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
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 . . . .