You Should Stop Going To Your Non-Affirming Church. (Seriously.)
My little brother goes to an evangelical megachurch out in Denver. I went with him one Sunday with his wife. For a while I was just relieved my brother was getting back into church of any kind because, frankly, I was concerned for his spiritual health.
Now, I kind of wish he’d leave.
The church he goes to is what Church Clarity would call unclear: non-affirming, meaning that the church doesn’t have an officially stated policy on LGBTQ participation, however based on sermons and other front-facing information on their website leads one to believe that they are not-affirming of queer folks.
When I went with him on that Sunday, it was an all too familiar scene that you might be familiar with if you’ve ever been to a mega church concer–I mean worship service.
They are super nice, have mostly white folks but there are a few faces of color floating in the lobby and holding doors with huge, enthusiastic grins. (These POCs also happened to be featured in the video announcements so they can show off how diverse they are.)
You go find your seat in one of the numerous sections, about halfway up. House is packed, and then the lights dim as the worship leader starts to mumble some ad hoc prayer where he (always a he) shouts Jesus’ name a lot and, in one form or another, invokes the rest of the Trinity to be present or something to that effect. (Chains broken, eyes opened, ya know, the usual jargon.) It’s all very emotional, and the music is like… pretty good?
Like these are good musicians and vocalists. And they get to the end of the set where there is this ballad love song to your boyfriend (Jesus), and man… ur just… really feeling it.
Pastor gets up and subtly shades everyone for not praying enough and also not tithing while also talking for nearly 45 minutes (at least it feels that way) about his (always a his) smoking hot wife and how they build each other up. The sermon was like applicable but also like accessible and quotes a few verses of the Bible out of context, and then the pastor disregards the passages in order to give you his opinion of something pointless, ya know?
Eventually they talk about the blood and the body. You consume your chicklet and grape juice Jesus, go back to your seat, throw a few bucks in the buckets they are passing around the buckets and then you leave and go eat somewhere.
And it seems harmless! They’ve got childcare. They’re nice. They say that “everyone is welcome.” It feels like everyone is welcome.
But not everyone is.
And you’d never know.
I’ve written my story about my experience going to a non-affirming church that seemed welcoming and even told me I was welcome to fully participate, that was until I actually wanted to volunteer as a bible study leader. Even though I was more than qualified for this volunteer position and had numerous years of ministry experience, I was told “Well, it would be the leadership making a statement [about LGBTQ] people that we aren’t ready to make yet.”
Allowing me to lead would be tacit approval, and they couldn’t let it get out that queer folks exist and are capable of leading and discipling people in the way of Jesus Christ, like any other human. (That’s my inference.)
And my story isn’t even that uncommon. How many queer worship leaders have been kicked out when they came out? How many parents stopped talking to their kids when they told them who they really were? How many of my friends have cut ties with their families because they are too toxic?
What I don’t understand is that even with the knowledge of what is happening to queer people in non–denom, hipster, evangelical churches/ megachurches, why folks I would consider my friends are still attending those churches and supporting their ministries.
You see the biggest problem facing the movement for LGBTQ inclusion in the Church is not the outright hateful and hostile churches. It’s not the Southern Baptist Convention and it certainly isn’t the Westboro Baptist Church or any other hate group.
It is, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so aptly observed, the white moderate Christians who believing in equity but don’t say a damn thing because they stand to lose a lot. Or believe that we’re asking too much, too soon, too fast.
Please tell me: when would be a more convenient time to ask for my equity? To be treated like everyone else, to have my dignity recognized by your people?
Advocacy is not a secret hobby. Allyship is not a part-time job. And if you consider yourself a friend to the queer community who is too afraid to engage with this conversation, it is time you asked yourself why.
Why am I afraid to talk about this?
What am I afraid of losing?
Who am I afraid of losing?
And most importantly,
If I don’t tell the truth about who I am, what I believe about God and who God loves, will I be able to live with myself?
Can you live in a way that is incongruent with your convictions? With what the Spirit is saying to you? Are you not going to follow where Jesus leads you?
I tell you the truth, it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than it is for a comfortable white moderate to enter the kingdom of heaven.
As someone who hid myself for most of my life, I can tell you, easily, your duplicit nature will tear you apart.
If you have a queer person in your life, a friend or sibling or family member, and you believe that you love them, why the fuck are you staying at a place that won’t treat them like everyone else? Why would you support a ministry that would actively discriminate and alienate people you love?
“Oh well ya know they are so good about things like racial justice, and they really make an emphasis around loving each other across differences.”
Not good enough. This isn’t theological difference. This is about the dignity of every queer human and whether or not we are seen as equal before God. The behavior and policies of a church are a comment of how they ultimately see queer folks, and folks who attend it are, my proxy, endorsing that.
I don’t care if they’ve got the best kids programs. I don’t care if the music is incredible. I don’t care if the ministry is anointed. I don’t care if you started this church with your best friend. If a church would not allow an LGBTQ person to fully participate in the life your church, and you strive to be an ally, you should leave.
Unless you are an individual who is specifically attending a non-affirming church in order to do advocacy work in a church, making moves to help either clarify policy or push for policy change, you should leave your non-affirming church.
Anything else is being complicit in spiritual violence.