Loving Better: My Journey Towards Becoming An Affirming Christian
On July 20th, 2019, I originally posted this written blog on my old blogpost account. I decided to repost it here, in honor of PRIDE MONTH 2022. I would guess that if you are even reading this, it means your mind and heart are open to exploring how to love your friends or family that are part of the LGBTQ+ community a little better. I hope that my story of how I came from a deeply conservative bible interpretation of how God views homosexuality - to a newer, more inclusive theology about it might be of interest to you. I truly hope it serves those of you who might be wrestling with this issue. Thanks for being here. — Marcia
I'm finally ready to come out.
No, I'm not gay. My "coming out" is not from the closet of sexual identity secrecy, but from religious legalism and the exclusive Christian club that I was afraid of being kicked out of for many years. While my gay friends had to keep their true selves covered up because they were afraid they might not be loved if people knew the secret they were harboring, I too felt the pressure of keeping my support of them private.
However, after a couple of years of wrestling with this issue and going on a journey of deep study to try and find the truth about it, I can come out with full support of my LGBTQ+ friends and say that yes, they too are made in God’s image just as they are. They deserve the same rights, permissions and respect as anyone else, and that includes marriage - as well as being able to be included in any church, or religious circles of their choosing. And it’s a damn shame that they aren’t.
After posting a recent link to a sermon by a "pastor" in Knoxville, TN saying all the LGBTQ+ community should be rounded up by the government and executed, I started having friends private messaging me, asking what my stance was on LGBTQ+'s and Christianity. Then, after I posted my feelings about PRIDE month, I started getting even more people questioning my stance. I am happy to say that almost every single person who contacted me privately expressed the desire to "get where I am" on this, and was honestly asking me how I got clarity on this polarizing, cultural, and deeply personal issue.
How did I get to my position on this? Well, it’s going to be impossible to go through every single step along the way, every book I read, every scripture I studied, every trusted teacher I spoke with. My decision of affirmation came because of a combination of research, scripture study, experience and prayer. MUCH prayer.
First off, I studied the science behind sexual orientation. Meaning, is it a choice? My conclusions are that it is indeed not a choice. There are many medical findings to back up this stance, as well as some of my own experience. What I mean by that is that in my own experience, I certainly didn’t choose my sexual orientation. There wasn’t a moment in my life where I said, “Hmmmm.... shall I choose to be attracted to men, or women?” Nope. I was hopelessly heterosexual, even though there was a time in my younger days that I thought it might be cool to be attracted to women, I just couldn’t go there. It felt completely unnatural— and it was. Just like it is completely unnatural for a gay man to force himself to try and have sex with a woman, or a gay woman to have sex with a man. It feels unnatural because it is unnatural for them. And God doesn’t want us to participate in “unnatural sexual relations.” I finally felt I had done enough study to conclude that our sexual identity is not a choice and since "sin" is a choice, then anyone who is born gay, lesbian, or any of the other letters in LGBTQ+ is not any more sinful than the rest of us sinning heterosexuals. We all fall short. No question about that. But drawing a dividing line between homosexuals and heterosexuals just doesn't make sense to me anymore.
Ok... so now let's go to the Bible and see what it says about this. We know about the BIG SIX. Those six pesky scriptures that I've been taught all my life that are seemingly very clear about homosexuality being a sin. Some call them the "clobber verses." Charming, huh? ;-) The “clobber” verses only hold water if you believe the specific interpretation you have been handed of them.
So, let's talk about the Bible and the different interpretations/hermenuetics that are available to us… and there are many. I've been doing a LOT of historical research on the Bible lately along with my studies and man... for someone who has grown up in church all my life, I came to realize that I knew very little about this great book. I only really knew what had been taught to me by past church leaders, and their interpretations of scriptures became mine. I didn’t even question it. But now that I knew that there is so much more to be learned about the Bible than what my limited hermenuetic teachings had been given to me, well….that realization was horrifying and exciting all at the same time! In the last year or so I have found a renewed love of studying the scriptures. Even going back to understanding the original Greek and Hebrew words and the true context that the Biblical authors meant in their letters. Did you know that the word "homosexuality" didn't even show up in English translations of the Bible until 1946? Probably because there is no perfect counter-part to the Greek and Hebrew words that we have now replaced with "homosexuality." I'm not going to go through every passage individually here, but I can say that after my research, I agree with this statement from Brandon Hatmaker:
"Every verse I have found in the Bible that is used to condemn a “homosexual” act is written in the context of rape, prostitution, idolatry, pederasty, military dominance, an affair, or adultery. It was always a destructive act. It was always a sin committed against another person. And each type of sexual interaction listed was an abuse of God’s gift of sex and completely against His dream for marriage to be a lifelong commitment of two individuals increasingly and completely giving themselves to one another as Christ did for the church."
I have found nothing pointing me towards condemnation towards a loving, monogamous same sex relationship. And even more upsetting is the bad "fruit" that has come from the churches stance on this. When we are living right in the Spirit, it produces good fruit from our lives. Galatians 5 says the fruits of The Spirit are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. What has come from holding onto this bad theological stance against the LGBTQ+ community has shown bad, stinky fruit. High suicide rates, broken families, loneliness, and exclusion from the church, just to name a few. Our misinterpretation of scripture all these years has put up walls... stumbling blocks if you will, so that someone who is gay feels rejected by the church, and too often, ultimately rejected by God. The church has done so much harm to these beautiful souls and I can't be a part of it any longer. I just can't.
Even if you can't hang with me on this and still believe that homosexuality is a sin, let me point out 2 things to consider:
1) We are ALL sinners. We all sin every single day. No one's sin is worse than another's. To point out someone else's sin, as if it is worse than what you struggle with, is just wrong. Don't tell me you don't struggle with sin. And if there WERE a list of sins in order of how bad they are, there are many that show to be much more destructive to God's plans for us than loving someone that happens to be the same sex as you. The harm that I see done to others from gossip, gluttony, pride, adultery, greed and envy is incredibly damaging. And I see that being done DAILY by people who claim to live righteous lives. Righteous enough to feel confident enough to make it their lot in life to persecute those who just want to love. God help 'em.
2) As Beth Moore once stated, "You can't shame someone into a transformation on the inside." Yes, you might shame someone into pretending for a bit that they aren't who they are so that they don't risk being excluded from their community. But shame only changes outward appearances, and usually only temporarily. No one can pretend forever without falling apart. (Remember the high suicide rates I spoke of earlier). Only the Holy Spirit can change someone's heart, if indeed it needs to be changed. Only the Holy Spirit can do the inside work. We humans don't have that kind of power.
What kind of power DO we humans have? Well, for one, have the power to love. We also have the power to point people towards Christ. We have the power to help lead them towards the Holy Spirit and then let God take over from there. That is all we have the power to do.... and yet, too many Christians choose another route. They choose to push them away from Christ instead of bringing them towards Christ. They choose to shame, humiliate, and exclude. Churches close their doors to anyone who admits to being LGBTQ+ --or at the very least make them feel unwelcome to serve as equal members of the community. I can't even imagine how it must feel to love the Lord and yet not feel like I am welcome in a church of my choosing.
Let me finish by saying that there is more to my story than I am telling here. My story also includes getting to know many gay Christians whose lives are beautiful examples of GOOD FRUIT. They love and serve everyone they know in ways that I know would make Jesus proud! I see the way they choose to use their lives helping their fellow man and making this world a better place. I see how they choose forgiveness time and time again, as they let God keep their hearts soft in a world where I'm sure mine would have hardened by now. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about how they have been marginalized and mistreated for so long by a church I have loved my whole life.
Don't get me wrong. I still love the church. I still love the Bible. I love it even more than I ever have because I'm starting to really understand how it's meant to be used and interpreted. It's a book of unsurpassed wisdom with a deepness and richness that no man is ever going to be able to understand perfectly. But I truly do believe it has been used wrongly, to shut out human beings instead of inviting them to the love story. The love story that is open to us ALL.
One last thing. I didn't write this to change anyone else's mind. There was a time when I was convinced that homosexuality was a sin and there was nothing anyone could do to convince me otherwise. I had the scriptures to back it up, along with a community of like-minded believers. And I'm not gay, so why would it even matter to me that I get this "right." Why would I spend so much time on this subject... something that I don't personally struggle with? The only honest answer I can give is that it's because God put it on my heart strongly to figure this out. Maybe it's because of my gay friends. Or my gay nephew. Or my friends with gay children. I've seen their hurt, their pain, their confusion. Maybe it's because we are all called to speak out when we see an injustice and God has laid this burden on my heart to speak up for these who I feel are being treated unjustly. Or maybe it's just because Jesus said:
"A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love each other. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." - John 13:34-35
I am an incredibly imperfect ally to my LGBTQ+ friends. But I am trying to love them as Jesus would want me to. I hope anyone reading this will at least pray over my words and if the Spirit leads you to more study in this matter, I'll add a few resources that might help you along.
Much love and peace and blessings....
"Love Makes Room: And Other Things I Learned When My Daughter Came Out." by Staci Frenes. https://amzn.to/3t9gI4m Also, my podcast interview with Staci is a great resource: https://apple.co/3xafAjB
"God and the Gay Christian" by Matthew Vines. http://www.matthewvines.com/ His viral video sermon was one of the first resources that was put into my view as I started my journey. It also apparently played a big part in Rachel Held Evans journey towards affirmation.
“Unclobber” by Colby Martin — https://amzn.to/3NQyGAH
"Changing Our Mind" by David P. Gushee: https://amzn.to/2Z1iVOr
"5 things to remember when the Bible is used against the LGBT community": https://www.rofum.org/5-things-to-remember-when-the-bible-is-used-against-the-lgbtq-community/?fbclid=IwAR3c8hJnWyx4OKg5ca3NdaGtehgKhspfg5c5p8cLy4BzivuGIPfRR2WOenI
"Penny In The Air: My Story of Becoming Affirming" by Sarah Bessey:
Adam Nicholas Phillips blog: https://medium.com/@adamnicholasphillips/the-bible-does-not-condemn-homosexuality-seriously-it-doesn-t-13ae949d6619
"Does Jesus really love me?" by Jeff Chu: https://www.amazon.com/Does-Jesus-Really-Love-Christians/dp/0062049747/ref=as_li_ss_tl?keywords=does+jesus+really+love+me&qid=1559765591&s=gateway&sr=8-1&linkCode=sl1&tag=sarahbecom-20&linkId=0de75fd4db2707e732e5a08834df1df8&language=en_US