Rev. Emily C. Heath

Why I Am an Evangelical Christian

Filed By Rev. Emily C. Heath | March 01, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Christian beliefs, evangelical Christian, lesbian evangelical Christian, religion, religious faith

Growing up in the South, there was one phrase that could always strike terror in my heart: evangelical Christian.

My town was overrun with Christians who claimed the label of "evangelical". question-mark3a.jpgFor them, this did not mean spreading the good news of God's grace. It meant promoting a political agenda that was anti-gay, anti-choice, and anti-Semitic. Their witness to the faith was far different from the loving God presented to me in the Gospels and in my encounters with mainline Christianity. Yet their voices spoke the loudest, and came to be associated for most of my friends with what it meant to be not just an evangelical, but a Christian.

I went off to college and came out, and my faith deepened. When questioned by friends about how I could remain in a religion that preached such hate my response was often the same: "Oh, I'm not one of those evangelical Christians."

And then I went to seminary. And in my fairly progressive seminary, filled with professors who advocated for LGBTQ equality, I came to a stunning realization about evangelical Christians: I was one.

Yesterday Bil Browning shared part of an interview with a fundamentalist Christian preacher on this blog. Bil's article was entitled, "How Will Evangelical Christians Deal With It?" In it, Baptist fundamentalist Albert Mohler talks about evangelical Christians with the assumption that to be evangelical is to believe exactly as he does regarding same-gender marriage. This is just not true. That was enough to get me fired up.

But, what really got me about Mohler's words, was how those of us who are progressives have begun to accept the co-opting of the term "evangelical" by the Christian right.

The word "evangelical" comes from the Greek word transliterated as "euangelion" which means "good news". For centuries "evangelical" meant not a certain set of political beliefs, but rather the deep faith conviction that God loved us beyond measure and with certain grace.

It's the reason why the relatively progressive Evangelical Lutheran Church in America claims the word in its name. It's why one of the predecessor denominations of my very progressive United Church of Christ was called the Evangelical and Reformed Church. It's the history that allows many historic theologians to claim the word "evangelical" in their work as a message of hope and transcendence. Historically, it has nothing to do with hitting people over the head with a Bible. It has nothing to do with denouncing gay rights.

When I realized I was a progressive evangelical, I was surprised. I was an outspoken advocate of equality. I was used to separating myself from the scores of fundamentalists and Biblical literalists in the South by stating that I was "not an evangelical". But, the reality that I really was someone for whom the good news of the Gospel was transforming was too convincing to hide. I was an evangelical. A true evangelical. And they, the people who would use that liberating word to spread hatred, couldn't have it anymore. Not without being challenged on it.

I now know many other liberal or progressive Christians who consider themselves to be evangelicals. For us that word does not just mean that we do not condemn LGBTQ persons. It means that we have a Gospel command to defend and protect them. It means that the good news of God's grace is so strong that we cannot allow anyone who is created in God's good image to be treated as less than anymore. It means that we fight for equality because our faith tells us we can do no other.

To claim our name is a struggle on two fronts. First, Christian fundamentalists and Biblical literalists will try to deny our right to claim an evangelical identity. Fortunately, they do not own the Gospel (despite their convictions otherwise). Those of us who are progressive in the church are used to having to hang on tight to our faith while others try to push us out.

But the bigger question is when the LGBTQ movement will fully accept the presence and work of progressive Christians. Believe me, more than most I understand that pain that has been inflicted on LGBTQ persons in the name of Christianity. I was a queer seminarian in a church that wanted me to decide between a life of celibacy or ordination. I get it. We have a lot of repentance to do.

But we also have a lot of work. And some of us, driven not just by civic responsibility but by the convictions of our faith, are ready to do that work for equality. But we need help.

I have often found greater acceptance as a queer person in my churches than I have as a Christian in the queer community. If we truly want to be as diverse as we claim to be in the queer community, it means we have to accept people with their faith convictions and not ask them to leave them at the door.

Second, it means that we need to allow progressive Christians to tell the story of their own experiences with the church. Instead of projecting preconceptions of what it means to be a Christian or an evangelical on the person who walks through the door of your activist organization, allow them to represent their own reality. Do not allow the Christian right to shape your perception of someone else's identity. They do enough of that already.

And finally, help us to reclaim that word. Help us to reshape the understanding of what it means to be a person of faith in this country. Help us to claim our identity publicly as the true face of evangelical Christianity. Because I still have no doubt; if Jesus was here he would not stand with those who oppress us.

He would stand with the gay teenager who is being bullied. He would stand with the transwoman who is fighting for her job. He would stand with the activist who is being beaten to death in Uganda. And he would stand with you and me.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.


Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


Thank you Emily. I am also an Evangelical Christian.

Chitown Kev | March 1, 2011 6:08 PM

Like so many perfectly decent and relatively value-free words at their origins, some Christians have so totally demonized (and that word right there, from the Greek "daimon," is a perfect example) and appropriated words and language that I don't know if a lot of it can ever be reclaimed, though I ain't mad at you for trying.

Discussions of religious belief in general are fraught with peril particularly among strangers on the Internet and in the imperfect tones of written views. I say that by way of apologizing in advance if I sound like I'm attacking you. That's not my intention.

When you write, "help us to reclaim that word. Help us to reshape the understanding of what it means to be a person of faith in this country. Help us to claim our identity publicly as the true face of evangelical Christianity." my answer is No. Not out of rudeness, but it's not my battle and it's not one I think I have anything more than a political stake in.

Perhaps Christianity has been co-opted, I don't see the historical evidence for that. I realize it is a large, loosely defined group, but the history does not speak of a wide, accepting set of norms and beliefs. Quite the opposite.

That there is an emerging progressive movement in the last two centuries may or may not be good for Christianity but it's not something that as a gay man I feel the need to celebrate or involve myself in.

To draw an analogy, I am not Jewish. I am aware of intense Talmudic discussions among various adherents of Judaism and find them interesting, but these are not my disputes. I can't find a persuasive reason why I would involve myself in them, except that as a gay man, I don't intend to be governed by them.

I am also a bit skeptical about your not knowing earlier on the difference between "fundamentalism" and "evangelical". I was not raised in either tradition but my understanding is that the churches make quite a big deal out of the issue of biblical inerrancy with evangelicals not accepting a literal interpretation. Maybe you meant in a broader social sense?

Finally, for many of us, myself included, we find religious belief odd and not particularly useful. That doesn't mean that I can't respect your experience of faith while not understanding it, but in terms of social, ethical and political struggles, the love or grace of a deity is not a factor. That you feel differently is fine but in a civic sphere of LGBT political struggles, I don't see how it adds anything to the conversation.

I often feel bullied into politely nodding my head and smiling while people explain their religious motivations to me, and I am very glad that there are people of faith who are not using that to justify my oppression, but I am inherently suspicious of those same people trying to use their faith to justify my equality. Our rights should not depend on religious belief.

Again, I am hoping I didn't offend you. I like your writing too much to want to do that. If it feels like I did offend, read what I wrote again and if you still feel the same way, let me have it because I will have totally failed.

The Bible has caused millions of people to be tortured, oppressed and/or killed. There are 'make me feel good' things in the bible and there are also 'go murder your children, rape and pillage' there. If you take the good then you gotta take the bad or you make your source irrelevant.

The bible is dangerous.

And the current ordination practices amongst all the different sects is haphazard at best. I think the government should step in and start licensing ministers. You'd have to get a permit before you could wield a Bible; it might go off!

John Gagon | March 2, 2011 2:34 PM

Isn't that just the thing that would incite some of the paranoids about a new evil Beast church or at best, make some start citing the "no establishment" clause of the constitution?

I often feel the same way to be sure...but while I trust myself, and I usually trust my government, I don't know that I'd want to actually see that happen. I do think we need some "standards" for all clubs/orgs/churches etc that abide some kind of "source material as hate" limitation or acknowledgment that goes along with all kinds of written works, fiction, non-fiction etc. "don't try this at home! these are exceptional events fraught with controversial acts".

As I have commented before, I find that the "Stages of Faith" theory explains so well how and why religious and non-religious people sometimes can and sometimes cannot communicate effectively.

I will keep this comment brief, and the best quick treatment of the Stages of Faith that I can find online is here:

http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/fowler.htm

For example, KevinV above is a perfect example of someone in Stage Four, relying almost entirely on his secular/rational view of reality. If someone such as KevinV feels no need to contact a spiritual realm, or simply thinks there is nothing beyond the material universe which we can see, hear, touch, smell, etc. then there is little reconciling spirituality with such a form of secularism. What KevinV writes to Rev. Heath reflects this incompatibility of worldview perfectly. Moreover, KevinV shows a heightened awareness of the situation, because he senses that communication across these lines of thought is difficult and even tricky.

I'm not here to psychoanalyze anyone -- but I hope some readers might find my way of framing things helpful, and I try to introduce people to the Stages of Faith theory whenever I have a good opportunity.

AJ,

I agree with Kevin in most of what he says, but I *am* spiritual, just not religious. I do feel we are part of something bigger, and feel connected to that, but don't feel the need to proselytize or even to share that with others. And though the texts I value were written thousands of years ago, I don't take them literally, and feel I should follow the letter of what they say in my life, much apply it to others. That is the difference. It's just something personal.

I much prefer a secular society to a religious one, esp one in which the ppl in the majority religion feel the need to make everyone else live according to their religion.

I didn't mean to go into anyone's particular personal beliefs as much as offer a framing theory for how people evolve (or don't) in relation to their religious/spiritual feelings.

My guess is that you are in Stage Five, Carol. Your writing gives my many clues, but one clue is that Bible literalism is very prevalent in Stage Three because it relies on the authority of the local group, but it is very unpopular in Stage Five people, who have passed thru a period of trusting their own individual, independent thought.

Although academicians are expected to have the objective attitude that one stage is not "better" than another, it is also true, and an academic claim of the faith stage theory, that the higher the stage, the more adequate it is at framing reality and at dealing with life's challenges. For example, since I think you are in Stage Five, I would guess that you, Carol, do not find "exotic" religions, such as Islam or Buddhism, threatening the way that many "evangelical" fundamentalist Christians often do.

So Stage Five is a good place to be, IMHO, especially in a world in the process of globalization; and I think the world needs lots more Stage Five people in order for all these diverse peoples to be able to live side by side in peace.

"would guess that you, Carol, do not find "exotic" religions, such as Islam or Buddhism, threatening the way that many "evangelical" fundamentalist Christians often do."

(laughs)

Hardly. Though you prolly can't tell it my the way I am usually riled up here, have studied Buddhism for 30 years, though what I deep coming back to is Taoism (I know, I know, it doesn't seem to have done me much good, lol).

The main thing is, it's just what's right for me; I don't expect anyone else to care about it or be interested in. If ppl ask about some book I am reading, I will give them a real quick summary, then drop it. I certainly don't expect other ppl to know all about it and live by it.

And for me, whatever else works for other ppl, that is what is right for them, and I don't degrudge them that until it spills over into telling me how to live my own life. I do hate to see the impact many of these People Of The Book religions have on the women living under them, but I try to tell myself that is none of my business.

Ok, I went to the 'Stages' site. I don't think I am smart enough to understand what they are talking about, though, too complicated for me. And I don't really identify with any of the stages, perhaps b/c I didn't understand it well enough.

Of course--and not to dismiss something that has meaning for you--I am not too into worrying about which category I am in anyhow. With a couple of important, basic exceptions, I don't feel much need to identify with any particular description, so perhaps I just didn't try hard enough.

Was interesting, thanks for sharing, just was too far over my IQ level, I think! :)

I totally agree with Kevin, he put it awesomely, including my interest in helping the 'good' Christians win over the 'bad' ones.

I wonder, do you have any numbers on the attitudes of Christians as a whole toward gay and trans folks? Esp interesting would be any data broken down into Catholic/Protestant/Mormon and into denominations in the Protestant section.

Maybe it is just because I live in the Midwest, which is defs part of the Bible Belt, and b/c the ppl who get national attention tend to be the rabid anti-gays/anti-trans, but my impression is that overall, Christians are far more of a danger to us than a help.

I can honestly say that, from my viewpoint as a Jewish Atheist, the term "Evangelical" has completely negative connotations, no matter what the politics are of the person claiming it.

I run into this a lot with my faith. Where there is often a commonly understood or perceived connotation to a term that is not at all connected to the actual denotation of the term.
I tend to focus on introducing new terms to the discussion rather than argue against the common connotations.
The connotations connected to the term evangelical are very negative for many of us and that negative perception has been earned through the activities of many people claiming the term.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | March 1, 2011 9:25 PM

"... I came to a stunning realization about evangelical Christians: I was one."

My condolences and with hopes for a speedy recovery.

http://jesusneverexisted.com/

Oh, and as for this:

"I have often found greater acceptance as a queer person in my churches than I have as a Christian in the queer community."

Could that be b/c Christians have been quite successful at discriminating against gay ppl, while the only rights gays have taken from Christians is the right to discriminate against us in some small ways in a few places?

No Carol that is not it at all.

Ok, so what is it then?

cyberdraco | March 1, 2011 11:31 PM

I am a heterosexual male who has been married for 8 years this coming May. I also identify myself as an atheist, but have found calling myself an agnostic seems less threating to many people.

That makes sense since most dictionaries define atheism as the denial of god(s). But I thought you have to prove something before you can deny it?

I am mostly ignorant of the actual heartaches and headaches that people who happen not to be attracted to a single member of the opposite sex go through. I wanted to feel like I was doing something important and just...then I read posts here on bilerico about how the HRC doesn't do nearly as much positive things as they claim to.

When I first thought about LGBT people, I automatically assumed most of them to be non-religious, because how could someone live alongside an ideology that does not want to live alongside them?

I was wrong.

And I may be wrong about this hypothesis but I feel that the many branches of the Christian tree are bearing fruits for different god(s) or at least different versions of the same god(s).

When you write down the practices of say a Catholic compared to a Methodist, you will find many similarities sure, but you will also find practical differences so opposed to each other that the God they worship must be either unrelated or schizophrenic...indeed some early Christian views were that the God of the OT was a different God altogether from the God of the NT.

Or how about the expression my friend, a member of a non-denominational charismatic church, gave me when I said my Christian schooling was primarily Baptist or that my older sister belonged to the Church of Christ...it was obvious to me, a non-believer, that a believer has a scale of good to bad ways of being Christian.

Now, to current Christians, church-goers or private adherents, their idea of the Abhrahamic God is already set within the frame. It is unlikely that the majority would take time to see how the others are framing their idea...least they stumble upon mixed feelings and worry they themselves may not be 'true Christians'.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis argued that we could say who was a true Christian, only if they were a bad or good Christian. The only requirement to be a Christian being the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the son of the only God and, well you know the rest. But we are still left in quite a murky puddle when trying to determine good from bad...despite that good and bad supposedly being divinely inspired.

While I am hopeful because there are many progressive Christians, or if I may say 'secular Christians', throughout many denominations.The fact that thousands of Christians denominations currently exist, is one of the primary reasons I do not believe in the Abrahamic God and its sacred texts.

If Christians cannot get what their God is really about, how can a non-believer?

While I would much prefer not to cringe when I hear the word evangelical, a lot of work will have to be done to do so. And while this atheist would assist in moving the religious people forward, many don't think it is worth the effort and wouldn't bother, "shouldering the cross".

I do not believe in your god(s), but I do believe in you.

I wish you all the best cyberdraco.

cyberdraco | March 1, 2011 11:53 PM

Thank you and did any of my thoughts make sense and/or have plausibility?

BTW, I am Matthew, I use cyberdraco for everything but considering how posts on this site are more personal and emotional, I should have used at least part of my name.

Like many non-believers I know, it is not Jesus we have problems with, it is the people who claim that Jesus approves of the hateful things they do that bugs us...but again who am I to say who is a 'true Christian'?

Matthew I did not think this was the place to explore atheism versus deism. I accept you just as you are. It does not trouble me if I am not accepted by you or anyone else. In my own church there are those who condemn me. That is their problem to solve. I love them even when they wish in their hearts I was dead or perhaps wish I would just go away.

If you believe that this mortal life you are blessed with is just a result of happenstance in the physical realm and when you die nothing of you has any further continuance except as dust then I accept you that way. In the days when Jesus walked in flesh that was the belief of a sect of Jews called the Sadducee. They no longer exist as a sect. Jesus was crucified and returned in a transfigured body proving them wrong. If that is a myth or fairy tail from your perspective I accept that and hope you would accept that for me it is reality. Then we can move on in love and respect.

Perhaps we could persuade Emily to start a new thread focused on atheism and deism in which we could cordially interact about the good, bad and ugly on the many facets of those jewels.

Respect and an open heart go a long way.

My husband is a lifelong Christian and attends the First Christian Church here in town, and he is now an elder in his church. As a recovered-Catholic who has Buddhist-leanings, I try to go with him to church to support him and to be VISIBLE and OUT as a couple, since his church is making that difficult transition to being "open and affirming".

At the same time, I often mark out the word "GOD" on U.S. paper currency every time I can think of it, since I detest living in this theocracy. And while I loathe most of the church service and the music (hymns a plenty), I do try to look past the surface and see where people's hearts are coming from. And when I remove the word "Jesus" and "God", I do hear some wisdom from the pastor. While it's not my "ideal" community, I have developed some wonderful freindships with manyh of the congregation, and they are an important part of our life together.

Go figure.

cyberdraco | March 2, 2011 2:35 AM

I often wonder if we could see those open hearts more clearly with word substitution.

I do my best, however, when someone starts a conversation with God did such and such for me, a mental roadblock tries to pop up and hopefully my heart is open enough to find an alternate route so our time is not wasted.

Likewise, it has been confirmed for me several times that many Christians upon hearing am I an atheist block everything else out, but if I said I was an agnostic they would be more receptive.

Words are incredibly powerful and yet so often when we think we know a word, we do not go back and re-investigate it.

This is all interesting stuff, but with due respect to the "believers," to me it is rationalizing a shared delusion. I grew up in the Baptist Church in the South. My grandmother was the pianist and organist. My mother was the youth group leader. I had fun in church activities. All was good, except none of the dogma made even a little bit of sense to me in my rational world. And then I learned of the inconsistencies; how certain chapters/verses of the Bible were emphasized and others not; etc. By age thirteen, I told my family, "this makes no sense and seems only to make people feel bad (they're sinners) and to frighten them into being a part of the group (for their 'salvation'). I'm not going back there anymore." I thought then and I think today that organized religion preys on the uncertainty and fear of the unknown in people. While it is a crutch for some and may serve a useful purpose, I agree with others here that it's more harmful than good.

For me the Gospels are to the rest of the Bible like smoking light cigarettes is to full octane ones. Perhaps less dangerous but still not a good addiction to have. But I enjoy having the power of logical thought. If I didn't I might find the Gospels appealing.

But, until I have a major stroke that takes away my ability to think well, I will see the Gospels, like the rest of the Bible, as full of contradictions. If Evangelical Christians wish to have a discussion with me I'm happy to point these contradictions out and ask for clarification. If a reasonable answer is not forthcoming then game over. We can find something else to talk about.

Note also that odds are overwhelming that anyone an Evangelical Christian meets has heard this stuff before. Even if the Christian really, really believes the Good News will help the other person it didn't make much of a mark before. Why should this time differ? I advise saving everyone some time and finding something mutually interesting to talk about.


http://www.evilbible.com/contradictions.htm

Wow. The conversation here only reinforces Emily's comment that it is often easier to be gay in progressive Christian communities than to be Christian (of any stripe) in the LGBTQ community. While I recognize that pretty much every queer person has been either directly or indirectly hurt by some form of angry, bigoted Christianity, that's no reason to drive out your queer Christian brothers/sisters altogether.

(Emily, I'm a Christian, a lesbian and... shh, also probably an evangelical. Nice to meet you.)

...that's no reason to drive out your queer Christian brothers/sisters altogether.

But you see that's just it. Nobody is driving anybody out. I have never seen nor heard of an LGBT organization that prohibits membership or participation by people who profess any religion. In fact, many congregations are visible in LGBT organizations throughout the US.

That the belief is challenged does not mean the person is disrespected. Christian believers seem to assume that anyone who does not agree or even particularly care about their belief systems is deeply prejudiced. That's not the case.

In Emily's post, she brought out two points - one that she feels that her public Christianity is unwelcome in LGBT settings and the second that she feels that those involved need to help progressive Christians.

On the first point, I don't deny her feeling as I am not particularly agreeable to discussion of Christianity as a motivator for equality fights, nor am I particularly interested in discussing my own motivations as they are not necessarily relevant to the issue at hand.

And on the second point, it's not my concern how Christians feel they need to define themselves. I will drawn another analogy. I have no idea how you can be a Republican and stand for LGBT equality. I do know there are such people. I'm grateful for them as I don't believe DADT would have been repealed without them, but it's not my place to help them in their battle with other Republicans and I certainly don't want to hear how tax cuts are the true equality issue. That doesn't mean I can't work with gay Republicans on equality issues and even have pleasant social interactions.

A blanket statement such as

that it is often easier to be gay in progressive Christian communities than to be Christian (of any stripe) in the LGBTQ community.
is something I and others understand as a concern and answering why this might be the case is not disrespectful or prejudiced.

Kevin, that was brilliantly stated!

Acceptance doesn't necessarily mean respect and, especially, not agreement. Moreover, it certainly doesn't mean putting on blinders as to how Christianity has treated queer/trans people and those who are non-believers. Sorry, but someone telling me, "yeah, well, but I'm one of the nice ones" just doesn't make me feel all warm and fuzzy even if it's true.

Moreover, so many aspects of supposedly civil-based US culture are still under a complete yoke of Christianity that to expect people who experience such oppression to "see the good in Christians" is kind of absurd. When we have true separation of church and state in this country then I'll be willing to have that conversation.

Wow, you just keep saying it so well! :)

KR, it isn't that I hate Christians. My best friend and her partner are both religious (though not zealous) and go to church, and their faith means a lot to them. Yet we are good friends, and I love and respect her. I know lots of Christians, and even talk to them about what they are doing in their religion. My son was in youth ministry working with homeless kids, and is very religious. I have no problem talking to ppl about their faith, though I have to say I am not that engaged--I'd really rather talk about other stuff that I find more interesting.

What I hate, which is perhaps even worse in your mind, is 'Christianity', esp the way it is woven in our society. You can't get elected certainly to higher office, likely no office, unless you profess your faith (and even then half the country won't believe you if you are black liberal). I just hate the way that most Christians seem to expect that society should be set up according to their culture.

I dunno, maybe it is right, since the vast majority of ppl in this country are Christian, but I just wish Christians (particulary the right wing ones) would stop trying to legislate their values on the rest of us.

Leigh Anne | March 2, 2011 11:39 AM

Amen and Amen!

As a devout Christian, both evangelical and reformed, I agree wholeheartedly that it is often (usually?) easier to be LGBT in my chirch, and among other Christians -- and here I exclude fundamentalist/literalist "christians", Christianists and theonomists -- than it is to be a Christian in LGBT circles.

Many of the comments reinforce that observation.

"I exclude fundamentalist/literalist "christians", Christianists and theonomists"

So, how many Christians are left after you sort these ones out? I keep waiting for Emily to weigh in on some of the comments, and I'd really like an answer to my question about how many Christians really are tolerant, much less supportive, of gay ppl.

In the circles I run in, noone is unwelcome b/c they are a Christian, only if they are one who expects everyone else to live by what they personally believe and criticizes ppl according to those beliefs.

Honestly, why should ppl you hang out with even *know* you are a Christian, unless it is a group of Christians? Or just some info in passing, like you enjoy watching curling? Is your Christianity something you feel needs to be acknowledged?

Emily, thankyou for your thoughtful post. It hit home for me.

thank you for this. it shows me that I really need to check myself on my assumptions

The meaning of the term "evangelical" is not relevant.

Mark Twain said it best, "Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt."

Are there good Christians? yes
Are there good LGBT Christians? Somehow, yes.

Should gays stand up for "good Christians" and help them reclaim their label? Hell no. The "good Christians" need to do that for themselves.

At no time will the Christian community ever be called to help a minority subgroup in the "gay" community reclaim its identity from the larger gay community.

No! If the good Christians are the majority, they are the silent majority. They LET the vocal minority define them. I don't care how personally convicted you are, how Christlike you are, if you are not kicking and screaming, flailing your arms and fighting against that same vocal minority that is ruining the reputation of all "good Christians" then you aren't doing enough.

As an LGBT Christian NONE of your efforts should be directed at getting the LGBT community to accept you as Christian but rather directed at your Christian community to accept you for being LGBT. To further clarify, I don't mean acceptance by the local LGBT friendly Christian church, I mean acceptance by the tobacco spitting, snake handling, hell fire and brimstone, tea partying Christian church that believes it is a sin to drink (if you get caught) and you're going to hell for driving a hybrid.

The human condition didn't improve until an industrial revolution based on scientific principles and until the advent of secular democracy based upon Enlightenment principles.

Now that the benefits of the Enlightenment are being extended to gay people, some idiot christian is proselytizing?

The last thing the gay community needs is to listen to christians. Whether they camouflage themselves as progressives, christians hold sacred a book that insists on death to gays, that insists on women's inferiority (this is explicit in both the new and old testaments), and that encourages and justifies slavery, etc. If you disagree that women are inferior, that gays should be killed or the other gems of christian belief, then find a new belief.

If I went into someone's house and saw Mein Kampf prominently displayed as the person's sacred book and the person then said, I don't agree with everything; I'm certainly not an anti-semite, should I still respect that person. Fuck No.

And for those who will say that I'm ignoring the good parts of the nt, I would say there are no good parts. Turn the other cheek, just gets your face slapped again. I imagine that Gov. Walker would like nothing better than for those union member to go home and turn the other cheek. As to loving everyone as you would love yourself. Bullshit. It is difficult enough to love the people we love. Including all of mankind is impossible. I suggest dumping the impossible and stick to enlightenment principles of giving everyone equality before the law and keeping religion out of politics.

Didn't mean to go on, but christians have had two thousand years to prove themselves. They have failed. And seeing a gay man go on about the benefits of this anti-intellectual idiot religion just pissed me off.

And then there's stage 7 when you become an atheist and realize that believing in fantasy gets you absolutely nowhere, and supporting others who believe in magic, wish fulfillment and other religiosity is not only foolish but harmful to everyone involved.

As someone who has studied religion and spirituality for many many years let me break it down for you:

Your brain is a highly complex organ with many intricate jobs; one job of the brain is to seek pleasure. And fantasy brings pleasure. Religion should be treated the same way sexual fantasy is: share discreetly, only with those who are relevant to your personal pleasure because the entire world really isn't interested in your fantasy. For those of you who believe in the delusion of other worldly life, heaven, hell, god, etc., you have passed from reality to delusion. Good luck to you and may you not inflict your delusion on anyone else.

If someone mentions that they don't believe in God, I'll generally mention that I do; and, given the circumstances, I may ask if they're willing to discuss it.

I certainly have the right to call them delusional, and to accuse them of complicity with the worst crimes committed by atheists that I can think of. But, if I choose to do so, I'm definitely not strengthening community; I don't think I'm serving any goal at all.

I agree with Kevin and others that fixing Christianity is the responsibility of Christians, not of the rest of you. Still - for those of you who are interested in strengthening the LGBT community overall - it wouldn't hurt if a piece like this, published among LGBT people, didn't predictably draw mostly accusations and denunciations.

Anyway. Back to the topic. I agree, and I want to make a point by reclaiming other adjectives, too. I aspire to be a radical Christian, a fanatic Christian, an extremist Christian. I strongly disagree with cultural rightists who claim to be closer to Christ's teaching than the rest of us, and I disagree with anybody who calls me more "moderately Christian" than they are. I think that a radical, fanatic, extremist Christian, somebody who took Jesus completely to heart and dared actually do everything he taught - should one ever dare to exist - would be repugnant to rightists. Would give all they had to the poor, would seek vengeance under no circumstances whatsoever, would love without fear or borders or even self-preservation. It's only a very light whitewash of Jesus, painted thinly over our own hates and fears, that leaves room for arrogance and coldheartedness. When I add cruelty to my Christianity, I become less Christian, not more.

Or, if you don't like spiritual talk, here's a purely pragmatic - even cynical - way to look at it.

LGBT-hostile Christians want to reinforce the notion, within and outside Christianity, that Christianity and LGBT rights are inherently opposed. LGBT-friendly Christians argue the opposite. (A big mush of Christians in between are torn, and can be pulled either way by circumstances or framing.)

When you argue that Christianity and LGBT rights are inherently opposed, do you realize that you're arguing in agreement with LGBT-hostile Christians, helping them to frame the argument the ways they prefer?

When LGBT-hostile Christians prevail in the argument, there are two effects:
1. LGBT people and their friends are deterred from becoming Christians.
2. Rightists get to use Christianity to bolster their attacks on LGBT people.

You may actually (consciously or unconsciously) consider #1 desirable. When you think it through, though, do you want #1 enough to make it worth also bringing on #2?

In short, even if you're certain that we're all fools, it matters which side of our folly prevails; and yes, your voice has a role in that.

Emily opines, "[b]ut the bigger question is when the LGBTQ movement will fully accept the presence and work of progressive Christians." I would disagree that this is even really a salient question at all. The LGBTQ movement has pretty poor internal cohesion to begin with, but within it, religion is a hopelessly polarizing red herring. The simple fact is that a large portion of the LGBTQ community, at least of those who are currently living, is going to "accept" neither the notion of the Christian religion in general or the faith-based equality efforts of progressive Christianity.

I will speak for myself but I imagine that my experience is also pretty reflective of similarly-situated gay people. I can accept that you are Christian, I can accept that the Christian church has the right to exist in this country, I accept that you practice your faith as you see fit, and so on. Despite that, there is a taboo in our society of being logically, rationally, and respectfully skeptical of religious beliefs.

To state it plainly, I am accepting of all those things I mentioned above, and at the same time I think your religion is wrong. I objectively disagree with the basic doctrines and holdings of Christianity (and every other religion as well, for good measure). That doesn't mean that I disrespect YOU as a person, but that also doesn't mean that I have any particular obligation to be accepting of actions explicitly motivated by Christian doctrine in my life. And it's not like I just take issue with fundamentalist Christian doctrines that are explicity trained against gays and other groups; I disagree with everything from the immaculate conception to the resurrection, and I would rather not someone offer me help based on their interpretation of anthropomorphized divine will, however benevolent.

The article is framed (by the title) as an exploration of why you are an Evangelical Christian, and I curiously found that it ended up not really answering why Evangelical or why Christian (which I'd still be interested in hearing), and rather became a treatise on why gays should be accepting of progressive Christians. W/r/t to evangelism, all I really got was "...the reality that I really was someone for whom the good news of the Gospel was transforming was too convincing to hide." Which, although you chose not to expand upon it, really gets to the heart of evangelism: not simply holding faith, but professing it/spreading it. Can you explain what in particular led you to that conviction?