Dear American Youth Pastor: Oh, that means me

When I started this blog, I promised myself I wouldn’t make GLBT issues the focus of the blog. For two reasons, primarily. First, my congregation has divergent views about sexuality and we’ve agreed our individual perspective on gay Christians is not the defining tenant of our belief (try, umm, faith in Jesus Christ or forgiveness of sins?). And secondly, I try not to imitate  people who are more articulate than I am, and there are plenty of really excellent Anabaptists blogs covering sexuality in the church: Joanna Harader, Rachel Halder, Joel Miller, and Pink Menno, to name just a few.

BUT. But the promises we make and the conversations we can’t not respond to. Button Poetry released a video three days ago called “Dear American Youth Pastor,” a poem by Chad Michael It already has almost 11,000 views.

The video begins with four famous pastors–who are all white men, some well over 60–condemning homosexuality. And then the poem begins. There is nothing new in this poem. It is the story we already know, that so many churches shout themselves deaf about.  A poem about a boy who meets another boy, “and the boy will find.. in those eyes courage to admit something of his own: he loves [the boy]. He isn’t afraid to say it because it comes from the same place in him that loves Jesus.” And ‘because he loves God, he’ll learn to hate himself.” This is the story of so many boys–and girls–who have already killed themselves in our churches. It is a story people believe about what it means to be Christian. And what it means to be unloved.

“I know you love your kids. I know you want to see them in heaven. I know you want to save them, says Chad Michael, “But don’t kill them in the process.” The closing line of the poem is ominous: “one day… my dear American youth pastor, you might not have any youth to pastor.” This is not prophecy in the future tense; this is current events.

We know already from many surveys that one of the top reasons youth leave the church is that it is “too exclusive.” So yes, there are dozens of bloggers more articulate and thorough in their sexuality discussions than I am. But for the church to hold–for the church to welcome back its youth–we have to say something more than “no gays.” In a new Anabaptist theology–as in the old Anabaptist theology–God is, was, and still will be love. And so there cannot be too many youth pastors saying “This is not my church.” Dear Chad Michael: the doors are open. Let no more youth leave the church because they have been unloved out of it.

As for you, Button Poetry, here is this youth pastor’s perspective. This is the poem I wrote a year before I started pastoring. And when my parishioners ask, this is what I say:

May we be damned if we damn you for your love. If the word is “God hates you,” it is not the Word of God.

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