Note: I wrote this post a few days before the tragic shootings at a gay bar in Orlando, Florida. As our information about the shooter and his motivations have grown, this post has taken on new meaning.
I recently provided counseling at a Christian camp for low income children, and I saw firsthand the ways we teach our children—both those who will develop opposite-sex attraction and those who will develop same-sex attraction—to be homophobic.
These kids were awesome. Despite the challenges they have faced, disappointments they have weathered, and pain they have endured, they continue to be image-bearers in the ways they love each other and seek joy in their lives. They hold so much potential—if only someone *cough* the Church *cough* took up the responsibility of providing the love, security, and opportunity this broken world has threatened.
Throughout the week I noticed two 10-year-old boys who could consistently be found eating together, playing together, and worshipping together. We’ll call them Sam and Tommy. Sam and Tommy looked like truly meaningful friends not yet infected by homophobia to fear having a close friend of the same sex and being physically affectionate.
At one point, while Sam and Tommy stood in line for dinner, Sam complained to an adult leader standing behind him that Tommy kept on passing him notes. The adult leader responded, looking at Tommy, “Are you in love with him or something?” The look on Tommy’s face was that of great fear. Maybe the boy was afraid because he was actually attracted to Sam and feared anyone finding out. More likely, Tommy does not experience same-sex attraction but was afraid that others might think he is gay. He was confused because the world was telling him that it isn’t normal for boys to be close friends emotionally or physically.
From a young age, we teach our children homophobia: We teach our children fear of meaningful relationships with people of the same sex. We teach our children to be wary that all their interactions are being examined. We teach our children that gay is bad. If you aren’t gay, prove it. If you are gay, hide it. We ignore that some children experience same-sex attraction.
What if instead, Sam and Tommy grew up in a Church where they heard their parents, friends, and pastors talk in compassionate and meaningful ways about sexuality? What if Tommy wasn’t afraid of meaningful friendship with other guys? What if Tommy wasn’t afraid to be gay?
Let’s become a Church without homophobia.