Thanks to evidence offered by the same sex attraction (SSA) and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, Christian understandings of sexuality and acceptance are being reevaluated, Dr. David P. Gushee said on Sunday night during a lecture at the Robinson Teaching Theatre.
Gushee’s lecture titled “Changing Our Mind: My Journey as a Christian Ethicist toward full LGBT Acceptance” brought students, faculty, and community members alike to fill the Robinson Teaching Theatre at Whitworth University. The issue of sexuality and gender in the Christian community is one that Whitworth University is currently evaluating while working toward deciding whether or not to include sexual orientation in the information given by faculty and staff.
“There are a lot of LGBT or ally Christians on the fringes,” said Gushee, and “there is growing social intolerance of intolerance” that has been happening over the last ten years within society. When issues get controversial, people tend to lose their love for one another and are left only with argument, said Gushee. This argumentation is all too familiar among Christians, especially when it comes to interpreting the Bible. The Bible does not say—we theorize, said Gushee. The argument of deciding whether a person’s interpretation of the Bible does or does not support same sex attraction is just that—an interpretation.
According to Gushee, there are three main groups of Christians when conflict arises, including conflict of whether to accept people of the LGBT community: 1.) Traditionalists that say same sex attraction is never ok, 2.) Revisionists that want to reevaluate the situation, reinterpret the Bible, and see if any changes need to be made, and 3.) Avoiders that do not want to talk about the conflict at all.
Due to long-standing traditional assumptions, Christians have often been seen as anti-gay because of their continued participation in anti-gay rhetoric, activism, and legislation. LGBT Christians are everywhere, said Gushee, and because this is the case, other Christians must share community with them while wrestling over the issues at hand. Gushee, quoting the late Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, said “we must respond to people in their reality” not in ours. If Christians want to be fully accepting of and loving toward the LGBT community, then it must be on their terms.
Christians must start taking a posture of humility when beginning to move toward acceptance of the LGBT community. Wanting to change who they are or “love the sinner and hate the sin” as one audience member said is counterproductive and only leads to contempt of the person. In order to have full acceptance of SSA and LGBT people/Christians then slurs and bullying, criminalization, civil discrimination, violence, stigmatization and contempt, and blaming all must end. These things are what Gushee called the “mandatory minimums” that Christians must meet.
According to John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The God mentioned in John 3:16 is the God of whoever believes in Him—including SSA and LGBT people, said Gushee. To change minds we must first change hearts, and a change in heart can only come from having relationships with those being marginalized.
What better place to discuss mind and heart than at Whitworth? As a part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and being active in pursuing to change how Christians view the acceptance of the LGBT community into the church, Gushee said “Whitworth may be in the best position in the Christian college world to make a change.”