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I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

This week my wife and I sat in a public school conference room with our kids’ principal, teacher, and counselor. We were discussing the options to help one of our children with an important (and stressful) upcoming test.

The education professionals spoke with confidence and knowledge, listing the options and the issues with each of them.

However, they were too ‘stuck in their own world’ to realize that my wife and I had no idea what they were saying. There way too many acronyms, phases, and tiers for us to wrap our heads around.

I felt so overwhelmed and tempted to write-off the public education system as narrow-minded and disconnected from the real needs of my children.

But instead, we took a moment, composed ourselves, and asked questions. We explained what we heard, and asked if that’s what they meant.

These seem like basic communication skills. But somehow it was absent from that room that day. Maybe it was a bad day. Maybe the educators forget what it’s like to be outside the system. Maybe they have so many mandates from the powers above that they don’t see any other options.


Over the past couple of years, I’ve been reading, learning, and immersing myself in the LGBT/Church conversation. This began as an exercise in educating myself, and has since become my first feature film project.

I feel I have an interesting perspective as growing up in a fundamentalist pentecostal church, hearing all the rhetoric we’ve all heard and now despise.

The thing is, if we’re honest, each side (and there are certainly more than two) has their own rhetoric they speak, and speak against.

A more interesting truth is that the vast majority of each side is coming from their own version of truth and love.

Each corner of the LGBT debate has their own vocal minority who they’d rather not be associated with.

But more importantly, deep down I think most people want to approach this conversation in love and civility.

The problem seems to be that all sides of this conversation has been inside their own heads, beliefs, and institutions for so long we no longer remember what it was like on the outside. We can’t imagine the world from another point of view.

And it’s not hard to see why:  you have lived your whole life as you.

I have lived my whole life as me.

So in order for me to fully communicate a piece of myself to you, I need to compose myself. I need to calm down. To step out of my own head. And probably just listen for a while.

Each side has their own rhetoric. It doesn’t matter how much love or truth it’s based in. It doesn’t even matter how you mean it.

The only thing that matters is how it is received. That’s communication.

So here is my request: can we all stop using certain words or phrases? 

Can we stop reducing the conversation to talking points?

Can we start asking questions instead of needing to have the answer?

Please, stop using these words. No matter how true you think they are, when another perspective hears them, that is automatic shut-down. There is no communication after that.

If we truly care about others more than ourselves. If we truly want unity and love, let’s allow some humility and grace into the conversation. Let’s stop being so obsessed with what we’re saying. Let’s stop using these words:

NOTE: This is certainly not an all-inclusive list – and I’ll be the first to admit I may overstep on some of them :) Thank you for your grace.

  • Love the sinner hate the sin.
  • I just want what’s best for you.
  • I just want you to make it to Heaven.
  • Sorry it’s just wrong, it’s in the Bible and I believe what the Bible says.
  • I can’t condone that lifestyle.
  • It’s a choice.
  • Gay Agenda
  • There is none of that in my family
  • I just don’t want “that” around my kids
  • I’ll pray for you (in the context of I’ll pray against your homosexuality/for you to change)
  • It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” “
  • Which one of you is the man?”
  • It’s an abomination!”
  • “We love the sinner but…”
  • “But you are so pretty!”
  • And how people sometimes associate homosexuality with promiscuity.
  • We’re all sinners
  • Born that way
  • Just like the civil rights movement
  • God doesn’t make mistakes
  • God can change you
  • Love is Love
  • Stop being homophobic
  • Where does it end?

What would you add to the list?

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  • Chad on March 22, 2015

    Love this! So well written! As a (mostly) conservative straight Christian who changed his position on the morality of same-sex relationships about two years ago, this is really important stuff. I held on to non-affirming views for a long time largely because things pro-LGBT people would say sometimes were just too snarky or condescending or sanctimonious for me to really consider that they might be right. To be sure, non-affirming people can definitely be extremely snarky, condescending, and sanctimonious too, but to change one’s opinion usually (in my experience) requires feeling respected first before one can really consider a different point of view. I generally think it’s very counterproductive for anyone to call a non-affirming person bigoted or hateful. It’s not no one on that side is bigoted or hateful, but the people who are aren’t close to changing their minds anyway, and the people who could be persuaded—people who are thoughtful and open-minded—can be turned off strongly by being called a bigot.

    I agree that comparisons to the civil rights movement regarding race are often counterproductive. It’s not that such parallels don’t exist but people have a strong emotional connection to the civil rights movement and may be indignant that LGBT rights would be compared to it. Each movement in history has its own nuances to it and, as much as possible, should be considered unique. Inasmuch as such comparisons are valid, it’s almost certainly not until one is actually on the pro-LGBT side that they will agree with such comparisons.

    I also don’t like the “right side of history” argument. The problem with it is that it presumes that something is right because it is popular or is becoming popular rather than is right on the merits. This can especially be problematic with Christians who often view popularity as a negative thing, as if popular = worldly = end-times sin. Much better, IMHO, to just try to persuade based on the actual issues involved rather than encouraging someone to hop on the bandwagon.

    On the other side, since I’ve been affirming, I’ve found it obnoxious when someone said I accepted the pro-LGBT side “without question,” as if somehow there was no rationale on my part except to be popular with culture or something. This person didn’t know my own journey in going from non-affirming to affirming and the thoughts that went into that. It wasn’t like I just decided I was tired of being uncool and thought I’d fix that by accepting a position I actually considered biblically unsound. I took my time because I didn’t want to put myself or someone else in a bad place spiritually by accepting an idea I thought could be consequentially wrong. But eventually, I concluded in good conscience that gay relationships weren’t necessarily sinful. So, for this person to assume I just blindly accepted the pro-LGBT side was quite offputting, not so much that I was offended but just because it was so out-of-touch with how I actually approached the issue.

    “The Bible is clear.” The Bible used to be clear on a lot of things we no longer believe. Whenever anyone says something is “clear” or that “there is no debate”, said in such a way to stifle conversation, I tend to be automatically more skeptical in their point of view.

    Heresy. If people resort to calling someone a heretic or having fallen away from God for holding an affirming viewpoint, I tend to view that as a sign of insecurity about their own arguments against homosexuality.

    • Teresa on March 23, 2015

      Great thoughts Chad!

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