Last week my brain was sent spinning with some research that suggests 51% of gay men walk away from Christianity when they come out of the closet. Into the internet I flung the question “why do we change our minds?”
Some interesting ideas have been presented in the comments, including the insight from “Sister Lacey UnderWhere” (whose name makes me giggle every time I think about it) that “44% of ALL males change their religious affiliations by the time they turn 24.” I’m not sure of this stat’s original source, but I think most of us who grew up in the church would affirm that we watched many (44%?) of our fellow youth groupers walk away from church during early adulthood. Other research suggests, however, that many of these young men and women who give up on God during college may return later in life.
Does the same hold true for LGBT men and women? Do you think it’s common for LGBT folks who become disillusioned with God and/or the church during their coming out period to reconcile their sexuality with former spiritual beliefs later in life?
Obviously, the answers to these questions are as numerous and unique as the gay men and women to whom they apply. Every LGBT man and woman has a unique story. Each has their own reason for walking away from their faith. But just as snowflakes are all different yet made of the same stuff, is there a theme each of these stories might share in common?
I’ve recently begun reading an insightful book by John McNeill, a very wise psychotherapist, priest, and gay man. In “Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families, and Friends,” McNeill says:
“For most of my clients the idea of God became so indentified with homophobic self-hatred that the only way they could deal with God was to take a vacation from religion while they dealt with the processes of coming out and accepting themselves. Only after they had a secure, positive self-image were they able to make a critical return to the question of religious belief” (McNeill, 1996, p.14).
According to McNeill, the common theme in these stories is that people believe both God and the church are homophobic. It’s only after we step away and take a “vacation from religion” that we gain a bit of perspective and realize that God isn’t against us, and neither are all churches.