This afternoon I’ll be speaking at my alma mater, in the auditorium where I took my first Bible class, a course in the New Testament, for college credit. Our professor encouraged us to submit questions in writing that he would then address at the end of each class. How well I remember the day he answered another student’s question about homosexuality, asking at what point it became a sin.
I listened intently. Without changing anything about my demeanor, lest someone notice that I was listening intently. And realize I was listening for myself.
The professor’s response was traditional in the sense that he said acting on those feelings was what was sinful. But I’d never heard anyone say that simply having feelings for someone of the same sex wasn’t sinful. And he didn’t seem alarmed or embarrassed by the student’s question. Nor did he address the subject with hostility or disgust. That was huge.
For the first time, I heard someone who was a Christian talk about homosexuality with kindness.
I wish he’d talked about it more. I wish he’d brought it up consistently throughout the course of the semester. Maybe then I would’ve had the courage to go and talk to him, to ask more questions, to tell him that he was talking about me.
But it would’ve taken a lot of mentions and a lot of kindness.
It’s rather ironic that I’m back here today, 37 years later, in that very same auditorium, to talk about how churches can be more welcoming to the LGBTQ community.
I’m glad to see this conversation continuing to open up on Christian university campuses, in churches, and in homes across the country, because that’s what it will take for us to be able to really open up to you. To come out of hiding. To break free from the debilitating shame.
Sadly, some LGBTQ students have started college this year never having been able to talk to anyone about their sexuality.
So for them, it will take a lot more mentions from the pulpit, in classes, and in conversations, to override the silence of the last 18 years of their lives.
But I pray they don’t have to go off to college before they hear their sexuality discussed with kindness.