Divorce of the Church

I’ve been fascinated by this guy Andrew Marin since my buddy (previously known as “Chicago Boy”, no known as Michael ) told me about going to a Marin foundation talk a couple of years ago.  Theologically, I think that Andy and I disagree on the morality of homosexuality, but what he and I share is a common goal to see the Church unite, despite our disagreements.

He recently started a blog, and I’ve been following along.  Not too long ago, I made a comment on one of his posts about how I’m affected by “The Great Homosexuality Debate” in the Church, and he asked me if I’d expound on that for his blog.

Yesterday, he released Part 1 of my very long post, followed by Part 2 today.  He did some minor editing, adding some emphasis that he thought was meaningful, and wordsmithing in other areas that he thought would unecessarily detract from the message.  Check ’em out!  Join the discussion!

For the sake of my integrity, I’m now posting the full, unedited version on my blog.  Drop a comment if you like . . . or don’t.  It’s all good

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Divorce of the Church:

How the Homosexuality Debate Affects Gays in the Church

 

Over the past several years, I’ve discovered many revelations about my sexuality, not the least of which is how my former method for dealing with it was chosen primarily out of fear: fear of going to hell, fear of becoming a sex-monger, fear of losing my spiritual community, etc.  It was precisely pressure from the Evangelical, conservative church I was attending that was the final straw for me.  I could no longer survive under the oppressive weight of following all of the right rules in the midst of insufficient supportive relationships.  For the sake of my mental health, I began to visit another church in the area. 

 

Just two weeks into going to services, I could sense God saying, “This isn’t where you should be visiting; this is home.”  I felt a sense of acceptance and welcome that I had never experienced in a church before.  It wasn’t until months later that I began to realize how doctrinally diverse the congregants of my multi-denominational church were.  As I began to take steps towards Christ and accepting myself in the way that he had, I also began to recognize that not everyone in attendance would follow me there.

 

To say I felt split and confused is an understatement.  But I found a safe space there to seek God regarding my sexuality, eventually coming to reconcile my sexuality and my faith.  This had some unpredictable side effects, though: I felt like I would be the cause of a major rift, being one of only a few gay people at the church.

 

As this was a transitional period in our church’s history, there was a significant amount of tension in the air, despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that we never uttered a word about the two big litmus tests for determining a “true Christian”: abortion and homosexuality.  While I was not able to articulate this then, I now realize that the hushed atmosphere began to feel like the dysfunctional home where the family didn’t talk about problems, but where it was impossible to escape them.  And I felt like the kid who was eventually going to be the cause of mommy and daddy’s divorce.  And so we trudged on in virtual silence.  I came out slowly to people I deemed safe, and swallowed my true being around those who felt “lovingly” hostile.

 

At some point along the way, people began to silently (and sometimes boisterously) leave.  No one really said it, but it was clear that things were starting to feel very “liberal”, and “unsound” to some of the more conservative congregants.  And the great divorce felt all the more imminent.

 

I can remember talking to our new senior pastor (in my early days at the church), and divulging my sordid “same-sex attractions” to him.  I intimated that I was very confused about all of this, and trying to find my way – since my previous path had brought me nothing but pain and suicidal ideation.  He made me feel very loved, and valuable to boot.  He replied that he would not preach me into the right way to go, nor look down on me and give me his sage advice, but rather, he would walk alongside me and question with me.  It was a huge relief for me.  And yet, I could tell this would not be the posture of several others in the church.  I remember pleading with him to keep my journey silent, so as not to stir up controversy. 

 

By this point, I had become pretty visible in the church, giving the welcome occasionally, and involved in several lay leadership positions.  If news were to break that I was gay, I feared people would protest. Upon discovering my “struggle,” they’d do as people have done in other churches I’ve attended: they would deem me unworthy of service, and remove me from the ministries to which I felt called.  And then the fighting would ensue.  They would fight those who would dare stand up for me and declare my value to the church, and even fight those who didn’t feel threatened by me.  My deepest fear of course, was not the fighting itself, but the inevitable result: the splitting of the church.  It seemed clear to me that I would be the cause of this split.

 

I don’t think people quite understand the pressure that the gay-oriented Christian feels in the church.  We have a hard enough time not hating ourselves, without having to face the derision and misunderstanding of others.  It is precisely this external pressure that often drives us to extreme measures: seeking ineffectual exorcisms, suppressing the very core of our sexual selves, jumping into relationships to prove we’re straight (meanwhile ruining the life and self-esteem of the hetero other in the process), and the like. 

 

I do not mean to excoriate the Christian stance on curbing same-sex sexuality per se – though I must admit that I personally found it to be a very life-suppressing and dangerous approach.  Instead, I’m merely remarking that in my experience (interacting with several hundred – mostly youth – Christians in ex-gay circles), I’ve frequently found that the motivations behind seeking such ends are dysfunctional.  Those who pursue these methods often do so due to stated and unstated pressure to conform and keep the family from getting upset.  When you think that you’re going to cause mommy and daddy to split – and worse – when one of them might hate you in the process, you will do just about anything to avoid that eventuality.  Silence seems to be the least consequential (and least destructive) way to handle these internal questions, whether you’re openly gay, celibate, or ex-gay.  This silence takes its toll.

 

I still struggle with this sense that I am ultimately the cause of enormous strife in the universal Church.  I sometimes wish there simply were no gay-ness at all.  I wish I could go back to the days before I became conscious of my sexuality.  (Many people in the Church are more than happy to relegate sexuality to this very place.)  But this is simply not reality.  This is not where I am – where we are.  With all of my unrealistic wishing, I do hope that my greatest wish has some hope for coming to fruition: I wish that mommy and daddy would just stop fighting. 

 

Perhaps if more people in the church could recognize that I’m not here to destroy the Church, nor the foundations of our society, some of the dissension would abate.  I’m not here to eradicate families, and I have no evil agenda to recruit your children.  I love the church, absolutely love it.  Why else would I put up with so many abuses from it?  My sad testimony is replete with instances where my greatest wounds were inflicted by “loving” church folks.  But I’ve remained here.  I haven’t left.  I wish everyone would stop fighting because they feel so uncomfortable about my decision to stick around.  It breaks my heart every time someone leaves my church for doctrinal disagreements.  It’s like mommy and daddy can’t seem to be mature enough to work out their differences, so they just leave.  And ultimately, it feels as if they’re leaving because of me . . . .

 

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6 thoughts on “Divorce of the Church

  1. Well put.  I think that while the debate over the morality of homosexuality may rage on and on, this strikes at the aspect of whether gay people are human and deserve to be treated as such.  This post reminds people will see it’s not just an issue, but it’s about real people … maybe that’ll be enough to change people’s actions.

  2. Hey DJ, I remember you from earlier Xanga days.  I don’t think we ever really communicated, but I followed your blog for awhile.  After reading and re-reading your guest posts on Andy’s blog, you have me thinking (and I just subscribed to your blog).  Yeah, we both live with tension, but for the past year or so I’ve been driven by some of the same passion as Andy, which is rattling a few of the conservative folks in my sphere.  I’m looking forward to more dialogue.   Jeff

  3. Wow, I never thought of the pro gay-no gay struggle in the church as the divorce of parents over a child.  This is beautifully written, my friend.Hey, do you know if this is going into Marin’s new book?  Remember Tim from LHY (lived in Peoria, IL at the time, now lives in Chicago)?  He told me recently that Marin’s about to release a book with the results of that online study his foundation conducted last year–and Tim’s story is gonna be in it!Miss you and your adorable boy, too.

  4. @Topher – yeah, topher.  good call.  i think that’s the reason i’m still engaging people in the Church – hoping that they’ll understand the HUMAN aspect of these theological questions. and i hope it does produce a change.  we’ll see.@carleton1958 – hey jeff, i do remember you from days when i was a lot more of a xanga poster!  thanks for reading and entering the tension @jonathanholm – hey jon!  thanks!  um, i don’t think it’s going into his book.  actually, if you’re talking about “love is an orientation”, that one has already been written, is currently in the warehouse, and is about to be released!  is that the one timmy is gonna be in???  i was a part of the study though!  did you ever submit responses for it?

  5. D.J., I remember you from GCN; we exchanged a few PMs.  I love this post you’ve written above.  Shoot me a PM at GCN if you like; I’m still under the name of “Seashell”.

  6. Just a few thoughts on the church and how it interprets Scripture –I’m at a S. Baptist Church in the Bible Belt (and all that is customary with a Bible/Fundamentalist Church).Here’s the deal:  we have a woman pastor coming to the church for a woman’s program. She is not pastor of our church but is pastor elsewhere.  Hmmm….didn’t Paul say something about women not teaching or having authority over men?  Yet, that is her daily position.I talked with my pastor about this (because he is against gay relationships) as to how this could be O.K.  His response went that he sees the fruit of her life, God is blessing her ministry and besides — men don’t always take the leadership positions that God calls them to.  So, he’s O.K. with it.Take gay people now:  what about the Spirit being evident in their lives?  What about gay people who can’t change (fill in men not taking the authority positions here) and are in committed relationships?  I think you get the point.  The parallels are there; the conclusions not.Both are gender related issues.  Why is one given a pass card (given reading of Scripture through a Fundamentalist lens) and the other is seen as a non-negotiable? 

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