An article titled “Do Not Give Up On Christian Gays” appeared in the Advocate – a national LGBT news magazine – last week. The title says it all, right?
The young author makes an interesting case for the responsibility LGBT folks have for changing the church from the inside out. (perhaps this is our calling?) He says…
The message [of the church I grew up in] was largely unspoken, yet crystal clear: If you don’t fit into a heterosexual identity, you aren’t welcome.
None of this was because church is unwelcoming in general. Everyone was welcomed on the same terms — being willing to repent from sin. Those who wouldn’t repent but wanted acceptance anyway were asking for special treatment. And being gay was a sin — a choice, a rebellion against God’s design.
Sadly, for LGBT kids in these communities, things are not getting better. And no matter how many moving videos are made or how many young people take their lives in despair, change will not come so long as the only voices of dissent are coming from the outside — from progressive Christians and the nonreligious. Change can be achieved within conservative Christianity, but it must come from within.
The trouble is, the best candidates for reforming these churches — the LGBT Christians who are in them — remain isolated and voiceless. When we do come out and try to gain acceptance, we’re shut down with antigay readings of Scripture. And if we aren’t prepared to articulate and defend our own theological understanding with all the fluency and gravitas of a biblical scholar, we’re shown the door.
So… what’r we to do?
I’ll never forget the summer night I stood on my back porch with fists raised to the sky and tearfully asked God, “what the hell am I supposed to do now?” After more than a decade in ministry, I was stuck. I could either continue living as a straight person (and deny who God had created me to be), or “come out” and be forced to walk away from my calling (because of who God had created me to be).
I was terrified. It seemed like an impossible decision. What was my responsibility to the church? To my God? To myself?
I eventually came to realize that I’m not built like a magnet, with two sides (the spiritual and the sexual) that automatically repel each other. I am a Christian gay man. These two identities are not in opposition to each other. Like bacon and chocolate, they come together in an unexpectedly beautiful union. This means that as a minister, I have the ability to work for the kingdom in a way that few others can.
Perhaps you do, too.
Friends, we gay Christians fill an important niche in both the gay and Christian communities. We are bilingual – able to speak both LGBT and Christian. We can either work from within the Church and tell the Christian community “there might be a better, more Godly way,” or we can work from within the gay community to spread the message that, “despite what you may have heard, God does not hate you.”
Either way, nobody can work for change like we can. Nobody has a foot in two doors like we do. Nobody has the potential to unify two feuding families like we do.
So… raise your fists to the sky if you must, but don’t give up on God. God hasn’t given up on you.
update: for an excellent, although slightly different, perspective on “working from the inside” (especially when you’re angry and/or confused by your experience with the church), check out this really nicely written post by John Shore titled “From Gay-Hating Fundie to Righteously Angry Lesbian. Now What?”