I’ve recently become involved in discussions regarding the Christian church and its doctrine regarding gay and lesbian people. It started when Monica’s daughter, who is very active within her church in Seattle steered us to the opening of a film that was featured at the Sundance Film Festival called For The Bible Tells Me So The film, from what I can understand, deals with the issues of how the church has treated—or mistreated—gay and lesbian people throughout history. The current buzz is that there are churches now that “welcome” gay and lesbian people, but do not “affirm the gay lifestyle.” This has caused a bit of a controversy among some church members. Some want to affirm gay and lesbian people and their relationships while others condemn homosexuality as a sin and feel that they should “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” It’s been a long debate as to whether being gay or lesbian is actually a sin, since many of us feel strongly that our sexual orientation is innate and not chosen. Secondly, the whole facet of sexuality, whether gay, straight or any of the broad spectrums in between is nebulous. Researchers have tried, in vain, to find a reason why some people are gay. Since they’ve failed to find out what makes people heterosexual, the so-called “norm” how can we expect them to explain away the aberrancy?
Christian groups, such as Exodus International offer a “cure” for homosexuality. There has long been debate as to whether “ex-gays” are actually cured of their homosexuality since many of them say that they still struggle with their attractions for the same sex, in spite of marrying and raising children as “normal heterosexuals” after undergoing intensive—and expensive—therapy through Exodus and other “ex-gay” groups. Darlene Bogle who is one of the founders of Exodus offers an apology for misleading people into believing that homosexuality can be cured.
I was involved with conservative fundamentalist churches when I was in my teens and during my college years. The “welcoming” of gay and lesbian people is not a new concept. The fundamentalist church I was involved in “welcomed” me, but made it clear that my gayness was a sin and I would never be able to live a life with the person I’d fallen in love with. As a result of my being so involved in the church, my coming out process was very difficult. Even though I knew about my attractions toward the same sex from a very early age, I knew that God would change me if I truly believed it. I spent many days and nights praying to be a “normal heterosexual.” I went through Christian counseling and met with various pastors who tried to help me deal with this burden. In their words: “It’s ok that you’re gay, you just can’t act on it.” It meant that I would either have to buy into the heterosexual life, which, to me, would be an utter sham or be celibate for the rest of my life. I was singled out and “watched” as I might stumble if I demonstrated any type of affection toward anyone in my church. I was constantly being “counseled.” I hated myself. I had thoughts of suicide many times because I just didn’t want to be this way and I couldn’t understand why God would make me this way only to punish me. I finally understood that if I wanted to remain in the church, I would have to play by their rules, but I wasn’t willing to live a lie just to please everyone around me. I felt very alone, isolated and confused and the church was no comfort for me.
What exactly does it mean that churches “don’t affirm the gay lifestyle”? What is the “gay lifestyle”? The church’s attitudes toward GLBT people have lead to the self-loathing “lifestyle” they have helped to propagate. Is it any wonder why the suicide rates of gay teens is four times higher than heterosexual youth when the churches’ message is that God despises you and your so-called “lifestyle.”? Many churches’ message about the AIDS epidemic being “God’s curse” on gay people for the past 20 years probably hasn’t helped either. Indeed, the church helped to create the “gay lifestyle,” a life and community where we struggled to learn not to hate ourselves, to undo the damage done to us by our “loving Christian” brethren, and to find affirmation in our relationships and self-worth.
And what is it about the Christian obsession with homosexuality? Why does this seem to be the most heinous sin of all? Why aren’t they on the bandwagon about adultery, or lying or being a brat to your parents, all of which are listed in the Ten Commandments? Being gay or lesbian is not on that list. Isn’t the premise of Christianity to emulate Jesus? If so, shouldn’t they be looking at what Jesus said about gay and lesbian people? Go ahead and thumb through the Bible and find the passages where Jesus condemns people for being gay or lesbian….go ahead…I’ll wait.
Oh, you’re back already. Did you find them? No, you didn’t. Because Jesus never said anything about gay and lesbian people and he certainly didn’t condemn them. So why the obsession? If the Christian church was as vehement about adulterers, liars, thieves, greedy people, gluttons, and mouthy teenagers, I guess the churches would be pretty empty. We keep people from looking at their own
It took me a long time to realize that my sexual orientation is something that was ingrained in me from the start and it wasn’t up to me to change it. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll be gay” any more than my heterosexual friends and family members woke up and decided, “I think I’ll be straight.” For me to be married with children and living as someone’s wife would be as odd as a flying tomato. I hid in a closet for far too long to make other people comfortable, to make other people believe an illusion, only to make myself miserable and depressed. When I realized that no one on this earth was doing the same to make me comfortable and happy, I let go of it. I can’t speak for every gay and lesbian person in the world. I can’t and won’t explain myself any more. It’s not up to me to make you understand; it’s up to you. I have friends and family who’ve taken the initiative to learn, to ask questions, to try to understand and I appreciate that. I’ve seen attitudes change over the years and that gives me a lot of joy. I’ve also seen the opposite, but there’s nothing I can do for people who won’t talk to me. I’d much rather have someone ask me a question directly as opposed to talking behind my back. We’re gay. We’re not stupid. However, it is wonderful to see dialogue among young Christians regarding this issue, something that was never done 20 years ago. It gives me hope that someday we’ll be treated like first class citizens. I believe that self-proclaimed Christians complicate the essence of Christianity. Christianity has become a man-made religion that is far removed from the simple message that Jesus taught. It makes me sick that Christian people advocate war and the killing of our perceived enemies when it is the antithesis of what Jesus taught. “Well, they started it!” No, I don’t take the position that we should stand by and let other religious radicals slaughter us while we stand by, but that’s not why we’re fighting. We’re fighting for rich men, oil, power, all under the guise of a “Christian” nation, doing everything that is positively “un-Christian” because we believe that God is on our side. Well, they think that God is on THEIR side. Personally, I don’t think God is on either side. This is why I have a problem with religion. And it’s these opinions that get me labeled as a liberal, anti-American heathen nutcase. I’ve grown accustomed to it. It makes me nauseated to know that fatcats like Jerry Falwell–bless his expired soul– and Pat Robertson get rich preaching their interpretation of the Bible and spewing their rhetoric about how horrible gay people are. It only serves to distract from their own short-comings.
And there you have it…Another chapter from a Ta’s Eye View.