Young evangelical leader endorses employment protections in USA Today
April 20, 2009
Jonathan Merritt, a 26-year-old faith and culture writer who serves as national spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative, has a must-read post up at USA Today that encourages self-professed Christians to do away with "rhetorical onslaughts" against LGBT people and take a deeper look at the way Jesus treated people who were marginalized by society:
Most people know Jesus was amazingly compassionate toward marginalized sinners. Prostitutes, drunks and, worst of all, tax collectors they were some of Jesus' closest friends. And while the religious aristocracy of Jesus' day was finding new ways to express sin-hate, Jesus was busy loving every sinner he could find. The contrast between 21st century Christianity and the Jesus of the Bible is stark. This Jesus the compassionate, loving, "friend of sinners" is difficult to reconcile with an often disconnected, insular, us-vs.-them Christianity. Many Christians today live in opposition to the teachings of our Lord. They use harsh language when speaking to, or more commonly, about their gay neighbors. Sadly, this doesn't just emanate from the "God Hates Fags" crazies, but from everyday Christians in everyday churches. Evangelicals often speak of lesbians and gay men as if they have some sort of medical disease that we experts have diagnosed and can easily cure with a simple, biblical prescription.
Merritt holds that even Christians who oppose marriage equality due to their religious convictions should be able to support protections against employment discrimination:
The most robust description of love in all of Scripture comes from 1 Corinthians 13, which says, "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged." If Christians' language were marked by these characteristics humility, kindness and grace it would ease tensions and open up avenues for dialogue. It is time for evangelical Christians to reform our rhetoric. This means doing away with clichs such as the infamous "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Self-gratifying monologues are neither helpful nor loving. These slogans make good bumper stickers, but they're lousy conversation starters. We must begin talking with our gay and lesbian neighbors in meaningful ways. And it doesn't end with dialogue. Let us not forget that love is not only a noun, but also a verb. Love is an action. Our assertions that we love our neighbors must be accompanied by visible expressions of that love. Therefore, we need to begin looking for ways to affirm, rather than undermine, our claims to love our gay neighbors. As Christians, we clearly won't be able to support any and everything. For example, our biblical convictions prohibit a redefinition of marriage. Yet, there are other areas where we may be able to offer support. We should support protecting our gay and lesbian neighbors from discrimination in the workplace and cleaning up the legal cobwebs that govern hospital visitation rights and inheritance for same-sex couples.
And lastly, Merritt has some choice words for right-wing opponents of LGBT rights:
Unfortunately, some evangelical groups, such as the Family Research Council and Vision America, oppose even minor concessions, claiming we should not "normalize" homosexuality in our culture. But, these groups seemingly fail to realize that our role as Christians is not to delegitimize the existence of those who do not share our beliefs. Our job is to mirror Christ by loving people in spite of our differences and advocating for our culture's disenfranchised groups. Only then can we effectively share with them the reasons that we believe our beliefs are most compelling. We don't have to compromise our convictions to do this. As Christians, we remain committed to the truth. Failing to speak the truth is both disingenuous and the antithesis of love.
Read his entire post here. It's an encouraging reminder that young evangelicals are rejecting the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric against LGBT people favored by their elders and are choosing to express their faith with a more inclusive attitude.
May 23, 2013
Issues: Religion & Faith
May 2, 2013