My Brother, Compassion, Gay Marriage, and Me

Brother Compassion
A group of us from various churches began doing Sunday differently. As an act of worship we met in cafes and other public places, picking up trash, socializing and serving for purposes of being available in the city. We became a magnet for those beyond the reach of social services and, notably, religion. People who do not fit in. People with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. Homeless people. As church movements go, we also attracted an inordinate number of gay people.

The Jesus story is placed in large part among the broad swath of people beyond the arc of the mainstream. Jesus’ setting was the fringe, occupied by lepers, demon possessed, political and social outcasts such as tax collectors, Samaritans and women. In our time and place, who are these people? As the fever pitch intensifies surrounding marriage equality and gay issues, a growing consortium of Christians finds a high calling in affirming gay men and women,  precisely because they are persecuted by religious powers.

Compassion is with suffering. There may be no more long-suffering group of Christians than those who are gay. It might be said they suffer in proportion to their religious involvement. Feel the torment of a lifetime of anti-gay doctrine and threats of eternal punishment, the persistent plea by others at “eradicating the sin,” urging the gay person to be something they are not.

Related: What does Jesus think about Homosexuality? – by Derek Flood

As a heterosexual, I know what it is like to be attracted to someone and to be in love. I am happily married and I could not fathom living without my wife. My worst nightmare would be life without the one I love, chained in isolation for alleged purpose of taming my sin nature. Biblical pronouncements plastered on the wall of my psyche – the case can be made: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” (1 Cor. 7:1). “There are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it” (Matthew 19:12). “They will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25).

The biblical basis for the treachery against gay people is increasingly ambiguous in the public court. Even if Christians were sufficiently handling the many objections, even if we may concede that homosexuality is wrong in God’s eyes, there may still be a better way to interact in society.

My brother has been with his male partner for thirteen years, exhibiting covenantal love and commitment in a way that shames many of my feeble attempts. They wear wedding rings. His life is happy and well-adjusted particularly when compared with his days before coming out. And yet he lacks much in the present civil and religious environment. All the legal privileges I enjoy go beyond his grasp. Worse is the constant weight of condemnation from churches all around. Christians profess to be compassionate and obedient while using God and the Bible against them.

During the week of the Supreme Court hearings I shared an affirming note on marriage equality with my brother’s partner. His response: “I hope you are preaching love and tolerance.” He caught me. I was among the silent majority. I was comfortable to let the louder voices on each side be heard. The collective Christian view as received in the media is so adamantly opposed to marriage equality that anything less than an affirmative public position is a no vote. I weighed the risks. It was better to say yes – to affirm marriage equality – all things considered. I could not tie up homosexuals with a burden that I would not carry. I could not lock them out. As a small token of my attempt at affirmation, I changed my profile picture to the red and pink equals sign. It was striking how few Christians did so – a message not lost on the gay community – which is why I began writing this post. We are peculiar in our silence. It is not befitting of compassion.

A popular Rick Warren quote was circulated as an antithetical battle cry to the marriage equality picture on Facebook. “You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” But compassion is a slippery concept that belies lip service. The quote’s implication is that we are compassionate even if we don’t agree with marriage equality.  But how does anyone know we are compassionate? The litmus test is costly grace or proximity. When Christians walk the second mile with their gay brothers and sisters, non-believers will not be so suspicious. Until then, we are known – rightly or not – as the interest group or voting bloc who locks them out of the very sort of kingdom we proclaim.

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What if every Christian had a homosexual on his or her speed dial, among their closest friends, for purpose of loving without agenda, to share the struggles together, to hope and dream and pray? What if a Christian bore the cross of their professed convictions? What if a Christian person, firmly against gay marriage, adopted a gay person as a family member? “Since we do not permit you to enter into a family relationship with the lover of your choosing, since we forbid your own family, we are willing to offer you familial rights as an alternative. We will take you as our own.” Now there’s a Christian principle embodied in love, mercy and shared cost. There’s something that would appeal to the world.

Related: Open and Affirming Because of the Bible – by Hugh Hollowell

Another alternative,  of course, is to affirm their right to the privileges of modern heterosexuals: To fall in love and choose their partner and commit to do life together in sickness and health.

As our group continued to do church out in the public square, a tricky thing happened. We found it difficult to love the very people we sought to assist. With gay people, even the most well-intentioned group of Christians has a hard time getting past go. At every turn there is a spirit of condemnation. We negate our mission by failing to embrace gay people. We judge them. They become scapegoats, and it’s easier pointing the finger at them, even in their innocence, in all their beauty and complexity as human beings, than dealing with our own faults.

Perhaps this is not about gays at all. Perhaps it’s about heterosexuals, about transforming the heart. Here is an opportunity for Christians to embody a most excellent way, to seize a historical moment with compassion. Welcome wholeheartedly another group of long-suffering humans into the fold.

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T.C. Porter’s work has appeared in several evangelical, popular media and literary publications. You can follow his writing at tcporter.com.

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T.C. Porter

T.C. PorterT.C. Porter’s work has appeared in several evangelical, popular media and literary publications. You can follow his writing at tcporter.com.View all posts by T.C. Porter →

  • Hideous

    “I could not tie up homosexuals with a burden that I would not carry” is a significant phrase, as it quite openly and humbly admits that the writer speaks from a position of having limits on how far he is willing to ‘carry the cross’. This is refreshing in that too many writers like to create the impression that they are fully and completely surrendured to the will of Christ, no matter what – which usually wreaks of hypocrisy. Interestingly, in Rosaria Butterfield’s recent interviews about why she abandoned homosexuality in her conversion to Christ, she cites that one of the things she was most impressed by was the fact that most of the Christians she met, who welcomed her into their lives and their homes, were all actually carrying immense burdens for the Lord – some of which she considered would be too hard for her to carry.

  • Alba

    This is a stab in the heart to one that has been pondering these same issues, how a Christ follower should truly view this…we must do more and point less, Jesus lived on the fringes with the “outcasts”, that can easily be you or me. Thank you.

  • Frank

    There is zero compassion in supporting, encouraging, affirming, condoning or remaining silent about sinful behavior.

    Love them, walk wth them but don’t lie to them.

    • http://twitter.com/donnadara Ayinde Flores

      It’s hard for me to accept your premise when so many evangelicals condemn homosexuality and abortion and seem to be disinterested in condemning any other sinful behavior.

      • Frank

        I admit homosexual behavior in the past has been raised up above other sins to be pointed out but that’s changing. The issue with this focus is that no one is suggesting greed, lying etc are not sinful. Yet we have Christians supporting abortion and making the assertion that homosexual behavior is not sinful. That’s what’s feeding the reaction in the present day. When someone starts claiming lying isn’t a sin or murder isn’t a sin or somehow its compaasionate to let liars lie or murderers murder I will be right there showing them scripturally why they are wrong.

        Sadly because homosexuality has been raised up to be a worse sin than others and the church is starting to repent of that, the majority of Christians are reticent to point out that its still a sin and not speak out against gay marriage. What they fail to realize is they are being selfish and letting people be deceived which harms them, harms everyone around them and most of all harms the Kingdom of God and hateful.

        • http://twitter.com/jkz118 ey

          You have to judge the sin in context. For example, killing someone in self defense or in a war with the terrorists, lying to save a life or not to hurt someone sometimes can be justified and are not considered as sinful. Jesus said the Sabbath was made for men, not men for the sabbath. By the same token, sex in committed relationships are not considered as sinful.

          • Frank

            Man woman sex in marriage is the only sex that can possibly not be sinful. Clearly homosexual behavior is sinful according to scripture.

          • Frank

            Sexuality was created to be between a am and a woman in marriage. Everything or anything else is sinful.

        • Ford1968

          Being gay does not harm people. Loving someone romantically does not harm people. Marriage does not harm people – to the contrary, myriad studies show the physical and mental benefits of marriage.

          Stigma and rejection harm people. Making people who are gay feel ashamed, guilty, damaged and flawed harms people. Self-loathing is not a fruit of the Spirit. The closet harms people – it engenders emotional detachment, isolation, depression and too often suicide.

          I choose to believe that you have good intentions. And I appreciate your desire to be faithful to scripture.

          But know this, your individual and corporate anti-gay beliefs are causing immense harm. You are personally inflicting harm on the gay people in your life (who I would guess are not out to you).

          It’s time for that harm to end and for the church to love people who are gay better. If the Church is serious about loving people who are gay better, we must humble ourselves, admit we don’t have it all figured out, confess that we have caused immense harm, and pray that God shows us how to believe in a way that doesn’t cause harm.

          • DrewTwoFish

            Yes, isn’t it interesting who is defining what harm is? Crikey, theoretical, imagined harm and “eternal” harm apparently supersede the real and tangible harm caused by the sins of commission AND omission.

          • Frank

            All sinful behaviors harms the person, harms those around them, breaks Gods heart and harms the Kingdom of God

      • Ephirius

        This is false. Christians (evangelical, anglican, EO, RC, etc) oppose homosexuality, abortion, and myriad other sins because they are all evil. But homosexuality and abortion have been thrust upon Christians today by a society that seeks to make both legitimate, so those are the two that are being stood against.

        It is not foolish to cry out against the gun pointed at your head more than the one still in the holster, even if you oppose the owner of both the most.

        I would think if Christians opposed more sin, you might find a problem with that as well – ie “Why are evangelicals/Christians always so negative!” or some such thing. The fact is that Christians oppose all sin, by virtue of being Christians.

    • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.martin.127 Margaret Martin

      what do you mean when you say “love them, walk with them”? How specifically are you doing this with the gay people in your life?

      • Frank

        Exactly that. Love them and walk with them. Pray for them. But certainly don’t lie to them saying homosexual behavior is ok or is what God desires for their lives. They may still persue fulfilling their sexual or romantic attractions but i would never celebrate those choices but nor would I berate them or be hateful toward them.

        • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.martin.127 Margaret Martin

          You didnt answer my question. What SPECIFICALLY do you do? Do you invite them to your house for dinner? Do you help pay their bills? Do you hug them when they are having a bad day? Do you have gay friends? Praying for them is great but how are you actually getting your hands dirty?

          • Frank

            Yes to all the above. That’s what love is.

  • Brendon

    T.C. Porter: Do believe having homosexual sex is what God desires? Yes or no

  • Ford1968

    When I share my faith with ex-Christians who are gay, I am often met with disbelief or outright hostility. We’ve done this. It is impossible to divorce the witness of the (small c) church from that of the Church Universal. Tragically, we are driving people (not just gay people) away from the cross rather than living into the gospel.

    Thank you, Mr Porter, for understanding this. You get it.

    • DrewTwoFish

      I’m not sure why you bother. Heck, I’m not sure why I bother, especially as I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian anymore. Call it a hangover I just can’t seem to shake. It seems that the raison d’etre of certain participants is to endlessly reiterate their position on the sinfulness of homosexuality. Nothing else seems to matter.

      I suppose I’m as recalcitrant, if I’m honest. However, for me (and you and others) these discussions are not merely academic but deeply impactful.

      • Ford1968

        DTF – Why do I bother? tough question and I’m sure my answer is entirely inadequate. In part, my faith is an essential part of my life; to be in relationship with others necessarily means sharing my faith. Beyond that, how much more redemptive and healing is Christian orthopraxy when ones wounds were inflicted by those wielding orthodoxy as their sword?! That’s a little messed up, I know: the Church that slashed your face is going to be a salve to your wounds…but the Christ I know reaches people where they are despite the abuses of the Church.

        I sincerely hope you have not lost faith entirely…that would be very sad to me. We are all children of God, made in His image. I hope you are in a season of questioning and doubt but continue to ask the tough questions.

        All my best to you.

        • DrewTwoFish

          Thanks. I’ll admit the gay thing was a big reason for my departure. I feel like I wasted my best years on broken promises, letting myself getting sucked into that steaming pile of ex-gay nonsense and benefiting no one else in the process. I think it’s more than that though. I might have stuck around if I’d felt God’s presence manifested in any tangible way. At some point “the answers” had to have meaning for me in the here and now for me to be able to hang on. And then the intellectual loose ends proved to be just too much. As one who heralds the scientific approach, I’d like to think that I’m open minded, an “equal opportunity” skeptic if you like but I dunno…

          I’m glad that your faith provides you with some sustenance and it appears that though you’re passionate about it you’re not interested in bashing anyone over the head with it i.e. doing good rather than harm.

  • Drew

    It is ironic that extremist liberal Christians claim that mainstream Christianity obsesses about homosexuality, but then when you go to an extremist liberal Christian website, all they want to talk about homosexuality. Why not call this the Rainbow Letter Christians?

    There are other issues going on in the world besides the homosexual agenda. You have a mass serial killer on trial in Philadelphia that is getting ZERO coverage by the media because a large percentage of the American public doesn’t mind the murder of babies. You would think being from Philadelphia that we would see or hear something from Shane Claiborne but extremist liberal Christianity does not seem to comment, not wanting to get out of bed with political liberalism and its pro-abortion stance. So let’s run another pro-homosexuality article with no differing viewpoints.

    • http://twitter.com/MichellePersard Michelle Persard

      Drew!!! Hey, bro’! Amen and amen. PREACH.

    • http://twitter.com/MichellePersard Michelle Persard

      Drew, the issue here (again speaking as a former LIBERAL activist from the Left who became born again)…is that the liberal wing of the Church…does not actually embrace Scripture as the Word of God; nor do they believe in the concept of being “born again” and being converted on the inside. They continually pick and choose the parts of the Bible and the parts of Scripture they like. And, as a person from the liberal Left who now is just a Believer in Christ…there is no, I repeat, NO difference between the secular anti-Christ Left and the Liberal Christians. They are indistinguishable.

  • http://twitter.com/MichellePersard Michelle Persard

    Glad to see Red Letter Christians (liberal wing of Christianity) still doesn’t get Scripture. Wow. You guys just don’t get it, do you?

    • Questioning

      Michelle, that’s a VERY broad brush your painting with there…. I detect some anger and pride… not to mention you are bearing false witness and sowing the seeds of discord. It would seem there are some parts of scripture you are not getting, and perhaps some parts on the inside that still need changing.

  • Lisa Walls

    Heterosexuals miss the obvious. Your lifestyle has been flaunted in every imaginable arena and you do not see how that has impacted anyone because it is your norm. The gay community simply wants the same rights and responsibilities you take for granted. No more. No less. That means you will actually see us. To me, we are not flaunting. We are being normal.

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