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druidhillsbaptist

Druid Hill’s Baptist Church, Atlanta Georgia

Yesterday afternoon I posted this photo on my Facebook page and to my surprise only two people liked it. Two people out of the hundreds of friends and family I have on Facebook which includes a large number of those who would identify themselves as Christians. One of those two isn’t even a self-identifying Christian, she is a Unitarian Universalist who, if my memory serves me correct, also has a Jewish background. I also posted this photo on Instagram and three people liked it, three people whom were my classmates in the theology school I graduated from in May–the second person to like it on Facebook is also a graduate. A grand total of five people liked this photo of a church essentially doing what a church should be doing in the first place, opening the doors and extending hospitality to everyone. Now, in case you have already forgotten why a church would even feel the need to welcome the Boy Scouts in particular, let me jog your memory back a few months…

In January the Boy Scouts of America were considering lifting its ban on gay members and leaders. In April, a proposal was drafted to lift the ban on denying membership based on sexual orientation, and in May that proposal went forth and the ban was lifted. But since then many churches have either been getting on board with the new ruling by allowing Boy Scout Troops who use the facilities to continue their meetings, or by banning the Boy Scouts from the church. North Druid Hills Baptist is one of the first churches here in Atlanta that I have seen explicitly announce their support of the Boy Scouts but it also isn’t surprising since the church is located in a fairly liberal community and it leases out its space for yoga classes, plays that don’t have anything to do with the Gospel–at least not explicitly–and other activities that most churches would frown upon. But aside from the church doing what is par for the course for them in welcoming the Boy Scouts, I was sad. I was sad not for the church but for the fact that this is even something I would be excited about.

I thought about this as the picture made its way through cyberspace and situated itself on my Facebook page, my Twitter feed, and my Instagram account. Is it stupid to be excited about a church welcoming Boy Scouts, including those members who are openly gay? Yes I think it is stupid to be excited about this because I believe the church should be in the business of being the community that embraces everyone. I’m not going to make the “Jesus hung out with sinners and tax collectors” argument because I think it is trite and I’m not certain that openly gay boy scouts are the sinners in this situation. And let me just pause here for a moment…

One of the things most interesting to me about how the church treats LGBT concerns is that they, sometimes, are obsessed with the sex lives of persons in the LGBT community while being totally uninterested in their love lives. As if all gay men do is sit around looking for and having sex rather than or without love. As if sex is a bigger part of the experience than establishing a lifelong relationship in love. And sure, there are some people who are just looking for some sex but they are not the general profile of the community. I’m not a gay man or lesbian but I know enough to know that sex is but a fraction of the LGBT experience that may amount to the same percentage that it is among heterosexual people, so get out of people’s bedrooms and get into their hearts. But this is also an issue with the church as it regards heterosexual people, lots of interest in what does or doesn’t go on in the bedroom to ensure folks aren’t booking quick trips to hell. And I digress…

I’m more concerned in the fact that churches are closing their doors, doors that are supposed to be open to perform the most radical hospitality that can be performed in this sick world that is often too ready to shut people out because it is more interested in clinging to itself. The church, in my understanding, is not a space for exclusion but inclusion driven by love. This is something that should be a given but it isn’t. I remember sitting in a Watchnight service and hearing a pastor speak of family only as that unit which represents the biblical definition of family, man and woman. The pastor repeated this a few times and I remember tuning out of the service because all I saw was the church closing its doors.

Now I understand that this is what some would consider the “biblical” perspective on this matter, but that biblical perspective often seems to leave out love. Love, which is a part of the revelation of God as shown in Jesus Christ. In shutting out those whose lifestyles don’t match up with the so-called biblical definition of family or those openly-gay boy scouts, the church compromises itself and misses the opportunity to love. This is not about tolerance which, as I have stated before, suggests a mere “putting up” with different perspectives rather than a real shift. In the church’s case it would need to be a shift toward love, outwardly expressed. Love that isn’t just spoken about but love that is actually performed. Love that isn’t just prayed about in the way that a prayer can be prayed about something like this such as, “We pray that ‘they’ discover God’s love.” But love that expresses God’s love, the love we all have access to, the love that was bestowed upon us long ago, and the love that we have responsibility to share out. Love that can be expressed through something like say, opening or keeping your doors open to the Boy Scouts. It’s a “Don’t (just) speak about it, be about it” kind of love. Otherwise, the church is no different from the world if it closes its doors on the Boy Scouts, or members of the LGBT community or other communities that would be considered marginalized. Actually, nowadays, the world is exercising a little more openness to inclusion when it comes to persons in the LGBT community so it may be the church who has to keep up. And understand me well when I say this, I know that “keeping up” may sound like you have to be on board with it all, but what I’m suggesting in “keeping up” is being sure that the world doesn’t outdo you, because the world may be able to open some doors but the church and the people within in it, those supposed people of God are (supposed to be) part of the few and the proud that show forth God’s love, and only that kind of love is credible.

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