They’ll Know Us By Our Love

I’m in the chapel at Union Theological Seminary in 1991. The hymn is “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love” and I, inexplicably, have tears in my eyes. The hymn is known to be a bit too sweet, a bit too simple, but on that day, when I was visiting Union as a prospective student, it was what I needed to hear and to sing as a gay man who felt a call to the Christian faith. I needed to feel love, and I wanted to be known by how I loved, to be known by Love.    

Of course, I had experienced love before, and often in unexpected places. Some of the most vibrant love locations during that time were the nightclubs in New York City.  It was at the height of the AIDS pandemic in New York, where people were dying and those alive were in perpetual grief. Yet, on the dance floor, we would listen to the DJ play songs about the transcendent power of love, and we would know that in this place we belonged, and be lifted up, that we were free.

While at seminary I became a co-chair of the LGBT caucus, which we playfully renamed “The Love Caucus” as we wanted our group’s reputation to lead with the fierce love we had for one another, for the world, and for the Holy Spirit that suffused our daily lives. It’s worth remembering how radical it was, even in 1991, to proclaim oneself queer and faithful, and how many doors that truth shut if you wanted a career in religious leadership. Many of us wrestled with why we were devoting our lives to an institution that continued to shun and condemn us. In my own case, I was told privately that the only way I could be ordained was to follow the don’t ask, don’t tell rule –so they didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.   

A lot has changed in the last 30 years since I first sang the Love Hymn in the Union Chapel and danced to Love Anthems in nightclubs. A recent poll conducted by PRRI shows that Americans now oppose discrimination against gay people by a large margin, including every party affiliation, every religious group, and racial and ethnic background.  Although there are still denominations and faith traditions that prohibit LGBT leadership, we have made many critical advances.  

Part of the reason for our progress is that the LGBT community has become known for our Love. 

Common refrains heard during Pride such as “Love Wins” and “Love is Love is Love” reflect the centrality that Love plays in our messages to the wider world.  When we proclaim Love, it is not only the kind represented in a bond between two people that results in marriage - and marriage equality. But also, of the importance of creating loving spaces of belonging where people have the freedom to be who they are.  It is also the lifesaving necessity of loving ourselves enough to be true to our sexuality and our gender identity – and to achieve our own lives and our love, even when we are scared, and facing societal opposition. We lead with love; which invites allies and friends to join us and translate our love to justice.    

As a religious leader, I invite my colleagues in the Church and in other faith communities to not look at the LGBT community as competition or a threat, but instead as role models for how to be known by Love. Not a love that erases, but a love that affirms, a love that liberates, a love the sustains and redeems and sanctifies.  As a Christian, I believe in the Good News that each person - of every sexuality and gender - is wonderfully made, a reflection of the Divine, an embodied vision of Holiness.  Whether I meet you in church, on the street, or on the dancefloor, as best as I can – I want you to know me by my love.   

In my first year of seminary, I went downtown to my old neighborhood in the East Village to attend the annual celebration called Wigstock. RuPaul walked to the front of the stage and shouted out to the crowd – “Let me hear you all say, Love!” and the crowd roared back “LOVE!” and then RuPaul shouted back “Let me hear you say, Revolution” and the crowd yelled even louder “Revolution” and then the 6’6 Black Drag Queen preached to the crowd of queers and misfits about the Love Revolution that we were a part of – and it felt like Church then, and it still does today.  We are being called – whether religious, or queer, or some of both, to a Love Revolution where none of us are left behind, and all of us are celebrated for the lovely, divine creations we are.  

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

Thirty-two percent of vaccinated Americans reported in June that a faith-based approach made them more likely to get vaccinated, according to the survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).   
As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. echoed Theodore Parker, ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Let’s bend it together.
In both my work as an interfaith leader and a dancer, rethinking is all about opening our minds, asking questions, and having conversations.
Some U.S. churches have been reckoning with this activity for years through ceremonies, apologies and archival investigations, while others are just getting started.
A global study of the communication patterns of 1.3 million workers during the global lockdown showed the average workday increased by 8.2% during the pandemic, and the average number of virtual meetings per person expanded by almost 13%.
Across Missouri, hundreds of pastors, priests and other church leaders are reaching out to urge vaccinations in a state under siege from the delta variant. Health experts say the spread is due largely to low vaccination rates — Missouri lags about 10 percentage points behind the national average for people who have initiated shots.
The solution, said Chris Palusky, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services, is “the loving care of a family, not another orphanage.” He pointed to Scripture passages that say God sets the lonely in families and call on Christians to care for those who have been orphaned.
The following interview features Debra Fraser-Howze, founder and president of Choose Healthy Life, an initiative that fortifies community infrastructure to better address the pandemic in Black communities. The interview was conducted by Shauna Morin for IFYC; it has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The seven monks have been clearing brush from around the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and running a sprinkler system dubbed “Dharma rain,” which helps keep a layer of moister around the buildings.
Over 800 Muslim Americans are expected to attend the family-focused event at the Green Meadows Petting Farm in Ijamsville, Maryland, making it one of the larger such gatherings around the country in the era of COVID-19.
Besides demanding equitable distribution of vaccines, the Interfaith Vigil for Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access called on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property rights for vaccine manufacturing in order to enable more countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically.
Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of Sacrifice,” is typically marked by communal prayers, large social gatherings, slaughtering of livestock and giving meat to the needy.
Our Lady of La Vang is said to have appeared in a remote rainforest in the late 1700s to a group of Catholics fleeing persecution in Vietnam.
This article is part of a series called Faith in the Field that explores responses to Covid-19—including vaccination efforts—within different faith communities. 
Yet the debate about the vaccine in Tennessee is not solely a debate about science. Rather, I believe the vaccine debate is also a referendum on our public capacity to embrace vulnerability.
The study found that while there are many promising signs that students perceive support for their RSSIs on campus, there is also considerable room for improving welcome, particularly for students whose RSSIs are a minority.
Coronavirus deaths among clergy are not just a Catholic problem, said Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, with faith leaders across denominations having elevated exposure rates as “spiritual front-line workers” ministering to the sick and dying in hospitals and nursing homes.
Legislation legalizing human composting has encountered religious resistance from the Catholic Church.
From the 26th of November, 2020, a farmers protest has been in existence on the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital city. For the past eight months, farmers in the tens of thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, have been fighting three laws that threaten the future of agriculture in the country.
Sivan and I feel that it is crucial to work for increased vaccination rates, particularly with more transmissible and potentially more deadly variants emerging across the country and throughout the world.
We made calls to friends, disseminated flyers, engaged in social media marketing, partnered with faith-based communities, and engaged the local health department to encourage members of our community to come to our upcoming clinic and get vaccinated.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.