faithfullyLGBT

queer christians, this is why we're here

queer christians, this is why we're here

Recently, I've been doing a lot of sighing. And I've been remarking to myself, either out loud or silently, that I've been really tired lately. Maybe even exhausted. The funny thing is that the fatigue isn't even necessarily physical. In fact, I think I feel the least tired when I'm in the middle of a workout. Instead, I think the majority of the weariness is mental and emotional.

There are plenty of good reasons for that of course. Working in the intersection of mental health and social services, there are endless opportunities to run yourself emotionally dry, and the process of differentiating yourself and your own emotions and circumstances from those of the clients you work with is draining in and of itself. But more than that, I think I've really been feeling the weight of what it means to just be in the world, and a question that often accompanies that weight is the question of why am I here? Why am I, a queer Asian kid studying at a seminary, of all places, to become a mental health therapist, here? Why am I here? 

one year anniversary

one year anniversary

I'll admit that this milestone crept up on me. So much has happened in the last year that I'd almost forgotten about this anniversary, but I suppose I'm not entirely surprised at the same time. Over the last twelve months, I've started a new job, started grad school to eventually become a therapist, dyed my hair silver (or white depending on the day), experienced the end of a really significant relationship, and even started going to church again. Amidst all the change, I almost didn't realize that I had also come up on my one year anniversary of

a misconception of LGBTQ Christians

a misconception of LGBTQ Christians

I recently had a really eye-opening conversation that left me pretty stunned in retrospect, not necessarily because I was surprised about where the conversation went, but more because it was a powerful reminder of something I already knew to be true. The feeling that overtook me the next day was that of a hard truth finally beginning to settle into your bones and not being quite sure what you're supposed to or can even do about it. And it's been something I've been thinking of ever since.

During this conversation with a group of self-described "not religious" people, I was reminded of the fact that the perception the majority of the world holds is that faith, but Christianity in particular, is wholly incompatible with also being LGBTQ. This is far from shocking, but something I didn't realize is that many people who don't adhere to any specific religion often don't see faith as being something that's also intrinsic.

just wanting to live

Sometimes you just reach a breaking point. It’s not that you don’t care anymore or even that it’s not important anymore, but sometimes you just grow weary of the constant tension, the constant sensation of being “always on.” Because why wouldn’t that be exhausting? That’s sort of how I feel right now when it comes to Christian LGBTQ things and LGBTQ things in general, the dialogues, the conversations, the controversies, the debates, the activism, all of it. I feel burned out if I’m being completely honest.

 

And it’s gotten pretty darn close to the point of cynicism when it comes to these things now. Maybe it’s because I’ve already had 4 years to think about and process all my own thoughts and conflicts. Maybe it’s because I’m already out to my friends, family, and whoever else might care to know. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had to deal with many of the harsher realities of what this life and what this identity means for some people recently. Maybe, like Taylor Swift, it’s been a case of overexposure over the course of the last few years, with all the writing, rambling, and rallying I’ve been a part of.

 

I feel burned out if I'm being completely honest.

 

But maybe it’s also just a natural part of the ups and downs and cyclical nature of life itself. Maybe feelings and sensations like this come and go in waves. Maybe in a few weeks, months, or a year I’ll be back on the activism train and maybe even working in a position that would require that. That seems logical to me. It’s burned into my heart and soul after all, and there’s no running away from this existence, from this life that I’ve been living and will continue to live until the Lord decides my time is up.

 

For now though, I just want to live. And maybe this is a pipe dream or a symptom of some sort of privilege I didn’t quite realize I had, but I just want to be able to live my life without having to continually defend my own existence, my own convictions, my own identity, my own choices. I just want to be able to live my life without endlessly needing to explain why I think a certain way or why I’ve reconciled my identity with my faith and the rest of my life. That’s all really. I just want to live. I just want to be, and I long for the day when people can look at me, another anomaly among many (read: LGBTQ Christians), and others like me and just accept it at face value, without needing a long, drawn-out explanation or a theological argument to satisfy their own inner nagging curiosities or bouncer-to-the-Kingdom mentality.

 

I just want to be able to live my life without having to continually defend my own existence.

 

I just want to live, to wake up in the morning and go to work, to go to dinner with my friends every once in a while, to love the people I love, to hold someone’s hand, to talk about the future, and to be able to go to bed at night not feeling like I stick out in the church pews with a neon sign above my head just by virtue of being here on this earth.

 

And maybe one of the ways to fulfill that longing to just be, to just live is take a step back and do it. Obviously, this is always going to be something kindling in the depths of my heart and spirit, but I think I’m also willing to go with the ebb and flow.

 

So, who knows? Maybe now that I’m starting to get settled at work and having a functional computer again (long, strange story…haha) I’ll be back to writing here semi-frequently, but maybe I’ll also just lie low for a while to try this whole “just being” and “just living” thing. I have no idea. That’s where I’m at, and I’m going with the flow.

have we become the pharisees?

Currently doing some storyboarding for some more fiction I'm working on, but I discovered another piece hidden away in the archives that I had never published (seems like this is a semi-frequent occurrence). As I'm transitioning back to writing some fiction, I've been finding that it's taking me a lot longer to figure out how I want to write things and what kinds of ideas I want to use, but maybe that's more normal than I'm giving myself credit for.

With this piece, the primary idea behind it was conceived through a series of discussions I had at my Bible study where we talked about what it means to actually be a Christian in the 21st century, in 2016 and how we can sometimes read our own biases into the parables and stories we read in the Bible. Oftentimes, this manifests as us, as mostly privileged, American Christians, identifying more closely with the oppressed people groups described in the Bible rather than with the oppressors. However, something that we realized over the course of our discussion and Bible study was that while the Israelites and the entire nation of Israel have typically been the minority ethnic group and minority religion in the majority of eras, that's not really the case for most Westernized or American Christians. What we decided is that more often than not, our actual lived realities align more with those of the oppressing Pharisees than with those of the oppressed Israelites. Interesting food for thought for sure.

have we become the pharisees?

When I was younger and still in Sunday school or just in school for that matter, since I went to a Christian K-12 school for a long time, sitting in a sagging, scratchy couch in one of the many rooms scattered along the length of the Catholic church activities building that my school rented, I always thought that things were pretty straight forward. By the time I left that school after my sophomore year of high school, it was easy for me to assume that I had a lot of things about my faith and about the Bible all figured out, something that remains one of the most false thoughts I’ve ever had in my entire life. One thing that particularly sticks out in my mind is the way that we learned to categorize people in Bible stories. I always used to think that the Pharisees were the bad guys in the Gospels, but something I’ve been realizing is that they really weren’t, at least not at the time. No, quite the contrary, the Pharisees were the good guys in their day, and they were probably viewed as the ones who were as good as anyone was going to get.

The Pharisees knew their Scriptures. They knew the Old Testament law. They could probably recite entire chapters from what they had of the Bible without missing a beat. To make a loose parallel, the Pharisees were the pastors’ kids who were born and raised in the church, the kids that showed up to church every Wednesday and Sunday, the kids that were on worship team and hospitality team and everything else in between. Unlike how we were taught to view the Pharisees in Sunday school, they were the good guys, the good Christian kids of Biblical times.

And Jesus and His disciples? They were probably seen as the rebels of youth group and Sunday school. Jesus was the lone rabbi who may or may not have actually had rabbi credentials who went around Israel with his ragtag group of twelve, give or take a few. As far as we know, Jesus didn’t work during His ministry, instead living primarily off the support of his followers such as Mary and Martha and perhaps His family. When you think about it that way, it’s actually not too hard to imagine why the Pharisees and the other religious folk didn’t like Him.

Jesus was the unemployed fake rabbi wannabe who lived in his parents’ basement and only seemed to stir up trouble wherever He went. He took out the moneychangers in the temple with a whip, he hung out with the other good-for-nothings in Jewish/Roman society like the tax collectors and prostitutes, and he repeatedly broke the Sabbath, which, last I checked, was probably just as central to the Pharisees’ theology as being pro-life and saying that marriage is between one man and one woman are to conservative Christian theology today. On top of all that, he told them over and over again that they were being too legalistic, using all kinds of relatively nasty metaphors to get that message across. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Whitewashed graves. Blind guides. Jesus didn’t hold back when it came to telling the Pharisees exactly what He thought of them.

The more I think about those dynamics, the more I think that perhaps I would’ve been pissed at Jesus had I been living during that time period too, and that’s a scary thought to have, because I think that many of us have been raised and taught to identify more with the oppression and hounding of Jesus and His disciples than with the self-righteousness of the Pharisees responsible when I don’t think that’s the place that we hold in modern Christian circles. I think that if we’re honest with ourselves, it makes more sense to put ourselves in the Pharisees’ shoes than in those of Jesus and His disciples, if we’re being very, brutally honest.

Again, the Pharisees really knew their stuff. They knew what the law said about what you could and could not do on the Sabbath or the regulations stipulating this or that about ceremonial uncleanliness, and I think that’s really reflective of many of us today, myself included. Many of us were raised in the church, and we also know all the Bible stories as well as what they’re supposed to mean and what we’re supposed to get out of them. Along the same lines, we also know all the verses that tell us what’s good and what’s not. We know the verses that supposedly tell us that women shouldn’t be leaders in the church. We know the verses that say homosexuality is an abomination. And we know the verses that “clearly” state every other thing we’ve learned in church or in school, but because of that we’re missing the point, just like the Pharisees were.

Because the truth of the matter is that it’s not about the rules or the law or anything else that makes the world seem like it’s black and white to us. It’s always been about standing out and being different, with radical love as our banner, because that’s what Jesus did, even though it doesn’t necessarily seem to make sense all the time. If you think about it, Jesus didn’t have to heal or do miracles on the Sabbath. He didn’t have to be kind and loving to the tax collectors who were seen as sellouts to the Romans. He didn’t have to heal the Roman centurion’s servant. He didn’t have to do any of it if He really wanted to fit in with the Pharisees and live His days as the good Jewish boy that He could’ve been, but instead He chose to be radical in way that directly opposed many of the religious traditions and norms of His day. He prioritized people and meeting with them, touching them, and loving them individually over religious correctness, and I think that’s crazy. I also think that the saying is true that we would probably crucify Jesus all over again if He walked the earth today, regardless of whether that’s physically, politically, socially, or culturally and that saddens me, though I would also include myself in that statement.

Something else that I kept asking myself as I was going through elementary school and middle school was how all of these people missed what Jesus was trying to do and how they couldn’t seem to understand some of the most basic concepts that He was trying to teach them, but I think I understand now because our American world has become so similar to the world that Jesus lived in, filled with people who know the Bible backwards and forwards, who know theology like it’s their native language, who know facts about God and arguments for this doctrine or that doctrine, but also filled with people who don’t know what love looks like anymore. All of sudden, love looks like being right when it comes to this or that theological question and knowing all the proper motions to go through at church, because you know that your love for God is measured by how often you show up to church, or how good of notes you took at that last sermon, or whether or not you’re on the church or school worship team, or whether or not you support the right political candidate, or whether or not your views on a particular issue align exactly with those of your church. That’s what love and devotion to God look like in 21st century American culture, and I think that’s the exact same kind of religious atmosphere that Jesus was born into 2000 years ago, at least by my reading of the Bible, and that makes us the Pharisees, regardless of whether we like it or not. We’ve become the bad guys that we loved to hate in Sunday school, all without even realizing it, because just like them, we think that we’re the good guys.

In light of that, I think that we need to try and do what the Pharisees failed to do. We need to follow Jesus’ example and start worrying less about being the good guys and more about loving the way that He did, because that’s the only way that we’re truly going to transform and engage with culture, not by being right or good, but by being loving.