June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and every year seems to turn into more of a spectacle than the last. With seemingly every major corporation changing their social media favicons to a version of their logo with rainbow colors and releasing statements about their commitment to equity, no one wants to be seen as retrograde.
That is, except for those who actually are retrograde.
As someone who holds to a traditional view of sexual ethics and runs in circles with people with similar theological positions, I’ve noticed an unsettling uptick in vitriol and harmful language against the LGBTQ community in the past week, along with an ample about of fear mongering and political punditry.
Contention over Pride Month has even become part of Major League Baseball, with some players raising concerns of religious liberty in opting not to wear rainbow clad uniforms during games.
As someone who holds to the historic Christian faith and its view of sexuality, but also as someone who understands that we live in a pluralistic society where that view is no longer anywhere approaching the majority view, navigating a month like June can feel incredibly complicated.
Layer onto that complexity a personal relationship you have with someone who identifies as LGBTQ and it can feel nothing short of paralyzing.
No matter what you say, or don’t say, you’re likely to draw criticism from either “camp.” And if you’re anything like me, you’re trying to enjoy the warmer weather and longer hours of sunlight that come with June, not actively lob grenades into important relationships in your life.
Be that as it may, because of the centrality of this topic in defining so many other aspects of our lives and society, it’s important to stay engaged. And while I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers, here are at least two mistakes I see Christians make that I think we should avoid.
Mistake 1: Seeking to Overcorrect for the Prominence of LGBTQ Messaging.
Pride Month, like so many other things in our society, has become deeply commoditized. There is money to be made, merch to be sold, customers to attract. And whenever that’s the case, we find no shortage of virtue signaling.
For example, Burger King’s Austria marketing department has announced that the fast food chain will be selling “Pride Whoppers” this month, which are Whoppers with either two top buns or two bottom buns. The level of frivolity required for such a marketing stunt feels more fit for a Saturday Night Live sketch than at the center of the PR strategy for a global corporation. I don’t imagine anybody who thinks seriously about these issues would consider “Pride Whoppers” to be a genuine act of advocacy.
And though this is perhaps among the worst examples of the frivolous commoditization of LGBTQ+ Pride we will see this month, it is still only one of many examples.
And because a right doctrine of human sexuality is so important to so many Christians, it isn’t that difficult to genuinely frustrate them with this type of messaging. Unfortunately, that leads them to have a tendency to overcorrect, matching the level of frivolity of the thing they are responding to. The prevailing wisdom being that if “the other side” is coming out hard, we need to come out even harder.
In some cases, that frivolity gives way to vitriol and such strongly worded denunciations that it closes the door to any genuine conversation you may have previously been afforded with a queer person in your life.
The LGBTQ+ people in your life see what you post online. They hear what you mutter under your breath in person. They can tell the way you feel about them by the way you look at them. And if you convey a mocking or biting tone pointed in their direction, while they may not ever speak of it to you, they will quietly realize that you are not a safe person to share their life with and adjust accordingly.
You don’t need to spend the entire month responding to every online post about Pride that even so much as mildly annoys you. In fact, that’s the opposite of what you should be doing.
Instead, what we too often see are Christians sniping at other Christians for not being vitriolic enough, somehow implying that not consistently and vocally offering a round and brutal denunciation means they are “soft” on the issue.
Nevertheless, if you are known to be a Christian by the people in your life, they likely all can assume where you stand on issues of sexuality. What they might not know is how much Jesus loves them exactly where they are. Spend the month seeking to convey that message.
Mistake 2: Denying the Harm That Has Been Done to the LGBTQ Community in the Name of Jesus, and Doubling Down on It.
While Christians may have deeply held convictions that stand in contrast to those of the LGBTQ+ community, we must never let those differences of worldview give way to hate.
Far too often, we have.
When we look at the history of the LGBTQ+ community’s relationship with the Christian faith and church, if we are to build any bridge with them, we have to understand that we are starting from a steep deficit of trust.
Through the generations, LGBTQ+ individuals have consistently been made the subject of ridicule, exclusion, and even physical violence. They have been kicked out of their Christian families and communities, their feelings and experiences have been left unvalidated, and at times their very lives have been put in jeopardy in the name of “proper theology.”
We must begin this conversation with a contrite acknowledgement that, unlike Jesus, we have not always been a friend to people on the margins. When we look at the stories of Jesus’ life, while he never changed his views on what he defined as righteous or unrighteous based on his personal relationships, he never let those differences keep him from sharing a table with those individuals.
Of course, we want everyone in our lives to come to a proper knowledge of the truth and to live in light of it. But if that truth is not wrapped in love—true, genuine, unconditional love—then it will simply be “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).
In that journey, we must also come face-to-face with the fact that we ourselves still have not completely aligned our own lives with the truth. Our lives contain unreconciled hypocrisies. And we have often wronged the LGBTQ+ community.
You don’t have to change your theology to acknowledge that. You just have to take the theology you already have more seriously.
There may be opportunities for you to engage in good faith discussions with someone you care about this month. If you do, always keep love at the forefront. Refuse to treat them as a lesser person—not as some kind of tactic, but because they genuinely are your equal.
This June, may our Christian community not be known by what we stand against. May we be known for what we stand for: love, grace, and reconciliation.