For twenty-four hours my friend breathed a little easier and thought “There may be a place for me after all, among my fellow Christians who talk about unconditional love.” For one night this gay man (and if ever there was irony in this world, it is in calling him “gay”) went to bed believing that things were beginning to change for Christians like him, because for about 24 hours, the Board of Directors of World Vision USA allowed those like him, who were in same-sex marriages, to serve within their organization.
He was well aware that the World Vision Board was not legitimating gay marriage, but only trying to end discrimination against those gay men and lesbian women who were in life-long committed partnerships. He understood that the Board’s decision was about offering justice for people who did not interpret the Bible the same way they did.
My friend had heard us heterosexual Evangelicals say that we really love gays and lesbians. But too many Evangelicals have done all they can to prevent him and those like him from enjoying the same rights and privileges that the rest of us enjoy, so he didn’t believe our love was real. He had tried to believe us when we said that we loved him in the name of Christ, but found it difficult when we declared loudly and clearly, that discrimination against him was biblically legitimated and allowed his twenty-nine year committed relationship with another man to be called an abomination from our pulpits.
Of course, my friend was well acquainted with those verses in Romans and the few other Bible verses that most Evangelicals believe forbid same-sex marriage. But he had a hard time understanding how Evangelicals who were so intent in obeying the letter of scriptural laws welcomed into church membership and even into leadership, divorced Christians who had remarried, even though Jesus condemned such marriages. He doesn’t want us for one moment to think that such couples should be kept out of the church because he understands that some marriages are dehumanizing and abusive. He has, however, wondered why Evangelicals are so intent on forbidding marriages like his, a relationship that has enhanced his humanity and spirituality, when Jesus never mentions them, while, at the same time showing grace toward the marriages of divorced Christians, which Jesus specifically prohibited.
For just one day, my friend had breathed a little more freely and tasted a little of the hope that he and his partner were gaining some affirmation, then— just a day later—the World Vision board members reversed their decision; and he woke up to the reality that if he wanted to continue to serve the poor within their organization he had better hurry up and hope it was not too late to get back into his closet and start pretending again.
The Religious Right has won a battle in a war that it will ultimately lose, but my gay friend believes that he and all of those progressive Evangelicals who had shared his joy for twenty-four hours, have lost only a battle in a war that they will eventually win. And that’s what gives him hope.