because I think Jesus would’ve walked at pride too.
I have been wanting to write this follow-up blog for a few weeks now, to expound on one of the themes from a previous blog. While I discussed a number of things in that post, this topic was the one that got me the most negative feedback. And I should have known that that was coming my way! But I’m glad I’m writing this today.
I was delayed in writing this by my father-in-law’s death a couple of weeks ago. My husband and I are still a bit raw from that (and I may address that in a future blog), but I felt it necessary to get back to writing. If you read this, and feel the necessity to comment in a negative way, I’d just ask that you’d bear in mind our recent loss and realize you may get a not-as-grace-filled response as I might otherwise be capable of.
So. The subject. The LGBTQ community and the church. Here we go.
I went to my local PrideFEST yesterday. With my church. And it was awesome.
A little bit of background: coming from a conservative Evangelical family and faith tradition, my journey to becoming an ally has been a long one. Prior to going to college, my experiences with the queer community were limited. Yes, there were a few friends from high school who came out after we graduated, but then I moved to Colorado Springs and was stuck in a conservative bubble of ministry and church for years. My assumptions about gays were that they were sexual deviants who had been abused as children and were in need of radical healing. When I started at Colorado College, I was suddenly exposed to the largest community of queers that I’d ever been a part of and I was invited into their lives as a friend.
One of those friends was K, who was one of the smartest people I’d ever met. K was curious and excited about learning and friendly and generous and also happened to be queer. We took a number of religion classes together and we ended up both working on a project to host a conversation on campus about homosexuality and the church. At that time, I was still very confused about what I thought on the subject, but I was committed to my understanding that Jesus loved everybody, so I figured that had to include gay people. I just wasn’t sure what that meant. Whether they needed to change after getting saved or live celibate or what. K remembers asking me at that time whether I could ever endorse civil unions or same-sex marriage and I replied honestly that I didn’t know. I struggled with the biblical passages that condemned homosexuality and I didn’t know how to make sense of them in light of grace and acceptance and love of God that was expressed in Jesus.
Since then, my ideas on many issues have changed. I eventually came to the place where I wrote down this faith motto that has been my guide for the past couple of years:
If I am to err in interpreting the Bible, which I probably will since I’m a human being, I would rather intentionally err on the side of more inclusion, acceptance, and generosity. I really can’t imagine Jesus saying to me, “You were too kind and loving and you didn’t put your foot down enough,” but I could definitely see him saying, “You didn’t take care of those around you and you alienated those that I love.”
Because of this decision, I have come to the conclusion that it makes no sense to remove the queer community from Christian fellowship and ministry based on a handful of passages that are difficult to interpret. I feel highly unqualified to hash through those passages here, so here are some links for further research if you’re so inclined. Matthew Vines’ excellent explanation is here. Here’s a discussion on justification through Christ and not the law. There are plenty more good resources out there, so if you’d like more, please ask in the comments or just do some Google searching.
More than tackling the big clobber passages in the Bible, the thing that truly changed my mind on this subject was the example of Jesus to stand with the oppressed, the marginalized, those on the fringe and to challenge those who were doing the oppressing (which was primarily the religious institution of the day). If, as Francis Spufford in his book Unapologetic puts it, “[The Church is] a failing, but never quite failed attempt, by limited people, to perpetuate the generosity of God in the world,” then we must constantly be working to help bring in, welcome, accept, share bread and wine with those who might be “outsiders”. Those who have been pushed aside by society, by the powers that be, by “Rome”, by the religious institutions. For my father, that means serving and ministering to convicts who have been set aside by our society. For my friend Matthew, that means working tirelessly to create a home for single women and their children. For me, that means walking in a Pride parade, singing “This Little Light of Mine,” to a crowd that has been told that their lights can’t be added to the corporate light of the church.
This picture was taken yesterday at the parade and the man in orange’s reaction to our church’s show of support and love was indicative of the response we got all the way down the parade route. The joy on people’s faces was awe inspiring when they realized that the 50-75 people proceeding down the street with bikes covered in rainbow leis, kids out front on their decorated scooters, and a large rainbow balloon snake were from a local church. People joined in our singing. They yelled out “Amen!” They took photos and waved. They celebrated with us the mending of all things.
I recognize that the position that I’m taking now is not popular amongst my community. It’s not popular among my family to be honest. But it’s worth it. The negative comments and diatribes about my “heresy” are worth the joy of being a small part in sharing the generosity of God with the queer community around me. I had some of my gay friends write to me after my last blog and tell me they read it with tears in their eyes, so appreciative of my words of inclusion and acceptance. I see the relief in people’s eyes when they meet me and find out that I’m not “one of those” Christians. I hear my atheist friend K tell me that I must go sit with the kids of Inside/Out Youth Services (many of whom have been kicked out of their evangelical homes in town because they’re queer) and tell them that Jesus loves them.
I walked in Pride yesterday because I believe in hope. Because I believe that restoration is possible. Because I believe that grace covers a multitude of sins. And I’m not talking about the sin of being queer. I’m talking about the church’s sin of reverting back to the sexual purity laws of our spiritual parents and refusing to enter the big messy story of God’s love for all of creation.
And so, queer community – gay, lesbian, bi, trans, intersex, queer, asexual, questioning – forgive me. Forgive me for taking so long to figure out that it’s my responsibility and joy to love you and not judge you. Forgive me for not standing up for your political rights sooner. Forgive me for not believing the best of you. Forgive me for when I’ll get it wrong in the future. I want to say to you that I am yours and you are mine. Help me. I need to know you and your stories in order to better understand my own and the story of God in the world. Come. Eat and drink from the table of God. I will be there to serve you. I am proud of you for your courage in the face of prejudice. And I am proud to stand alongside you if you’ll have me.
And to my friend K who has challenged me in this process: thank you. Thank you for being a true friend. Thank you for showing me what it means to live with kindness and justice in this world. Thank you for answering my questions with honesty and patience. I love you dearly.