Discussing LGBTQ & Faith w/ a Conservative Christian
Part I on YouTube Now (and My Response to the Comment Section)
DISCLAIMER: Only watch the following video if it feels like a good idea to you. Seriously. So many LGBTQ individuals simply DO NOT NEED to hear yet one more person question whether or not who they are is “God’s design” or “sinful” or whatever. This conversation, as I see it, is for those who are still sorting through these topics. Folks who are looking for thoughtful, well-reasoned articulations as to how it is that Christianity has so missed the mark on sexuality. If you are already settled on this topic—especially if you identify LGBTQ—then by all means, ignore this video and post. No need to bring up this crap again.
Back at the beginning of the year (before the world shut down) I drove up to LA at the invitation of a group called Anchored North to participate in a filmed conversation between me—a progressive Christian pastor affirming of LGBTQ people—and a conservative Christian professor who is not. Anchored North has created a few of these YouTube videos now, in a series they “Honest Discourse,” as a way of putting two people on opposite sides of an issue together to try and model what respectful, charitable, good-faith disagreements might look like.
When they reached out to me and inquired about representing the affirming side of this particular conversation, at first I was hesitant. You never know how these things are structured, and I wasn’t interested in driving four hours round-trip for some sort of gotcha or obnoxious debate. But when they emphasized their commitment to civil discourse and honestly giving both sides equal representation, then I was all in.
Not only do I think that learning to have good-faith conversations of disagreement with people who are vastly different than us might be the only way to preserve our democracy, I also believe that one way I can steward my straight-privilege is to show up in spaces like this and be the voice for inclusion. The emotional and psychological effort it takes for me to engage in a conversation like this is far, far less than it would be, for example, for someone who identifies as LGBTQ.
The conversation itself was about 2 hours long and overall the experience was lovely. The crew from Anchored North was hospitable and—though I’m quite certain they all come from more conservative backgrounds and were on my interlocutor’s side of the issue, likely disagreeing with most of what I had to say—they treated me with kindness and respect. And as for the guy in the opposite seat, Owen Strachan, he was a friendly, genuine, smart, and thoughtful conversationalist.
The pandemic surely slowed down the timing for Anchored North, but they finally released the video last week, though only Part 1 of our conversation. It appears that rather than edit our long conversation down to just the highlights, they ended up keeping almost the whole conversation and are releasing it in three parts. Which on one hand is pretty great—I can trust that they truly didn’t/won’t edit the video in favor of any one side. But on the other hand, let’s be honest, there were sections of part 1 that felt reaaaalllly long and dry. Especially the first 15 minutes.
Hang in there… it gets better. :)
Since this has now released (and hopefully parts 2 and 3 will come out soon), I wanted to take the next couple weeks to talk with you about some of what came up in Owen and mine’s conversation. Hopefully you’ll watch the video(s) and then come here for some commentary on it.
For today, though, let’s talk about the Comment Section.
YouTube Comment Sections
To be certain, the company behind this video is rooted in a more conservative/evangelical context. If this was ever in doubt, just start reading the comments.
Clearly their audience is of a certain ilk. And for this video, that ilk is, well, very much not with me. (So far only one person has said anything resembling “support” of my side, and that’s just because they said, “this was an amazing discourse!”, and since you can’t have a discourse without at least two people, I will take that as a complement. :)
The rest of the comments?
They’re what you’d expect:
How can this man call himself a pastor?
Why do you even call yourself a Christian?
YOU AREN’T CHRISTIAN!
I pray that he will get help.
Beard man needs to repent.
And then lots of of “heresy” and “false teacher” and so on…
To be clear, YouTube comments don’t bother me. Truly. I’ve been enduring this unique contribution to human culture from “Christians” for years on my UnClobber videos. So nothing in this video’s comment section affected me. I learned a long time ago that when people spew this sort of stuff in comment sections they are, obviously, not talking about me or to me. They are projecting their own issues, their own fears and insecurites. They are angry with someone else, and I just happen to be a convenient receptacle for their energy.
It’s fine. I can take it. (yet another indicator, btw, of my straight-privilege)
Of course, it’s also sad. And gross. Don’t get me wrong.
There are many reasons I no longer resonate with the conservative/evangelical worldview, and whenever I need reminding what some of those reasons are, I can just read comment sections and remember what it was like to be so full of this toxic mix of insecurity, fear, and shame… stirred up with arrogance, pride, and vitriol.
No thanks. I’m good.
However, some of the comments from this video I found interesting, and some of the questions struck me as being in earnest. So I actually responded/engaged with a few of them, and here’s why (even though most people advise to not only NOT read the comment section, but also DON’T reply): I choose to read/respond to some commenters because I want LGBTQ people who are watching and reading, or even allies who haven’t yet made themselves known, I want them to know that I’m out here and I’m for them. I’ve got their back. Hell, when needed, I’ve got their front, too.
I show up to these spaces and I respond to (some) people because I have the capacity for it. I have the ability, and the emotional bandwidth (going back to the “using my privilege” thing). And some times, some things need responded to. Sometimes there are good questions deserving of good answers, and if I can help others by being the one to respond, I can do that.
When @David H. writes,
“Progressive guy, honestly, why do u call yourself a Christian? Like.... Do you really see a need to do it?”
I responded because I want other people watching/reading who might have left conservative Christianity already, yet who are struggling to see why they might still hold on to Christianity as they become more progressive, I want them to know that you can be both of those things! So I replied with,
"Why do I call myself a Christian." Great question, David. Thanks for asking.
I call myself Christian for a number of reasons, but primary among those is that I am a disciple of the Way of Jesus.
I believe Jesus's path and teachings and life and death all model for us how to be human, how to flourish and live an abundant life, and how to connect with God and one another.
I call myself Christian because I engage in spiritual practices that have come out of the tradition of Christianity.
I call myself Christian because it means to be a "follower of Jesus" and that's what I am trying to do with my life.
Or when @Diana Perezcv writes,
“Notice how this pastor is always saying, “for me & what I think,” & the theologian always refers to the Bible.
That’s our true & ONLY authority in life. God’s blueprint, not an opinion from some man.”
I responded with,
I'm glad you picked up on that, Diana! Thanks for naming it.
I spent years using the Bible as the ultimate conversation ender. "The Bible says it, I believe it, end of story." What I failed to understand, however, is that it never is that simple. Whenever we claim to speak for the Bible, we will always have a layer (or layers) of interpretation.
So I've made a commitment to be more honest about that in my speech.
Rather than say "the Bible says," (which ACTUALLY means, "here's what I've been taught the Bible says"), instead I now humbly acknowledge that these are MY thoughts/opinions/beliefs/perspectives/etc.
I can understand how that sounds unsettling to people who are accustomed to hearing preachers claim some sort of objective truth.
But I am really, REALLY, far away from being wise enough to do that. So in the meantime, I'll stick with humbly offering my thoughts.
Thanks for listening.
Because I want people to know that it’s okay to search for wisdom and truth in other places—including your own Self!
And that’s really scary for evangelicals. Trust me, I know.
Well, that’s enough for now.
Hopefully you’ll stop reading and start watching (but to reiterate the above *disclaimer,* only watch if the idea sounds/feels good to you).
If you enjoy it, or think it valuable, feel free to share it and help spread the word.
Starting next week I’ll engage with some of the content that came up during the conversation between me and Owen. Beginning with my claim at the 17:45 mark where I reject the notion that God is a Being up/out there who has a file folder of documents wherein is kept God’s preferred order of things.
People really didn’t like that part.
So let’s dig in to it.
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