We Love You, But You're Going to Hell: Christians and Homosexuality: Agree, Disagree, Take a Look212
We Love You, But You're Going to Hell: Christians and Homosexuality: Agree, Disagree, Take a Look212
• How do sincere, Bible-believing Christians balance their interpretation of Scriptures with everyday encounters with gays and lesbians?
• How do we have conversations when we disagree? Without judging or calling into question someone’s faith or salvation?
This book OPENS UP the conversation – with chapters devoted to the Author’s Story, Scriptures, Stereotypes, Marriage, Religious Freedom, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do in our families, churches, and society.
It is easy to single-handedly dismiss an individual or church’s belief or stance by writing them off as conservative or liberal. No matter which side you are on, there is benefit to educating yourself on the beliefs and experiences of those with whom you disagree. The author asks that the reader consider viewpoints expressed by a variety of churches and ministers. Look closely at the Scriptures that are cited and decide for yourself. Look at the beliefs of well-known conservative ministers and doctrines of several church denominations in this book.
Some Christians believe it is loving to demand denial of homosexuality, ending relationships, changing to heterosexuality, or remaining celibate – in order that the soul be saved. Others believe sexual orientation is God-given, cannot be changed and that it is cruel and unloving to demand it.
If you believe homosexuality is a sin, the Scriptures condemn, sexual orientation doesn’t exist; read this book. Argue with it, confirm your beliefs, question, change your mind. The author invites your engagement.
Kim O’Reilly cares deeply about the divisions she sees in churches today over homosexuality. How do we get beyond the disagreements, divisiveness, and polarization we see playing out in our churches and society? How do we honor the rights of each of these groups without denying the rights of the other? She attempts to answer these questions throughout her book.
Love and/or Condemnation?
“God doesn’t make mistakes. Humans do. God doesn’t make one gay. They make that choice on their own. It’s a fact that homosexuality is a choice. It has a cause – Satan.”
“I was nine years old when I recognized my attractions for the same gender. Praying to God every night and pleading with Him to take my feeling away didn’t work. Practically living, eating, and breathing the Bible didn’t work. I tried repressing and denying who I was – but nothing changed inside of me. I was taught by my pastors, parents, and peers to hate myself – and that worked.”
What does the Bible say about how we should treat those we disagree with or who we believe are going to Hell? The final chapter offers strategies and solutions on how to bridge the divide between Christians and gays – how to promote healing and not to inflict more pain.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I have written this book out of love and compassion. It is something that has been stirring in me, something that had to be birthed. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of so many gays and lesbians who identify themselves as Christian — or who would be drawn to Christianity if it were not for the condemnation they would receive. Homosexuals in the church have been given the option of ceasing to be gay, "choosing" to be heterosexual, remaining celibate, or going to Hell.
I am writing to those in the Church and asking you to consider that you may not have all of the information you need to draw the conclusion that your gay and lesbian church members, friends, or family are condemned to Hell by God. I would like to challenge you to read each of the chapters in my book; use it as a study guide in your Bible groups or adult Sunday school classes.
I am not condemning conservative Christians who believe and preach that homosexuality is an abomination. I understand the interpretation of the seven Scriptures used to condemn homosexuals, the history behind that condemnation, and the justification held by God-fearing, loving Christians. I invite those Christians to take the time to read my book. It is written in a fair-minded manner, without pointing fingers.
If you are convinced, as you pick up this book, that homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals will go to Hell, it is worth your time to read it. Familiarize yourself with the Scriptures used to denounce homosexuality, look at what constitutes sexual orientation, learn how the Scriptures have wrongly been used to promote slavery and segregation, as well as to condemn homosexuals. Become aware of the inaccuracies behind the stereotypes of gays and lesbians, and discover how millions are adversely affected by the Church's judgment and condemnation.
If you are sure of your criticism and denunciation of homosexuality, still read this book to argue with it, challenge it, maybe change your mind on something, or confirm what you already believed going in. If you are certain that you know everything about sexual orientation and are qualified to condemn others based on your own knowledge, still read this book. It's worth the time to acquaint yourself with the Scriptures, challenge yourself, change your mind, and/or confirm that you have a solid foundation for your beliefs.
If you have people in your life who are gay or struggling with their sexuality because of the condemnation, it is worth your time to consider what this book has to say. Instead of handedly passing judgment, or demanding people change their sexual orientation, consider a more compassionate approach. Read the Scriptures and learn about sexual orientation. Leave the judgment to God. We won't know for certain this side of Heaven. If you err, err on the side of compassion.
What Brought Me to Write This Book
This was initially a response to Phil Robertson and his comments that went public in December 2013. I am a university professor who is very familiar with the Robertson family and enjoyed watching Duck Dynasty! While this credentials me with conservatives, my liberal friends have a hard time understanding my affection for the Robertson clan. I am uniquely positioned to respond, and my first draft was written as a letter to Phil Robertson:
I read YOUR book Happy, Happy, Happy. Now I ask that you read mine. Let me introduce myself ...
I have since decided to reframe the book so that it speaks to conservatives in general, the Robertsons included, and, of course, moderates and liberals. Phil Robertson had every right to voice his opinions based on his biblical beliefs. Since he had a public forum to do so, many on the Left criticized him. He has since emphasized his love for homosexuals, not hate. That's good, and hence the title for my book, We Love You, But You're Going to Hell.
There is no question that most conservative Christians advocate love, but in keeping with their interpretation of Scriptures they also advocate for repentance, changing to heterosexuality, or remaining single and celibate. These demands or expectations are based on seven Scriptures, confidence in an understanding of sexual orientation as only legitimately heterosexual, and certainty as to the will of God. The following Phil Robertson quotes demonstrate this:
"We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job. We just love 'em and give 'em the good news about Jesus — whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later."
"While Scriptures make it clear homosexual behavior is sin and comes under the judgment of God, it also indicates that those who are guilty of homosexual behavior or any other sin can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)."
"Jesus will take sins away, if you're a homosexual he'll take it away. If you're an adulterer, if you're a liar, what's the difference? If you break one sin you may as well break them all."
Admirably, the message here is love. I agree that God is the judge, not the individual Christian. However, Robertson says homosexuality is a sin equivalent to alcoholism, lying, adultery. He believes that in repentance, homosexuality can be forgiven and changed to heterosexuality.
What This Book Is About
I want to address several of the Robertson statements. Yes, if God is the judge we should leave it to God. But many Christians have taken it upon themselves to speak for God and His judgment. With that comes the demand for repentance and changing sexual orientation. Asking for repentance assumes that there is a sin.
Chapter 4 looks at the seven Scriptures that are the basis on which to condemn homosexuality as a sin. Chapter 5 researches what constitutes sexual orientation. There is no evidence that sexual orientation can be changed; sexual behavior, yes — but not orientation or attraction. Chapter 6 addresses stereotypes and myths that have risen out of [mis] interpretation of the Scriptures. If stereotypes of homosexuals are not recognized, they will go unchallenged. Chapter 7 looks at how these stereotypes may be perpetuated by ministers and Churches.
With the belief that sexual orientation equates to heterosexuality and homosexuality is sinful and deviant, conservative Christians want marriage to be reserved for heterosexual males and females. The debate has heated since the June 2015 Supreme Court decision. Chapter 8 will discuss all sides of this issue.
Religious freedom laws and court cases have risen out of differences over religious conviction and the rights of gays and lesbians to receive wedding-related services. Chapter 9 gives balanced coverage of this conflict.
The final two chapters identify problems and solutions. Why is it so important to look at Christians and homosexuality? Chapter 10 covers the damaging effects of conversion therapy, discrimination, Christian demands for changing orientation, and the self-loathing and even suicide that so sadly result when that cannot be accomplished. Family rejection, Church rejection, and leaving the Church are all consequences of not having the discussion my book covers and advocates.
Most importantly, Chapter 11 offers hope! Strategies, resources, and biblical references are given, moving from empathy and compassion to healing.CHAPTER 2
I am a Christian, a minister's daughter, a university professor, and a lesbian. All labels that may conjure up stereotypes and generalizations — as labels often do. I teach about both the convenience of using labels and the downside in my classes. Labels can readily pinpoint identity and tend to work well when chosen by the one self-identifying. Even then, there are so many nuanced meanings that can be applied.
Two of my labels might be associated with conservativism, two with liberalism. I am devout and Bible-believing, my father was a fundamentalist minister, and I "profess" in a liberal university. Many think that "Christian" and "lesbian" can't be in the same sentence, let alone the same person.
I have been the exception to the rule. I grew up in a conservative Christian family, whom I love and respect. I've spent a major part of my life on university campuses, obtaining degrees or teaching others in that pursuit. Conservative is not a dirty word to me. Liberal is not, either. I straddle and live in both worlds without conflict or confusion. Now, my postman might be confused in delivering liberal and conservative materials to the same mailbox!
I started out early in life wanting to see or hear more than one side of issues or arguments. Although I didn't reference it as "critical thinking" then, it has remained central to my teaching and my relationships now. I think I came out of the womb asking questions, much to my parents' dismay. Questioning seems to be a common trait among teachers. Good thing, because it can serve us well in our profession.
I've also been a bridge-builder most of my life, looking for ways to understand and appreciate opposing or differing viewpoints. I am a moderate. In fact, I "moderate" in my classrooms. My students run the gamut of conservative, moderate, and liberal. All opinions are encouraged as long as they are presented respectfully and without personal attack. It takes finesse to facilitate discussions, to help students negotiate and share across differences. I am fortunate that I have had many years of practice, and it is what I find most rewarding. No political correctness, no censorship, no pressure, or finger-pointing. The skill of dialoguing across differences needs to be taken to the larger society, especially in today's polarizing environment. I always advocate for building bridges, not fences. That is my intention, and my hope, in writing this book.
My Early Years
I was born in Guyana, South America. My father was a Lutheran missionary who served several churches up and down the Berbice River in the interior of the Amazonian rain forest. I would tag along with him on occasion — for baptisms, funerals, and celebrations among the Amerindians. Congregants in the coastal villages were of African and East Indian (India) descent. My earliest memories were of trips to the market, paddling in dug-out canoes, and swimming in the Atlantic.
My arrival in New York City as a young girl was marked with some trepidation, as I didn't see any friendly faces. I had grown up with Africans and East Indians. My family was the only white family in that part of Guyana. I looked for familiar people of color and didn't see any. I saw a black woman at the top of the escalator in a New York City department store, ran up to her, jumped into her arms, and happily proclaimed that I had found a friend. Of course, through the eyes of a child, this story is oversimplified and only skin deep, but early memories shape us. The contrasting years of growing up in the Midwestern state of Iowa would do the same. I went from the Amazon to the Mississippi River. For a time, I couldn't relate to all of the white faces I saw until I adapted to my new culture.
It was religion and not race that would impact me as I grew up. As a minister's daughter, I found that differing ideologies and practices in the local denominations and religions stirred my interest. I couldn't understand why my Catholic friends could not step into my Lutheran Church. When I asked them, they said that they only knew that it was wrong but not why. We visited Notre Dame University with my grandfather, who was also a Lutheran minister. A kind and gentle man, yet he refused to get out of the car to step on Catholic soil.
I wanted to understand why people believed what they believed. That's something I've carried over into my adulthood, especially around religion and homosexuality. In the sixth grade, I attempted to negotiate an agreement with my father to visit all of the churches in my hometown, so that I could learn more about them. While he was sympathetic to my request, he didn't think it would look good for his daughter to be seen in churches other than our own.
My father was asked to leave the Lutheran Church in the early 1970s, during a time that was referred to as the Charismatic or Jesus Movement. He had been preaching against infant baptism and several other Lutheran tenets. The Lutheran Church split with about half of the members joining my father in a "New Testament" church start-up.
My mother and father raised my three siblings and I to be conservative, to read the Bible, to have a personal relationship with God, and to attend church Sunday mornings and two evenings a week. We were taught about the end-times and given a deep understanding of sin, God's design and plan for our lives, and how to overcome the Adversary and remain hopeful in a world that would end some time during our lifetime.
I do not recall hearing direct preaching or discussion about homosexuality. In fact, I wasn't aware of the concept growing up or familiar with anyone who might be homosexual. I didn't have any preconceived ideas for or against. No struggles or conflicts. I got married shortly after graduating from high school. I gave birth to two beautiful boys in my early twenties. I was divorced at twenty-seven and raised my two sons through their teen years as a single parent.
It was when I started pursuing my teaching degree at the University of Iowa that my father and I began to openly disagree about politics or interpretations of the Bible. He would later say that attending the university caused me to become a lesbian. I pointed out to him that both he and my mother graduated from the same university, but that it didn't turn them into homosexuals. He didn't laugh about my comment at the time. Several years later, he did.
Coming Out to Myself
My process was not overnight. It was deeply personal and spiritual. In fact, I had for some time been looking at the Ninth Commandment from a different perspective than most. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." I chose to focus that on myself, asking whether I was bearing false witness against myself AND others if I wasn't honest about who I was. My struggle was about integrity, being true to myself, looking at the Scriptures, talking to God.
I spent seven years in that endeavor. Nothing quick, nothing rash, nothing to prove. I've read the Bible several times since childhood. I reread and studied the Scriptures that my father and my Church quoted to prove that homosexuality was an abomination and a sin. I read every conservative antigay book, article, brochure that I could get my hands on. I also read all of the liberal, pro-gay material I could find. To be honest, I didn't find either side convincing. I questioned the harsh biblical interpretation, including historical and cultural contexts. On the other hand, much of the argumentation for the rightness of homosexuality was so secular and often anti-God or Bible. So, I prayed — dramatic as it sounds — unceasingly!
I have had a loving, personal relationship with Jesus almost all of my life. I talked with Him. I was sure of my salvation, my walk with God, how I walked through the world, how I was raising my sons. I felt assured of God's love and blessings. My life exhibited that. How then could I be asked by a loving God (according to the belief of my friends and family) to give up my sexuality? I saw loving, monogamous sexual expression as a gift from God. Was I really being asked to choose between God and my sexuality?
There are many who would answer that with a resounding yes. What a shame that others think they can know that so well for ME. Each of us has to come face-to-face with our Lord, our personal relationship, a reading of the Scriptures, and how we take that out into the world. What I found through it all was PEACE. Some may say that I found what I wanted, read the Scriptures through a lens that suited me, turned a blind eye, and deceived myself. Again, that is not for any of us to judge for another person. I would say peace cannot be fabricated. I have experienced that peace that passeth all understanding.
Coming Out to My Family
It was December 1995. All of my family were back in my hometown for the holidays. I had decided to come out to each of them individually. Admittedly, it would have taken a lot less emotional energy to tell them all at once. But, no regrets because I was able to have a one-on-one conversation with each of my siblings, in-laws, sons, mother, eventually working my way to my father. The joke became, "If Kim asks you out to lunch, don't go!"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "We Love You, But You're Going to Hell"
Copyright © 2018 Dr. Kim O'Reilly.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Introduction 1
Chapter 2 My Story 7
Chapter 3 Scriptures Used to Promote Slavery and Segregation 21
Chapter 4 Scriptures Used to Condemn Homosexuals 29
Chapter 5 Sexual Orientation 43
Chapter 6 Stereotypes and Myths 59
Chapter 7 Ministers and Churches 75
Chapter 8 Marriage 95
Chapter 9 Religious Freedom 129
Chapter 10 Why It Matters 149
Chapter 11 What Can We Do? 169