October 11th has been designated by the Human Rights Campaign as National Coming Out Day. It is a day to spread awareness and for straight allies to support their LGBT friends.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while may have noticed an interesting trend. Although I have written extensively about many other issues related to the church and to my exit from the fundamentalist movement, I have been rather silent on the issues regarding homosexuality and the church. Also, until recently my book reviews covered quite a range of books, but never books that discussed homosexuality or featured protagonists who were members of the LGBT community. Then, in what may have seemed to be a sudden change, I started posting reviews of both fiction and non-fiction books about the LGBT community in general and its relationship with the church specifically. Possibly some of you are wondering, "Why the change?"
I am going to quote something A'isha Marbach, who has guest posted on John Shore's blog, wrote. I don't share all of her life experiences or understand everything she's going through, but we have more in common than might be expected:
“God, please make me pure. Take these feelings from me and make it so I can like boys instead of girls. Amen.” This is the prayer I prayed so many times I lost count. Throughout high school my one goal was to live a life pleasing to God. I’m not sure exactly where I got the message that it wasn’t okay to be a lesbian, that God didn’t approve, but that is the message I got loud and clear. So I pushed all those crushes, all those tingly feelings I got when I saw a pretty woman, deep inside me, and pretended to like boys. I needed to be accepted by people around me, and I wanted God to approve of my life.Like A'isha, I realized early on that I was a lesbian. Like A'isha, I also realized that the Christianity I saw practiced around me didn't allow for members of the LGBT community to also be Christians. If you watch the video the Gay Christian Network has produced, you will hear the same story echoed over and over again: many gay Christians, when faced with a choice between their faith and their orientation, have chosen to squash their orientation in order to please God.
The decision to be "out and proud" as a gay person is especially complicated when the only thing one ever hears in church is how awful it is to be gay, how much God hates homosexuality, and stories of gay people who have gone through ex-gay ministries and experienced some sort of recovery. So gay Christians traditionally have ended up with two choices: keep their faith and attempt "recovery" from their orientation, or embrace their orientation and deny their faith. Until recently I didn't know there was a third option.
The Christian community has for so long excluded gays and lesbians that it is very difficult for any LGBT person to come to the realization that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. Even if not every Christian spouts, “God hates fags,” like Fred Phelps does, that is indeed the message we get, as long as every Christian doesn’t stand up and say, “No, that’s not true. God loves you.”
Because of this history between LGBT people and many Christians, it’s very difficult to meet gays and lesbians who are also Christians. Honestly, why should any of us choose to be part of a group that condemns us? Fortunately there are many like me that are coming to realize that it’s God’s followers who mistakenly condemn us, and not God himself. (Emphasis mine; the rest of A'isha's post can be read here.)
My faith is very important to me. My orientation is, too, and it wasn't until recently that I was able to allow the two to coexist peacefully. I was reading in Matthew 8 where Jesus heals a man who has leprosy. The first three verses say, "When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!"' I cannot even begin to count the number of times I said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me straight." Always before God was silent on the issue. For the first time I ever, I finally heard Him speak. He said, "My precious child, you are not sick. I don't fix what isn't broken. I love you just as you are."
If you have questions about the idea of being gay and Christian, I strongly recommend you visit the Gay Christian Network's website or watch their videos on YouTube. Of course, you are also more than welcome to email me with any questions you may have. And I'd also recommend visiting John Shore's website and the Canyon Walker Connections site, as both have more information than I can possibly fit in one blog post. I will certainly be writing follow-up posts in the weeks ahead; check back periodically for updates or become one of my faithful blog followers.