Christians: How to talk to gay people if you must

A Christian's mini guide to conversations about faith with gay Christians

I had coffee with an old friend from college today. It's hard to believe we met eight years ago in freshman English class. He's a really legit guy - I've always thought that.

We caught up on what our lives have been since graduating four years ago. Him: marriage, a two-year ministry internship at a church, admittance to seminary for a Master's of Divinity. Me: moving to New York, coming out as gay, grad school.

We talked a lot about me being gay - not because it's the only noteworthy thing about me - but because that's where the conversation lead us. It was a really great conversation. It was full of listening, understanding, and a genuine interest in my story. How did I go from a campus ministry intern to a fairly outspoken, or at least open, gay man? A man who is trying to be both gay and Christian. There are a lot of us out there - gay Christians I mean. This new Pew research study tells us about half of LGBT American identify as Christian. (Page 87).

As we were talking, my friend said something I've heard from a lot of Christians: I don't know what to think.

To which I say: That's okay. 

Homosexuality is a hot topic in the church - no surprise there. We talked a lot about how Christians respond to it and to gay people of faith.

Eight years ago I think he and I both were on the side of "It's wrong - the Bible is very black and white." Now it's much more gray for both of us. For me: because I am gay. For him: because it's personalized. He's had a handful of friends come out over the years.

The questions "How do I react to the gay community as a Christian? Especially when they're Christian, too?" made me think about how I've been treated by fellow Christians.

First off - I hate that I have to use the word "react." I mean… us gay Christians are just people… so… treat us with the respect you'd give anyone else? But there's more after that golden rule base.

From my experience, there are some things you shouldn't say to a gay Christian. There are some things you should. (If you have a gay friend who isn't religious - you definitely shouldn't thump the Bible on his/her head. This is a guide for Christian to Christian convos).

Things you probably shouldn't say to a gay Christian

"The Bible is very black and white."

I can see why you'd say that - I really, truly can. But to someone living a life steeped in questions about sexuality, the Bible is very gray.

It's easy to say "being gay is wrong because the Bible tells me so." Sexuality is a huge part of who we are and our lives. So to someone who feels being gay is an ingrained part of their being, it's not black or white. That's like telling someone they are inherently wrong.

I know, I know, the Christian response to that is "Well, we are born sinners. Being gay is a sin. Of course they feel like it's naturally ingrained in them."

The black and white Bible argument is the oldest. We gay Christians know it. We've dwelled on it countless times. It's not a point that will bring us a new revelation. So just hold tight on that one.

"I'm sure glad I'm not you."

Someone said this to me once. It was very off putting and surprisingly hurtful. How am I supposed to react? You basically just said "Lol sucks to be you!"

"God's still coming for you."

Who is to say God ever left me? That's what you're implying. Isn't the Bible full of stories about God being with people - coming alongside them - in the bad times and the good? To tell me "God is still coming" to change me or "cure" me implies 1) That He's forsaken me and 2) That I'm not in communication with Him already - that I've left him, too.

"You just need to meet the right girl."

LOL. K. I've come across many awesome, beautiful, Godly young women over the years. Ones I'd be lucky to marry… if I was attracted to them. Not how it works, sorry!

"I read this testimony of a guy who used to be gay. Now he's married with a wife and kids. I'll send it to you!"

Nah, that's okay. You hold onto it. If I was interested in reading something like that I'd look it up for myself. Solid effort, though, solid effort.

"Just don't act on it. It's only a sin if you act on it."

You're right. I should just be celibate and never find love and never fulfill my dream to have a family and kids! Why didn't I think of that? That's so easy!

I'm hiding behind humor here. Classic Jason. I do it because this is a tough one for me. I've wonder if this is the middle ground. Not denying that the feelings are there, but not acting on them either. I could write a whole post about the thoughts that I've come to from the "What if I just don't act on it?" question.

Here's what it comes down to for me: I don't want to deny these feelings until I'm 70, and then come to realize they were okay the whole time. Maybe I'd miss out on love. Why should I suppress my desire for a family if it's so strong? 

Or worse: What if I find love and later decide these feelings aren't okay? How heart breaking would that be? I'm just going to keep on keeping on. I'm happy. I don't feel the need to "change" my desires. At least not now.

Things you can say sometimes (if you actually mean them)

"That must be so hard."

Yeah, it is. I appreciate the gesture, but it's [often] a throwaway phrase. I know this is awkward and you may not be sure what to say to me. Please mean what you say. Don't fill silence because you're uncomfortable. It's okay.

"I can't imagine what it's like to go through that."

No, you probably can't. I'm sure you've been through something, are going through things, and will go through situations I can't relate to. But thanks for trying to put yourself in my shoes.

Things you can always say

"I'm sorry if the church has ever mistreated you because you're gay."

Thank you. I know some people don't represent the church well. Thanks for realizing sometimes Christians aren't very Christlike. It's big of you to apologize for other people's actions, even though you don't have to.

"I'm sorry if you've ever felt misunderstood or judged by me."

Thanks, I appreciate that, too. Sometimes it's easy to avoid those we misunderstand. It can take a lot of energy to think about this topic, I know. Thanks for recognizing that sometimes I felt excluded or unwelcome by you.

"I love you - even if we disagree about this."

That's awesome. I love you, too! Isn't it beautiful when we can agree to disagree? There's a lot more to me than being gay. It's just one part of who I am. Not who I am. Glad we can look past that if it can be a hangup for you. Let's be friends anyway!

"I'd love to hear your story if you're open to sharing it with me."

Sometimes it's nice to be heard. You don't have to reply with something profound. Don't feel the need to have a fresh perspective I've never thought of. Just listen to me. Ask me fair, thoughtful questions. Let me talk your ear off. I can only have conversations about this with myself in my head for so long.

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 Everybody look at me being ffaabbuulloouuussss with this gay Christian twirl circa Dec. 2011 - before I was "out."

Everybody look at me being ffaabbuulloouuussss with this gay Christian twirl circa Dec. 2011 - before I was "out."