Recently, I led a workshop at the Christian Educators Association national convention. The title of my workshop was "Navigating Potential Conflicts Over LGBTQ Education with Both Parents and Students." What follows was the gist of my opening remarks.
I grew up thinking that believing correct doctrine was the primary test of whether or not you were a Christian. But younger Christians don't really care all that much about what they, or you believe as long as it makes you a more loving, kind and generous person. While I am now more sympathetic to their emphasis on love, without the foundation of some strong biblical convictions they and we are rudderless when making ethical, moral decisions.
For a Christian, God is the only who can determine what real love is. His idea of love has nothing to do with warm loving acceptance of everyone's behavior. Jesus tripped over himself to communicate, "If you love me you will obey me." But what about if telling others God's truth hurts their feelings? I think Jesus would respond "When you tell others what the Father and I have taught you, you are loving them whether they like what you have to say or not. However, be careful how you communicate our truth to them. Have a kind, but serious look on your face. Make sure they know you care deeply for the."
Nowhere is this more evident than in the LGBTQ conversation. Many young Christians are making the church's treatment of LGBTQ people the litmus test of whether not they want to be part of any church, or even identify as a Christian. Very few younger Christians I've spoken with have come to their conclusions based on a serious study of the Bible. They just have great empathy for their LGBTQ friends.
The trouble for many Christian schools is that many of your students parents and grandparents, and major supporters have just the opposite challenge. They believe they know exactly what God thinks of homosexuals and they see any attempt to be more understanding as a slippery slope that ends in San Fransisco! And they likely to oppose any efforts to educate their children any differently.
Years ago I met with a group of seniors on the topic of how Christian's should treat LGBTQ people. I wasn't really getting anywhere until I asked this question and made this observation; "Do you love your children and grandchildren? Of course you do. They may be afraid to tell you that they're fine with same sex marriage, and gay and transgender people. But one day you're going to wake up to find they've left the church and won't return to any church that isn't kind to their LGBTQ friends. So, if you love your children and grandchildren and want them to become, or remained believers, you're going have to educate yourselves to be the thought leaders of your family on this topic."
I told them, one of our college age grandchildren admitted to me she was leaning in favor of same-sex marriage. "You have no idea how good that makes me feel," I told her. "I thought you were against same-sex marriage," she said to me. "I am. But I'm honored that you trust me enough to tell me you don't." In my world, that's the holy grail of grand parenting! As long as my grandchildren feel safe with me, I have to opportunity to influence them. Ignorance is not bliss, it's dangerous.
The bottom line is this; if your church and Christian schools in your area don't developed and teach a thoughtful kind and biblical response to LGBTQ people many students will abandon many of the other foundational truths you and others have worked so hard to teach them. After all, as one student told me, "If Christians got this wrong, what else have they gotten wrong?" Whether they mean to or not, they are putting God, and the Bible on trial!
I recently I caught up with Shirley Hoogstra the president of Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities. I asked her what her greatest challenge is right now. "The LGBTQ conversation is the first, second, and third challenge of Christian colleges right now."
That's why six years ago I co-founded The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender with Dr. Preston Sprinkle who taught at Cedarville and Eternity Bible College, started by Francis Chan. We train pastors and Christian leaders how to teach their people to love LGBTQ people and still hold to the historical Christian understanding of marriage and sexuality. We have tons of resources to help you teach your students both grace and truth. But schools and churches need to get this right. www.centerforfaith.com
Next week I'll post what I call "An Introduction to the LGBTQ Conversation." It's enough to help any Christian parent, or grandparent acquaint themselves with enough information to have a thoughtful, biblical conversation with their family. If you don't lead this conversation with your kids the internet and their friends will. The choice is yours.
Finally, please forward this blog to any Christians school administrator or your young pastor and ask them to checkout - www.christian-sexuality.com for our video series for high school students. I've also written a lenghy blueprint for guiding Christian School boards to introduce this video series to their students. If you'd like a copy just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request "Navigating Conflict..." I'll know what to send you.