Why Should I Stay?

A friend of mine recently came across a series of questions that one of her friends had asked on social media. She thought I might be interested in weighing in. I was, and thought the interaction could be beneficial for others. I think many people probably have these questions, or a variation of them:

“In light of Kim Burrell’s recent homophobic statements, I have a few questions. Specifically for gay men who identify as Christian and still attend church… WHY?? For the life of me I can’t imagine why anyone would go to church, just to be condemned. Maybe it’s tradition, maybe it’s guilt, but either way you’re allowing a community (often paying for it) to degrade you as a human…

Why worship a ‘god’ who believes that you are an abomination?”

I totally understand where this question is coming from. Frankly, and sadly, it’s a reasonable one to ask. After reading through some of the additional commentary, I decided to offer my perspective (note: some minor edits for clarity have been made):

To answer the initial question asked above, my journey back to Christianity (although I am far from regular weekly church attendance at this point), at least as it relates to my sexuality, could probably be very generally summed up in three steps:

1) I discovered that Jesus never actually said anything about homosexuality, or people in committed same-sex relationships, and that the six “clobber” verses often used to justify condemnation of homosexuality were stripped of historical context and typically taken in a way in which other texts are conveniently not. Basically, I discovered that God — and Jesus — loved me just as I was when it came to being gay. Certainly, not all Christians think this is the case and not all gay Christians feel this way, but I do, through and through.

2) I discovered that the “Christianity” that tended to make the headlines was really just one subset of a broader group of people who call themselves followers of Christ. I learned that there are millions of Christians who don’t believe that simply being LGBT is a sin, and who do truly behave with love and compassion. The negatives of any group or story pretty much always dominate any media headlines over any positives that are happening. This, combined with the fact that often times the loudest voices are the ones who get heard, makes for a dominant narrative of the American Christian as basically a conservative, evangelical Christian who really believes in more of an “Americhristianity” — to borrow a term from someone else — than anything else. The reality, however, is much different — there are many, many other Christians out there who do not behave in this way.

3) I discovered that it was going to take some major research, study, prayer, grace, and forgiveness — to name a few. But, more importantly, I realized that that’s just how life works. Sure, this particular situation may take some folks even more grace and more forgiveness and more prayer, etc. Understandably so. But we’re all screwed up in our own ways, and if I’m asking for a group of people to try and be more compassionate to me, I should strive to be more compassionate toward them. That does not, however, mean putting up with physical and mental abuse or downright hatred. But it does mean trying to meet others at a place where I wish they would meet me — as a listener, ready to show compassion, grace, and trying to understand their perspective.

As for this part — “I can’t imagine why anyone would go to church, just to be condemned” — I’m in 100% agreement. But the Christian faith is filled with many, many churches and congregations who do not condemn gay people for simply being gay. Yes, I wish that number would rise, and I do think it will go up, but there are welcoming churches out there, nonetheless. I have made a commitment to only go where I do feel truly welcomed. And yet, I’ve also become more comfortable with the idea that each individual congregant doesn’t have to fully agree with everything I believe, including that Jesus is OK with my being in a relationship with another man. Now, will I tolerate extended bigotry, hatred, fear, contempt, etc.? No, of course not. But I’m willing to engage in conversation with a person who seems to really want to learn, and seems to be approaching the whole situation with an honest, open heart.

I fully agree that one shouldn’t worship a “god” who believes that they are an abomination simply for being gay. But I don’t worship that God, and neither do millions of other Christians. We worship a God of love. We worship a God of grace and forgiveness and of peace. We worship Jesus, who spoke far more about love and peace and of not fearing than he spoke about judging others’ sins and rejecting them for those perceived sins. What I believe in is life-giving and fearless.

The other thing I just want to say is that I’ve had to learn to let go. Does that mean I’m going to put myself in repeated harmful situations? No. Does that mean I’m going to forget the things that have been said by some, etc.? No. It means that I try — and have to keep trying — to remember that we are all human and are all trying our best. I try to remember that, if I’m asking for compassion, understanding, and a willingness to at least have a conversation about faith and the LGBT community, I should be willing to provide that same compassion, understanding, and willingness to have a conversation to those I disagree with.

While I’m sure there are also plenty of LGBT Christians who continue to place themselves in such toxic environments, the LGBT Christians I know tend to be in affirming churches — not churches that “avoid” or “ignore” the six “clobber” verses, but churches that believe the Bible says something different about “homosexuality” or about the LGBT community. Or that what it has to say about these things isn’t enough to defeat the ultimate commandments to love our God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

There are two more things I’d like to add to this for the purposes of this post:

  • The thought process as outlined above took years to develop.
  • As at peace as I may sound about it all, the realities are much tougher, and I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s super easy to “love your enemies,” etc. Honestly, for a lot of these types of folks, I don’t really even see them as enemies. But whatever they are — it can be tough to show them the time of day, much less even kindness.

So no — I don’t have it all figured out and I’m never going to always get it right, which is tough for me to admit and realize. But life is a long series of smaller decisions, and I can do my best to make as many good ones as I can.



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