The LGBTQ+ community is under siege, facing an onslaught of attacks across our nation. Underscoring the urgency of this crisis, the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans for the first time in its history. Discriminatory policies and the looming threat of violence have forced many transgender individuals to flee their homes.
Behind this assault on LGBTQ+ rights lies a relentless wave of far-right Christian messaging. Despite claims that these policies aim to protect children or safeguard the integrity of women’s sports, the truth is that this surge of hate is rooted in the belief that being LGBTQ+ is somehow ungodly.
As a Black queer reverend who hails from a small town in Texas, I am intimately familiar with this messaging. It permeates every aspect of society, making it impossible to confront the anti-LGBTQ+ movement without addressing this fundamental belief head-on.
Years of rigorous religious study have led me to a profound realization: The Bible does not explicitly discuss homosexuality or transgender people. Rather, every discriminatory interpretation targeting the LGBTQ+ community is a product of cultural biases and historical conditions. In fact, the more I delved into scripture, the clearer it became to me that Jesus, in essence, was queer.
Before exploring the texts, it is crucial to recognize that extremist Christianity lies at the core of nearly every anti-LGBTQ+ effort. For example, a prominent pastor in my home state of Texas, known for protesting LGBTQ+ events, declared that those who practice such lifestyles are opposed to God and will face eternal damnation. Likewise, State Rep. Randy Fine of Florida, a key figure behind the banning of gender-affirming care for minors, asserted that God does not make mistakes with our children.
An investigation by the Associated Press recently revealed that a significant number of anti-trans bills originate from far-right groups rooted in Christianity, such as the Family Research Council.
It is astounding that the actual Bible text provides no solid support for the generally held anti-LGBTQ+ viewpoint. It is only an extrapolation that influential people have used to further their own agendas.
In my biblical exploration, I discovered that Jesus embodies queerness. Queerness extends beyond gender and sexuality; it is fundamentally about being at odds with the world around you. This resonates strongly with Jesus, who was consistently cast out and demonized by society.
Consider when Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth and preached in the synagogue. Those who initially embraced him turned against him and even attempted to cause him harm.
Jesus also frequently clashed with religious leaders who eerily resemble those who currently assert with unwavering certainty that being LGBTQ+ is a sin. On one occasion, the Pharisees sought to destroy him after he healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.
Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that Christ encompasses all things. If this holds true, then Christ is also trans, gay, straight, Black, white, and much more. In this light, queerness is not just something to be accepted—it is divine.
Ultimately, the Bible does not provide a clear and universal directive on matters of sexuality. However, it does unequivocally instruct us to love everyone, particularly the vulnerable and marginalized.
Therefore, it is incumbent upon us, as people of faith, to challenge the prevailing narratives that seek to marginalize and harm the LGBTQ+ community. We must reclaim the true gospel—love, life, and the pursuit of justice.
In the face of adversity, we should stand as allies and advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. It is time to dismantle the harmful interpretations and cultural biases that have been erroneously associated with our religious texts. We must reject the misguided notion that being LGBTQ+ is somehow incompatible with our faith. On the contrary, embracing diversity and celebrating the uniqueness of every individual is a reflection of the divine within us.
In this critical moment, we have an opportunity to reclaim and redefine the narrative. Let us recognize the LGBTQ+ community as beloved children of God, deserving of dignity, respect, and equal rights. Together, we can create a society that affirms the inherent worth of every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
It is in this pursuit that we honor the true essence of our faith and create a world where every individual can live authentically, free from fear and prejudice.
Rev. Karmen Michael Smith is the Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary.