What not to Say: #1 & #2

As I talk with different people about how to include sexual minorities in the church, there are certain words and phrases that get repeated. And many of them are not helpful.  You probably won’t be surprised to know that I have a pretty long list of things we need to quit saying to each other. Rather than discuss them all in one long post, I want to take one or two at a time. So here goes:

Problematic phrase #1: “The Bible is clear . . . “ that homosexuality is a sin.

The first problem with this phrase is that the Bible is not clear. Not about homosexuality, not about a lot of things. The Bible was written in and for a culture vastly different from ours. The Bible was spoken and written in languages that few of us can speak or read today. The Bible tells contradictory stories and gives contradictory advise at many points. Anyone who believes the Bible is clear is not engaging with the scriptures in an honest and faithful way.

The second problem with this phrase is the implication behind it. When people say this, they are claiming that those who condemn same sex relationships are following the Bible, while those who affirm such relationships are throwing out the teachings of Scripture in order to accommodate secular values.

It’s not true. Many of us who want to welcome sexual minorities fully into the church take the Bible very seriously. We study it. We pray with it. We seek to live by it. And, if we’re honest, many people who oppose gay marriage have no biblical or theological basis for doing so–they just think it’s weird for two guys to be in love.

Suggested replacement phrase: “Based on my current understanding of Scripture . . . “


And, so as not to let the affirming contingent off the hook, I’ll go ahead with problematic phrase #2: “Jesus just wants us to love people.”

There is, of course, no literal problem with this phrase. Jesus does want us to love people. The problem is with the implication–those who view homosexuality as a sin are not loving; those who accept LGBT people are loving.

We know it’s not that simple. Love does not always mean affirming the choices that someone makes. Mennonites (and other pacifists) would say that the most faithful way to love military personnel is to speak out against war and try to help soldiers get out of active duty. Likewise, those who sincerely believe that same-sex intimate relationships are outside of God’s good will for humanity are acting out of love when they protest gay marriage and try to “rehabilitate” LGBT people.

Yes, I think this love is misguided. But just like it’s not fair for anyone to claim a monopoly on Biblical understanding, it is not fair for others to claim a monopoly on love. People on all sides can ignore the Bible. People on all sides can act in unloving ways. Most of us within the church are trying to be faithful to the teachings of Scripture and we are trying to follow the way of love that Jesus showed us.

Suggested replacement phrase: “I believe we are not fully living out the love of Christ when we (exclude gays from ministry, teach young people that their sexual identity is wrong, refuse membership to sexual minorities . . . ).”

I’ll write about more phrases we need to abandon later. What about you? What comments do you find unhelpful as we talk about issues of sexuality in the church?

8 thoughts on “What not to Say: #1 & #2

  1. I love this post. As an Openly Lesbian Christian (in a committed relationship), I find myself being bombarded often with “Scriptural concerns” that people like to use to point out how they think I am living outside the will of God. Much of this I know is done out of love and concern for my spiritual well being and my relationship with Christ. But honestly it can get very tiresome to come against this day after day…This is partly because I want to be in ministry, I know this is what God has called me to do, despite what the greater “american Church” (no matter the denomination…with a few exceptions) believe…I am called to this. So I am constantly under fire for my sexual orientation. Anyway the long explanation is to say Thank you…it is refreshing to read someone’s spiritual musings that do not lecture me about how “I’m going to hell”…That horse is well dead so people should stop beating it…Thank you for having an open mind, and open heart to what God is teaching you…And for loving the LGBT community (I have been reading your previous posts)…And lastly Thank you for giving me some new ways to answer these hurtful remarks in love and patience…

    Be Blessed!


    • Sarah, thank you for your kind words and your encouragement. Please know my prayers (and words and actions) are with you as you seek to serve the church in the ways God is calling you. I am ever grateful for LGBT Christians who stick with the church. (God’s grace is abundant.) May the peace of Christ be in you and the power of the Holy Spirit enfold you. ~Joanna

  2. things that go on my personal list-drawing parallels with pedophilia, saying that if everyone was gay, the human race would go extinct (it only takes one generation) on one side. You hit the big one for the other side.

  3. Pingback: What Not to Say: #3 « Spacious Faith

  4. I once taught a white, suburban Chicago, ethnic Mennonite junior high class where we discussed EVERYTHING that everyone was comfortable with. One Sunday the discussion was about the gay rights storm then raging in Illinois Conference. It was quite a discussion! During the week, I always tried to look for current, relevant information for my class, and as luck would have it, found a newspaper article that week about a pastor (not Mennonite) who performed commitment ceremonies. I took it to class the next Sunday and we read it together. In the article, as one of the reasons for performing the ceremonies, the pastor said that he simply believed he should care for and treat all his members the same. I’ll never forget one of my students saying, “Well, that makes sense, now, doesn’t it?” And that was the end of the discussion. “Well, that makes sense, now, doesn’t it?”

  5. Pingback: What Not to Say: #4 « Spacious Faith

  6. Pingback: What Not to Say: #5 « Spacious Faith

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