This piece, which was penned by my all-time favorite blogger, John Pavlovitz and originally published on johnpavlovitz.com with the title ‘Why I’m Tired of Talking About The LGBT Community… And Why I Won’t Stop’, sums up the exact response that should be tendered before Ifeoluwapo Odedere, the writer on Bellanaija who asked the question: ‘You’re Gay, So What?’ It sums up the perfect point of reflection for those who seem to think that LGBT activism is about seeking special treatment.
Some days have a way of clarifying your calling; of reminding you just why you say what you say and do what you do and are who you are.
Today was such a day.
I was hanging out at a bouncy house birthday party with my kids, watching dozens of sugared-up preschoolers careening across sweat-streaked inflatable castles, when an email notification popped up on my phone. I receive hundreds of emails each week and getting to all of them in a timely manner is a near impossibility these days. However the few brief lines of text that filled my screen were enough to make me temporarily withdraw from the twirling mass of sweaty, stocking-footed revelers and read more.
I wish I could say that it was different from so many of the critical messages that come in every single day, but it wasn’t. It simply captured the essence of them all perfectly; a stern reprimand for my irresponsibility as a pastor, hateful words about LGBT teenagers disguised as objective evaluation, dire implications about my impending damnation, and sky-is-falling statements about the world going to Hell in a queer handbasket.
It was judgmental and confrontational and condescending… and to be honest, it made my day.
Not in the way that great meals or belly laughter or quiet, restful moments in nature do, but in the kind of way that ice water does when it hits your skin unannounced. It shocks you and steals your breath for a second, but once you exhale you feel awake and alive.
I really haven’t felt awake or alive for a while.
For the last couple of weeks or so I’ve been in a funk; a vague malaise of sorts, wondering if the work I do matters, whether I’m wasting my time writing and speaking. I’ve found myself pondering whether it was time to call it a day and register for HVAC repair school, or some other adult job that doesn’t involve eternal destinations, monumental questions of life and of death, or daily attacks on my character and personal salvation.
Maybe it’s fatigue from the seemingly endless war of words, or from the deaf ears they seem to fall upon. It can wear you out and beat you down, and I’ve felt quite worn out and beaten down.
But today I realized that as much as I’d sometimes like to, I can’t stop speaking because those who feel the way that my pen pal feel, won’t stop either.
Today I was reminded of the ripples made by all of our lives, and I reconsidered mine.
I want to make beautiful ripples.
As I read these stranger’s words today, I remembered that on the other end of every venomous, angry, religion-fueled diatribe I receive, is a real, flesh and blood, walking around person. I try to have compassion for each of them and understand them. More importantly, I remembered that around these folks, are hundreds of innocent, kindhearted, hurting LGBT young people who will be so brutally injured by their ideas and damaged by their words.
For their sake and for the sake of those who love them, I can’t be silent. I gladly step between them and those who would harm them.
Ever since I began speaking out on behalf of the gay community, many people have called me an LGBT ally, but I disagree.
I’m a pastor. I’m an ally for all people. I just consider LGBT people, people.
And you know what? I’m not apologizing for that anymore.
I’m not soft-selling it or half-baking it, or making sure that I don’t become too narrow of focus in my message, because the people who know me; those who see my heart, those whose ears are really listening; they get it. They know that my life is bigger than just one issue, and that my ministry is bigger than just one issue.
I’m not going to justify what I say or how often I say it, because I never determine those things.
I simply do what I feel God calling me to do as life unfolds around me. If you want to question or challenge or ridicule that statement, feel free—but I will sleep just the same.
Last week an old friend of mine confronted me on social media, asking, “Why do you talk so much about this one issue?”
I disagreed with his assessment, but know how I would answer him even if I copped to the charges.
I talk so often about the LGBT community, because people like him talk so little about them. Or if they do talk, the stuff they’re saying isn’t anything I’m at all comfortable with. In fact, my friend’s very language underlines the real problem: This is not an issue at all.
It’s millions of original, precious, flawed, God-made human beings, who do not yet feel welcomed or safe or loved in the Church that bears the name of Jesus.
As someone striving to be a Christian, I’m not OK with that—period.
I don’t suppose my curious friend ever questions why the wonderful people at International Justice Mission always talk about human trafficking, or wonder out loud why Compassion International is so singularly fixated on having people sponsor children in areas of extreme poverty, or why any group or person strongly advocates for those they do.
The answer for each of them is the same as it is for me: Equality.
These ministries and organizations don’t help or speak about the specific people they do because they don’t firmly believe in the inherent value of all people, but because of the fact, that in those very vulnerable and marginalized groups and in their circumstances they find this universal human worth most threatened, most under attack.
I feel this profoundly regarding the LGBT community. It burdens my heart every single day, and so it is the refrain that gets repeated. There are other songs that I sing on other days, but this one comes back again and again.
To me, it is about so much more than sexual orientation. It’s about Grace and compassion and love, about bearing with one another and authentic community and The Church, and about every single person on the planet deserving the same decency and kindness. It’s the desire to see the character of Jesus reflected in my life as best I can.
In short, I speak because my faith will simply not allow my silence.
So to my well-meaning Christian friends who question if I’ve abandoned belief in God; I haven’t. It’s more real than it’s ever been, and it’s propelling me forward involuntarily to speak and share as I do.
To my readers who think I talk too much about one issue; I apologize. I write in response to my heart’s pull, not to opinion polls or consensus votes. I hope that is why you started reading in the first place.
To people like my correspondent today, who want me to simply shut up and disappear—That ain’t happenin’, unless God desires it. In the meantime, I hope you’ll keep reading and engaging here, because we need to continue this difficult conversation. I’m not interested in preaching to a choir.
Most of all, to my LGBT brothers and sisters, and to those who love them; parents, family, friends, co-workers, or simply those who agree that they truly matter; be encouraged. You are not alone. You are worth fighting for. As long as I have breath I will speak.
Today, as I finished reading the email and turned my attention back toward the joyful chaos of the party, I looked at those wide-eyed, wonder-filled young faces flying around the room and remembered that more than any other reason, I speak so that their world will be a more loving version of it for each of them.
May you find your burden, your passion, and then may you speak until you no longer have a voice and far after people have grown weary of hearing it.