Thursday, June 30, 2016


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Feelings of loyalty and betrayal.

In a video interview, Dianne and Wendell Merritt discuss their love for God and for their gay son. They deeply love both but painfully express feelings of divided loyalty.

Wendell: “Which do we choose?”

Dianne: “I don’t want to betray…”

How do Christians end up feeling such distress?

(Watch the interview at this link)

Loyalty is a moral sentiment.

 In the book, The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt reviews research leading to his formulation of six moral foundations linked to emotional responses. Loyalty is a foundation more often found among religious and political conservatives rather than liberals.

The primary emotions associated with loyalty and betrayal are pride and rage. People are loyal to their families, religious traditions, and nations. Some people are loyal to their sports teams and clubs. Some are strongly loyal to their political party and experience distress when they don’t like a particular leader or suspect their side will lose an election.

Those with a strong sense of loyalty feel great pride when their group, or a member of a group, reaches a goal or does something honorable. And they can feel a strong sense of anger and even rage when they, or members of their group, are attacked from outsiders.

You may say the couple doesn’t have to feel a divided loyalty. But that’s not easy for people who accept the traditional teaching of Christian churches that homosexuality is a sin. Some evangelicals teach that you cannot be gay and Christian sin (e.g., Larry Tomczak). And of course, same-sex marriage is out of the question according to the official teaching of most Christians.

Many kind and loving parents, teachers, and other Christians experience an inner struggle about LGBT issues. They are often silent. Not because they do not care but I suspect it is because they do not know what to say. They want to love God, which entails obedience to God. And they want to love all people-including sexual minorities. In short they want to follow the twin commandments of Jesus to love God and love others. But they do not want to disobey a biblical teaching about same-sex sexual relations.

What’s the way out?

Start a conversation. Like other Christian psychologists, I’ve been asked to meet with conservative Christian groups to provide knowledge about LGBT issues and think about ways to show love and respect. Just talking openly about strong feelings and brainstorming ways local churches can show love and respect toward the sexual minorities in their community.

People will have different comfort zones because sex in itself is not a comfortable topic for many to talk about in church. And as I’ve mentioned before, the emotion of disgust also interferes with reason overpowering emotion.

Sometimes people modify their views and sometimes they do not. But I do find many sincere Christians willing to find ways to overcome the negativity that too often hurts the very people they want to love.

Sure there are hostile Christians who are quick to condemn any sinner. Such folks make the news. But they don’t represent a broad spectrum of loving Christians.

Read more about Christianity, Sexuality, and Morality in  A House Divided

Buy on Kindle only $9.99

Contact Information

Facebook Page:   Geoff W. Sutton

Twitter   @GeoffWSutton

Website: Geoff W. Sutton

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The source for the video interview is  compelling love.

Free download of my review of Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind