The opinions and views in this message are from Rev Gav and in no way represent the wider views of St.Mark’s Church or the Anglican Church of Bermuda.
Last Sunday I attended the Pride worship with Wesley Methodist Church and I was deeply moved by the gentle, affirming, and sensitive testimonies of the performers and speakers. Sadly, branches of the church have historically been guilty of oppression and injustice against marginalised people, and today, some movements continue in this vein. The words and actions from a minority of Christians have had, and continue to have, a devastating effect on those that identify as LGBTQIA+ and this is why I am writing today.
I understand the outrage and lament that many Christians and non-Christians feel about the moral state of society. Greed and corruption are rife, and in our daily lives, we encounter racism, ableism, family breakdown, gang violence, bullying, soaring prices, unaffordable healthcare, and social issues resulting from drug and alcohol abuse. We look back wistfully to the “glory days” when our Sunday Schools were full, the roads were safe, and we did not have to lock our homes or vehicles.
Faced with this broken and hurting world, some have responded in two ways. Firstly, they have looked for someone to blame, and secondly they have sought to pass legislation to support their particular worldview. A prevailing but mistaken idea is that if we only had laws against certain moral behaviours or actions then the people of a country would become more ‘Christian’. Well, I am afraid it does not work like that. History is stained with the consequences of those that sought to force others to their way of thinking, and the results of their actions invariably resulted in violence and yes, even death.
Today, a proportion of Christians blame the societal lack of morality on the LGBTQ community — perhaps minority and marginalised communities make easy targets? And based on this they continue to pursue enforcing legislation to ‘Christianise’ culture. As history has shown us, this course of action is both dangerous and destructive. Why? Because the message conveyed from these Christians is that everyone has a natural or God-given identity or gender that is 100% heterosexual and as assigned at birth, despite the enormous weight of scientific data and personal witness to the contrary. Therefore, the message being preached is that, if you are not heterosexual and do not identify with the gender assigned at birth, God does not love you the way you are and that there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed. The message conveyed is that you are broken from birth and this message has truly devastating consequences.
Jesus reminds us that we recognise a tree by the fruit it produces. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit, therefore, I want you to consider the fruit of the message that has been preached in the light of the the following statistics:
In a recent U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, there is a consistent trend that lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender teens are at increased risk of suicide. In the preceding year, 75% percent of LGBTQ teens experienced symptoms of anxiety and 61% experienced symptoms of depression. Of all the young people aged 13-24 that took the survey, 82% wanted mental healthcare in the past year and yet 60% of those youth were unable to access the care that they needed. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population. Why? Read this quote from the survey:
“LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.”
Before I go on, let me assure you that if you are struggling with your identity or gender, that God loves and accepts you just the way you are. You are not an abomination. You are not a mistake. You are unconditionally loved and accepted, and an expression of God’s wonderful and diverse love.
We, as Christians, are not called by God to separate ourselves from the world and to form enclaves or a separate society, nor are we called to force Christianity upon the world. The Kingdom of God transcends our earthly social structures and, using metaphors that Jesus used, we are called to be light and salt in the world; or when describing the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13 he uses the metaphor of yeast — all things that permeate and make a difference to their surroundings. God is love and we are called to be God’s love to one another.
The church must speak out and not collude when the marginalised, broken, or poor are oppressed, and it is up to us to stand with them and speak up on their behalf. We are called to love them. Jesus saves his strongest words for those that would exclude others from God’s Kingdom, and if you are in doubt, read Matthew Chapter 23. Sobering words indeed. Jesus himself was accused of hanging out with outsiders and the despised, and I cannot help but feel that if he was here today he would be laughing and hugging, and walking with the outcast, the stranger, the oppressed, and the unwanted, assuring them that they are welcome.
At the Pride worship the congregation heard the heartfelt testimonies of believers, who despite being persecuted for their identity or gender, have a living faith in Jesus Christ. Their faith has struggled and survived against all the odds, is a witness to God’s life-giving grace, and is as precious as the purest gold. When I heard their testimonies, I wept. Some Christians assert that they are missing something. They are not. They have found Him and his name is Jesus.