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Are you fed up with debating over and over and over again about whether it’s “ok to be gay”? I am.
And at the same time, I remember when that was the conversation that I wanted to have over and over and over again. I neededan answer, an explanation, just the right… something… that would tell me that it’s OK to be gay, that I’mOK.
At some point, I stopped asking “Is it a sin to be gay?” I didn’t need to ask anymore, I knew the answer: of course not!
When was the turning point? I honestly don’t know. When I joined the Equality Ride in 2007, I was out, I was sure that God loved me, and I was preeeety sure that being gay wasn’t a sin. But I wasn’t positive. Or, at least I didn’t have the language to describe.
I dove in anyway. And that made all the difference.
Surrounding myself with fellow LGBTQ people: some atheists, some Southern Baptists, a few Presbyterians… some who believed that God’s love was for everyone, some who believed you’ll go to hell unless you accept Jesus (but being gay is OK), and some who didn’t believe in God.
It was the doing of theology–of talking about God–that led me to a place of self-acceptance. It was discovering and sharing my own story and listening to the stories of other LGBTQ people that utterly convinced me of the rightness of our cause.
Which, brings me today. My friend Shay and I want to create that opportunity for others–for you. So we created Queer Theology’s first course: Reading Queerly. Reading Queerly is a six-week online course which guides you through the process of approaching faith from a queer perspective, and to find fresh ways to find yourself in the story of faith. The course will look primarily at the Christian scriptures — though, you by no means need to be Christian or LGBTQ to participate!
Last week, Shay and I squirreled ourselves away in a monastery to finish the course content. We’ve been putting the finishing touches on it and are excited to be able to share it with you. So, if you want to learn more and get your spot in the class, you can do that right here.
I have a not so secret secret to share with you: making money is easier than we imagine. Don’t worry, I’m not about to start holy rolling and preaching some prosperity gospel at you. Making money might be easier than we imagine, but making a living is hard. And women, people of color, transgender people, and undocumented residents face additional obstacles that cisgender white men like me don’t have to deal with.
That’s why it’s so important for those of us committed to making this world a better place to talk frankly about making a living. A real living. We have to.
Look at this chart from Mother Jones:
The income of the top 1% of the US skyrocketed from 1979 to 2007, the income for the top 20% grew steadily, while the income for everyone else flatlined or possibly declined–the scale is so skewed from the explosive growth of the wealthy that it’s hard to tell.
It’s Robin Hood in reverse: the rich are stealing from the poor, gobbling up an ever-greater share of the income.
It was easier to pretend that I was straight before I looked I gay porn. That’s when it all came crashing down. Before then, I could brush it off. I was just excited to make a new friend, I was just looking for new clothes in the catalogue, or I was being a good Christian by not lusting after women.
By seventh grade, kids were looking at porn.
My guys friends at church never admitted it outright, but they did talk about looking at their moms’ Victoria’s Secret catalogues. I was righteously (but silently) indignant. We’re not supposed to do that! Even then, I knew better than to say it out loud.
My friends from school were more vocal about looking up porn on the internet. How does one even find it?! I had not one clue.
Have you looked up homosexuality in the Bible? I have. When I first started to realize that I might be not-straight, that was the first thing I did. I spent the remainder of my childhood closeted and devouring anything I could find online that talked about homosexuality and the bible (and then quickly deleting my history, cache, and cookies).
I don’t know about you, but it took me awhile to be comfortable with not-straightness. Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers was a huge help. As was Peggy Campolo’s unequivocal pro-gay position in conversation with her Christian-famous husband Tony Campolo.
I was looking for an explanation, for someone to tell me–to convince me–that it’s OK to be gay. But that’s how addiction, not transformation, happens. I was always looking for the next hit to remind me that I. am. ok.
I’ve yet to find the magic bullet, the article that will settle the debate once and for all, for everyone everywhere. Have you?
Instead, what I’ve found is that transformation is incremental, it happens in conversations and relationships, in actions and interactions. I never found the ultimate explanation of Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1. I discovered that there is so much more out there.
Do you want to dive deeper? I know that I do.
That’s why my friend Shannon Kearns and I are working on Queer Theology–we’re creating videos, resources, courses and more over at queertheology.com. It’s not quite ready yet but we just couldn’t wait any longer so we’re going to launch a four-week online course to a limited group.
You can signup below and we’ll follow-up with more information or you can head over to Queer Theology to learn a little more.
I’m revisiting the Bible and looking again—with fresh eyes—at what Scripture has to say about gender and sexuality. The story doesn’t end with sadness and shame. Let’s journey together to find what hope, healing, joy, and power looks like.
“God loves all His children, but He loves some of us more than others,” an associate pastor at my childhood church preached a few years ago. My jaw dropped. I scribbled the quote down on the church bulletin to make sure that I wouldn’t forget it.
With the space of college in Los Angeles and two years living in New York City between my then-current self and my self of my childhood, the pastor’s words were shocking. I shouldn’t have been shocked though: that’s what our church has always taught.
We were Christians, we who had accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and savior, and God loved us the most. Going to church didn’t make you a Real Christian, so just because our friends went to other churches didn’t mean that they were really saved. Catholics could be Real Christians if they believed the right things and said the right prayer; Mormons were definitely not Christians.
And that’s the God I grew up believing in: a God of boxes. Christians and not Christians, the saved and the damn, righteous and sinful. There was a line for everything. Even the rules for dating were clear: hand-holding and kissing were OK, anything under the clothes was not. And after a year of dating, you need to get engaged or break up.
When, in middle school, I started to realized that I liked other guys, I didn’t have a box to put that in. I was told that a person was such boxes goes in the pervert box, the unrepentant sinner box, the threat to society box.
In the process, I’ve found that God is bigger than the boxes of my youth.
My experiences because of my sexual orientation profoundly shaped (and continue to shape) my life. They helped me to question my previously unquestioned beliefs. They brought me into contact with diverse people and opinions.
And, perhaps most strikingly, they guided me deeper into the Christian faith. I look back now at my middle school faith and realize that it was childish. I was so concerned with 15-minute “quiet times” each morning (that I could never manage to keep up with). I insisted that Noah’s Ark was real and that men had one less rib than women. I refused to understand evo- lution. And of course, I thought it was a sin to be gay.
Today, my adult faith—triggered by being queer—has transformed my life. It peels off layer after layer of the old creation.
Faith has the power to enact real, measurable differences in the world. But not in a magical way. Faith is powerful only when it is transformative. Only, as Dave O’Connell insisted, when it changes you.
Now, this is what I believe:
I believe that God’s love is big enough for us all. All of us, even the people I don’t like, even the people who have hurt me. Even Fred Phelps.
I believe that just as Jesus was incarnate in humanity to demonstrate the power of love, so too must I incarnate my love for others. It’s not enough to say “I love you,” I must act out that love. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Even if it means I might be crucified.
I believe that God is in the margins. That just as Jesus was a homeless, itinerant peasant born to a single teenage mother in exile, God still dwells in the shadow of the Empire. That I have something to learn from a God who con- tinues to be in my midst in the lives of those I encounter every day.
I believe that Sin is real and pernicious and evil. I see it more now than ever before—in the torture of innocents in the name of military might, in the economic injustice which causes my country to have more empty homes than homeless people, in the horrible condi- tions in which my electronics were produced. Sin is real and ever-present and seemingly in- escapable.
I also believe — absolutely believe — that healing and reconciliation are possible because I’ve experienced them in my own life.
Today, I have been transformed into a new creation. And it’s all because I’m queer.