When conservative Christians find out I’m gay, they almost all say the same thing: “I know gay people think Christians hate them, but I don’t. I love gay people. I may not agree with them, but I love them.”
You’d be surprised how often I hear this. Christians are constantly telling me how much they love me.
If they treat me disapprovingly, it’s because they “love the sinner and hate the sin.”
If they preach at me, they’re “speaking the truth in love.”
If they distance themselves from me, it’s because they’re showing “tough love.”
Yet they wonder why gay people don’t feel very loved.
It reminds me of a scene from the 1960s musical film My Fair Lady. Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower girl, has worked hard to overcome her Cockney accent and pass as a proper English lady, but she eventually tires of being treated as a trophy by her diction teacher and others. So when a young suitor named Freddy—who barely knows anything about her—begins to sing a song professing his love, she humorously interrupts him with a song of her own:
Words, words, words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through,
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don’t talk of stars burning above;
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams filled with desire;
If you’re on fire, show me!
“Show me,” she says. As a gay man, I feel the same way.
Do you love me? Don’t talk about it. Show me.
You know why LGBT people have such a bad impression of Christians? It’s not because of protesters with “God hates fags” signs. We know they’re extremists. It’s because of daily being dehumanized by the Christians who lecture and preach at us, treating us asissues instead of as human beings—and because of the Christians we know who stand idly by, thinking that if they’re not actively hating us, that counts as loving us.
That’s not love. Talk is cheap. Telling me your opinion on my life is easy. Real love takes more than that.
Sing me no song; read me no rhyme!
Don’t waste my time! Show me!
Don’t talk of June; don’t talk of fall;
Don’t talk at all! Show me!
Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn’t one I haven’t heard…
It’s true. Anything you could say, all that “speaking the truth in love,” I’ve heard it all before. So if you’re really serious when you say you love me, you’re going to have to prove it. Show me.
Not sure how? Here are some ideas.
- Support my rights. Okay, maybe we don’t agree on the definition of marriage, but can we at least agree that people shouldn’t be able to fire me or kick me out of my home just because they found out I’m gay? If you agree, help me make those legal protections a reality. If you don’t agree, it’s hard to believe you really care that much about my well-being.
- Stick up for me, even when I’m not around. Don’t let people make gay jokes or speak derisively about LGBT people. You never know who might be listening. I was, before you knew I was gay.
- Invite me to dinner. Or a party. Or a movie. Or a game night. Or to hang out at the mall. Make it something I enjoy, and don’t use it as a pretext for anything other than having a good time together.
- Take an interest in my life and relationships. Ask about the person I’m seeing, or the person I’d like to be seeing. (No need to tell me how much you disapprove.) Find out about my hobbies, favorite movies, favorite music, and other things I’m passionate about. Learn to see me as a multifaceted human being.
- Ask about my experiences as an LGBT person. Don’t comment. Just listen.
- Learn the language I use for myself, and use it. For instance, I don’t call myself “homosexual”; I call myself gay. If you call me “homosexual” in spite of my disdain for that term, it doesn’t feel very loving to me.
- Get involved in causes LGBT people care about. Join the fight against LGBT bullying in schools. Learn about the homeless LGBT youth population in your city. Volunteer at a charity serving people with AIDS. Don’t bring attention to what a good Christian you’re being; just do it because it’s the right thing to do.
- Instead of asking me to join you in settings where you’re most comfortable, look for opportunities to join me in settings where I’mmost comfortable. Maybe I have a favorite coffee house, or I love to hike a local trail, or I go bowling with friends every Friday night. And hey, maybe you could get to know my friends instead of expecting me to fit in with yours.
- Be the conservative Christian in my life who doesn’t quote the Bible at me. I know; you’re worried that not expressing disapproval will make me think you approve of all my decisions. It won’t. It just shows me that you care more about me than about our differences.
Most importantly, don’t do any of these things with a hidden agenda. Do them because you love me. You said you love me, right? Okay, then. Show me.
JUSTIN LEE is the founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network (GCN), a nonprofit, interdenominational organization working to increase dialogue between gays and Christians and support people on both sides wrestling with related issues. He has been featured in numerous print, radio, and television venues including Dr. Phil, Anderson Cooper 360, the Associated Press, and a front page article in The New York Times. In 2009, he directed the documentary Through My Eyes about the debate’s impact on young Christians, and he is the co-host of popular long-running podcast GCN Radio.
His first book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, has been hailed by gays and Christians, conservatives and liberals, for tackling some of the most divisive questions of our generation, and offering both sides an honest, realistic, and compassionate way forward.
Justin lives in Raleigh, NC. You can read his blog, Crumbs from the Communion Table on Tumblr.