The past three years of coming out have been bitter and sweet. Kinda bittersweet. (See what I did right there?)
Growing up Roman Catholic and Pentecostal “CatholiCostal” (Assemblies of God) made being authentic (gay) next to impossible. Factually I sincerely believed that I had somehow offended god because I was gay. I believed that I was being punished. Being punished by God for not behaving properly was a constant threat from both the Catholic and Assemblies of God churches.
Over the past three years, I have loved and hated God. I have even more hated God’s followers. Genuine sincere hate. It was Gods people that raped me of any sort of normality when I came out. I was living in literal hell and torture at the hands of God’s people.
With that said, I was encouraged to leave my faith and political affiliation as they would never accept me as a gay man. I was hell bent on at least keeping my faith. After all, it was God who gave me the gift of being gay.
The political affiliation was a no-brainer. I’ve always been sensitive to social issues just as God is, but it took me three years to complete a new voter registration card. I am just plain sick of the “Repugnant” picketing and screaming about everything that they are uncomfortable with. The faith issue became much more difficult. This almost cost me my life as I planned my suicide on multiple occasions. I fully intended to eradicate myself from this bitter life.
My entire social structure was based inside the church. More than 90% of my relationships (Family and Friends) were within the scope of the church. I was an altar boy in the Catholic church and a licensed minister with a main-line Pentecostal denomination (Assemblies of God). I earned a degree from Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri which is the former flagship Bible College of the Assemblies of God denomination. We were taught to call it a fellowship and not a denomination. The church has played the semantics game from the beginning of time. Due to failing enrollment CBC was “absorbed” by Evangel University.
All that said, I have been struggling to find my place back into a faith community. I have tried “gay” churches, I have tried “unity” churches, I have tried “liturgical” churches and I have tried “community” churches. Denomination simply isn’t in my vocabulary any longer. I would become Atheist and/or Agnostic before I ever affiliate with a denomination again.
So I set out to find a faith community that met my requirements of being “upbeat” (non-liturgical) and at least welcoming/accepting of LGBT people. I have resolved in myself that there is not yet a church here in the East Valley that will be both accepting and affirming. I’m OK with that for now. I contacted the Pastor at the Church that I was attending just after I had come out. He agreed to meet with me and we discussed my concerns about being gay and being the father of a gay child. I want a place that is safe for me and my children to be a part of to practice our faith without the fear of being rejected, made fun of or ignored.
He assured me that we would be welcomed and that there were several other LGBT people who attended as well. He made it clear that not EVERYONE would be welcoming if they knew that we were gay. I promised that I wouldn’t wear my “Queer for Jesus” T-shirt. Up to this point and short of some anxiety and nervousness, I’ve been doing well in my new endeavor to renew my faith. Until this week…
This week started a new series regarding relationships. Yeah, the big “R” word. It’s always an exciting topic when you are SINGLE. (can I get an amen from the single people???) The illustrations were of course flooded with examples of Man/Woman Boy/Girl relationships. Of course there was the obligatory reference to Adam and Eve. While nothing derogatory or positive of same-sex relationships were spoken, references to partners and or partnerships were clearly void. After about the third or fourth reference to Man and Woman, I began to get a lump in my throat and a sick lonely feeling in my stomach. That feeling you got when back in school, team captains were selected and then they got to pick their team from all the “rest” of us lined up along the fence. That feeling of not wanting to be the last one selected but inevitably you were. Yeah… I know that feeling real well. Its my life story.
As the tears welled up (or maybe it was my allergies..) I felt alone. I felt left out. I felt again that I was not welcomed. (And please don’t tell me how to feel). I felt second or last class and suddenly the message became unpalatable and unrelatable to me. I felt dejected. Not intentionally but unintentionally. I don’t think that it was malicious, but nonetheless it caused me angst. I wanted to run out. So I quietly gathered my belongings, made no eye contact with anyone and attempted to sneak out of the back door. No such luck…a big burly machismo man at the top of the stairs asked me if everything was OK. I smiled gracefully and gave the obligatory “I’m OK” and left to my car to gather myself.
As I sit here and write this post, I am reflecting back to a point in the message where the pastor stated that regarding relationships, “rules without relationship will result in rebellion.” It just stuck to me like bubble gum to my shoe from the hot asphalt… I get the “rules” I really do. But is not the relationship with the gay community worth more than rules? We are human. We love, we feel, we pray, we need, we want… just like anyone else. We are human and to expect us to somehow not desire relationship and partnership is flat-out insane. Lets pretend for a minute that the Bible instructs you to reject those who are part of the LGBT community as a rule in general (that is not biblical by the way) would not that “rules without relationship will result in rebellion” not cut both ways? “Rebellion/Hate comes from a relationship based on rules.” Think about it.
I did everything that I knew possible to relate to my wife for 14 years. The harder that I tried, the harder that it became. I was making her miserable and falling deeper and darker into shame, guilt and depression. I simply could not grasp the Male and Female relationship. I was not designed to be heterosexual. I was created homosexual. If you are not gay, don’t even attempt to explain or relate to me. You cannot possibly ‘get it.’ There is a reason that faith-based programs that once claimed to change peoples sexual orientation have had a 99% failure rate and have shuttered their doors. Admitting that they caused more harm and suicides than any other faith-based “recovery” programs. God will not fix what is not broken and will not heal what is not sick.
The Bible is full of “rules.” No need to go to the obvious. Why then would we select just ONE rule and stand on a mountain and declare this as the only rule that we are going to enforce? Consider the idiocy of that for just a minute. Let’s call out the divorcees, the seafood eaters, the mixed fabric wearers, the abusers, the speeders, the gossipers… No? Why? Because they are rules… rules without relationship will eventually cause rebellion.
SIDE NOTE: When I do find the man who I will marry (its legal ya know), I will never shop at Shane Co. jewelers. Why? I’m glad that you ask. Their commercials which we all know by heart, exclude male same-sex partners/boyfriends. The commercial says your girlfriend this… your girlfriend that… even a female gay couple qualifies…but not gay male couples… when it would be so easy to just use the word partner or significant other. I’m pretty confident that this is intentional. No company with that much marketing savvy would “forget” that it is now legal for same-sex marriages and not make a simple marketing correction.
OK now I’m back from my rant about Shane Co.That was free. I won’t charge you for reading that part.
So where does that leave me right now? I’m so glad that you asked. I’ll be back next week to the same church. I believe that the tide is coming in and changing. The key is education. Allowing people to talk to me instead of talking about me. If I run off and cuss and scream, then I don’t allow people to approach me. IF they cannot approach me, then they cannot talk to me. They are left to talk about me. I will create a safe place for your to talk to me. We may walk away in disagreement, but at least you will have a fresh view of what its like to be both gay and christian.
That leads me to my final points of the message that I heard today regarding relationships. Don’t give people what they deserve, give them what they need. Give them grace. To listen is to love. The win is not in WINNING the argument, the win is in the winning of the RELATIONSHIP. If anyone knows me, they know that I love to win the argument. While I won’t tolerate disrespect, shaming or swearing, I will entertain a sincere person that wishes to engage me in sincere dialogue without throwing “spiritual swords.”
If you are sincere about learning more about why “so many people are coming out” and what the church and faith communities can do about it, please, please, please consider reading and or listening to some information that will help you move forward in unity with the LGBT community.
If you just wish to make fun, banter or discover more fodder to feed your hate, then this is not for you. These resources are only for people who desire to be educated and learn. Education comes after you listen to both sides. Listening to one side is not education it is ignorance. There is a difference between being taught and being educated. Being taught is listening to one person’s opinion and making it your own. This is also know as blind ignorance. Being educated is listening to and considering all points and then taking a position.