For the second consecutive year, I participated in the Coming Out Monologues Jacksonville, a community-created, community-inspired and community-led theatrical production dedicated to transformation through storytelling.

Last year, we had the pleasure of opening the show on the same night national marriage equality became a reality. It was one of the best nights of my life.

This year, we opened our show in the shadow of the tragedy in Orlando. It was quite a different feeling, but opening night ended up being one of the best nights of my life yet again. The audience’s love, acceptance and understanding was entirely unexpected by me when it came to my monologue in particular. It was humbling. And awesome.

My latest monologue focused on Christianity and its relationship with the LGBTQ community. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Matthew Vines’ book “God and the Gay Christian” as a wonderful resource in both the writing process and in my personal life. For those of you interested, I’d also recommend Rachel Held Evans’ “Searching for Sunday.” She’s great to follow on social media, too, as are John Pavlovitz and Benjamin L. Corey.

One of the performances was recorded, but I’m not sure when the final video will be available, so I made my own! Additionally, I was asked to provide the text of my monologue, so I hope you find it valuable.

I…am…tired. I’m tired of defending myself and having to go on the offensive. I’m tired of defending my faith to people supposedly of my faith. I’m tired of willful ignorance. I’m tired of fear-mongering…especially from people whose God told them three things repeatedly – don’t fear, love God and love your neighbor.

I’m tired of the First Baptists of the world claiming authority over the Bible and over what’s right and wrong. I’m tired of hearing things like, “Well I’m just preaching the word of God” and “I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear…I’m going to tell you what the Bible says.” Ok, no. You’re going to tell me what you think the Bible says. You’re going to choose to take a few verses completely out of context while ignoring the fact that you add context to so many others.

And I’m probably even more tired of churches that mask the same old, uninformed conservative evangelical rhetoric with flashy graphics, fancy rock concerts, a marketing department and tatted-up pastors with drug-addicted pasts. Places like this pretend you’re welcome…right up until you even suggest that same-sex relationships are OK with God. Then it’s time to find another church. At least First Baptist doesn’t try to hide that I’m not welcome.

The fact is gay Christians exist. And there are MILLIONS of Christians out there – straight, gay, whatever – who do not believe that same-sex relationships are inherently sinful. So here’s what we think the Bible really says – or doesn’t say – about “homosexuality.” I want to set the record straight. Wait…uh…anyway…

First of all, the Bible never discusses sexual orientation or committed, same-sex relationships and neither does Jesus. But there are six verses people refer to when claiming the Bible is against homosexuality. The first is in Genesis. The claim is that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because the people did gay things. But as Ezekiel explains, the story is really about not showing hospitality. It’s about the people being arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. It’s about people not helping the poor and needy. Also, the only form of same-sex behavior mentioned in the Sodom and Gomorrah story is gang rape, a far cry from a committed, same-sex relationship.

The two verses in Leviticus that people love to reference about the issue are part of what’s known as the “old law,” which the New Testament says no longer applies, thanks to Jesus. Leviticus also says that eating pork or shellfish is worthy of death. Combining fabrics is wrong, too. Don’t me wrong – as a gay man, I realize you have to be really careful about which fabrics you mix, but we don’t think it’s worthy of death. Well, most of us.

In the New Testament, Romans 1:26 – 27 basically says people refused to know God and got sexually confused and “abused and defiled each other…all lust, no love.” This, too, has nothing to do with people in loving, committed same-sex relationships.

There are also verses in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, which use two really fancy Greek words. Many people translate these words to make sweeping negative generalizations about gay people. But there’s debate over these translations. In fact, others think a closer translation in modern times would be something like “dirty old men.” God knows there are plenty of those in the world today. I mean we all have that uncle, right?

Oh…and the apostle Paul — who wrote 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy – also calls men having long hair “unnatural.” And he says women shouldn’t speak in church. I’m pretty sure most churches let women talk these days. While I’m not a fan of women in the bedroom, I certainly don’t mind them talking. Usually. In Biblical times, same-sex behavior was mainly between men and boys – a master/servant sort of thing. Also, I just want to point out that the word “homosexuality” didn’t even appear in the Bible until 1946.

Really, the Bible says more about accepting others and about so-called “religious” people than it does about sexual orientation or committed, same-sex relationships. In fact, Jesus never condemned homosexuality, but he did challenge divorce, wealth, spiritual pride and exclusion. 

Besides, no one believes 100% of the Bible literally. No one. Here’s an example: In the book of Matthew, Jesus says his followers need to sell their possessions, give to the poor and follow him. But I don’t see First Baptist’s pastor giving up his 600-thousand-dollar home in Deerwood. I don’t see Celebration’s pastor giving up his 900-thousand-dollar home in Queen’s Harbour. And I don’t see Eleven22’s pastor giving up his 300-thousand-dollar home in Highland Glen.

Now surely, these men and their congregations do great things for the community. But Jesus says to sell all possessions and give to the poor. It’s pretty clear. So if they believe that the few verses on homosexuality should be taken 100% literally, surely they believe this literally. Or don’t they because it directly affects them?

1 Timothy tells women not to wear gold or pearls or expensive clothes and to be “modest” and “discreet,” yet plenty of women wear gold or pearls or costly clothes, especially to church on Sundays.

Then, there’s the elephant in the room…or should I say “sanctuary” – divorce. In multiple scriptures, we’re told it’s wrong. Yet, plenty of Christians get divorced. And you don’t hear these people fighting to outlaw divorce or Christian business owners refusing to serve divorced people like they are with our community.

In the New Testament, Jesus is asked what the most important commandment is. You know what he says? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” That’s number one. Do you know what number two is? “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Romans 14:1 says, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but don’t quarrel over opinions.” There is grace in the non-essentials of the Christian faith. Whether or not being gay is right or wrong is most certainly not essential to being a Christian. But loving God and loving others is.

At best, no one really knows for sure what Jesus thinks about gay stuff because he didn’t say anything about it. But we have a way to tell what’s right and wrong, even if the Bible isn’t clear. It all comes down to fruit. Ironic, right? Jesus says a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. As gay Christian author Matthew Vines puts it, Christians can use this to test beliefs based on the outcome. So let’s think about this…

Humans are created for love and companionship. But these anti-gay Christians just want us to turn that off. And they speak out against who we are so loudly that they make it even more difficult for our community to receive Christ’s message, which is for all people. They say hateful things and perpetuate fear. Their actions and rhetoric lead people to depression and – in some cases – suicide. They’re too concerned about protecting themselves from some invisible gay boogeyman to realize or care that they are doing harm. This seems like bad fruit to me.

But what if these Christians realized that we don’t know for sure what Jesus thinks about the issue and it’s not essential to being a Christian anyway? What if they focused on what we do know – that Jesus wants us to love each other and share his message? Maybe more people in our community would listen to their message – one that should be of love and inclusion. Maybe fewer people in our community would try to kill themselves. That seems like good fruit to me.

What “good fruit” comes out of forcing a gay person to a life of loneliness? While we’re at it, what “bad fruit” does my same-sex relationship bear? Pastors love to say that gay people feel so burdened because we know we’re sinning. I promise you – my boyfriend and I feel loved by God and do not feel guilt or judgment from him for loving each other and being with each other.

But even if it is a sin – I ask Christians this: What is the ultimate goal of the church? To be right? Or to show people the same love that Jesus showed us? To speak out harshly against the gay community – or to speak out about poverty, economic inequality and a general lack of valuing ALL people as Children of God?

So I’m tired…but I am not giving up. I may not convince everyone that same-sex relationships are OK or even that we deserve the same rights, but I can sure keep trying. The struggle is real…but the struggle is worth it.

Don’t fear. Love God. Love your neighbors.

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