I don't want to sound critical, and I'm not bitter or angry. But I am grieved. And burdened. So I will raise my voice like a trumpet and say it plainly and clearly: The relative silence of our pulpits has helped plunged us into our current moral morass. Do we have the courage and integrity to face this?
I'm not talking about pastors and leaders becoming political. That's the farthest thing from my mind.
But I am talking about pastors and leaders becoming prophetic. I am talking about us speaking the truth in love, regardless of cost or consequence. Confronting sin in the church as well as in the society. Conforming to the image of God rather than the image of the world. Concentrating on obedience more than relevance, on pleasing God more than entertaining people.
I'm talking about pastors and leaders who are more concerned with divine approval than with human approval. More interested in making a lasting impact than having a big budget. Following the example of Jesus and the apostles – even if it leads to rejection, persecution, and death – rather than following a successful business model. (Yes, I get it. Sometimes the business world can teach us something. But all too often, what drives us is earthy success rather than kingdom sacrifice.)
Of course, I've written and spoken on these topics for years, but I'm stirred to do so afresh in light of the reaction to our recent video "Can You Be Gay and Christian?") (If you follow my articles at all, then you're quite aware of what's going on. We still your need your help and solidarity.)
We've received a torrent of horrific comments. A flood of vile death wishes. The most vulgar, almost unimaginable attacks against God. Responses pouring in by the thousands. YouTube demonetizing the video. Google reminding us of their guidelines against "hateful" content. And commenter after commenter expressing their absolute shock that anyone in our day and age could be so bigoted as to think God made men for women and women for men.
To quote one comment from among thousands (and a milder one at that), "What a c--t. He's stuck in the 40's and I honestly feel sorry for him. He's blinded by his lack of intellectual thought process." Or, in broader terms, from another commenter, "The bible is not honest. It's a s--t middle eastern jew book from crazyland. You monkeys have all been conned."
That's what people are thinking. Christian conservatives are living in the dark ages. We're ancient fossils, soon to be forgotten. We're out of touch and out of our minds.
This is the response we get for simply laying out what the Church (and Synagogue and Mosque) have believed throughout history, virtually without debate, until recent years.
But what shocks me is not that so many people are angry. Or hateful. Or vile.
What shocks me is that so many people are shocked. It's as if they had no idea we still believe what we have always believed.
But there's a reason for that.
How many pastors and leaders have preached even one clear message on the Bible and homosexuality in the last year? How many such messages have you seen on TV or heard on the radio or listened to in person?
No wonder so many LGBT's are surprised. The Church has gone radio silent.
Worse still are the ambiguous messages that we preach on the subject. A subject, I remind you, that our kids and grandkids deal with day and night on social media and in school and with friends. A subject ever before us on TV in the movies. A subject shouting at us from the courtrooms of the nation. A subject that affects most of our families and lives.
Yet there is deafening silence from the pulpits. Or the message is so confusing that the one thing that's clear is that nothing is clear.
In the interest of offending no one, we offend God. In the interest of not wanting to make anyone feel uncomfortable, we help no one escape from discomfort.
As Paul wrote in another context, "If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?" (1 Cor. 14:7-8)
The Church has not gotten ready for the battle of the ages – I mean a moral and spiritual and cultural battle, not a physical battle – because too many pastors and leaders have given "an indistinct sound" (or no sound at all).
Ironically, for years now, whenever I'm asked to speak on this subject, there's a line of people waiting to talk with me, many with tears. They need counsel about their gay teen. They need to tell me about the spouse that left them for a same-sex partner.
And every time, I ask myself, "Why is there a line of people waiting for me? Where are the other pastors and leaders and teachers? Why is it that so few are willing to stand?"
I also meet the smiling, even glowing, ex-gays. They too thank me for speaking the truth in love, feeling that I'm wiling to take on their bullies. Otherwise, they often feel alone. How can this be?
I've had publishers tell me, "Your book is great, but we can't possibly touch it."
I've had PR firms tell me, "This is too hot a topic for us today."
I've had major Christian ministries say, "There's no way we can go near this. It's way too controversial."
And in doing so, they're doing what Jesus warned about: trying to save their lives rather than obey. Trying to be loved and accepted and financed (!) by the very world that rejected the Savior. Really now, do you think any of us on the front lines here enjoy the filth and opposition we're exposed to day and night?
In the upside-down world in which we live, when I put out a loving, 6-minute, fair-minded, non-bashing, video on the Bible and homosexual practice I get bashed and vilified and mocked and maligned, with a concerted effort made to hurt our ministry work. (This happens to the others who dare stand for truth.) Then, to add insult to injury, I get warned by the media giants about "hateful" content.
Yet the people who weigh in with murderous, hate-filled comments are considered the tolerant, loving ones.
Talk about calling good evil and evil good. Talk about calling light darkness and darkness light.
Yet so much of this has happened because the Church has been largely silent.
Without a burden. Without a voice. Sometimes without a prayer. How can this be?
It's true that our leaders are doing much good in many ways. It's also true that we have been compromised, fearful, spineless, and visionless when it comes to one of the greatest moral crises in history.
If we don't unmuzzle ourselves today, we will be muzzled by others tomorrow. Which will it be?