I’ve perceived a growing weariness—in some cases, bitterness—among many of my gay Christian friends toward the broader conservative Christian community, and I’ve been feeling it as well. It’s tough to pin down the source of the melancholy.
Perhaps I’m exasperated things haven’t happened more quickly. There’s been increasing momentum for the gay rights movement in the Western world, and I suppose I expected that would translate into increased empathy and understanding among Christians towards their LGBT neighbors. I don’t want or expect the church to change its values merely from a desire to keep up with cultural trends, but I did think this might be an opportunity for us all to learn how to love better in light of our increased understanding of different kinds of people.
Or perhaps I’m impatient with people who ought to know better (or, at least, it sure seems like they ought to know better). Again, I’m not talking here about people’s beliefs about marriage; I’m simply disheartened with people who have been carelessly abrasive towards LGBT people long after they can reasonably excuse it as ignorance or, well, carelessness. To be sure, we’re much, much better now than we were in the past; but I would have expected Christians to be trailblazers in loving people, as they typically are.
Perhaps I’m still feeling more alone than I should. There are many more LGBT and same-sex attracted Christians than there are out LGBT and SSA Christians, but the way many churches often fail to accommodate sexual minorities (and, really, social minorities) and idolize the traditional nuclear family narrative sometimes makes me feel like I’m the only one who doesn’t fit. It feels like many church leaders tend to aim for what’s easiest rather than doing the difficult work of making room for different kinds of people, and that’s disappointing for people whom “what’s easiest” excludes.
Perhaps the problem is that things actually have gotten better to the extent that they’ve drawn into sharper focus how bad things were and how much better things will be. Although my life experience has been mostly positive, I can say with certainty that life is better now than it was, say, five years ago, and it wasn’t until I experienced fuller life that I could recognize the relative emptiness of my life before. Even as things have gotten better and continue to get better, there remains the weariness of knowing things still aren’t there yet. Sometimes it feels like there should be more straight Christians actively pursuing that “better,” that things are only going to improve when greater numbers of people in the majority add their voices to the roar of those minority voices crying out for change. Feeling stuck in the middle between “what was” and “what will be” can be exhausting.
There are times when we’re supposed to cry out prophetic woes to the church, and there are times when we’re supposed to cry out mournful groans to God. For those whose prophetic voices are growing hoarse, consider this your permission to lament to God: No, things are not as they should be. Yes, that ought to make us discontented.
Fortunately, it’s a good time of the year to lament. Advent draws into sharp focus the severe pain of waiting for what we hope—in the sense of “expect”—God will do. We know (even if it’s sometimes hard to believe) the story of a world gone awry does not end with things as they shouldn’t be, and we know God hears our cries for help. Those realities neither invalidate nor deaden our pain, but they do redeem it in the context of God’s bigger story: It doesn’t end this way. In the meantime, we cling to those whiffs of what is to come: those moments when someone does understand and empathize, or when people lay down their weapons in a culture war, or when someone musters up the courage to come out to a faith community that immediately responds with love. Those moments are, like a star hanging in the sky over Bethlehem, signs that alert us to the good that is coming (that is already here!) and reminders that the season we’re in is nothing more than a season. They give us reason to continue hoping when we might feel tempted to despair, and they let us know we’re not hoping in vain.
So, today I lament and hope: Because things are not as they should be, and because—probably sooner than any of us would imagine—God is making and will make things right.
Questions for those who leave comments: If you share this melancholy, what is it you need to lament to God? If you don’t, how do you avoid it in the midst of a world that isn’t as it should be?
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