If there could only be one perplexing question about LGBT Christians, it probably would be something about how queer people could even be Christian in the first place. Even if you drop the Christian part and replace it with faith, the question would still be valid, whether it is Judaism, Christianity, Islam, some sects of Hinduism, and others. In many (but not all) religions, it is frowned upon in the best case scenario, and could even spell death in the worst of cases; this is particularly true in many extreme countries, such as several Islamic countries in the Middle East. So why DO some queer people choose to either enter and stay in a faith, and why do faithful people who discover they themselves are queer, decide to stay in their faith?
At Q-CROSS during one of out meetings, one of our members asked this very question. That is, how in the face of such adversity, do we as queer Christians maintain our faith? After all, we face people telling us that God will punish as for embracing such a trait about ourselves, we feel unwelcomed and disowned by people in particular churches and denominations, and of course we encounter passages in scripture that seem to denounce any and all homosexual acts. With these ideas, we decided to make this a discussion topic for one of our meetings. What we got out of it was very enlightening, and I think incredibly interesting.
But before we specifically go into LGBT persons keeping their faith, it’s important to first understand why any person would decide to keep their faith, or to keep a particular church “their” church, in the first place. On the church selection side, the lists of possible reasons are enormous, from liking the pastor, to the worship music, convenient location, the church family, etc. The list of reasons for keeping a faith could be just as numerous, from being raised a Christian from a young age to actually feeling God’s presence. For us as a group in our discussion, our own experiences were just as wide and varied. I will, of course, not share any particulars about any of the members in our meeting, hopefully if they feel called to share their own story, they may do so here or anywhere else with their own voice. However, I of course will share a piece of my own story.
For my story of faith, I was raised in a Christian household, first as a Methodist, then as a nondenominational Christian at two other churches. I found through my own life, that when a child is raised as a Christian, I think we pretty much just roll with it. Before we’re teenagers, all we know is that a guy named Jesus lived many years ago and somehow died for us after being nailed to a cross. Oh, and he’s the son of God apparently, whatever that means. God on the other hand is some large being that made all of us and all that we know. He’s always everywhere and he always watches over us. When we’re raised as a child through Christianity, going to church nearly every Sunday, we just believe these things, simply because of our naiveté. Once we’re older, say the preteen or teenage years, is where it is “make it or break it” time in terms of keeping the faith we were raised with.
In my opinion and in my own and others experience, to keep the faith you were raised with at this point, you either have to be completely brainwashed (as in the ideas of hope and love are so appealing, you just keep with it), or have had experienced God firsthand in some way to know you have to keep the faith you were raised with. For the former, I would hope this is implausible to most. Indeed, in my experience, people who keep the faith have had some interaction with God. Heck, any person who has had a holy God like experience, and can recognize it as such will keep them going and driving and keeping their own faith. By extension, I would hope that every believer in Christ has experienced God in one way or another. These experiences can of course be different for everyone, but for me, I’ve experienced God in answering my prayers, God connecting me to lost ones in my dreams (In one such instance, God connecting me to my dearly departed Grandma Schoen a week after her death), even God communicating with me in other mysterious ways, almost like a conscience. Now I think mine are on the extreme side of experiences, but even answered prayers should definitely be considered as an experience with God.
I think it is these experiences and the curiosity of a greater power that leads any believer to continue their faith. So this brings us back to the original question on how gay Christians like myself can continue our faith. The answer I think we arrived to is rather unexciting, it’s for the same reasons anyone can keep their own faith. The difference is that we also have to deal with the same things we mentioned earlier, the texts, unaffirming churches, and individuals against us. And while these are problems, author and theologian James Brownson does a great job in at least defeating the texts that are used against homosexuality. (See his book, Bible Gender Sexuality) When we arm ourselves with this knowledge, the latter problems can helped be mitigated case by case.
One of the new slogans Q-CROSS seems to have adopted is “I am fearfully and fabulously made” and there is a lot of truth to that. I cannot believe that God made us differently, only to want us to ignore our feelings and remain celibate for the rest of our lives. Once we accept ourselves, and accept the belief that God has grander things intended for us, that there is nothing wrong with having monogamous loving relationships, and arm ourselves with the knowledge that the bible does not reject homosexuality, keeping the faith suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. If we do these, the battle is won, we have to seek God and accept ourselves to secure our faith. I encourage anyone who is struggling to keep their own faith, to pray to God. To pray and think about if there is something greater out there. That something is God, and he loves and cares for you as he does everyone. And to LGBT persons who feel rejected by the church, there are churches out there who are affirming to LGBT people, and perhaps read a book like Brownson’s to have a better feeling that there is more than one opinion out there. Keeping the faith can be a struggle, but it’s a struggle that leaves you more fulfilled and filled with a greater purpose. Pray, and God will listen.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14 (ESV)