Is Christianity harmful to sexual minorities? Ex-lesbian says no, it's an 'invitation to true love'

Unsplash/Daniel Tseng
Unsplash/Daniel Tseng | Unsplash/Daniel Tseng

WASHINGTON — The call to follow Jesus is an invitation to true love, and it's good news to those who identify as LGBT, says a former lesbian.

Before hundreds of attendees at Crystal Gateway Marriott hotel for the annual Wilberforce Weekend sponsored by the Colson Center, Jackie Hill-Perry, author of Gay Girl, Good Godspoke of her own journey out of same-sex desires and into the knowledge of God.

Given the profound shift in opinion among younger generations of Americans about same-sex relationships, she underscored the need to explain the case for why the Christian faith is life-giving for those who experience same-sex attraction or in any way identify themselves as LGBT.

And that is because their default understanding is that Christianity isn't only not good, but harmful to sexual minorities, she said, which constitutes approximately 4.5 percent of the American populace.

"If Christianity is harmful for sexual minorities, there is either a problem with Christianity or there is a problem with Christians," she said.

"I understand what it feels like to be a minority and it's not just because I'm black, but also because I used to be gay."

Her same-sex desires began around the time she was 5 or 6, before she knew how to spell her first name. She had no language with which to communicate and express her feelings, particularly because during the early 1990s, homosexuality was considerably less visible in popular culture. She also had no space to process her experiences and desires, but soon became aware of the apparent special condemnation in the Church that was reserved for homosexuals.

Hill-Perry loved church and growing up in it felt safe, mostly.

"But safe for saints. So as long as I was willing to take on the task of hiding the parts of me that would make saints clutch their pearls or lift up their nose a bit then I could preserve peace. Naturally, the older I got and the gayer I behaved I wanted nothing to do with church," she said.

As she changed her clothing style and started acting in gender-nonconforming ways, her interactions with Christians became more awkward. It seemed that the only thing they could talk about with her were the passages in Scripture about sexual ethics related to homosexuality, such as Romans 1 and Leviticus 18.

"Which was confusing, because it felt like, if I just looked heterosexual I don't think there would be such weirdness between me and them, this distance between me and them. It was as if my being gay automatically made Christians act less Christian. They knew how to love everyone else easily, except me."

"It seemed so contrary to the way of Jesus to only love people with whom you share similar sexual dispositions with," when in fact everyone is born of wrath, she said, referencing Ephesians.

The failure of Christians to love sexual minorities whose primary identity is as people made in God's image is evidence that Christians have harmed them, she said, adding that that doesn't mean Christians are harmful.

"To make the two synonymous, I think, would be to make an inaccurate generalization of the Church. The Church being big and broad and extending beyond our American borders."

But God is still at work, she said. At 19, the Holy Spirit convicted her amid her struggle and everything that she loved, enjoyed, and identified with she realized did not compare with knowing Jesus, and she knew she had to make a change.

"My repentance was not me going from gay to straight. My repentance was me turning from unbelief to faith."

"And by God's grace, I was empowered to obey all the ways that He commanded me to. And it's not to say that in my repentance, in my turning, that there was not grief."

Repentance proves painful, she added. And the call to repentance for those who identify as LGBT feels like giving up everything that they know and are familiar with in order to follow Christ. The call to repentance seems offensive and foolish to those who are perishing. The label ascribed to Christianity is now "harmful" because of its definitions of morality.

"Christianity is going to be thought of as harmful simply because it interferes with their understanding of rights," she said.

To those who identify as LGBT, they see it as a right to love as they see fit and whoever would seek to undermine this, particularly in God's name, is seen as bigoted.

But it is God who gets to define who and how you love, she said, adding that the Gospel call is not to be confused with a call to heterosexuality.

"God isn't calling gay men and women to be straight. He is calling them to be reconciled back to Himself. And by belonging to Him, even if their same-sex desires persist, which they statistically most likely will, they will love God more than what they are tempted by.

"But until we can get people to understand the crucial point of seeing God as the loveliest One, the Christian faith that exalts Him over and above everything will always look unloving.

"Because Jesus loves people of every orientation or gender identity, His call to follow Him is actually the pathway to joy. And for that reason, Christianity isn't harmful, it's simply an invitation for true love," she said.

The theme of this year's Wilberforce Weekend is "Is Christianity still good for the world?." The three-day conference concludes on Sunday.

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