In response to several high profile cases of suicide by teenagers who were—or were perceived to be—gay, advice columnist Dan Savage posted a video on YouTube that he made with his husband. They wanted gay teens to know that It Gets Better.
Within a month, over 800 videos were posted by a wide range of people: gay, straight, celebrities, unknowns. In various ways, they all shared the same message for GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer) youth: Your life will get better.
I am grateful for each person who posted a video. I hope that gay teens hear the message loud and clear. And I think that “it gets better” is probably the most vital message we can send to fragile young people struggling with questions of sexual identity.
So, if you happen to be a queer teenager, know that it gets better. And you can stop reading now.
For the rest of us, I would like to promote a different message: We need to Make It Better.
We need to make the laws better. The rights afforded to married couples in this country should be available to all couples who wish to make a commitment to each other. Legal protections against discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in public accommodations should apply to all people. I am grateful for groups like the Kansas Equality Coalition that work toward making the laws better.
For those of us who are committed Christians, we need to make the church better.
Let me warn you right now that this is my soap box. And I’m already on it. To make sure I don’t stay up here too terribly long, let me enumerate just a few of the reasons that we desperately need to make the church a better place for sexual minorities.
- Evangelism to Non-Christians. Many people outside the church think that Christians hate gay people. In October of this year, the Religious News Poll found that 65% of people surveyed believe that “religious messages contribute to higher rates of suicide among gay and lesbian youth” (Christian Century, Nov. 16, 2010.) Who wants to be part of a bigoted, hateful organization?
- Evangelism to GLBTQ Individuals. How can we share the love of Christ with someone that we will not include fully in the church? “Love the sin, hate the sinner” is not an option when the so-called sin is an inherent, God-given aspect of a person’s identity.
- Spiritual Nurture of GLBTQ Christians. A gay couple once left the church I serve because we were too liberal. Just because someone happens to be attracted to members of the same sex does not automatically make them theologically liberal. The fact is, many GLBTQ Christians are pretty conservative in their theology, and they should be able to find acceptance in a church that nurtures their faith
- Spiritual Health of the Church. In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. says that the church should be the headlights, not the taillights. As prophetic, justice-seeking people, grounded in the love of Christ, we should be lighting the way for full acceptance and inclusion of sexual minorities in society. We should not find ourselves being dragged along behind the momentum of popular opinion. As the church runs to play “catch up” with the rest of the culture, it risks loosing its integrity.
- Promotion of Healthy Relationships. Among those who believe that GLBTQ people should be accepted in the church, I often find the attitude that a person’s “lifestyle choices” are private and the church should just butt out. I would argue that any church that butts out is not being church. As the redeemed community of Christ, we should be very concerned about the lifestyle choices that our brothers and sisters in the church are making. We should care who they sleep with. But the criteria for appropriate, healthy sexual relationships should not be based on the genders of the people in the relationship. We’re called to a higher standard; our criteria must be based on issues of commitment, love, respect, justice.
O.K. I’m stepping off of my soap box for the time being. After I urge you one more time: If you are part of a church, please consider what you can do to Make It Better.