Last night, I was on Twitter discussing the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Summit. Unsurprisingly, there is still a lot of ignorance in the Southern Baptist Convention about LGBTQ people and issues. I won’t waste time quoting the worst of it; you can easily search for it if you’re that curious.
What I found interesting was the ensuing discussion about building bridges. Just the term building bridges is often so loaded that it can be hard to have a conversation about it. It’s been used to mean everything from asking LGBTQ Christians to make the first move to progressive Christians who won’t take a firm stand but want dialogue to liberal Christian allies sharing the burden for reconciliation. There’s disagreement on all sides about whether any or all of those things are good.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been much of a bridge-builder. I’m pretty fierce when it comes to standing with those I love. When I was new to blogging about these things, I was in a much darker place than I am now. I was immersed in a church culture that seemed intentionally unloving towards LGBTQ people while putting on a good face. There was nothing in me that wanted to bring people together—I wanted them to change their minds!
To an extent, I still feel that way. But now, I also believe it’s my responsibility to use my perceived privilege to reach out to people who might not be sure how to take that next step. I’m still not convinced that “I don’t care if you’re gay, but you shouldn’t be in a relationship” is terribly loving. In fact, I’m sure it’s not. On the other hand, I don’t need to be hostile about it, either. That’s the point at which I will do more good affirming people’s humanity than arguing my point.
With all of that said, there are some people who will never be able to have rational conversations about any kind of sexuality. Their condescension, moral superiority complexes, and outright hate prevent any kind of dialogue. It is impossible to claim, “But I love gay people!” while looking down your nose disapprovingly. The sorts of people who would compare being gay to rape or who would deliver entire sermons outlining the finer points of gay sex for the shock value or whose gag reflexes are tripped by gay people are not the sort whose table I want to sit at.
I’m not the only one. I enjoyed tweeting with Rachel Held Evans and Ben Moberg (as always; they are good people), and we had this exchange (it’s hard to read, so the text appears below):
Ben Moberg: @rachelheldevans I’m unsure if we want a bridge going there.
Me: @Runaway_Writes @rachelheldevans I really kind of don’t. This is one case where THEY need to be the bridge-builders.
I’m in favor of working things out. I may not agree with some of my more conservative fellow Christians, but there can be thoughtful conversations. These people, though? They need to make the first move. It can’t always be us, LGBTQ people and allies. And it absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, be them reaching out their hands beckoning us to join them. We’ve done that for far too long. If they want peace and reconciliation, it’s going to be on our terms, on our side of the divide. They need to ask for a seat at our table.
These men (let’s be honest; even the women who agree with them have very little authority here) have acknowledged that they’ve lost the culture war. Now they’re going after other Christians who disagree with them, and most of us just aren’t buying it anymore. Ultimately, unless they decide to take those steps, they are going to find themselves alone on their island of hate, shouting to no one. It’s up to them to decide if that’s what they really want. If it isn’t, the rest of us reasonable people will be over here living our lives, ready to welcome them home if they choose to cross the sea.