When I became a Christian I was a ten year old girl whose dad was a pastor, raised in a home where everyone had always been Christian. My grandparents on one side were conservative Mennonites, and on the other side were Amish. Reverence for God and traditional values were in my blood. Had I not publicly vowed my faith, it would have been shameful for a lot of people in my life. When I, as a teen, stopped going to church and publicly condemned the church for having abandoned myself and other freaks like me I’m sure my parents did grieve, and I’m sure there was some genuine embarrassment. When I returned to the church it was like going back to the house I was born in, it was warm and comforting.
I say this to illustrate the difference felt by someone I know who came to the church as a teenager already knowing he was gay. He hadn’t been raised in the church. He felt a deep attraction to the teachings of Jesus. He loved the traditions of the church, he loved hymns and communion and the reverance of the congregation. He also felt an intense connection to creation and felt he’d experienced God’s love in a way that his life would be empty if he didn’t pursue it deeper. But he was gay. He wore purple striped sweater vests and spoke in a soft voice and had mild mannerisms that could peg him as effeminate. He wasn’t ashamed of or embarrassed by his sexuality, he felt he’d experienced God’s love while being gay and had fallen in love with the church while being gay and didn’t feel the need to pretend to be someone that he wasn’t.
I will never understand the guts or the passion or the sheer nerve that it took for him to walk into a church on a Sunday morning and confess his faith knowing that many of the people in that building would happily condemn him for his sexuality and see him to the door. I will never, ever, understand the depth of the love he shared with his God that would cause him to take the risks that he took in seeking out a church. It was easy for me to join the church, far easier to join than it was to leave. Even coming back with my pink hair and tattoo and big ol’ sack of issues was easier than his first time stepping through the door would be. I may have been questioned, and I continue to have my faith questioned when I raise my voice about the problems that I see. Yet the questioned raised against me and the hatred I at times experience and the lovely threats and curses that have been spoken against me are a drop in the bucket compared to what an openly gay Christian experiences.
It takes an incredible love for God and devotion for learning to be a part of the body to move someone into the church while they are gay. It takes an incredible devotion and constitution to stick out the faith while people are calling you a godless sinner, church after church asks you to leave, and heartbreak after heartbreak colors the path behind you red with suffering. I could never question the sincerity of my friend’s love for God, I know that his faith has cost him far more judgment and condemnation than mine has. His choice to remain in the faith is one that has to be renewed daily, while mine is one I could easily take for granted.
I see the determination in the eyes of my gay Christian friends, I see their love for God, and I am awed by it. Is it easy to understand why, if some are so deeply convicted that homosexual acts are sin, my homosexual friends don’t always come to the same conviction? Some have, some haven’t, some may never do so. No, it’s not easy to understand.
But when I commune with them, I feel the spirit singing out. I cannot reject them, because by doing so I would be rejecting the act of God that brought them into the church, and such a thing is unthinkable to me.