The end of the rainbow

You’re now thirsty, walking in the desert all alone

You’re now searching, lost in isolation from your soul

*****

I’m not a fighter. Never have been, for all the good and bad that meant. A couple of spots in elementary school I was close to throwing down, but it was typically in defense of others, rather than any wrong done to me. It never happened (much to my parents’ relief, no doubt).

I have this romantic notion of myself as a defender, as someone just and true, stepping in when needed and taking the hits, and that’s not completely right. I’m a softie at heart, and there’s not much sense complaining about that at this point. I avoid conflict. That’s not an admission, that’s just a fact.

But there’s a strength in softness I’ve come to appreciate. It’s a vulnerability, an open sore that anyone can see and poke at and prod if I let them.

It was, in some ways, the aversion to conflict, the want to be vulnerable, that led to me writing these screeds some time ago, about where my heart was in regards to the Christianty/LGBT conflict. The genesis of me starting the journey to this truth was wanting to avoid a workplace conflict. It’s strange and laughable to think of that as the reason now, but I’m so incredibly grateful it happened.

Recent events have brought that back into my consciousness, the conflict starting fresh, and anew. I think I know what the Bible says. I think I know what the Bible means. And they’re in conflict.

And as before, I don’t want to fight. I never want to fight. But playing defense? That I can do.

*****

And the bullets you bite, from the pain you request

you’re finding them harder to digest

when the answers you seek are the ones you destroy

your aim is well deployed

*****

I don’t question my faith. I’ve seen too much, done too much, to not think there is a God.

I was asked about it recently: How could I reconcile a certainty that being LGBT is okay with a faith that seemed to be against it?

I had two answers: I need the church. Without it, I walk alone in my faith. And as much as I believe we’re wrong about how we approach LGBT people, I also believe there is still good in the church, and its people. And when it changes- and it will, as history has shown with any societal change with the rights of a marginalized people- they will need people who’ve always known, always been certain in their hearts.

So I read, and pray, and seek certainty in what I believe. In the interim, I will love my LGBT friends, walk behind them and beside them, listen in my own limited adult-white-male way as they struggle for things that I have had my entire life.

Much as Christians are called to support our LGBT brothers and sisters wherever they are, we must support the church as well. A church is only as good as it’s people, and we are flawed, collectively and individually. That occasionally gets lost in the sound and fury. Our own fault, at times, but something that bears repeating.

*****

Why can’t you listen, why can’t you hear

Why can’t you listen, as love screams everywhere

*****

It just… it all seems very odd, at times, this conflict. We (Christians) can get so caught up in ideology, in playing gatekeeper to the faith, that we forget the message we should be passing on.

“Jesus loves you.” There. That’s it. No conditions, no strings, no checklist of approved clothing, behaviors, things we need to do to get it. It’s there. That’s the message of grace. There’s more, but like any good salesmen, I’ll lead with the best, most important part. The rest, that’s up to someone after they accept it. That’s between them and God.

LGBT people don’t see that when they see the church. They see the assumption of guilt, rejection, hatred, and people trying to change who they are. I don’t blame them for avoiding church, given the conversations I’ve had, the experiences I’ve learned about, the amount of heartbroken people whose family turned their backs on them in the name of Jesus. Christians, supposed to be showing love, instead demonstrating the kind of rejection Pharisees would have approved of.

We can go on and on about the message of God, about how not every church is like that, about we love them even if they’re wrong (they’re not), but why would they try again? Why would they go to a place where they were implicitly being judged? I only need to go McDonalds once a year to remember how much my body hates it.

*****

You now hunger, feeding your mind with selfishness

you now wander aimlessly around your consciousness

When your prophecies fail, when your thoughts become weak

when silence creates necessity

when you’re clothing yourself with the shields of despair

your courage now impaired

*****

I still believe in the good of the church. That it will change, and that when it does, it will be lasting. Maybe that’s naive. It probably is. But that’s my choice to be hopeful.

There’s a great many relationships that have helped me get here. And that’s key. Relationship is key. It lets us learn about the perspectives of others, turn the idea of being gay/lesbian/bisexual from something abstract and strange, into something very, very real. There’s so much ignorance about the reality of those relationships in the church, because there’s no exposure to them. It was luck that put me in a situation where I got to know a bisexual man, and then many others, to a point where I understood their hearts, and didn’t judge them based on a doctrine that the church doesn’t really talk about within it’s walls.

Equally as important is my relationship with God, and that’s tricky for me to talk about. It’s less tangible, less defined, not a series of events I can point to and utilize as reasoning. It’s always been there. It’s been a huge part of this discovery for me, because of the conflict I see between the church and LGBT people. I pray to God for wisdom, for certainty, and He does not always provide that. I’m sure that He is there, and He grieves over the schism between the church and those outside it.  I’m also sure he doesn’t want me to quote Scripture and get on a soapbox and preach down to people. I have to play to my strengths.

I’m not a pastor, and still look at the Bible more for my own benefit than as an academic. But here’s my line of thought, which I’ve written before (and is taken at least partially from NALT’s manifesto): There’s so much of the Bible that we already take and dismiss because of the cultural context it’s placed in: Divorce, eating meat, wearing mixed fabrics, and so on and so forth. Heck, even marriage in the Old Testament was not exactly the same as it is today. And we’ve seen the Bible used to justify racism and sexism in the past, by using verses out of context, in the service of those who held power.

As the shampoo bottle says: Rinse, and repeat. Always repeat. We’re not learning from the lessons of history. And the church will find itself again behind the culture at large on this, when we should have been following Biblical principles in fighting for LGBT people- regardless of whether it was any advantage to us. We used to be good at that. Less so, now.

That’s a royal we, by the way. I’ve been less than courageous. I’d like to be courageous, though. I’d like to try.

*****

You crucify all honesty

no signs you see, do you believe

And all your words just twist and turn with a fighting chance to crash and burn

you’re fighting to the bitter end if only your heart could open

up and listen

*****

I’ve lived a sheltered life. There’s a lot I don’t understand. I’m a straight white male who hasn’t had to struggle for much. I have parents, family, a girlfriend, a church who loves me. I struggle for how I earned that, but don’t generally poke the bear in attempting to explain it. The love exists, and I don’t always know why, and that’s fine. As I’ve mentioned, there’s a lot I don’t understand.

Screeds on the internet rarely change anyone’s mind, and mostly just score points with people who already agree with it. My hope is that people read this, and consider it, and maybe that will happen. I just see this incredible opportunity for Christians to build a bridge to the LGBT community to say “we’re wrong, and we’re sorry, and want to help”, and there’s not nearly enough voices saying it. So here’s mine. I’m laying it out, as I see it. This is my vulnerability, my hope.

I’m not fighting. It’s not my way. I have one ask: just pray it over, friends. Be strong in your faith, and your walk, but don’t miss the opportunities for change and growth that are placed in front of you.

To my LGBT friends and supporters: I’m not a fighter, but I want to help. I’m learning, and I’m trying to understand a world I can’t possibly begin to conceive, and a life experience that’s much, much different than my own. Thank you for your patience as I’ve learned, and to the wonderful friends I’ve met who have opened my eyes (whether they know it or not), and have convinced my religious butt that you’re people, actual and whole, and well worth fighting for and with.

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