STAND FIRM IN THE TENSION
Just the other night, I was having dinner with a few friends when I was reminded of what a precarious space LGBTQ Christians occupy in the current cultural, spiritual, and theological systems. It started out as a rather elementary discussion of how several of us had come out in the church and what our experiences of that had been, and through a retelling of our stories, I realized that in many ways, it's not uncommon for us to find ourselves between a rock and a hard place as LGBTQ Christians.
The church still doesn't know what to do with us.
Though we've largely shifted away from a mindset that views an LGBTQ identity as a choice or a mental or spiritual affliction, it's still not easy for many LGBTQ Christians to find a church or another space where they feel comfortable being themselves, and part of the reason for this is that many churches still don't know how to approach or interact with someone who is actually out and trying to integrate into church life and church culture as an out LGBTQ Christian.
Many mainstream evangelical churches still aren't sure how to handle having out LGBTQ Christians as parts of their congregation. In some churches, LGBTQ Christians can become members but have to abide by certain stipulations, such as remaining single and celibate in order to be accepted. For the LGBTQ Christians who hold to the same beliefs, this isn't a problem, but what about those who are affirming or those who haven't yet figured out what they believe on that specific issue? And despite these extra rules heaped on LGBTQ Christians, they may not always be allowed to eventually take on leadership positions either due to their sexuality, sometimes even if they do hold to non-affirming theology and remain single and celibate.
At the same time, there are also several churches and denominations that have chosen to welcome LGBTQ Christians with open arms, inviting them to be part of their communities with no restrictions. However, even those churches often come under fire by the general Christian populace for their acceptance.
While I remain convinced that the vast majority of churches are truly doing their best to figure out how to handle and approach LGBTQ Christians, unfortunately, that very fact still lingers as one of the biggest struggles for LGBTQ Christians themselves, the fact that whether to welcome them or not is still an "issue" for most churches, a problem to be figured out or solved. Though LGBTQ Christians still need to take on a posture of grace and patience in these situations, there's little doubt it still stings to know that your identity and acceptance into a community of people who share your faith is still a debate item or topic of discussion.
The mainstream LGBTQ community doesn't necessarily want us either.
Within the church, it's our sexuality and LGBTQ identity that alienates us from the broader community, and to the mainstream LGBTQ community, it's our faith that singles us out. As I mentioned in my last post, much of our mainstream American culture tends to treat our faith as a liability when it comes to reconciling our LGBTQ identities with the church. An LGBTQ identity and a sincerely held Christian faith are viewed as inherently incompatible, though any LGBTQ Christian would be able to tell you that both are inextricably tied to their identity as a whole. They can no more choose not to be a Christian than they can choose not to be gay, transgender, or queer.
As a result, staying with your faith and wading through all the accompanying tension is merely seen as an unnecessary act of near self-harm for the majority of those in the mainstream LGBTQ community. In extreme cases, anything related to faith or the church are viewed as inherently oppressive and shunned. For LGBTQ Christians, this essentially means they are cut off from the main LGBTQ community.
Where does that leave us? The church doesn't necessarily want us because of our complicated identities as LGBTQ Christians, but the mainstream LGBTQ community won't necessarily take us either because of our ties to a faith and religion that have historically opposed their very existences.
This is the delicate place of tension where most LGBTQ Christians are forced to figure out how they will make their balancing act work, and it's the place where many LGBTQ Christians still find themselves today, including me. There are a few things I've figured out in my time on this earth, but there's still a lot to work through as I figure out what it means to wholeheartedly love Jesus and also to be wholeheartedly gay.
The one comfort I have is the knowledge that the hands of God rest below this tightrope and that I'm not alone on it either.
Thanks for reading. Writing this post was important to me on so many levels. If you are struggling with some of these ideas, whether you're an LGBTQ Christian trying to reconcile those things, or whether you're just a Christian trying to understand and love better, send me a note, I would absolutely LOVE to connect and talk.
And for everyone else reading, if there's someone who you think needs to see this, please, please share this with them and encourage them to talk to you if you feel comfortable or to send me a note to start a discussion with me. I would love to talk more with anyone interested in this topic, because it's important and it matters. People need to know they're loved and that there are safe places for them to just be.