For the past couple of years, we've had a "youth group" for our 4-7th graders. It's expanded from 3 to about 12, with 9-10 coming regularly. We have snacks, a check-in, some Bible study, and then usually a game or topic to explore.
Last week, somehow we got on the conversation of homosexuality. (I may have mentioned something about my moms, as I sometimes do as a matter of course - they are my parents, after all.) Here's the funny thing: the kids didn't get squicked out by this information, even if they reacted as if it was the first time they were hearing this (it isn't, but I've learned that kids don't really have a memory for this sort of thing unless they were to actually MEET my moms). One of the kids wanted to know why some churches taught that homosexuality was wrong. "I mean, God made everyone, right?" she asked. "So saying that God doesn't love gay people or doesn't accept them means that God doesn't accept what God made."
She was very insistent on this point, repeated it several times, and continued to express her utter disbelief that a church could fail to teach anything other than this obvious (to her) truth.
I'd love to say, "Where did this all come from?" but I know where it comes from. It comes from a congregation that has welcomed 4 same-sex couples in the last year alone (please remember we are in a small town in rural Iowa, so even one couple, same-sex or opposite-sex, qualifies as a pretty big deal), a church and pastor that has married 8-9 same-sex couples since marriage equality came to our state, a minister that supports the full inclusion of GLBT persons into the full life of the church (and who has two moms), a church community that wrestles with this issue and consistently chooses hospitality and welcome over total unanimity, families who are drawn to this church precisely because of our pattern of extravagant welcome, and a denomination who supports the work of a) wrestling with difficult texts, b) coming to a variety of conclusions as a result of that wrestling, and c) not coming to easy answers but rather a continual stretching and general comfort with ambiguity.
It comes from other parents who are unwilling to judge GLBT persons and modeling that behavior in church. It comes from this child's own parents, who are extremely comfortable with all sorts of difference. And it comes from the Spirit of God in this youth, who is (like so many of her peers) deeply concerned with fairness, equality, and sharing God's love.
In short, I'm realizing that our youth are being formed and transformed in the very ways we have hoped, prayed, and worked toward for many years. Thanks be to God!