I want to tell you about Baptists,
how in the 1700s early Baptists
helped shape the U.S. constitution
by promoting freedom of religion.
Religious liberty is in our Baptist DNA.
I want to tell you about religious liberty,
how it grants all of us
freedom to practice our religion in peace
and freedom from religious coercion.
I want to tell you about my religion,
how all the law and prophets can be summed up
like this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
When “religious freedom” becomes an excuse
to abuse religion, to use religion
as a club, to fuse religion with
a lack of hospitality
and call it God’s will,
my friends, we are not practicing
any religion I know of.
We are practicing a crime.
Even if we make it legal,
discrimination is never holy.
No matter how many religious words we employ,
we are still practicing bigotry and prejudice,
we are teaching our children how to bully,
how to be afraid of difference,
how to judge, condemn, and shun.
I want to tell you about children.
LGBTQ youth are three times more likely
to attempt suicide than other children,
eight times more likely to commit suicide
if their family does not accept them;
28 percent of LGBTQ youth stop going to school
because they are bullied.
We cannot “prevent”
children from being gay.
We can only create a world that is safe
for them if they are.
We cannot stop people from falling in love.
We can only choose whether to be loving.
I want to tell you about love.
Love is patient. Love is KIND.
Love does not demand its own way.
We cannot tell other people
to live their lives according to our rules.
We cannot refuse them service
because we don’t agree with their choices—
that would be imposing our religion
and denying their religious liberty.
We can only love them, greet them,
be neighbor to them, be Christ to them,
stop saying “them,” start saying “we”
and meaning everybody.
The Benedictines say, “Let all guests
be received as Christ, for He is going to say,
‘I came as a guest, and you received me.’
But Matthew tells us Christ will also say
to some, “I came as a guest,
and you did not receive me.”
I want to tell you about Christ.
He turned away no one.
Kyndall Rae Rothaus is the pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, TX, and the author of the book Preacher Breath. This reflection was part of the program during a rally for the rights of LGBTQ people in downtown Waco.