.

Porn Addiction

Sometimes people think it’s kind to disclose to me their pornography addiction as a way to show they don’t think they’re better than me. As if to say, “See, we all struggle. I have a porn addiction I have to give to God, and you have your homosexuality. If I can do it you can do it!”

I know from their perspective they are showing solidarity, that they don’t demonize homosexuality, and that that homosexuality is not the worst of sins. But someone’s obsession with getting off to images of women they will never meet has no commonality to me falling in love with a woman I know in real life.

When someone tells me about how they compulsively objectify women for sexual gratification, it feels dirty. I don’t want to know. It has nothing to do with love and commitment to an actual human standing before you.

Selfishness

“Gay love is selfish. When you fall in love with someone of your same gender, instead of a different gender like God intended, you’re falling in love with yourself.”

Yep. I’ve heard this one too. Multiple times. This is a favorite of preachers.

They say that in opposite-sex relationships people are falling in love with someone who is a different gender, therefore they are loving the other. But in same-sex relationships they are the same gender, therefore they are loving themselves.

But no matter what the gender configuration, when you love another human being, you love another human being. I’m not sure why I need to say this, because it seems obvious, but people of the same gender are still completely different human beings. There’s not some weird para-scientific Freudian thing going on here. Same-sex couples, just like opposite couples, fall in love with each other both for similarities and for differences, and when they do fall in love and have sex, it’s not a solo activity.

Having a friend of the same gender is not having a friendship with yourself. Going into business with someone of your gender is not a sole prorietorship.

If the differences between two people matter in these less intimate relationships, they will only be more magnified in an intimate relationships. Relationships are hard because they expose selfishness and demand selflessness, that doesn’t change for same-gender couples. So can we stop using this crazy analogy? Please?

Broken Straight Sexuality

“We need to address homosexuality in the context of our own broken sexuality as straight people.”

I hate to admit this, but I used to think this one was humble and compassionate, and in some contexts it is a move in that direction. It’s a way of saying that I’m no better than you just because you’re queer and I’m straight.

There is a world of difference between people who make the bestiality comparison and people who talk about their own broken sexuality. I know the heart that this comparison often comes from, and it’s a desire to not be bigoted and hateful, but compassionate and caring. I can appreciate that heart even as I critique the comparison itself.

Broken straight sexuality, no matter what form it comes in, is still demonstrably harmful. Broken straight sexuality is not love, but a failure of love. By its very nature, it’s those things that draw straight people away from their partners, not towards them. It’s exploitation, selfishness, and degrading of relationships. Same-sex love is not degrading of relationships, it is the establishment of a relationship.

Sin

There is a reason none of the analogies work. They are comparing something that is sin to something that is not sin. They compare something selfish, harmful, and addictive to something good, holy, and loving.

I challenge Christians to be more cautious in using these analogies, and more cautious in making any reference to same-sex love as sin. Calling sinful something that is holy is destructive and sinful itself.

Are you really so certain that you are willing to risk causing harm by telling someone their love is sin? What if you’re wrong? What will your words cost others? What relationships do you stand to damage? What love could you be denying or discouraging?

Yes, I know there are bible verses used to say same-sex love is sin, and I’ve addressed those too and will continue to do so, but when you think about the main point of scripture, the real heart of what is holy and what is sin, love between people of the same gender doesn’t qualify as sin. Jesus told us sin is failure to love, because the entire law is based on love (Mt 22:36-40; Mk 12:28-31). Loving someone of the same gender is not failure to love, but love itself.

The way I have interpreted scripture, particularly the six verses used against same-sex relationships, fits perfectly with Jesus’ understanding of the law. The way non-affirming Christians interpret these laws does not. The reasoning doesn’t fit, the analogies are ill conceived, and the results are prejudicial. Maybe there is a reason for that? Maybe there is a reason none of the analogies fit?

The truth is that love between people of the same gender, even sexual love, even romantic love, even passionate partnership, does not meet the criteria of sin. It’s nothing like sin. It’s everything like love, because it is love. And love is the core nature of God, the foundation of the law, and the most wonderful thing in the world.

This is a common question, and one that many people sincerely ask.

I can’t blame people for asking. When my romantic attraction to women finally broke through the layers of self-deception I had carefully constructed, I made a firm decision that I would only date men.

This is what I wanted for myself, what I believed, and what would afford me the life I wanted to live. It was an easy choice. This life would be free of problems with the church, with family, with my career, and with my own views about scripture.

My decision lead to getting serious about dating men. I ignored my interest in women, starved it out as best I could, and fostered my interest in men. As I went on dates, I felt relieved that I wasn’t gay. I thought about how hard it must be for those who are, having no choice to date in a way that’s acceptable. So I understand why people would wonder why someone like me would ever come out.

But knowing what I know now, I’m embarrassed I ever thought about it this way.

It’s Not About Celibacy, It’s About Integrity

Usually, the discussion about same-sex relationships is about gay people and not bisexual people. In fact, most people call it gay marriage and not same-sex marriage. Questions center on whether celibacy should be required of people who can’t have a healthy opposite-sex relationships. Often people ask whether in a fallen world we need to make accommodations for those who can’t marry someone of the opposite sex.

None of this applies to me or other bisexual people. Within this framework, the whole reason for coming out is an inability to be attracted to the opposite sex. So coming out as bisexual doesn’t make sense.

One problem with this approach is that only heterosexual and gay orientations count. There is no space for those of us in the middle of the spectrum. Bisexuality is erased.

But I am in the middle, along with many others. So if you want to understand why I came out, it’s best to understand that my nature was bringing up a different question. Instead of asking, is lifelong celibacy the best choice? I asked, is love between women holy? Is it good?

Study, prayer, and soul searching brought me to confidently declare my answer—yes. Love between women and between men is holy. It is sacred, beautiful, and life-giving. Love in the face of rejection, hate, and fear is a reflection of the character of God. Choosing love over security is Christlike.

I did not come out because I had no other path to a relationships. I came out because I had no other path to integrity.

Many gay people come out for the same reason. That reason is often misunderstood as selfish when it’s really about integrity. In fact, if you find yourself wondering why a bisexual would come out at all, it might be an indication that you are prone to misunderstanding this key fact.

Many of us come out because we are morally opposed to the idea that LGBT sexuality and gender is sinful. In other words, we believe non-affirming churches are sinning in teaching destructive and false theology.

Pastoring with Integrity

Initially, understanding God’s affirmation of LGBT sexuality didn’t change my personal decision to date only men. As strange as it seems now, that’s how complete my decision was.

Essentially that meant thinking of myself as straight, at least publicly. Even from that mindset, I began to see that the nature of my ministry as a pastor must change. If I was going to fully support LGBT people, it would change the nature of my ministry. I would be fully inclusive, teaching queer people to accept God’s affirmation of their sexuality and gender despite the shame from churches and society.

Even if I were straight, this theological shift would have meant total disagreement with teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Ministering as an affirming pastor would have meant losing my job just as surely as coming out did. There have in fact been many straight pastors who have lost their jobs for coming out as allies of the LGBT community.

Being Straight has its Advantages, But I Don’t Want Them

At some point, it began to dawn on me that if God had no condemnation of same-sex relationships, what right did I have to avoid them? How could I hold myself back from something for my own convenience and let the judgment fall on others?

Hiding my sexuality in order to hold on to the advantages of being straight began to feel like a thoroughly unChristian thing to do. It’s the opposite of Christ’s incarnation. In the incarnation Christ rejected status in order to identify with the suffering. For far too long, I refused suffering in order to keep the status and advantages of being perceived as straight.

There was a moment that really clarified this for me. I was at my church, meeting with the team before the service started, and wondering how people would react if they knew in that moment who I was. Suddenly I realized, I’m supposed to be the queer person in this room. I’m supposed to bring the uniqueness of that experience into my ministry.

That was the dawn of an understanding that has only grown. I’m a much better pastor and minister now that I’m out. I am who I’m supposed to be, and I have so much to offer because of my sexual orientation and because I am offering myself as I truly am and not as some people want me to be.

Sexuality Cannot Be Divided

Unexpectedly, accepting and affirming my theology has given me a seemingly endless sense of joy. I’ve become whole. I’ve learned that choosing to only date men was damaging to me in ways I never understood.

Before accepting my sexuality, I wasn’t a happy person. When I accepted and affirmed myself and my way of loving, the sky seemed bluer, the future was brighter, and I found in myself an inner sense of peace and joyful strength.

Why was that? The Adventist church takes a holistic approach to health and spirituality. Only now do I understand that the theology I once believed was dividing me in ways that were profound and destructive. Calling the good parts of yourself evil inevitably leads to depression. Saying that same-sex sex is wrong is ultimately no different than saying that the way a gay or bisexual person loves is inherently evil. Particularly as a bisexual person, I harmed myself by calling part of my sexuality sinful and the other holy. It’s a divided way to live, and we are meant to be whole.

I only understood this through living it. I wasn’t looking for joy, but I found it nonetheless. It is one of the many good gifts God has given me.

One of my favorite gifts is this: That God gave me eyes to see not only the beauty of love between a man and a woman, but also of love between women. I’m forever grateful that I finally had the courage to reach out and take hold of that gift.

As someone who spent many years closeted in a Christian community that most definitely did not affirm my sexuality, I know more than most what it takes to live life by the principle that your feelings can’t be trusted.

“It’s just a feeling.” These were the words I used to distance myself from the inevitable knowledge that I was in love.

“It’s just a feeling.” I reassured myself when a silent energy passed between me and another woman.

“It’s just a feeling.” I desperately clung to these words when I longed for my friend to rest her arm across my legs, feeling I would crumble inside if she didn’t touch me.

No matter how hard I fought, how persistently I refused to think about women, how many prayers I prayed, how willing I was to be and do anything God wanted, I could still feel in my bones that women falling in love was a beautiful thing and could be a beautiful thing for me. I didn’t want to feel it. I didn’t want to know it was true. I just did. So I told myself, “it’s just a feeling.”

These words are how I taught myself that I don’t matter. They became the mournful refrain that played in the background of my life until I stopped feeling and settled into a resigned depression. I lost myself, but at least I was doing the right thing.

One doubt still haunted me. Where was the abundant life, peace, and joy that I am promised?

Heartless Theology

Devaluation of feelings is part of a particular approach to theology and religion. Religious rules are taught without reference to their psychological impact. The approach is intellectual and philosophical. It has its roots in modernism, rationality, and science (and even further back to Plato). It’s not rooted in Judaism or scripture. Instead of each religious teaching being part and parcel with Jesus’ commandment to love, the rules are supposed to apply no matter how much harm they cause.

Many times since coming out I’ve been reminded of this viewpoint by people who believe I am required to ignore the suffering of my community and abstractly discuss theological issues. They want to compare love between people of the same gender to pedophilia or bestiality, and don’t think it matters that such comparisons are discriminatory. Or they believe that mental health problems aren’t theologically relevant. It’s common to treat theology like arithmetic and people like CPUs.

But our emotional lives matter. They matter not only to us and to those who love us, they also matter theologically. Theology is a spiritual discipline. If the Holy Spirit is required to understand the scripture, that must mean that compassion and suffering matter.

Am I saying that I should get to do whatever I feel like? Does this mean I don’t have to deny myself or do things that are hard? Absolutely not! It wouldn’t be good or right for me to date women only because I want to. Not by any means.

It is not good to live a life ruled by feelings uninformed by goodness and truth. Taking feelings into account is not the same thing as being ruled by them. We should pay attention when feelings go beyond a simple desire and into the realm of significant mental health problems for a group of people. If our theology is causing depression, shame, and suicide, it’s irresponsible to carry on as if feelings don’t matter.

Violent Theology

Jesus said that you can tell whether a tree is good or bad by looking at its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). What is the fruit of theology that says same-sex relationships and transgender identity are sinful? Here is a small sampling:

If you are straight, I ask you to consider what it would be like for you and your friends to experience depression, rejection, and shame every time the church teaches your sexuality is broken. Personally, this was my experience despite the fact that I believed and always followed by what the church taught. I never disobeyed, but that didn’t make the shame go away. Many of my queer friends have told me about being suicidal right after being told their sexuality was sinful. Would you want church leaders to consider these consequences if they happened to you or someone you love?

This is the fruit of a rotten tree. I firmly believe the promises of the Bible still apply to queer people. Fruit like depression, rejection, and suicide are heartbreaking. Those who stay in communities whose theology is a true expression of God should not be 8.4 times more likely to commit suicide than those who are outside these communities.

On the other hand, what are the fruits affirming theology? If LGBT rejecting communities increase harm, affirming communities reduce harm. Supporting same-sex marriage and affirming LGBT people is life giving for us. It’s certainly hard to see who is being harmed by same-sex love. It’s clear many are benefiting from its affirmation.

Elsewhere on this website and through many other resources you will find more sophisticated theology addressing specific texts and theological interpretations, but aren’t these matters of harm, joy, and love the gospel at its core? God loves the world deeply, forgives us for our failures to love, and teaches us how to love completely and fully. The fruits of affirming theology certainly are full of love and life. The fruits of non-affirming theology bring harm and suffering.

Taking Responsibility

If you are non-affirming in your theology, you have a God-given responsibility to resolve this problem. It’s not enough to say, “the church should do a better job of loving people, but we have to follow the Bible,” and move on to other things. Something is seriously wrong. Non-affirming theology does not deliver on the promises of scripture.

If you are straight, and especially if you have a place in an institution that teaches non-affirming theology, it’s easy to theologize about what is right or wrong for people like me who don’t fit traditional theological constructs. It’s easy to avoid getting to know us or to go along with the prevailing culture that does not to respect and believe the things we say about ourselves and our lived experiences. It’s easy not to involve yourself with those whose lives you judge to be unworthy of the blessings of marriage and church membership. It’s easy to dismiss our pain, place our suffering outside the category of worthwhile information for theological study, and ignore the consequences of your theology about sexuality and gender.

It’s easier and feels better to separate theology from it’s impact on real people, but we can’t wash our hands of responsibility. Scrub until our hands are raw, the stain is apparent. Each of us is responsible for the fruit our theology. If we drive people to the depths of depression and self-hatred, don’t be surprised if God doesn’t care for the excuse: “It’s just a feeling.”