Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians and seekers, I want to ask you all a very important question. Are we worth it? Do you believe that we are worth as much as hetero Christians? I know I’m being blunt, but we have no time to waste on subtlety. Our very lives are under fire from the Religious Right, so the quicker this question gets an answer, the better it will be for every one of us.
Straight Christians, so often hostile to us, are very much in love with themselves. Walk into any Christian bookstore, and just behold the gifts and trinkets they lavish upon themselves. We know that many of them hate us, but seldom do we stop to think about how much they love themselves. The second point may, indeed, be far more important to us than the first. And, as such, it deserves our urgent attention.
Notice that, on TBN, Daystar, the 700 Club and the like, appeals for money are made not only with silver-tongued glibness, but with the assurance of those who know their needs will be met. They, of course, would say that God is meeting those needs. Some of my readers might expect me to argue with that assertion, but I have no quarrel with it at all. God meets their needs, to a large degree, by instilling in them “His” love for them so deeply that they may rest assured of it. Thus, they love themselves enough to believe they are worthy of ministries that share God’s love with them.
Many who minister to the GLBT community beat their heads against the wall in bafflement. Why don’t gay Christians give as generously as do straight ones? We are tempted to think it is because gay Christians simply care less — that relationship with God is less important to them than it is to straights. I, however, do not believe that for a minute.
I refuse to succumb to the homophobia of the anti-gay elements in the Church. And that is exactly what such an underestimation of gay Christians’ devotion is. It is all too easy to be poisoned by homophobia when it is all around us, like the very air that we breathe. Not only do some who minister to sexual minorities tend to feel the effects of that poison, but so, too, do a great many of those to whom we minister.
Do we see ourselves as worth it? Do we believe that we deserve good preaching, good music, good reading, study helps, words of encouragement and all the rest of it just as much as straight Christians do? It certainly does seem as if those who complain they must contribute to the ministries that serve them — as if somehow, miraculously, these ministries could survive without support — do so because they do not feel that they are worth being ministered to. And that is sad, indeed.
There is a huge glut of ministries to straight Christians, particularly of the Right-Wing variety. They are stepping all over each other in a virtual hair-pulling, eye-gouging stampede. While for GLBT believers and seekers, there is hardly anything at all. Just a few, lonely voices, crying out in the wilderness and fainting of hunger and thirst. No matter how many new Right-Wing ministries spring up — including those that are most antagonistic toward sexual minorities — there always seems to be more than enough time, talent and treasure to support every one of them.
No wonder so many in our community worldwide feel so lost and alone. How could they help but wonder if they have a friend in all the world? Those in large cities, in relatively progressive countries, forget the arid, loveless and hopeless conditions — the state of spiritual drought and starvation — that exist in so many smaller towns, rural regions and less-enlightened lands. If you find it difficult to imagine what I mean, just remember that our experience is shared by only a tiny minority around the globe. There but by the sheerest grace of God go we.
The economy of Christian ministry is different (or at any rate, ought to be) than the economy of the world. The reason some ministries seem to be “free” to the public is so that those who cannot afford to pay for them can be nourished by them. The economy of the Gospel is the economy of generosity. But when those who can afford to contribute at least something give nothing, that is a good way to get “free” ministries to go away — or, in order to survive at all, to go commercial. Next time we decry the fact that a price-tag is so often put on the Gospel, we need to recall this very elementary fact.
Most ministries function similarly to churches. My congregation has several homeless members, and at least a few more who live below the poverty line. They can’t put much of anything into the collection plate each Sunday — nor do the rest of us expect them to. There are also a lot of affluent members in our congregation, and most of the rest of us do all right. If none of us put anything into the collection plate because admittance to the church is “free,” then very shortly our sanctuary doors would have to close forever.
It is not Candace’s ambition to ride in a block-long limo with steer horns on the front fender, or to live on an estate the size of Donald Trump’s. Nor are such ambitions mine, or those of anyone else associated with Whosoever. If they were, believe me, we’d be doing something very different than putting out a magazine for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians. Every GLBT Christian ministry I have ever known of lives from month to month on little more than hope and prayer, wondering how next month’s bills are going to be paid. Quite a number of them are paid out of the pockets of those who work for that ministry — people who have no more money than do those to whom they minister.
I still watch many of the programs on Daystar and the TBN, and I regularly listen to my local contemporary Christian music station. But I do not pledge to them, because at least a few of their programs bash gays. Unfortunately, I cannot fund only what I like about them without also funding what I find morally wrong. So all the time, talent and treasure I can spare go toward GLBT ministries. To watch the vehicles of Religious Right power grow fatter and bolder with each passing day, while at the same time contentedly watching ministries to sexual minorities die of starvation, is spiritual suicide.
How does one go about giving? First of all, remember that nobody can make you give more than you are willing or able. The reason most ministries ask for pledges is because this gives them some way of budgeting their funds and planning ahead as to what to do with them. I have never been able to understand why, simply because they cannot pledge a lot, so many people are ashamed to pledge anything. Believe me, a little goes much farther than nothing at all.
Once other people see that giving a little is appreciated a lot, they may themselves feel more like giving. Most ministries do better with a little from a lot of different people than they do with a lot from a mere few. It is very important, to a responsible Christian ministry, to help not only those who may benefit from the money given, but also those who give out of faithful hearts. Many people, each contributing just a little, are still many people becoming more involved in ministry. Jesus praised the widow for putting her small coin into the treasury not only because of what that small coin could do, but even more because of what a spirit of giving, of generosity toward God, was doing for that widow.
The test of the value of any ministry is this: is it as good for the giver as it is for those given-to? When it comes to genuinely Spirit-led Christian ministries, the answer will always be a hearty yes. Ministries like Whosoever nourish the souls of those who read it. It can nourish souls only because it exists. Therefore, keeping it in existence is definitely in the spiritual best interest of anyone contributing to its support.
There is an additional boon in giving to Christian ministry. It makes all who give to it partners in the work being done. By contributing financially to its support, we also help to shape the work being done. This is true, unfortunately, regardless of whether that work be for good or ill. Every believer who contributes to the work of the Christian Coalition, for example, or to Dr. James Dobson and his Focus on the Family, is working toward the destruction of the lives of other human beings.
If we do not believe that to be a ministry in which followers of Christ should be involved, then simply sitting still in silent isolation, and impotently resenting all the time, talent and treasure being expended to harm people and ruin lives, is a pretty ineffective way of responding to the problem. How many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people — particularly youngsters — are driven out of their homes, or even to suicide, as a result of the work of “ministries” that spread lies about them? Every decision a Christian makes as to how he or she will contribute to the work of the Gospel — even the decision to do nothing — has profound consequences. Every dollar withheld from a wrongheaded ministry counts. But every one of those withheld dollars, when contributed, instead, to a ministry helping to right those wrongs, counts for a hundred percent more.
A huge percentage of those convicted of hate crimes against sexual minorities cite “religious” reasons for their deeds. It is impossible to claim, with any credibility, that anti-gay “Christian” ministries do not contribute to the many beatings, rapes, tortures and murders that are committed every year. Every dollar contributed to a ministry that tells the truth about our lives, and that promotes the protection of the rights of all human beings, is not only a dollar that liars and hate-mongers will never get, but one that will go toward saving lives instead of possibly destroying or prematurely ending them. One day, all followers of Christ will be asked to account for how they used what was given to them. As Christ’s own Parable of the Talents makes clear (Matthew 25:14-30), simply burying it under the dirt is not an option He will deem acceptable.
Of course I’m going to be told that what Right-Wing preachers so often do, in indirectly suggesting murder and mayhem against sexual minorities instead of calling for it openly, is “not as bad” as what radical Islamist mullahs do when they do, indeed, openly command it. This sort of hairsplitting is true as far as it goes. But though the snake’s backbone may be higher than its belly, it’s all still the same snake. If “just a little bit better” than Middle Eastern radicals is good enough for American Christians, then those terrorists, with their mere handful of boxcutters, really did conquer us. Right-Wing Christians willing to settle for such excuses are allowing radical Islamists to set their standards for them instead of Jesus Christ — and, in making their lame excuses, they are attempting to lie to God.
Does it excuse the actions of gay-bashers because they got their ideas somewhere else — very often even from supposedly “Christian” ministries? Of course not, and I am in no way trying to claim that it does. But ideas have legs; they don’t just sit there after they are given utterance, they get up and walk around. Very often they run off in totally unexpected directions, so fast that nobody can catch them. It is for this reason, I believe, perhaps more than any other, that Jesus warned we will be held accountable for every careless word we say (Matthew 12:36-37).
If you give to a ministry that gives people the idea that it’s “godly” to do harm to others, then you ARE morally responsible — and very much so — for any hurt that they may cause. Sorry if some don’t like that, but there it is. If you further an idea that leads to murder — knowing full well (as you surely do, if you bother to keep up with the news) that this sort of idea CAN lead to murder — then if the crime is committed, the blood is on your hands, too. There are “ministries” out there that are encouraging people to sin grievously, in fact to ruin their very souls, while there are other ministries that are attempting to bring about the understanding that can literally save lives as well as souls. Because of the sheer number, monetary wealth, political power and media influence of those doing the damage, I personally believe that to sit there and do nothing to counteract them is little different than actually supporting them.
What sort of a legacy do each of us wish to leave? The ministries a believer in Christ chooses to support are very much a part of the legacy that will live beyond that individual’s death. It can have vastly far-reaching and enduring effects. It is not for nothing that so many people leave provisions to their favorite causes or charities after their decease. Most obituaries offer revealing hints into what these souls will have to say for themselves at the very Throne of God.
Whosoever is a competitor in the arena of ideas. As the very purpose of this magazine is the consideration of ideas, this means that this one ministry profoundly influences an untold (and perhaps unfathomable) number of others. There are few ministries to which any Christian might give that can make even a widow’s mite march a thousand miles. I consider myself abundantly blessed that I happen to contribute to one of them.
Those who would incite murder against us certainly believe themselves worth the time, talent and treasure they invest in the ministries important to them. I believe that I’m worth at least as much as they are. And I believe that you are, too.
A self-described “Libertarian Episcopalian lesbian,” freelance writer and the author of Good Clowns, a young adult novel published in 2018, Lori Heine published a blog called Born on 9-11 and was a frequent contributor to the website Liberty Unbound. A native of Phoenix, Ariz., she graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1988 and spent much of her life in the insurance industry before turning full-time to writing as a freelancer, blogger and author.