Jesus’ Memo to the Haters: Worry About Yourselves

Ever year about this time, when Lent starts and Christians begin a journey of spiritual reflection on their relationship with God, it seems like there’s just something that adds even more fuel to the homo- and transphobic fire of the evangelical Christian right’s vision quest to destroy the LGBTQ+ community.

The last two years especially have been about targeting my friends in the trans community.

The latest tragic result, as reported in LGBTQ Nation: A transgender woman in London was attending a roller-staking party with friends “when a group of people attacked her around 7 p.m. She was subjected to slurs and stabbed 14 times.”

It starts in the statehouses, where the avalanche of laws being introduced on the topic of transgenderism has one goal: To legislate us out of existence.

I first wrote about the rising backlash against LGBTQ+ people 25 years ago and sadly, I think the only thing that’s changed since is that the focus of this seemingly bottomless hatred has broadened to encompass the true diversity of our community.

As examples, here are just a few of the choice epithets I’ve been personally subjected to over the last 30-40 years:

Sodomy is an abominable sin, worth of death.

Sodomites are proud of their sin (“gay pride”), and in that prideful state they cannot repent — you cannot repent of something you’re proud of.

There is a hell where all impenitent sinners will reside for all eternity. That includes sodomites (called “dogs”).

Matthew Sheppard has been in hell for 9,125 days.

Homo sex is a sin.

Men with men, and women with women; it is an abomination. (Complete with a do-you-know-your-Bible citation of Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1:18-32.)

God Hates the USA.

God Hates Fag Enablers.

Fags are worthy of Death.

Your Pastor is Lying.

My first response in most of these cases is to mention the story of “Peter the coward” — you know, the apostle who denied even knowing Jesus not once but three times, and after being forgiven by Jesus started whining about John. With Jesus responding:

“If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you? You — follow me.” That is how the rumor got out among the brothers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that is not what Jesus said. He simply said, “If I want him to live until I come again, what’s that to you?”

This speaks volumes to me about focusing on one’s own spiritual journey and relationship with the divine, as opposed to being preoccupied with the paths of others.

The inclusivity demonstrated by Jesus in this passage can also be seen as a theological foundation for advocating LGBTQ+ acceptance within Christian communities today. It implies a call to Christians to practice Jesus’ inclusivity and love, ministering to and accepting all individuals, and recognizing the divine image in every person without discrimination.

By emphasizing the values of love, acceptance, and the pursuit of a personal relationship with God over judgment and exclusion, this scripture continues to offer significant support and comfort to the LGBTQ+ community. It reinforces the belief that everyone is included in the boundless love of the divine, and  it aims to inspire a more inclusive and compassionate approach within Christianity towards all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Yet, I guess it’s just not that easy. I mean why are these people so worked up over the prospect of God loving God’s LGBTQ+ creation and wanting to be in relationship with them?

Then I re-read Luke 15:25-32 and it hit me.

All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast — barbecued beef! — because he has him home safe and sound.’

The older brother stomped off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’

His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours — but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!’

In this story, the older brother is a stand-in for the haters we encounter. They have spent their lives staying the course, going to church every Wednesday and Sunday. They show up at all the church functions without fail.

They pray at every meal. They pray before every game. They pray before tests. They pray before, during, and after church. They pray before going to sleep.

They serve on all the right church committees. They clean the church. They participate in church services by ushering, being greeters and readers, and singing in the choir.

They are the guardians of the money, the keepers of the church property and serve on the committee that calls the Pastor and proclaims that the one called, is most assuredly of God.

They are the keepers of the law, seeing to it that anyone who does not keep the rules is properly punished and removed from the fellowship.

They are the keepers of the moral law even when they may fall short themselves — for after all no truer words have been spoken on their behalf than when the older brother in the story says:

Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!

Substitute “blessings” for money and “the gay lifestyle” for whores, and it all makes sense. And if that still doesn’t resonate for you, how I wish you’d been with me at my local Pride celebration to see them lined up on the street corner with their signs that blindly repeat so many of the epithets I just recounted for you.

For a group of people who ostensibly believe they’re right with God, they sure did look to me like the saddest, angriest and downright unhappy people at Pride. I’m guessing you also know exactly what they — and their signs — look like.

They have missed what God clearly saying to them:

You don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead (out of relationship with God), and he’s alive (back in relationship with God)! He was lost, and he’s found!

Yep, that’s it. Moreover, they’ve become the Peter spoken of at the end of the Gospel of John. Except now they’re whining about LGBTQ+ folks having a place in God’s kingdom too. Maybe they ought to listen more closely to the response of the Messiah.

“They want to get married!” What is that to you? You follow me.

“They want to be ministers!” What is that to you? You follow me.

“They call themselves Christian but have sex outside of marriage!” What is that to you? You follow me.

I will agree that when one comes back into relationship with God and the Christ, one becomes a new person and should attempt to live out a life which “does justice, acts mercifully, and walks humbly with God.” (Micah 6:8)

Even more importantly, it’s about following this command of the Christ: “That you love one another as I have loved you.”  And understanding from the depths of our souls this statement of Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

So, let me ask: Where is the justice in condemning LGBTQ+ people for something they do not choose?

Where is the mercy in denying those same people job protection, health benefits, and the ability to marry and be in covenant with one another?

How is it walking humbly with God to insist in the world which God created, that the definition of sexuality is only their definition of what is natural — and when this definition gets troublesome they simple re-define it so that they continue in the “good Christian” lifestyle.

You see, I believe it was Jesus who said, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”

Those who are the most worried about the LGBTQ+ community living in sin should not be casting stones our way to begin with. With adultery, fornication, divorce, lust, murder, theft, spousal abuse, child abuse, and idolatry still running quite rampant in their own lives, they should have plenty to be concerned about amongst themselves and honestly preoccupied enough with their own glass houses to leave LGBTQ+ people of faith alone.

It all leaves me to wonder: Given all that non-LGBTQ+ people prove (daily) that they’re capable of doing that is horrible before God, could someone please explain to me how Christian heterosexuals can continue living a “straight” lifestyle?

And then I am reminded: What is that to you? You follow me.