For my parent's generation if you were white and middle class, it really wouldn't be surprising if you didn't know anyone gay. Not so for my generation.
I've heard people say that the gay community has become mainstream because of a strategic plan to infiltrate the public eye via the media. They say what was once considered deviant behavior is now considered acceptable because kids see it in the news, in the paper, and constantly on sitcoms and in movies.
There may be truth to that, but it's sort of a non-issue for me.What I do know is that the way you perceive any group changes when you know someone in the group personally. And so, particularly for an older generation of Christian who grew up when homosexuality was hidden, you may not know what it's like to be us, a generation who has grown up not only with homosexuality in the media, but much more personally as co-workers, classmates, and friends.
For me, homosexuality was an issue thrown around as an insult, an identity, and an issue in our public grade school and middle school. It became personal in college when I took a job at Blockbuster. Nick was the guy I worked with most often. He was a high school kid, Italian-American with a controlling mother. He was talkative and extroverted and openly gay. He told me he loved to dress in drag for parades on the weekend. He was dramatic. He was also my friend. We talked about his life and mine, about being gay and why I was a Christian.
Many more people followed Nick as gay friends in my life. I worked in event planning and hospitality. Plenty of my fellow servers in college were gay. When I moved into the office three of the very best event planners were gay. Two of them were perhaps the most outwardly stable people in the office and they exuded respect for others and a sweet spirit. They had both also been with their partners longer than most of the marriages in the office. Now I'm in the life stage in which those around me in the evangelical community are starting to come out of the closet. Missionary kids and Bible college students are coming forward with their stories.
So for me when we discuss the theological importance or the biblical position on homosexuality, it isn't an impersonal discussion. It applies to Nick and Brian and Brit and Jessica and Michael and Suzi and Chris and Grant and Igor, and others. What I hope this does to us is make us tread carefully, understanding that what we are saying and analyzing and theologizing over is central to the identity of people, real people that we know and love. We care for their souls first and foremost. All of this doesn't necessarily change what we believe about right and wrong unless what we believed wasn't well thought through in the first place because it wasn't personal yet.
What frustrates me is when I see Christians passing judgement about homosexuality without knowing that their words cut deeply. I find myself wishing that they wouldn't speak until they have a friend that's gay. It's just as if you were having a conversation with your spouse or a close friend and you have to honestly confront them about something. You know they will disagree or be hurt by what you have to say but this doesn't give you the right to slam down your opinion and walk away without caring about the effect of your words. Even when we disagree we are responsible to interact lovingly, honestly, and with a listening and humble ear. That's the effect that having gay friends has on me. I don't think that gaining love and gentleness necessarily means that we have lost our grounding in truth.