Over the past few weeks I have had a chance to hang out with Tyler (not his real name).
Tyler is a 20-something, gay, and has quite a life story. He is sharp, compassionate and an all around good guy.
We were hanging out the other day and he noticed some of my books sitting out. The one that really caught his eye was “Homosexuality and the Christian Faith”.
His immediate comment was “why would you be reading that? We’re not allowed in the church…”
Now Tyler doesn’t know my story. So he wasn’t referencing my situation. He was honestly surprised that I would be reading that book. He then noticed that pretty much all my books are either about religion or cooking.
“Do you read that?” he asked, pointing at the Bible on the table.
“Yeah… pretty much daily,” I said.
“Why? You like to feel like crap all the time?” he said.
My heart broke.
Here is a 19 year old kid — with a really good heart, but also a seriously messed up life situation — convinced that Jesus and the church is not a place for him, simply because he was gay.
We talked some more…
Turns out he used to go to church with his grandmother as a kid. And the one thing he took from that experience is that gay people aren’t welcomed. Which meant that he wasn’t welcomed.
Tyler was convinced there was no place for him in the church because that is exactly what the church had communicated to him.
Now some will object and say that he clearly misunderstands the message of the church. “Homosexuals are welcome, we just don’t approve of their lifestyle. It is an issue of Biblical hermeneutics and authority and orthodox theology…. but all are welcomed!” the church-goer might say. “We would love for Tyler to come to our church,” they might add (and mean it).
The problem is that Tyler — who barely made it through high school — is probably not going to pick up on (or care about) your theological nuances and gymnastics. All he gets is the BIG IDEA — and for many churches, the BIG IDEA is that gays aren’t welcome and Jesus ain’t for them.
Forgive me for saying this, but that is seriously F’ed up! And I think it pisses Jesus off big time.