Have you ever had this strange, twingy, glance-over-the-shoulder feeling that something is wrong even when there are no obvious signs of it? That’s how I felt about my last blog post on Christians’ reaction to the announcement that LeFou would be portrayed as gay in Beauty and the Beast.
At first, I couldn’t pin down what was bothering me. Most everyone loved it. It was pretty mildly worded and cautious. I didn’t get sucked into the sarcasm trap or say anything that someone could take personally.
And, although I felt like I didn’t cover nearly the ground I wanted to, the main message was helpful: if you’re going to be offended by something, be careful to explain why in a gracious way to start better discussions.
But there’s something important that I completely left out.
All of the sample explanations I gave were reasonably worded. Even if you totally disagree with their take on sexual ethics—whether homosexual relations are okay or not—I hope they came across simply as people taking a stand on something they believed.
But—and this is hard—I think some, even most, Christians were not just upset about a gay character in a Disney movie because of their interpretations of the Bible or because of their desire to maintain the innocence of their children.
They were upset because sometimes they do consider LGBT people offensive. They find the idea of loving others who deeply disagree with them in this area incredibly hard. Some are trying to work out what that looks like. Some, sadly, don’t want to.
Christians, we have to admit it: sometimes we don’t love people like we should, and our record with LGBT people is pretty grim.
There are Christians all over a spectrum on what “love” means and looks like. I am pretty far into the camp that says “love” doesn’t have to—and shouldn’t—mean acceptance or endorsement of everything a person chooses to do. Even from my own life, I know that wouldn’t be loving at all, because I need the people who tell me when I’m wrong.
But yesterday I remembered the Day of Silence, and I knew why my first response was incomplete.
At my high school, the Gay-Straight Alliance club participated in a Day of Silence every year to draw awareness to hate crimes directed toward those who came out as anything other than heterosexual during their teen years.
My choir teacher always took the opportunity to give us a serious talk on how gay teens had a much higher suicide rate. From there, he broadened the application to encourage us not only to stop bullying others, but to stand up for those who were marginalized.
It always gave me this feeling of uneasy tension. I agreed wholeheartedly with him. My compassionate crusader heart leapt to the defense of anyone being hurt, even to the point of self-righteous anger against anyone I saw as even vaguely mean. I still remembered the day I accidentally made a kid cry, and ever since then I’d taken on a Captain-America-like vigilance with the words I spoke to others.
I wanted to love everyone around me. Really.
But when it came down to it, I made no effort to get to know the kids in my choir or theater classes who identified as gay. I kept uncomfortably quiet when classmates made crude jokes about others. I never prayed for my gay peers, never participated in a Day of Silence in any way, not even finding the ones with duct tape over their mouths and telling them that even though we disagreed, I cared about them and would defend them with every chance I had.
I didn’t say that because I wasn’t sure I would.
If you had asked me on a day I was feeling particularly honest, I would tell you that the students I knew were gay frightened me, just a bit, because I didn’t know how to respond to them.
I think I saw some of that same fear in the Facebook outrage over Beauty and the Beast. And I don’t want to be silent about it.
What was bothering me about yesterday’s post was that sometimes my words and my heart don’t line up. It was the Holy Spirit convicting me and saying, “Hey, what you said might be true, and people might appreciate it, but God doesn’t judge by outward appearances.”
This post will not be as popular as the last one, more than likely. But I hope you’re willing to assume for a minute that this might be you too, not just someone else.
Hear me: it’s totally fine to speak out about what you think is or is not appropriate for a kids’ movie. But as you do so, please, take a moment to listen, to understand, to feel the tension.
Know that for some people, even a comedic sidekick represents a character who they can identify with for the first time, and much more than that, a sign that they can be accepted and live normal, happy lives. That’s what LeFou looks like to them.
Think about that. And think about what the Christian response must look like to them as well, especially when it isn’t defined or explained in any way except “I protest this.”
Whether or not you think homosexuality should be normalized, these are real people you are afraid of. These are real people who you might have offended with your general anti-gay post about the movie because, no matter what your actual beliefs are, they are hearing that you wish people like them did not exist, or at least that you wish they’d exist silent and unseen.
If you are feeling a little uncomfortable right now, good. Rest in that for a moment. As a Christian, even one who interprets the Bible to say that homosexual practice is a sin, you shouldn’t just refer to love in general without living it in reality. I shouldn’t either. And sometimes I do.
Again, your goal is not to look tolerant to everyone around you, to hide your beliefs so you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. But if you haven’t asked, “Does what I say and post speak the truth in love?” now would be a good time to challenge yourself in that area.
And, maybe more, if like me, your response that of course Christians are supposed to love their gay neighbor is true in theory but not in your life…now would be a good time to pray about that and let God show you what you should do in response.
I’m not asking you to change your stance. I’m asking you to take a look at your motives.
We love to be outraged, but we often direct that outrage at anything but our own sin, where the outrage would do the most good. We love to examine Hollywood, but not our own hearts.
My challenge is this: use LeFouGate to do both.