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Fact: I am a Christian.

Fact: I am straight.

Fact: For too long, many in the Christian church have stood on the wrong side of the gay/lesbian issue.

Instead of standing with homosexuals, many in my tradition, and I was one of these once, have mistakenly thought we were upholding the Bible and protecting what we presumed was normal--being straight--from abnormal--being gay. But, more often, we were just hiding our anxiety, as well as our ignorance on the matter, by judging gays and lesbians and disassociating from them. But, no matter what our opinion may be, it was wrong then, and it is wrong today, to be misinformed, to judge or, worse, to disassociate from other people.

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Anyone with any sense of sanity grieves over the sad consequences of the recently reported bullying of gay teens that resulted in their suicides. I suppose these tragic reports have caused all of us to wake up a bit to the bullying that's been tolerated far too long on school playgrounds, in church sanctuaries and from Christian pulpits. This madness must end.

What is clear to me today is this: when prejudice is in the heart, as it is in many toward the LGBT community, you can and will find the scripture to defend your position and to justify your intolerance. For centuries, Christians and churches engaged in this sort of insanity to defend slavery and oppress women. Surprisingly, there are still churches that subjugate women and vigorously defend this prejudice with scripture. They mistakenly think they are just being true to the teachings of Saint Paul regarding the roles of men and women in the world and in the church.

But, using any portion of the Bible to justify prejudice of any kind is to demean the scriptures and to damage human beings in the process. It is past time for this abuse of scripture to end, as well as the fear and prejudice that motivates it. How can I claim to be following the compassionate Christ while fostering fear, bigotry, or disgust in my heart?

For all I don't know, this much I do know:

First, it is inconsistent, not to speak of downright dishonest, to condemn homosexuals on the grounds the Bible says it is "bad, wrong, or evil." Rape, child abuse, promiscuity, and exploitation are a few acts described in the Bible as "bad, wrong, or evil." And these are evils can, and are, committed by people, homosexual and heterosexual alike. What the church should be concerned about is the protection of all people from harm, including dangerous clergypersons, who rape, abuse, and exploit others.

Second, gays don't "choose" to be gay any more than straight people "choose" to be straight. So, Christians should stop pretending this is a lifestyle choice.

Third, sexual orientation is not a political or military issue as in this debacle that is the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" debate. It is instead a civil rights issue. How two-faced can we be to argue against human rights violations in other countries while depriving people of their civil rights in our own?

One more thing. The legacy media need to stop reporting on this issue primarily from the perspective of "Christians" who are opposed to the LGBT community. Not all Christians feel that gay people are sinners for being gay. So, I'm asking the media to give an equal voice to the straight Christian community that stands in solidarity with the gay Christian community.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter most."

This matters. And, if you're like me, you're ready to take your stand with all people. You're tired of the judging of others and the division it causes. You want, as I do, to practice living like Christ who said, "Judge not," (Matt. 7:1) and "Do to others as you wish them to do to you," (Matt. 7;12); like the Buddha who said, "Have compassion for all beings;" and, like Muhammad who said, "No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself."

Steve McSwain is the author of The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. He can be reached atwww.stevemcswain.com.