There are a few things that have played a role in my change of devotion to the Christian faith. One I will detail today is the issue of homosexuality, anything along the LGBT spectrum, really.
As I noted in my last post, for many years I had a conservative Christian view of homosexuality. Namely, that it is sinful. This issue has always been one that I struggled with because on my own, I have no issue with homosexuality. Growing up in Wichita, KS, you’re not going to be exposed to homosexuality the way you would in San Francisco, but I knew a small number of homosexuals who were out of the closet. Close friends, family members, co-workers. The churches I went to didn’t focus on homosexuality and there wasn’t overt homophobia in my life. Still, it was definitely not an easy thing for the gay people in my life to be open about their sexuality (Kansas!), and homophobic slurs were pretty common among my high school & college guy friends as insults to one another (Fag!). My churches may not have focused on homosexuality, but others in our community did.
For many years I felt torn between how I personally felt, and what my faith taught me. For a long time I felt content to sit quietly in the “hate the sin, love the sinner” camp. I didn’t like the Christian belief that homosexuality was a sin, but I believed that the Bible was inerrant and that there were lots of things I wasn’t going to be able to understand in this life. I studied homosexuality from a Biblical context to see if it might be something that could be considered outdated, the way we now view slavery or interracial marriages. I was disappointed to find little wiggle room on the issue, Biblically. I decided God knew beter than I did and I would have to just deal with that. Additionally, because so much of my faith was grounded in practicalities, it made sense to me from a biological standpoint that God would have intended for us to be heterosexual because that is how procreation works. I believed that homosexuals were not that way biologically.
I didn’t think that “choosing that lifestyle” was really the case either. Knowing how abuse, early sexual activity, abandonment issues (and so much more) can shape our sexuality, I believed that homosexuality was something that developed in a person, likely due to a trauma they’d experienced at a young age or during their sexual development. I believed those feelings were exacerbated by our culture’s rejection of people who behave outside of the norm. For example, there was a little boy down the street from us when we first moved to Chicago, who displayed “feminine” ways of walking & talking . . . “feminine” interests (jump rope, playing with dolls, etc). It was common knowledge on the block that this little boy had ben molested by a male family member. The boys on the block wouldn’t play with him because he was a “faggot”. To me – his behavior and sexuality had been pushed onto an unnatural track due to his abuse and then society (the neighborhood boys) reinforced his desire to be “feminine”, because they refused to play with him. Who else could he play with, if not the girls?
But what of the homosexuals who say they never experienced trauma, abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc? Why were they gay? Did I really think they decided to take on a life that would have them shunned and hated and treated as less than equal? As monsters? No, I didn’t think that. I just had no answer. I thought it was possible they’d blocked out whatever triggered their homosexuality. Otherwise, I didn’t know, and relegated it to the “I hope God explains it one day when I’m in heaven” box in my brain.
I didn’t talk about my beliefs with the people I knew who were gay. They didn’t press the issue even though I was clearly a devout Christian. During my years away from the church during college, I was vocal in my belief that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality, but when I returned to the church, I got silent again. A few years later, I remember being a member of my company’s Diversity Team. This was a conservative company in a conservative industry, and it was tough enough to get people engaged in discussions about diversity of any type, but when we brought up the topic of homosexuality, the shit hit the fan. People were PISSED. I remember talking with other team members – one of whom I think was a closeted lesbian – about how “those guys just don’t get it.” I was careful to never actually say that I thought homosexuality was wrong, and careful to never say it was OK. I focused on race and class issues (which have always been important to me) and I did my best to not let my liberal friends know that I was going with the conservative Christian party line on the issue with gay folks, even though I personally disagreed. Or did I disagree? After so much back and forth on what was right, it was tough to know what I actually believed. I couldn’t come to any good conclusion and evenually just left it alone. This was easier to do than earlier in my life because I didn’t have any close relationships to homosexuals at the time.
Though I never voted on the issue (or campaigned one way or the other), I did not think that anyone other than one man and one woman should be able to get married. I thought civil unions were ok because it wasn’t fair that someone’s partner couldn’t be with them at the hospital, things like that. I thought, “The Bible says X so if I am going to believe the Bible, how can I support something that promotes an anti-Biblical stance?” See, everyone who opposes gay marriage doesn’t think it will impact their own marriage negatively. Everyone who opposes gay marriage doesn’t think, “Next thing you know, we’ll be able to marry animals.” For me, it was, “How can I support the legalization of something that is sinful?” Legalizing it is giving it legitimacy – even if I don’t want to participate in it. And the belief I operated under was that God knew better than I. Just as my toddler may not understand that a hot stove can burn their hand and I need them to JUST OBEY ME AND STAY AWAY FROM THE STOVE, my belief was that people don’t always know what is best for them and by following God’s mandates, we are being protected. Protected, possibly, from things that can harm us in ways we will never understand, at least not in this life. How could I say that it was ok for others to go out and sin, to participate in something that MUST be harmful (otherwise why did the Bible name it as a sin?) when I believed the Bible couldn’t be wrong about anything?
Tomorrow: Gradually, I began to see things differently.