After spending four years in a conservative evangelical Bible College in Chicago, I had a dramatic realization: Evangelicals, which means “people of Good News,” were instead seen by the surrounding world as people of Fox News.
Evangelical Christianity had become known for its conservative politics, narrow social views, and dislike of LGBTQ people. In Chicago, I had the opportunity to visit a large number of diverse faith communities and met, for the first time in my life, faithful gay Christians.
I had previously been told that such a person couldn’t exist. One could not embrace a “homosexual lifestyle” while simultaneously claiming to follow Jesus Christ. And yet, time and time again, I encountered men and women who identify as LGBTQ and were still overflowing with love for Jesus.
How could I claim that these people I met weren’t faithful Christians?
Why was it OK for the church to condemn and marginalize these men and women who were so committed to our faith? And what kind of witnesses were we being to the broader LGBTQ community when we actively fought against their right to be civilly married under the law?
Throughout my time in college, questions like these plagued me. I spent an enormous amount of time praying, studying the Bible, and talking with LGBTQ Christians as I tried to figure out where Evangelicals had gone wrong. The revelation came to me one day as I was reading through the first four books of the New Testament known as the “Gospels.” The Gospels are four unique accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. They form the very foundation of the Christian faith and message.
As I read through these books, I began to see a different side of Jesus, a side that I had been missing for a long time.
I discovered a Jesus who wasn’t concerned with establishing laws or policing the morality of his society. Jesus didn’t seem too concerned with upholding religious doctrines and dogmas, either. Instead, Jesus’ message and example was one of love for every single person. Even when Jesus interacted with those who he considered sinners, his message wasn’t one of condemnation. Instead, his message was one of redemption and restoration.
It was my reexamining of Jesus that finally changed my mind about LGBTQ marriage equality — not, say, a liberal political agenda, or “selling out” my faith to be popular.
It was the example of my Savior that compelled me to begin supporting marriage equality in the United States. And four years later, I am honored to serve as the national spokesperson for a new organization that is working to change the hearts and minds of my fellow evangelicals on this issue.
Evangelicals for Marriage Equality (EME) was founded by two straight evangelicals who felt compelled for many of the same reasons I did to begin speaking out in support of civil marriage equality. The organization’s mission is simple: We believe you can be a devout, Bible-believing evangelical and support the right of same-sex couples to be recognized by the government as married. Our commitment to following Christ leads us to speak out for equal treatment under the law for others — whether or not they share our religious convictions.
In the evangelical church, there are a growing number of millennials (people roughly between the ages of 18-35) who have come to stand in full support of marriage equality for our LGBTQ friends and family. As young evangelicals like us evolve on this issue, we have encountered opposition from elder church leaders who are still very committed to standing against civil marriage for LGBTQ couples.
At EME, it is my hope to be able to sit down with these evangelical leaders and explain to them why I, as a faithful evangelical, have come to disagree with their position. Our ultimate goal is to make room for my fellow evangelicals to be able to step out in support of marriage equality.
It is my hope and prayer that through conversations and reexamining the words of Jesus that we can change the hearts of many evangelicals — in order to call us back to being people of good news and of unconditional love for all.