Over the last several years, I have been stirred to an unexpected hope as I have seen more and more Christians and churches begin the work of repenting of the harm done to LGBTQ+ folks and begin to embrace beliefs of embracing and affirming acceptance of us into the fullness of Christian life. This is no small victory! For many of us, it was not too many years ago that we would have considered such a shift impossible.
And yet, as Christian individuals, families, churches, organizations, etc. continue to do this important work, there is a significant point of caution that I believe needs to be made. Out of the best of intentions, some efforts towards full acceptance and affirmation have unwittingly perpetuated harmful beliefs and practices in ways that are often hard to see by those devoted to allyship. In truth, I was largely unaware of it until it was brought to my attention from within another struggle for equality.
Growing up in Canada, I was taught about the American Civil Rights movement. Given I was learning this in school, the accounts of desegregating the schools were centrally featured. The image of young Ruby Bridges descending the steps of the school, escorted by US Marshals, is seared into my consciousness as an icon of radical resistance. For years I held these events as unmitigated victories for equality and good.
My understanding of this part of history, however, is not nearly complete. Don’t get me wrong. Segregation in all its insidious forms needed (and continue to need) to come to an end. And much good was done through the slow and costly battles involved. However, it wasn’t until I began to see these events from the perspectives of black Americans that I began to see a far more complex and nuanced reality.
The most poignant of perspectives for me was that of bell hooks, the late author, professor, feminist, and social activist. She helped me see that while the evils of segregation most certainly needed to be deconstructed, that the nature of “integration” undermined the very people it claimed to seek liberation for.
“Bussed to white schools, we soon learned that obedience, and not a zealous will to learn, was what was expected of us. Too much…