As of lately, I've received some criticism surrounding my personal decision to get married to someone of the same sex. Some have chosen to visualize their protest by choosing not to attend our wedding, while others have taken it upon themselves to find ways to make it harder for those I love to be with me on this special day. Up to this point, I have been full of grace for people who dissent. Now, I have to admit, I'm struggling.
Prior to being in a relationship, it seemed that my sexuality was often praised by fellow Christians so long as it was bounded in the confines of celibacy. As long as I lamented my sexuality and chose not to "act on it" it was a sort of spiritual capital that could be used to inspire others. My gay-ness was this cool gem I got to carry with me. In retrospect, it became a dingy stone that thrust me deep into shame, self-hatred, anonymous hook-ups, and a deep sense of disconnection from the Church that was supposed to love me regardless of anything.
No answers, just one Response
I knew I was gay and the people around me knew I was gay, but no one had an answer to what I should do. I believed the lie that my sexuality could simply be boiled down to sex, so I tried a lot of it. The theological belief, that my sexuality was an abomination if acted upon, truly was coming to fruition because it held no practical meaning in my life other than a terse declination: No. When I asked, "Why?" I couldn't find any answers. Traditional ideology didn't work. After all, this matter in my life wasn't equivalent to a child's naive desire to go see a rated R movie with a sexual scene in it. This was my life we were talking about.
That tension, a tension I'm still living, is starting to teach me something unique about theology: Sometimes theology doesn't provide immediate answers.
As I've worked through this blogging project, I've talked about this issue with many pastors, gay people, and those in between. Most interestingly, I've sat with pastors who, in honest attempts to uphold their traditional theology, stare at me frustrated, as they realize their theology cannot practically reach the mainstream LGBTQ community in it's current state. I've asked countless questions to pastors asking for practical ways in which their theology can play out among LGBTQ Christians and non-Christians alike, still with no answers.
Often the Church has a unique proclivity for taking the conservative route on many issues. Many pastors I talk with often tell me that they believe the traditional theology surrounding sexuality, but most find more questions than they can answer, as a result. What are they left with? One response: "I don't know." I deeply respect this posture. It's likely the most honest place we can be when it comes to many cultural issues that we address. However, we cannot stop here.
- Should a Christian attend a gay wedding?
- Should a Christian congratulate a gay man on his engagement?
- Should a Christian sign a gay marriage certificate as a witness?
- Can a lesbian woman volunteer in kid's church?
- Can a gay couple attend a small group?
- Can a gay couple play in the band on Sunday?
- Can a gay man pray for someone in this church?
- What if a gay couple comes to our church? Should we seek to get them a divorce? Isn't divorce wrong too?
At different times, I have heard a sweeping "No" to all of these questions. Often this hard-nosed "No" is given as a protection—a protection against an unknown people group and an unexplored theology. It's as if the Church says, "We believe gay isn't what God wants, but we're not sure what that means, so we'd better play it safe and not let gay people into our church." Or worse yet, "We're not sure on this issue, so we'd better just say 'No' to ignore these people altogether." This is when their theology on sexuality has failed in practicality.
If we ever hope to reach people, we must stop using "No" as a safety net to protect us from issues.
I want to propose something: If your theology can't be exercised while upholding the Gospel for all of God's people, it's an unexplored theology. Simply because we don't know, doesn't give us the license to say "No" to the above questions. Using unexplored theology to disallow the acceptance of people into our faith communities is simply dangerous. This act of rejection is rooted in nothing but fear.
Instead, to the Christian inclined to say "No", get to know some gay people, authentically. Start to let them serve in your church at some capacity and see how it goes. Attend a gay wedding (if invited). Go to a pride festival. Seek to build your theology in the context of relationship and allow God to speak to show you how respond to a community who desperately needs love from you.