It's Not Binary
You already know that sexuality is on a spectrum, from super-gay to super-straight, with lots of people falling somewhere along the spectrum on one side or the other, and a couple of oddballs in the exact middle. (Just kidding, my bi friends. Chill.)
And you are learning that gender itself is on a spectrum, from all-the-way-male to all-the-way-female, with so many degrees of biological and emotional and social expression in between that it makes sense when some people identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth.
Now here’s a third spectrum that you probably want to know about: the range of responses to LGBTQ+ inclusion among people of faith. It turns out that there are not two kinds of people in the world, the homophobic, non-affirming nitwits and the purely good, #allmeansall advocates. Imagine that.
William Stacy Johnson points out in his book A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics (Eerdmans 2006) that individual Christians and churches locate themselves all along a spectrum of acceptance to which he assigns seven numbers and descriptions. Here they are.
1. Prohibition does not approve of and seeks to ban same-gender relationships (and trans identity, etc.) in church and culture.
2. Toleration does not approve of but would not prosecute or reject LGBTQ+ people. A “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude prevails here.
3. Accommodation does not approve of LGBTQ+ identity generally, but allows for exceptions, especially if someone they love comes out. “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
4. Legitimation wants to include LGBTQ+ persons in the community and church, and wants to protect individuals from being singled out or condemned. “They’re people, too.” “We’re all sinners, you know.”
5. Celebration believes that same-gender relationships and marriages should not be scorned but affirmed as good for individuals and for society.
6. Liberation views LGBTQ+ acceptance in the context of wider injustices in society, and seeks remedy for injustice generally.
7. Consecration argues for the full religious blessing of LGBTQ+ identity, including the sacrament of marriage.
I identify as a 7 on this scale, but it was not always the case. I remember being a 1, and a 2; and I remember the person I met who converted me to a 3. The ascent through 4, 5, and 6 was rapid and smooth, thanks be to God and the brave LGBTQ+ people who helped me figure it out.
So, when we’re thinking about people we love who have not figured out how to love all people exactly as they are, can we imagine them as something other than hopelessly homophobic and hate-filled? Of course we can. With practice, and patience, and prayer, we can.
And maybe you find yourself somewhere on this spectrum, somewhere short of #7. And you’re wondering whether <7 persons have a place at Galileo Church. Well, sure you do. Because you have a place in the heart of God. That’s always been true, and it always will be.
God, as it turns out, is pretty good at this spectrum thing. And we’re getting better at it all the time.