Last spring, during a stroll through Mid-town Manhattan a few weeks after Easter, I found a small church snugged between two skyscrapers. On that particular May morning, the cross outside the church was still wearing its Easter outfit; a shroud draped across its shoulders… and a chain securing it to the street.
The image still haunts me. I know what the chain says about my city, where both bicycles and icons (apparently) need the same pad-locked protection. But is the chain also a symbol of the way many LGBT people feel about their faith?
At some point in our life, many of us willingly entered a relationship with God – a relationship that gave us purpose and filled us with hope and peace. But then, somewhere during our sexual awakening, we realized that our preachers and Sunday School teachers were talking about us when they used frightening words like “abomination,” “hell,” and “homosexual.”
Suddenly we felt drawn to God, but also terrified of Him. We loved Jesus, but also felt chained to him – unsure of what the cross says to people like us.
In his book “Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and their Lovers, Families, and Friends,” John McNeill says:
For many gay people, dealing with the church is like dealing with parents. Even if we seriously disagree with them and see what they have done to us as truly destructive, we still love them and are grateful for what they have done for us and given us. But that love does not negate the fact that we have been wounded by them, and as long as we remain wounded, there is unavoidable anger. The only healthy way to let go of that anger is to heal the wounds of self-hatred and self-rejection and strive to achieve an attitude of positive slef-acceptance.
The chain that binds LGBT people to the church shouldn’t feel like a burden — it should feel like a lifeline. After all, Christ has liberated us from judgement, not tied us to it.
And so, if you feel the need to separate yourself from a condemning church, I hope you don’t also separate yourself from an accepting God. After all, the cross says the same thing to us that it says to everyone else…
(PS – There are hundreds of God-loving churches filled with beautiful people who enjoy having LGBT men and women as part of their church family. Trust me. I’ve been to bunches of them. If you need help finding one, check out this church directory by the Institute for Welcoming Resources – a group that’s doing great work to make the church more welcoming to LGBT people.)
(PPS – As of yesterday, there’s one more denomination that will allow LGBT folks to serve as clergy! Read more about the Presbyterian church’s vote to allow openly gay and lesbian clergy here… and then say hooray… and then remind yourself that not everyone’s against us. )