Part I and II of this series originally appeared in November 2013. Part III was simmering during a hiatus and finally became articulated in February of 2014. I wanted to re-post parts I and II so as to keep all the thoughts together. In many ways, these 3 entries sum up what I have learned from this blog experience. Now that I’m transitioning to another blog site(The Elephant Space at http://www.makeroomforelephants.com), I wanted to leave these 3 entries up as a capstone. That being said…Why do I stay in the Church?
My queer friends sometimes ask me why I continue to be involved in the Christian church. Being very concerned about my well being, they point out how the other church folk don’t really understand me and aren’t really able to meet my needs and are usually deep down very uncomfortable with who I am. They’ll cite careless comments, ignorant comments and the occasional hostile comment. Often they make the prediction that I will only get more and more frustrated being among them and never experience a rich and beautiful life.
I’d say they have some good points.
Still though, I’m choosing to stay and I have my reasons.
Running away from an uncomfortable situation is easy, and in truth, something I consider on many days. But when I think about it, really thing about it, the difficult and uncomfortable value I hold is to not abandon community. I don’t want to abandon people. Granted their may come a day when a relationship with a community turns toxic and unhealthy. If that point ever arrives, I suppose I’ll have some difficult decisions to make. But so far, at least in my community, I’m surrounded by people who love me and are willing to work hard to understand me. No reason to leave.
I stay because my goal is a rich relationship between the church and queer communities. Too long we’ve been mostly segregated and mostly at hostile odds with each other. Starting a gay church would be easy, but that would mean pulling queer Christians out of the church communities where they already are. That isn’t my goal.
The experience of many queer individuals who have grown up in the church is that they have to abandon the church and the faith in Jesus that goes with her in order to live in safety and in relationship and find any kind of peace and satisfaction in life. Likewise, there are other queer individuals who have grown up in the church who work to completely suppress their sexuality and never get to experience committed intimate relationship with anyone. Worse yet, many of them do it in secret, citing instead the mysterious Gift of Celibacy.
Celibacy is a very intensive lifestyle. Not many people are actually equipped for this mentally, emotionally, physically or otherwise. If this is the only option we present to Queer Christians who want to stay in the church, I think we may be doing them more harm than good. But that’s another conversation.
Another reason I stay. At the very least, I can facilitate conversations that might not otherwise happen. In church circles, hetero privilege and the experience of being in relationship with the opposite gender is taken for granted. The experience is spoken of as if it’s a given, but, clearly, heterosexuality is not a given in the case of all church-goers. I figure, if I can get people to notice their hetero privilege and not take it for granted and consider the experience of a minority, then perhaps we can also notice our other privileges and not take them for granted and consider the experiences of those who are different in gender, skin color, culture, and many other ways.
Another reason I stay. I know I will encounter Christians who don’t understand me or my reasons for using the “Gay” word on myself and want me to change in ways that I can’t. Likewise, I know I will continue to encounter Queer friends who don’t understand why I use the “Christian” word on myself and will want me to take care of myself in ways I’m not willing to. There will always be misunderstanding, but I believe there can still be relationships even in the misunderstanding. You and I may not understand each other and even starkly disagree with each other, but I believe we can still be friends, even brothers and sisters, and still be in community with each other.
This is so because for every way we are different, there is a way that we are also the same.
And I want to model the pursuit of relationships even through disagreements and misunderstandings. As long as the other person is willing to continue the conversation, I would like to stick with the relationship.
I suppose my biggest reason for staying in the church, though, is for other Queer Christians still in the closet. Depending on which statistic you read, somewhere between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 individuals identify as part of the community. This means that if an average sized church has, say, 200 kids under the age of 18, somewhere between 20 and 40 of them will identify somewhere in the LGBTQQIA community to some degree at some point in their lives.
What is the church’s plan support her Queer children?
Some of them may have lived their whole lives in painful secrecy. Others may be just becoming adults and facing frightening decisions. Others still may be under the age of ten and do not yet have an idea of how complex the world is. I’d like to think that the church will be kind to them as they grow and point them to Jesus and help them have a healthy self-concept and healthy sexuality. I’d like to believe that I may be able to participate in creating a safe space for other Queer Christians to figure themselves out.
Ultimately, my faith and my sexuality are both very important to me. I don’t believe that abandoning either would be honoring to anyone, least of all God. So then, I choose to embrace the tension and the journey.
This is why I stay.
This is why I speak.
This is why I live the way I do.
My work is to figure out how to resolve the two and live in community with good people who care about me. My challenge is to learn how to disagree with people in ways that are still loving and nurturing and not to give into reactive and harmful anger. My challenge is to pursue Jesus and His purposes for me and endeavor to live as a complete and resolved person. My hope is that my life and my struggles and my questions will create safety and nurture and hope for others, and that through me, they may encounter the deep deep love of Christ.
One day at a time…