Let me tell you about Jackie. I don't know the young woman personally; I read about her recently in a recent article from Rolling Stone.
Judging by what the article has to say about her, Jackie seems like an impressive young woman. She's a hard worker who graduated from high school at the top of her class. She's a respectful and dutiful person, religiously devout, and resourceful. Active in school. Active in sports. During her sophomore year at college when she told her parents she was gay, none of that mattered. Her credit cards? Canceled. The phone? Turned off. Her car? Leave it at a certain drop point, or it will be reported stolen.
And the thought of coming home and seeing her family again? Let's not even go there.
The Rolling Stone article interweaves Jackie's story with those of other teens and young adults in her situation. Of an estimated 1.7 million homeless teens nationwide, the Rolling Stone article notes that an estimated 40 percent of those teens identify as LBGT when they seek services. There's no way to know how many of them have stories that parallel Jackie's, but those who do are the shameful legacy of the church from the past 30 years.
There have been ominous warnings about the homosexual agenda and the grave danger it poses to the American family, vicious and unfounded stereotypes about gays preying on young children. And as gay marriage has gained acceptability in society, it hasn't been enough for the church to lament a moral decline in the nation, we've also had to claim that gays are persecuting us by asking the state to recognize their unions and for businesses to treat them like any other customer.
This sort of talk, and this sort of fear, don't exist in a vacuum. They have a cost.
These youth are paying that cost. They are our legacy. When we use words like "abomination" so loosely, we teach people that they are worth less if they are gay.
When we call gay marriage an assault on marriage itself, we cast gays themselves as the enemy of marriage.
When we talk about "the homosexual agenda" driven by liberals and the media, we divide the nation and even families into opposing camps, the "good" side of us, and the "evil" side of them. Kids trust and respect their parents. What kind of message is that to receive your entire childhood?
When we wield Scripture like a club to settle an argument, we make ourselves secure in the rightness of our cause, but we also tell people that they're going to hell because of an instinctive attraction that they have no control over. Everyone else can see how self-righteous that is. Why can't we?
When we "hate the sin and love the sinner," what we really are doing is hating the sinner too, but glossing it over by saying that we'll show them that love once they stop doing what we object to. God's response is to pursue the sinner; ours is "to hand them over to Satan" and drive them out lest they corrupt the whole batch. (To our collective shame, this is exactly what John MacArthur advocates we do with our gay children, and he is a respected minister.)
People make a big deal over the silence of Jesus on the subject of homosexuality, but here's what it really boils down to. We don't know where Jesus stood on the moral nature of homosexuality. He never said. What we do know is that he stood firmly on the side of human dignity and respect.
It is entirely possible (though not, all things considered, very likely) that one of my daughters may at some point come to me and say, "Dad, I'm gay." The only response acceptable at that point is to say "I love you" -- because, in the end, that's what people need to hear.
That message is not one often shared in church the past 27 years, and people like Jackie are paying the cost.
Copyright © 2014 by David Learn. Used with permission.