This is the second post in a series about phrases I find unhelpful as church folk talk about how to include LGBT people. There is only one phrase addressed here, because it is something that is said by people on all sides of the issue.
Problematic phrase #3: The church has more important things to do.
I know you like this phrase. I like this phrase. I’ve used this phrase. Some of the people I most respect have used this phrase. Still, I have decided that it is not helpful.
It is not helpful because when we say it we usually mean: “If everyone would just agree with me, we could all happily move on to evangelizing the world and/or solving the world hunger problem.”
I don’t think I’ve ever heard this phrase said in the spirit of, “Those people who disagree with me can just have things their way.”
It is also not helpful because it is an argument that could be made about practically anything church folks put their energy into. Why do you worry about Vacation Bible School or building a bigger church building when there are more important things to do? Why do you serve at the food pantry or collect money for the local homeless shelter when there are more important things to do? You could always make an argument that there is something more important than what the church is concerned with at any given moment.
If we, as the church, only want to address the MOST important things, we will be paralyzed. And we will lose the joy and freedom that is part of being in the Body of Christ. Some are eyes, some are big toes, some are spleens–who is to say that one is more important than the other?
It is also not a helpful phrase because it minimizes the experiences of those within the church for whom the church’s relationship with LGBT people is very important. Friends, allies, and sexual minorities themselves. And those on the conservative side who feel that an affirmative stance threatens the basis of their faith.
In his ministry, Jesus was quite concerned with including people the religious authorities sought to exclude. And he was concerned with calling people out of a life of sin and into an abundant life with God. The earliest church spent a lot of time and energy figuring out how to include Gentiles, which aspects of their Jewish faith were necessary parts of following Jesus.
There are no reports of anyone at the Jerusalem Council standing up and saying, “Come on folks, the church has more important things to do!”
Suggested replacement phrase: “This conversation is one of many important things the church is doing.”