As soon as the snow falls, I’m ready for Christmas. October 31st, 2019, it was snowing in Kalamazoo, and I was singing along to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You” at full blast on the way to a Halloween party. It was a good time.
Today, I’m sitting in a Starbucks, sipping a sugary holiday drink even though I can’t stand the taste of coffee, thinking about Christmas. An interesting, yet absolutely unoriginal thought strikes me—if Jesus were born today, many evangelical churches would shame his unwed mother, seek to deport him and his extended family, and pull his book from store shelves for being too soft on the queer community.
When it comes to having a child out of wedlock, the Evangelical church community might just be the worst place to do it. Despite their staunched “pro-life” status, the Evangelical church is so infatuated with purity culture that they are blind to the way it repeatedly excuses men of impure behavior and even sexual assault. And even if men were shamed just as equally for sex before marriage as unwed mothers are, still, this would not make any better the damaging propaganda and rhetoric of purity culture. Teens, particularly young girls, won’t get through high school going to an Evangelical church without hearing something about how, if they rip a piece of their heart off for every boy they have sex with or date for any period of time, when they meet their illustrious eternal soulmate (an idea that Christian mythology does not even suggest), they’ll only have a dirty, used-up piece of their heart to hand over, and they ought to feel guilty for the rest of their life. Then, without fail, guilt-ridden parents explain the same shame-creating rules to their children, and the cycle continues. If Jesus went to youth group, He’d be told His mother brought shame upon herself, and He better watch Himself if He wants to live a life of purity.
Many news outlets report that white Evangelicals are some of the most anti-immigrant folks out there. They might tell you that they only support the deportation of illegal immigrants, but the fact is, policies of the Trump administration have made immigrating to the US more difficult whether you’re jumping a fence, overstaying your visa, or complying with immigration laws and processes. If unabashed support of Trump policies isn’t outright xenophobia and racism, then why do the statistics change when you ask the same questions of non-white evangelicals? And why was refugee Jesus a beautiful story, when refugee Hondurans are a “massive caravan on track to hit the US Border, just in time for the Election?” Perhaps it is because Evangelicals have swallowed the lie, hook, line, and sinker, that the Republican Party stands for the cause of Christianity. If you’re a Republican-identified, Christian person, and the current president hasn’t made you do a bit of soul-searching, you might consider digging your head out of the sand. Republicans are only opposed to immigrants because immigrants are often poor, and poor people often vote for those who pander to the poor with promises of government programs. And so, as part of the Republican plan to make their rich donors even richer, they oppose the threat of rising immigrant populations. And white Evangelicals, instead of turning against the party that elected a thrice-married, woman-abusing, arrogant fool, will adopt any political strategy that the anti-LGBT, anti-abortion party hands down, even when that party fails to make any real progress in terms of pro-life values or laws that protect freedom of religion in regards to the threat of LGBT folks who would like a cake, wedding photos, a job, or to adopt a child out of poverty. In short, Evangelicals will sooner listen to Trump on immigration than the Bible on immigration.
When Lauren Daigle appeared on The Ellen Show in 2018, the Evangelical community raised a few eyebrows. Later, when asked about the morality of being gay and having a same-sex relationship, Daigle said, “I don’t know. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” This set the Christian media ablaze. Several headlines quoted her in such a way that mocked her honesty, such as, “Lauren Daigle Doesn’t Know If Homosexuality Is A Sin,” as if to suggest that any literate person would not think for a moment before throwing the first stone at their gay neighbor or coworker. And yet, don’t you think Jesus would have a similar reaction to this topic? Obviously, Jesus wouldn’t say, “I’m not God,” because He is God. But something makes me think Jesus would not come out swinging against the LGBTQ community. Instead, Jesus would ask questions. Jesus would be vague. And for this reason, those who hate the very thought of queerness would be enraged. They’d write, “Jesus Doesn’t Know If Homosexuality Is A Sin.” They’d quietly start rumors about the subject of Jesus’ own orientation. Because there’s nothing the Evangelicals hate more than gray areas.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”
When we put stumbling blocks in the path of children who love God and are burdened for the cause of Christ, one might say (most notably, Jesus), that it would be better for us to die than those children trip on what we have put in their way. And yet, many church pastors would rather see a gay child leave the church than be welcomed and accepted as who they are. Many queer, Christian people I know have felt like giving up on their religion due to the way they are perceived by people they once considered friends. And purity culture doesn’t only attack sexual minorities; many straight young adults end up leaving the church because of ever-present judgment when it comes to any sexual activity before marriage. These aren’t people who hate God; they’re people who were made to experience love and attraction and meaningful relationships, some of which do not end (or begin) with marriage. They’re people who take the words of Christ to heart, who seek justice and mercy, who want to love their enemies, who give to projects and causes they believe in with a cheerful attitude.
Chasing out LGBT members of the church community or anyone who transgresses the Evangelical sexual code of conduct will not make the community more pure, but rather, it will create a safe space for sexual manipulators and abusers and leave many young adults without a faith home.
“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
If you’re so scared of the economy crashing due to an influx of immigrants, maybe you need to spend more time in prayer and less time watching Fox News. If you’re worried that Muslim immigrants will change the religious scene, consider the perspective of Muslims fleeing Muslim extremists, or the plight of Muslims in China, where detention centers “re-educate” children and adults and seek to assimilate them to the non-religious ways of a largely atheist country. This is an assault on religious liberties, but not one that you’ll hear a Christian pastor speak out against.
Loving God means loving and welcoming those you disagree with. Loving God means accepting ambiguity, living with gray areas, and embracing people even when we aren’t sure what we believe about them. This Christmas, think about how you would treat Jesus if He were an immigrant at the southern border. Think about how you’d treat Him if He were a gay teenager in your church. Think about how you’d talk about and treat His unwed mother. There is controversy in loving God, because there is controversy in loving others. This is no excuse for turning away those God loves, particular in a season which honors the birth of a tender Jewish refugee and activist.