what gay teens think about God

teens by fence.jpg

Why is it that if you talk to almost any teen about being gay and being Christian you will hear the sentence, “God does not like gay people”. Or some variety of that: “God hates gay people,” “God could never love me like this” or “such and such told me that God hates the way that I am”?

I get frustrated sometimes with whoever is “such and such,” because they have such bad doctrine. 

I think that teens believe that God hates gay people because often in evangelical churches we are confused and also think that God hates gay people—or at least has a strong disliking in their direction—and that if they just quit liking the same sex, there would be a chance.

I write primarily to speak to conservative, evangelical Christians. I am a conservative, evangelical Christian. I have been in countless conversations (and I’m not joking—I could not count the conversations!) where the topic revolved around how God feels about same sex attraction, or what the rest of the world refers to as “being gay.” 

I want to see us, conservative evangelicals, become able to converse in a savvy, nuanced way with a world that is really looking for genuine answers to some deep and hard questions. I have talked over the past eight to ten years with teen after teen that says something like: “I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to a relationship with Jesus being the boss of my life (camp lingo), but it is such a relief to know that He doesn’t hate me . . . at least, you don’t think He hates me.”

Young people all around us are struggling with gender and sexual identity, and we need a host of people ready to engage them in loving ways and help lead them toward a Savior that died for them.

But we need to get a couple things straight (no pun intended) for that engagement to be effective. 

First, you have to extricate from the phrase “I’m gay” the idea of sexual activity. My generation in the Church hears the phrase “I’m gay” and hears, “I’m gay, and I’m having or looking to have gay sex”. Simply not true in today’s world. To any young person (under forty), when they hear the phrase “I’m gay,” they hear “I am attracted to the same sex.”

Now I will give the disclaimer that for a gay Christian  thirty- to forty-something, navigating their way through church culture, using the phrase “I’m gay” may not be the most understandable way to describe yourself at church. People at church simply hear something different. Perhaps that will change as we learn to ask more and better questions, but for now it helps to be aware of that.

Secondly, we need good doctrine related to who it is that God loves: every single person.

Lastly, we need to understand the difference between loving someone and saying that their behavior is good or even okay. God often, in the Scriptures, condemns behavior as sinful and deserving of judgment: the behavior of the Israelites, the behavior of Nineveh, the behavior of Sodom, and my behavior (and yours).

Yet He sends prophets, teachers, leaders, and then finally His Son to point the way back to Him—because He loves them and us.

We have a hard time with that. We think that if we show the least shred of love to someone (especially someone gay), they will conclude we are hugely in favor of gay sex.

I’ve not found this to be the case.

I’ve not surprised many people as they learn that I hold a conservative, traditional sexual ethic. Something gives me away as being a conservative Christian.

But I have surprised people with my loving posture towards them that communicates genuine interest, a real offer of relationship, and a desire to hear their story and get to know them.

I want you to surprise people that way also.

I said in a post this summer that droves of teens right now identify as non-binary or transgender, but that that statistic falls significantly as a person hits age twenty-five.  To me, that says that we need loving adults, who love Jesus passionately and can walk alongside teens as they ask themselves hard questions about their gender and sexuality.

Join me in this.

Susan Titus