Christ Lutheran Church on Main Street in Hellertown recently started to display a rainbow flag on its building exterior because it represents an aspect of our Faith Statement: “We welcome all persons into our midst, without regard to race, age, gender, sexual orientation or abilities.”
Why hang the rainbow flag, a symbol of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) community on our front wall? Isn’t the Bible against homosexual relationships? Doesn’t Christianity speak against such behaviors?
Our church believes that faith is informed by a variety of ingredients, such as scripture, experience, reason, science and revelation of God to each person. Good and faithful Christians will disagree on issues concerning the LGBTQ community. Our faith community wants to stand in solidarity with them. Over the years, the church has made specific welcomes to persecuted groups of people who are lovers of God and Jesus, but are excluded by segments of society and certain church groups. We specifically want the LGBTQ community to know that they have nothing to fear within our walls, and that “They are welcomed here!” We do not need to change them or rehabilitate them. They were made in the image of God, as I have been. As my heterosexual orientation was not a choice for me, likewise, their sexual identity/orientation was not a choice for them.
Years ago, I needed to open my ears and heart to specific friends who struggled with being gay. They loved God and Jesus, sought to follow Jesus’ teachings and struggled with who they were, how God made them. They struggled with societal perceptions. Some to this day remain closeted, hidden and vulnerable, due to fears of being persecuted. Their fears can be justified, as once again a person with extremist, homophobic religious views has committed an act of hate against the gay community. Just a few days ago a gunman committed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse–a gay nightclub in Orlando. He murdered 49 and injured 53 more members and friends of the LGBTQ community. The Church at its best is a sanctuary from this type of evil; a place of rest, love, welcome and grace.
Some Christians tell me homosexuality goes against scripture. They point to, Leviticus 18:22, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” But they steer clear of, Leviticus 20:13, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.” It would scare me if any person agreed with that verse, but we know some do. As a Lutheran clergy member I need to condemn such scripture, using science, reason, my experience and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life to speak truth today as I best understand.
I hear in these verses words of “fear of the other.” I hear a fear of people who were misunderstood and different. That was then. We have evolved. We know that “normal” today includes all kinds of people, who are not white, heterosexual, middle class males. We know that “normal” includes people who have different skin colors and speak different languages. Some are left-handed, and some are born without hands. Others are tall, some very short, some with blond hair, others with none. Some are gay, queer, transgendered, bisexual, heterosexual or lesbian. This is normal. We are a beautiful tapestry of people, all created by God in the image of God. I am evolving. I am a work in progress. I am growing in accepting people who are different from me. It’s work. For me, this is the challenge of the Christian life: Seeing the world through more Christ-like eyes. Jesus was a master at loving those marginalized by society: women, children, people who are sick and tax collectors. He never mentioned anything about LGBTQ issues, as a side note. We do well to model Jesus’ ability to see the divine in others–in all others.
The Rev. Philip Spohn is pastor of Christ Lutheran Hellertown, which is located at 69 Main St., Hellertown, Pa.