Saturday, August 2, 2008

my gay friends

the majority of my gay friends have experienced wrongdoing from the christian community. most of them grew up religious to different degrees, and all have left the church. some of them are actively trying to find God again. some of them have told me that they miss church and that they would go back if they felt accepted. i have yet to meet a fellow gay man or woman who attends church on a regular basis and fellowships with believers. why? when did we as a christian community draw a line separating a group of people who are so clearly yearning for a relationship with God? at what point did being attracted to people of the same sex become "the unpardonable sin?"

this is the one topic that nobody talks about unless it is with the purpose of drawing judgement. there is gossip when it is found out that an ex-member of the church is gay; at least that's how it is at my church. there are openly homophobic jokes and comments. a couple of months ago, i witnessed a conversation in which a staff member at my church proclaimed that gay or lesbian women shouldn't donate blood because "i don't want to get aids." my pastor recently preached on our duty to challenge the california supreme court decision to allow same-sex couples to marry. it is no wonder that many gays and lesbians are living lifestyles of sin - the church does not permit them to come close to God. without exception, the unwritten rule is: change and then we'll let you stay. the church is very don't-ask-don't-tell, and while uncertainty about a person's sexuality is oftentimes acceptable, certainty is certainly not.

think of the chaos that an openly-gay man curious about God would create if he decided to start checking out your church and attending groups or bible studies. maybe one sunday he even drags his partner to attend. or maybe he decides to volunteer at an event in which non-believers will see him represent your church. what if a year after he's given his life to Christ he still lives with his partner? worse yet, what if people see this as a sign that your church is gay-friendly? and what if word spreads?

does the church set a timeline for spiritual growth from the point of his conversion, and a deadline for when he should end his relationship? do they kick him out if he doesn't leave his "lifestyle of sin?" do they allow him to serve in the church? do church members enter his and his partner's home?

yes, it makes things a hell of a lot easier to nip the problem in the bud.

my gay friends are lost without God, make no doubt about that. they choose their poisons from the same list that you and i: materialism, self-centeredness, sloth, over-indulgence, bitterness, fear. they rely on fellow humans to fill a void that only God can fill. they cannot turn to their maker when problems arise, to seek guidance, to seek comfort, to ask for peace in their hearts. they do not know to thank him when they are blessed. they do not know unconditional, life-giving, everlasting love, nor do they know forgiveness and repentance as we understand them. they are the same as we were: yearning, longing, fallen.

this is not to say that they are not happy, that they do not experience joy, and they are not doers of good, generous, helpful, loving. far from it. i have learned so much compassion, generosity, and kindness from my gay friends. i have seen how much i judge others through how accepting they are, and i have seen how arrogant i can be. they have opened up their homes, their friends, their lives to me. God has blessed me tremendously through them, and i have seen him protect them and take care of them as well. he cares for them so much.

and yet, they do not have a relationship with him, and i don't know what to do about it. i can talk to them about God, but what would be the next step? logically, i would encourage them to fellowship with other believers so that they will learn more about God, but i cannot bring them to my church because i do not know if they would be safe. i do not know if the members of my church would welcome them without talking about them behind their back. i do not know if they would understand what it truly means to be attracted to a person of the same sex, since the majority of them do not associate with gays or lesbians. (it's just not something you do as a christian). my closest christian friends know that i am gay, but it would be foolish for me to be completely open about my sexuality in a church setting. i do not know how i would be treated for bringing gay friends to church.

do i man up and find out? do i risk putting my gay friends through an experience that could very easily further push them away from God? do i tell them that if they come to church they should not talk about their sexuality? do i tell them that if they do there is a possibility that they may be mistreated?

my dream, my hope, is that i can one day host a bible study with friends who are christian and friends who are gay, so that they can interact and learn from each other. a bible study in which every question is acceptable, every topic can be explored, in which we can be honest about exactly where we are in our lives, our struggles, our desires, our fears. in which sexuality isn't a prerequisite for being a seeker of God.

but there would only be so much i could do. i am not qualified to preach. the little formal biblical training that i have i picked up at a couple of seminary courses taught at my church, and through some books i've read. i have opinions, yes, and i can share what i think God is trying to teach me.

at some point, however, authority must be present. at some point a community must be formed. this is the church's place in our lives, and we are back to square one, and i do not want to wait to try to bring my friends to Christ until i find a church that will accept them as they are. i can personally handle hiding half my life at church for now, but i don't want to put my friends through that.

so what do i do about my gay friends?

i have asked far too many questions, but there are few easy answers, if one can say that there are answers at all.

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