Monthly Archives: April 2012

You’re welcomed to your personal beliefs, but…

I just walked into the office after a great program with a group of LGBT and allied kids at a local high school.

I took a guest with me, one of my org’s more dedicated volunteers.  After the program, G. (the volunteer) and I walked across the street to get a cup of coffee and debrief our disbelief.  Our program today was about LGBT history.  G. and I were shocked at how little the kids knew about LGBT history.  How is it that a group of gay kids in NYC – where it’s relatively safe to be a gay kid – had never heard of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and seemed only somewhat aware that LGBT folks in New York State were given the right to marry less than a year ago?  *sigh*  How does that happen?

Regardless…

My conversation with G. quickly evolved into one about a different kind of history.  At G.’s prompting, we started talking about religion.  G., who was raised an orthodox Jew, waxed eloquently and intelligently about how religion (both Jewish and Christian) has shaped gay life in the 21st century.

He said, “I think most people need to be reminded that religion is completely personal.  People need to be given the power to figure out the Bible, or Qur’an, or whatever, for themselves and say f’you to any church, synagogue,  mosque, or religious zealot that tries to invade their personal belief system.  Religion is personal and it’s private.”

G.’s a smart man.  There’s a lot to unpack in his thought.

I agree that people need to be given the power to figure out their holy books, their faith, and their theology so that they can stand confidently when religious people say unholy and hurtful things to them.  But…

It’s pretty important that we remember Christianity is not completely personal.  Christianity (and its grandfather, Judaism) isn’t an idea that people enjoy in isolation.   Nope… Christianity isn’t personal.  It’s communal, all wrapped up in relationships.  It always has been.

Jesus drew disciples together into a community that followed him up mountainsides to pray together, across seas to minister together, and into upper rooms to eat together.  The Holy Spirit draws believers together into the Church, a community of believers.  Paul tells us that this church is the body of Christ – a strange Frankenstein creature with many parts that all (ideally) work together to show God’s illogical love to the world.

You and I may each have deeply personal relationships with our faith, but these relationships are meant to draw us together into what Christ called the Kingdom of God… a community.

And that may explain why churches have such tremendous power to hurt gay people.  If our faith were only personal – ideas we enjoy in the privacy of our own soul – we might be able to cope with church-thrown nastiness by saying “I guess they don’t understand how my idea fits into their idea.  Oh, well.”

But since Christianity is communal, the game changes.  The church’s nastiness forces us to say, “They don’t want me to be a part of their community.  They don’t think I fit into the Kingdom of God.  They don’t want me to be part of our family anymore.”

And that hurts.

So, dear LGBT friends, let me remind you that “they” are wrong.  You do fit in the Kingdom.  You are a part of the family.  Consider what the Apostle John said about Jesus (who, like many of us, was also rejected by his religious community for believing that outcasts should be loved rather than judged)…

He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…

He gave us all the right to be part of the family.  Anybody who tells you differently is wrong.

Also, please keep in mind a valuable lesson we all should have learned in high school:  just because one group of mean kids won’t let you eat lunch with them doesn’t mean the band kids, drama kids, chess kids, golf kids, or whatever kids won’t let you sit at their table.

If a church has been hateful to you because you’re LGBTQ, click here to find another one who really wants someone just like you to love God alongside them.

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Gay Christians Have A Calling

I both love it and hate it when I read someone else’s words and think, “*sigh*… I wish I had written that.”

The blog post I just read filled me with both jealousy and delight.  Delight because the writer said what I feel, and jealously because… the writer said what I feel.

As I work (with increasing excitement) through my own issues of “calling,” this post was exactly what I needed this morning.  I think we all need to be reminded that as LGBT Christians we have a responsibility – a calling – to minister to the wounded.  Just because we’ve been hurt doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also be healers.  After all, who better than us to spread the good news of a Savior who said, “blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

For ours is the Kingdom of Heaven, too…

All too often, we are wounded. We are hurting. Quite frankly, some of us have been so heavily wounded by the Church that we’re barely functioning. The bitterness, anger, resentment, and dejection that we feel toward other Christians is enough to poison our spirit…

That doesn’t mean we have to stay in sour relationships. It doesn’t mean we have to poison our spirit by sitting under ministries that pour bile out with every sermon.

Find the safe places. Find a place to heal. To be Christian. Where there is no expectation of “praying the gay away.” Where we can be whole. Where we can be nurtured and to be fully healed…. not so that we can rest, but so that we can carry the torch of the living risen Lord and Savior to those who truly, desperately need to know that someone genuinely cares.

We have a responsibility — if we are Christian, to BE Christian. Live with integrity. Form healthy relationships, shun promiscuity, and truly follow Christ.

We who have been wounded in the past have the calling — a responsibility even — to find those who have also been wounded and minister healing. We’ll have to continue to dodge those jagged, venomous arrows from both sides — a no man’s land where countless people are only hoping to survive.

We must find the wounded and care for them.

We must find the bullied and help them to stand firm and be proud of who they are.

We must find the tormented and help them find healing.

We must find those in despair and help them find hope.

Read David Shelton’s full blog here.

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Dear Facebook… I’m Gay.

I know I often sound like a broken record, saying things I’ve said dozens of times before.  (fyi – I also know the “broken record” simile is totally 1972 and doesn’t work anymore, but I can’t think of an mp3 equivalent.  I would welcome suggestions…)

Regardless – I believe it’s important for us to share our stories.  They show us that our ideas aren’t weird and that we’re not the only ones who have felt/thought/believed something.

A good friend of mine – the talented artist who designed the “Stillforus” header you see above – recently came out to her dad.  It was a pretty gutsy move and she’s currently navigating the aftermath.

Three days after she told her dad, my friend posted the following status update on Facebook.  It’s brilliant.  When you read her “things I have believed in chronological order” list, I think you’ll find yourself nodding your head and sympathetically  mumbling “mmmmhhmmmm” a lot.  Enjoy.

(If you’d like to send my friend an encouraging thought to help her through a pretty sh!tt% time, feel free to post it in the comments.  I’ll be sure she gets your note…)

Dear Facebook, 

I finally told my dad, so now I can tell you what some of you know and what most of you don’t care, and that is that I’m gay. Things I have believed in chronological order:

  1. Gay people go to hell.
  2. Gay people don’t really exist–they’re just behaving gay.
  3. Gay can be fixed and changed through prayer and hard work.
  4. You can adopt traits of your own sex and learn to be more of a girl.
  5. This will bring forth a man.
  6. Homosexuality is the same as being predisposed to alcoholism.
  7. God loves all of us.
  8. God made us exactly as he wanted us to be.
  9. The Bible shouldn’t be read literally.
  10. The idea of God becomes bigger when you don’t read the Bible literally.
  11. I don’t believe in God.
  12. I don’t believe in the Bible.
  13. I’m too old for this crap.
  14. I’m tired of hearing about kids dying or getting picked on for being gay.
  15. I’m tired of hearing people called fags or dykes.
  16. I’m tired of feeling at home in Brooklyn because it seems to be the only place that feels safe.
  17. God doesn’t exist.
  18. Love the sinner, hate the sin isn’t actually love at all.
  19. I am gay
  20. It’s the only thing that has ever made sense to me.
  21. I lost my ability to pray.
  22. I’m studying the Bible.
  23. I’ve placed membership at a church that has a little bit of everybody.
  24. Sometimes I can see God.
  25. God is patient and hangs out anyway, even if you can’t always believe in him.
  26. I only want people in my life who are good and who will make me a better person.
  27. I’m gay.
  28. It wasn’t an accident.
  29. It’s not a sin.

I’ve lived in many places and met all of you somewhere along the way. A lot of you I know from home and from college. Those, I imagine, are the people who will have the hardest time with this news.

I come out for the kids who haven’t or can’t or don’t yet know why they’re so different. To them I say that you are loved and you are perfect.

If you find yourself so repulsed by this news, please unfriend me. If you feel God has put it on your heart to talk to me about my sin, he has not, and you should also probably unfriend me.

I am the same person today, as I was yesterday–only with a longer status update.

If you are shocked or surprised by this news, please do come forward as I have a trophy to give to the only person who didn’t know.

-S.

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Love is love and there can never be too much…

“By this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Back in 2000 – as the world refused to shut down for Y2K – a singer named Fiona Apple topped the pop charts.

One day, after a concert, a fan named Bill Magee approached Fiona and handed her a letter.  The letter was about his school’s gay-straight alliance and asked Fiona if she would mind replying with a sentence or two of encouragement or support of the group.

Keep in mind that this was before Lady Gaga – and other name-brand celebrities – made it trendy to support the LGBT community.

The next week, Fiona sent Bill an amazingly beautiful letter.

Hello Bill,

I got your letter a few days ago, but this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and write (it’s my day off)

Of course, I’d love to help — sign me up. As far as a few sentences go, here’s what I’ve got — I hope it’s OK:

It’s hard to conjure up some new profound way of commenting on this issue — I’m so tired of it being an issue at all, and I suppose I’m lucky, because I see the truth so clearly. All I know is I want my friends to be good people, and when my friends fall in love, I want them to fall in love with other good people. How can you go wrong with two people in love? If a Good boy loves a good girl, good. If a good boy loves another good boy, good. And if a good girl loves the goodness in good boys and good girls, then all you have is more goodness, and goodness has nothing to do with sexual orientation. A person who loves is a righteous person, and if someone has the ability and desire to show love to another — to someone willing to receive it, then for goodness’ sake, let them do it. Hate has no place in the equation; there is no function for it to perform. Love is love, and there will never be too much.

Fiona Apple

P.S. Right on for doing this, Bill

click here for a peek at the original letter

What a graceful definition of love.

If you have a tendency to skim over extended quotes – as I do – let me re-emphasize part of Fiona’s letter.   She said, “…goodness has nothing to do with sexual orientation. A person who loves is a righteous person, and if someone has the ability and desire to show love to another — to someone willing to receive it, then for goodness’ sake, let them do it.”

That’ll preach.  In fact, it once did…

Jesus taught us that “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Dear friends, let us therefore love one another in the full freedom that comes from knowing our homosexuality can also be holy sexuality.

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