One of my favorite aspects of the LGBTQQIAP2-S community is the second Q. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer….and Questioning.
Within the community of secual and gender minorities, we create a space and identity for folks who are just not sure. They’re still sorting through values, morals, faith traditions, past trauma, current relationships, longings, communities and the tremendously immense question of how they think is the best way to live. Questioning folks have ambivalent feelings adn present ambigous actions and sometimes say contradictory and irreverant things.
Within the LGBTQQetc community, we recognize that most people go through a period of questioning and that the questioning of deep intrinsinc things is a normal and necessary stage of development. We don’t understand every individual’s questioning process, but we’re okay with that and we’re okay with them. As long as they’re questioning and exploring and figuring things out, we consider them full-fledged, valid members of the LGBTQ community.
I wish we had a Q space in the church.
I wish we in the church could be as open about questioning all these things without being branded heretical or backslidden.
I wish for a space in the church for people who identify as Christian and who identify Jesus Christ as the center of their faith to also identify deep, dark, scary and controversial questions.
In writing this post, I’m thinking of two specific types of questions that some Christians ask.
One. Questions about faith, God, truth…all the foundations of what we believe.
Two. Sexuality and all that goes with it. Sex, Sexual orientation, gender identity and conformity, and how the individual relates to all people around them.
Questions about faith and sexuality, what one believes and how one identifies. I’ve had friends go through questions in each. I personally have lived with questions related to both.
Is God real? If He is, is He good? Does He care?
Can I really trust the Bible?
Can I be Gay and be a Christian?
Can I be a Gay Christian and be welcomed in the church? Why are non-church folk so much nicer most of the time?
What I find, and what my friends have found, is that the larger majority of Christian folk tend to be more uncomfortable with really big questions.
Here are some responses I’ve seen or experienced:
-Outright contradiction. Being told you’re wrong in your thinking and wrong for even asking.
-Minimization. Being told in flippant manner that your questions are no big deal and that no temptation has overtaken you but what is common to man, meaning you’re not unique. True, your questions may be shared by many others and may even be normal questions, but they’re still a big deal! They’re still hard things to ask!
-Premature solutions. You present a complex question and the person listening rushes to present a simplistic answer. Not that the simplicity of their answer is wrong(for many aspects of faith are actually simpler than we think) but in their rushing to the answer, they don’t give much attention to the complexities of the question, the tension experienced by the questioner, or even the reason for the question in the first place. The listener rushes to their simplistic answer and begins to pressure the questioner to just agree with them.
-Subtle shifts in relationship. You don’t get called to hang out as often. You quietly get dropped from the worship team. Pastors don’t let you see their kids anymore. You get put at the to of the emergency prayer list that is then broadcast to the whole church.
-Interventions, exhortations and challenges. Long conversations held over an open Bible where the focus becomes less about helping the questioner work through the questioning process and more about the listener convincing the questioner why they’re wrong. The questioner has to devote most of their energy into defending themselves and gets far less attention into simply resting, being nurtured and healed.
In the end, the questioner comes away feeling less nurtured and more labeled. Less supported and more isolated. Less like part of the Body of Christ and more like an inferior outsider.
Is it any wonder why lots of peopel with questions end up seeking answers outside the church? When we go outside the church with our questions, doubts and fears, we are welcomed. Our dark spots are acknowledged and validated as part of who we are, we are validated and encouraged to continue searching for answers. Outside of the church, questions and doubts about faith and sexuality are not crises, are not threatening to anyone, and we’re not being pushed to repent and have everything figured out by the next quarterly members’ meeting.
Meanwhile, the Christians hold the words of life. A relationship with Jesus that is not just functional but thriving truly is the centerpiece for an abundant life. We who are Christians offer a real hope, a deep love and understanding of people as being made in the image of God which makes them worthy of great dignity and respect. We have so much!
The problem is that all these things are complex and we are complex people and we live in a complex world. Because of these things, some of us have questions, doubts, fears and need to entertain a bit of heresy just to stay sane.
The sad part is when the church finds people like this to be uncomfortable or intimidating. Perhaps the un-questioning Christian can’t relate to the questioner or doesn’t know how to answer them, or is simply ignorant of things outside their safe Christian bubble.
There must be a better way. We must make a better way.
The biggest change that must happen is one of heart and attitude. LGBTQQ folks recognize their questioning members are a fully functioning part of the community. We in the Body of Christ ought to see our questioning and doubting members the same way; as still a fully functioning part of our community. We need to see that through the questions and doubts of our members, we have a chance to support them, to be enriched by their process, and we all hav ea chance to learn something.
Our people in crisis present our whole community with the greatest opportunities for growth.
On a practical level, there are things we can do to create a Q Space in the church.
How we speak about Q people.
Formation of groups, with confidential spaces.
We can develop our own distress tolerance.
Be patient with people!
Develop awareness of how we talk about our non-questioning experiences, remembering that no everyone shares our experience. When only one type of experience is ever discussed in credible fashion, people with other experiences tend to feel alienated.
Talk about questioning material intentionally, frequently, and not using crisis language.
Me must adjust our paradign of “healthy spirituality” to allow for periods of intense questioning, doubting….skepticism, anger, etc. To have questions does not mean you are an inferior person or an unhealthy Christian. Questioning your faith does not mean you ahve a weak faith. In fact, I suggest, that the capacity to question one’s faith indicates a deep comfortability with that faith, so much so that you can afford to let it go, knowing you will reconnect with it, somewhere, somehow. Similarly, I suggest that those who ridigly and doggedly cling to their faith and never tolerate a smidgin of a question, even in their own head, may actually be the ones harboring dep doubts and insecurities, so much so, that if any part of their faith foundation is shaken, the entire structure of what they believe may collapse.
Meanwhile, if we have questions, it means we don’t know something. If we ask questions, we can learn something. If we join with someone in asking their difficult questions, even if they are not our own difficult questions, we can learn something.
Our theology must be complex enough to account for all the complexities of a normal person’s life experience. Trite, clicheish and overly simplistic solutions to complex lfie situations are not helpful.
Let us do these thingsin good faith in with confidence that God will be faithful to find us in our dark places and lead us to His truth, no question!