Why Are Gays Still the Poster Children for O & A Churches?

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Last week I wrote “All People” and the day after, my dad sent me a few encouraging texts and then asked a question: Why are gays still the focal point for O & A?

An important question, I think.

For those who may not know O & A is Open and Affirming (Welcoming and Affirming is used as well) what it means seems obvious by the verbiage, but a church professing either phrase encourages inclusivity regardless of one’s past or present lifestyle, beliefs and so on. Does anyone else feel like something is wrong when individual churches must adopt specific lingo in order to be what the Church ought to be?

Unfortunately, many churches operate under: You must scrub up and look a whole lot more like something I am comfortable with before I will accept you. (I don’t think Jesus said that. Ever.)

So, I get the need for churches to differentiate.

However, while gays are often the centerpiece for churches under the O & A parasol, what other groups are being overlooked?

There are the homeless and with them the smells, which make most of us recoil at the thought of shaking hands, or dear God, embracing them…and the discomfort of having to decide if the money we may feel obligated to give will be used wisely. Then, there are the druggies, the ones whose addictions have progressed to an obvious state. We try to imagine all their teeth are still there, the things they say are lucid, and we try to pretend we don’t give serious thought to ducking under a pew when we see them coming.

But what about sex-before-marriage-ers, the sexually promiscuous, mothers of aborted babies, who come to church, have hardly told a soul because the guilt they already feel infiltrates who they are in the world? Or maybe they don’t feel guilty at all, but know they’ll receive nothing but judgment if they are honest about who they are and where they’ve been.

What about the non-believers? The abusers. The cheaters. The doubters. The liars.

The assholes. The heretics.

Could it be these lists look so much like what’s underneath our whitewashed church-y selves we’d rather not talk about it? Yes.

It is easier to point to something, the gay community for instance, when we talk about being open and affirming because it is further removed from who we feel we are. It is easier to recognize the ostracized when it drinks copiously, shoots up in the bathroom at work, or smells like weeks of unwashed skin.

To accept that I am the one needing a piece of the parasol and could be denied it, just as I have denied it for others… that’s nasty medicine. When this realization is embraced, rather than squashed, it changes your world-view; your perception of Jesus; it changes your theology.

What do we do with our squeamishness, our reluctance to abandon the parasol and adopt a canopy that will allow coverage for the multitudes?

You’re not going to like my answer.

I think you have to feel it and you have to live in the mess of how it makes you feel. Radical acceptance is behaving beyond our natural abilities. There can be no radical acceptance without stepping outside of what we know we can do, because only then is there room enough for God to step in and fill the space between. 

8 responses to “Why Are Gays Still the Poster Children for O & A Churches?

  1. Wow. I think this is what the church IS called to be, “a canopy for the multitudes.” Instead, many are just a country club catering to pop christian culture. Excellent blog!

  2. Yes – why – my pet peeve is people who have served time in prison. Especially one-time offenders – who may have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time – they have served their time, they have paid their debt but our society, INCLUDING OUR CHURCHES, why continue to marginalize them, dehumanize them and prevent them from participating and functioning fully in our “free” world! Even to the point of denying a legitimate call to ministry……….when I KNOW there are “pastors” ( and “good” church members) out there who have never done time simply because they have never been caught red-handed! AND, they do these same things to the innocent family members of the felons who “live” among them. They do not truly support them and do not allow them to talk openly about their incarcerated loved ones – why? I still do not understand why our churches have to “label” themselves. I believe that churches should be about the business of doing God’s work and God’s will in our world – which includes associating with the least & the lost – the prostitutes, the LGBTQ, the “lepers” – and the felons – ALL human beings!!!

    • There are so many biases we all carry, and it can be so challenging to get beyond them. You’re right about those who have been incarcerated. They are also on “the fringes” according to many. It can also be hard to accept those who we label as those who do the ostracizing. We can just as easily develop a bias about them too. At the end of the day, I guess all we can really do it try to accept all people and thank God for grace when we fall short of being the people we would want to be for each other.

  3. Britani, well put for both your articles latest articles. I currently live in Manila, Philippines where the Catholic church has a strangle-hold on EVERY aspect of life here from the government to the simple villages in the remote provinces. As a Roman Catholic and employee of the Catholic Diocese, I agree with Filipinos who find their eyes being opened (amazing what a little enlightenment will do) that it is largely the grossly corrupt government (hugely controlled by the Catholic church), and the Catholic church itself that plays a large role in keeping the Philippines a third-world country with its irresponsible dogma of “be fruitful and multiply,” contraception, marriage, and archaic view of women (a very patriarchal society) and its undeniable hate of LGBT citizens, and their efforts to ensure neither receive basic civil rights. Sadly it will take many, many years before the Catholic church becomes enlightened Herself. It took more than 375 years for the Catholic church to admit it was wrong about about Galileo.

    • Bob! Thank you for your encouragement and your response. Life in Manila sounds trying, to say the least. I appreciate your perspective because it is so easy to forget about places that have not seen much social/religious/spiritual liberation. It does seem like there is a shift, however slight, in the surrounding community, so that is something!

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