This post is for my dear friend Mark and his site over at http://www.mygayagenda.org.
Several months back Mark sent me the TED Video below. Now, you should know, I am a TED Video sucker. I can watch them for hours, howling with laughter or sitting there like a complete sap with tears running down my face. I love them because so often, its a person getting up on that stage, defying all the odds, and choosing to be really brave and vulnerable. This TED Video in particular though, has stuck with me in its plain and simple truth. I was humbled by the speaker’s ability to speak not only from personal experience, but also to relate that experience to me. Someone who for so long would have condemned and judged this person before they could even open their mouth.
So in following Ash’s advice, what is written below is my hard conversation.
One that I have had tearfully and fearfully many times before, and I am sure I will have again. A post that to be honest, made my hands shake as I typed it months ago, and since then has been silently waiting for me to gather the courage to share.
Mark told me about his site he was building several months ago and excitedly reported to me when it was live a few months back. He then encouraged me to share a picture and, if I wanted to share a story. Well to be completely honest, at first I thought to myself, “Oh yah sure, but wait I look like crap, so I am going to have to at least do this on a day when I take a shower and at least look like a half-way decent human being.” So vain, I know. But then as I moved beyond thinking about what outfit should I wear and what selfie pose should I take – an even scarier thought hit me…
“What is your gay agenda?” Do you have one? Do you NOT have one? One thought led to another, as I anguished over what words would encompass everything I would need to say.
How do I share my story? What do the walls of my closet contain?
Where I grew up, I didn’t even know what homosexuality was, and when I did learn of it I was taught to despise it as twisted, perverted, and against human nature. As the Romans 1 passage in scripture was shared with me, I surmised that anyone within the grips of this awful delusion had become so blinded by their sin and lust that God gave them over to their unnatural desires. But I didn’t know anyone like that in real life anyways. People like that lived in New York or San Francisco. They were out pushing their agenda on society with a vengeance to destroy the family structure and moral fabric of America – or so I was told. When the various pastors and spiritual leaders I sat under prayed against homosexuality, the spirit of perversion, and the spirit of lust threatening to overcome the nation – again it felt like some far off cloud, one I had never seen and only heard of. I certainly didn’t have to worry about it touching me – after all I liked boys and had never once questioned that from birth.
Then the day came when I moved to a small town, where a private university served as an unusual voice and haven for progressive college kids and professors, in the middle of a staunchly conservative county in Texas. I remember the day I left my literature professor’s office literally scratching my head in utter confusion, as she had just informed me that she and her partner would be visiting her family the next week over the holiday break. She had been meeting with me about a paper I was working on, and I had casually asked her about her holiday plans. Suddenly this new information perplexed me. She was gay? But she looked like a normal woman? She wasn’t trying to force some agenda down our throats in class? How did I not know? She was really nice, beautiful, intelligent, and funny? She was not at all like the evil, selfish person I thought you had to be. Without even realizing it, a small crack in my prejudicial oblivion had begun to form.
Next I sat in a class, known as the easy science credit for us “non-science” majors. This class was taught by an English Professor and a Biology Professor, and instead of actually studying science, we studied famous scientists and the effect their scientific discoveries had on society. The class was interesting enough, and I was happy as a clam to be reading books and writing papers, versus dissecting frogs. Towards the end of the semester, we began to study the discovery, response, and development of treatment for AIDs. Prior to this I was very ignorant on the subject. I have rarely been more moved then the day my biology professor shared his personal story with this disease, and watched as tears streamed down his face as he told story after story of friends who had died, the ignorance that he and many others had encountered in the initial responses to this disease, and the stigmatism that still persists today towards victims of HIV and AIDs. Sadly before this, the only thing I had been told about AIDs was that it was a disease made by God to punish homosexuals and their immorality.
The sheer ignorance, shame, vengeance, and vitriol contained in that belief and that I once could hear it unquestioningly takes my breath away with heartache and regret.
Soon after though, I moved schools, got married, and moved out of the country to Japan with my husband for an Air Force assignment overseas. For a while, the issue became a nonissue again as it was out of sight, and thus out of mind.
Then I slowly began to meet other people, other Christians from various backgrounds and denominations, and suddenly I discovered, not all agreed on homosexuality like I was taught. I assumed, as I so often did growing up, that these people must have just never actually read their bibles. After all there were not only the New Testament passages, but the Old Testament ones as well – it was written there in black and white for anyone to see. I knew of the Romans and the Leviticus passages, but further study led me to discover that there are actually six specific references to homosexuality – Genesis 19:5; Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:13; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Timothy 1:10. Beyond that, traditional Christian doctrine also relies on the Genesis accounts of the creation of Adam and Eve, and their God-sanctioned union as further evidence that God-ordained marriage exists only between a man and a woman. So thus, needless to say the argument was bulletproof and these Christians must be sadly confused and ignorant.
My ignorance and inexperience with anyone who truly wrestled with the issue fueled my pride and my dismissal of the issue as irrelevant to my life. It never even occurred to me that someone might struggle from a place of deep anguish, love, and respect for God, Christianity, traditions, doctrine, and faith questioning whether God was real, whether Scripture had failed, whether Christianity had failed, whether living life denying true love and companionship was a sacrifice worth making, whether there was a difference in the hell of living with a secret desire or dying condemned to go to hell by embracing the truth. It never once occurred to me until the day Mark told me – and that day broke my heart.
Mark had been my best friend since birth. He has known me my entire life, and spent almost as much time with me growing up as my own family. We did everything together. Mark and I were the two second-born kids, a year apart, and we built a childhood of memories. Building forts, conspiring against siblings, a shared faith and desire to please God and family, a passion to serve people and our communities, a love for music, a mutual flare for the dramatic – we were like two peas in a pod. Looking back, people probably believe I should have known – but for me Mark was just Mark, and that was that.
As we finished high school we both moved away from our small town community, went to different colleges, we both changed, I got married, and life kept happening. We fell out of touch. I assumed because I had changed too much, or life had inevitably happened and we had grown distant. I missed my friend, but didn’t know how to pick up the phone and tell him, and like all social media sites inevitably portray – he seemed happy enough.
In the meantime I began to read more blogs, and came across some authors like Rachel Held Evans, Brene Brown, and Glennon Doyle Melton. These women challenged me in a new way, courageously claiming their faith and love for the LGTBQ community. The more I read, the more I realized they had read every single passage in the Bible too. In fact they had studied theologians, doctrinal history on the subject, current scientific studies, and more about the entire issue than I ever had. I realized I had a lot to learn. Maybe my understanding was incomplete. Maybe I had got it wrong. Maybe it wasn’t all that simple.
Then one day, Mark and I somehow managed to reconnect via Facebook, with me all the way in Japan. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but his story finally came out. It felt like the rose colored lens of our childhood was ripped off my eyes, and I saw my dear friend with his anguish and pain he had been struggling to bear alone for years. I had been so blind. He shared with me his journey from childhood to young adulthood filled with self-hatred, depression, and his struggle with being suicidal. Learning that he once thought those of us who knew and loved him from birth would want him dead more than we would want to face the decision of him openly admitting to being gay sent me spinning. I cried for days. For weeks after this, any time I would get alone in my car or go for a run, the heartache and tears were unstoppable. I didn’t know what to do with it. My friend whom I thought I had lost to time, distance, and my own change – I almost actually lost. Even more horrifying was the thought that had he told me a few years earlier; I don’t even know what my response would have been. Would I have even listened? Would I have disowned him? Would I have judged him and prayed for his soul?
And then came the anger. Anger at myself. Anger at God. Anger at my faith. Anger at what I had been taught. If what I was taught was true, how could God let this happen? Mark loved God as much as I did. We had loved Him our entire lives. He had prayed and prayed and prayed for over 15 years! There was no way he had knowingly chosen this. That I knew. So if he had not, then how could it be his sin? How could God make someone to eternally sin? Again my faith background taught me the doctrine of original sin, which stipulates that we are all fallen, but the ability for me to resist temptation and a habit of sin was in no way comparable to never feeling sexually attracted to the opposite sex and believing that even having a desire for the same sex and not even acting on it still made you a perpetual sinner.
I was in the middle of a faith crisis like no other.
This issue in reality wasn’t the only one, but it proved to be my breaking point. My faith and beliefs, once built on certainty were now more like blocks scattered on the floor. Since then I have spent well over a year slowly, prayerfully, and tearfully picking up the pieces. It will never look the same, but I have hope that I have found a richer faith, deeper spirituality, and greater experience for knowing God in the midst of uncertainty and darkness, seeing Him through people in my life in ways I never did before, than I ever did in believing I had all the answers.
My gay friends, Mark foremost among them, have changed my life with their courage to live life loved and unafraid, and have humbled me with the compassion and dignity they extend to anyone who judges them, misunderstands them, misrepresents them, or outright denies them the same courtesy. My understanding and desire to stand by my friends has come through hard conversations, many questions, countless tears, prayers, studying my bible, and reading authors such as Justin Lee, Rachel Held Evans, Glennon Melton-Doyle, Matthew Vines, and many others that have challenged me to my core.
My horror at grappling with the truth of my own privilege and my once tightly held preconceptions about who gay people were, what the gay agenda was, how God saw gay people, and what all Christians thought and believed about the subject is something I must live with, and work hard to not judge others with similar beliefs as I was there once too.
Gay Christians have amazed me, in how they demonstrate more of Christ’s love and grace towards many in the Christian community, oftentimes respecting their right to beliefs that completely negate the possibility of putting gay and Christian in the same sentence, or at the very least relegate gay individuals to a second rate Christian to be forever pitied under the mantra of “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” Ironically, I have found myself more encouraged to not give up on my own faith altogether and to wrestle through my doubts and questions, even if for a moment of feeling close to God once more – by none other than Ben Moburg, who is gay and in spite of everything is choosing to live a Christian faith that is real and authentic.
In the end, my desire is to encourage my friends that they are not alone and that I’m here, whether or not it’s easy or convenient for me.
This is a new journey for me, and one that I will stumble in many times I’m sure. I want to believe that Christianity will find a way back to the heart of Christ’s message sooner than later. A man who put divinity aside to serve humanity. A man who loved, served, and touched the untouchable. A man who challenged pride and arrogance to look into the mirror, and extended grace to those that society deemed worthy of judgment. A man who listened.
This is my journey, and where my faith and life has brought me.
I share my story not to change anyone’s mind about their faith, judge their beliefs concerning homosexuality, or argue the doctrines of Christianity and biblical interpretation on Homosexuality. If you want to study these issues for yourself from a Christian LGTBQ-affirming perspective to understand it’s take on the issue, I recommend starting with Matthew Vines book “God and the Gay Christian,” and Justin Lee’s book, “Torn” who are much more articulate than I am on the subject, and have the authority of personal experience behind them.
I now believe my beliefs and understanding of homosexuality as a child were wrong, but I also have learned to accept that part of my past with grace and humility knowing there is no way to change it. It is what it was. Now and going forward I instead have found a life filled with even greater love, courage, and passion by being willing to question, to doubt, to face my fears and pride, and to learn with eyes wide open from loved ones, friends, and strangers alike.
I think about issues like this over and over. I think far too much sometimes about what other people think, how they will respond, how I will respond, and try to weigh out my decision, hoping for the most people to approve of it, as that must be the best decision. Writing this post has been one of the hardest for me to write, and I have spent months trying to make it accurately represent all that is in my heart. My fears and worries, knowing how sensitive and controversial this subject is have threatened to overwhelm me on more than one occasion.
But then I think about how I will feel if I always forego courage and honesty because its just easier to be afraid you know what people think and how they will respond, versus to actually know.
This is the story of my closet — the good, the bad, the fearful, the ugly, the insecure, and everything in between.
My gay agenda simply put is this:
To see in others like me, what I want to justify, judge, or ignore…
To see in others different than me, what I have yet to see before…
To see in myself what I so easily forget…
– a human being.