I’ve never not been a part of the Christian church.
It’s hard to pinpoint a memory in my life that isn’t somehow tied to God and Christian friends. “I was there every time the doors were opened,” seems to be the saying of a lifelong church kid.
For those who didn’t grow up in this kind of environment, I think it’s difficult to imagine what it’s like. You’re in this sort of safe bubble, everyone is expected to behave a certain way, believe the same things … and if you don’t believe the exact same ideologies, not to worry! There’s a church next door to the one you go to now that probably shares your slightly different beliefs.
Did I mention I grew up in the Bible Belt? A church on every corner is not an exaggeration.
But before I go on a rant about the segmentation of Christianity we call “denominations,” I want to zero in on a specific belief that is taught from pulpit to pulpit across the United States of America.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman.”
I was in middle school before I learned what a “gay person” was. I mean, I knew Ellen Degeneres was gay but didn’t really know what that meant. I just liked her talk show and knew that, for some reason, my pastor said we shouldn’t watch it because she’s “gay.”
I watched her talk show anyway, one of my first small acts of rebellion, I suppose.
But it wasn’t until a middle school dance when two girls started kissing in the middle of the dance floor that I finally understood the concept.
“Oh, that’s what it means to be gay.”
Moving on to high school, I met a guy who was into the theater like me. We really hit it off and started dating. He was incredibly talented and we had a ton of fun together.
I was apparently the only person in the world who didn’t know he was gay.
He dumped me and is now happily married to his husband in some big city. I’m pretty sure they have a pet. Super cute.
About the same time I found out my ex was homosexual, many of my guy friends in theater mustered up the courage to come out of the closet.
Then Barack Obama got elected.
In 2015 gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states.
Around that time, a music minister I worked with came out as gay and left the church.
In the course of the next several years during my work as a minister, four more music ministers of my acquaintance came out as homosexuals. Two had whole entire families, the nuclear kind.
Around that time is when people started saying, “Everybody’s gay now. It’s just the new trend.”
Then it happened. A girl at work invited me and my husband out on a double date with her girlfriend.
“Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!” What was a good Christian like me to do?
I did exactly what you would expect.
I pretended like she never asked me.
To this day, I’m vilely disgusted at myself for it.
I wrestled within myself to reconcile my beliefs with these people who I loved desperately. In my heart, in the core of my convictions, I believed that associating with gay people meant that I was a terrible, compromising Christian.
If you’re confused, allow me to explain. In many Christian circles, to be a compromising Chrisitian is the worst carnal sin. That’s why you hear the phrase, “love the sinner, hate the sin” so often. It’s a way for us to maneuver around the command Jesus gave us to “love all” while still “not compromising our Christian beliefs.”
This is the weird limbo I found myself in for so long. I never said the words out loud, “I love you, but can’t accept your lifestyle.” But people know, they can feel your resistance to accepting all of who they are without qualifiers.
I found myself turning people off. I felt like I was such a loving person, but I had these beliefs I just couldn’t shake. I loved God more than I loved anyone. He was there for me when I was a lonely kid who felt misunderstood and abandoned. He was the one I wrote heartfelt, loving songs and poems to. The one to whom I literally dedicated my entire existence into His service.
I loved God more than I loved my husband, more than my mother, father, sister, brother, and best friends in the entire world.
And that God, so I was told, instructed me to “love the sinner but hate the sin.”
It took me an embarrassingly amount of time to realize that saying isn’t even in the Bible.
I went through an identity crisis. My entire life was wrapped up in what my definition and beliefs about God were. I believed that there was right and wrong, good and evil. If I were to compromise on this, I would be a lukewarm, compromising Christian and God would spit me out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-17)
And homosexuality is wrong, right? It’s evil?
I couldn’t stomach it. The words felt like ash on my tongue.
I knew how much those beliefs hurt my friends who wanted to share their existence and loves with me. What I had been taught couldn’t coexist with this love for my friends permeating from within me.
So I did what Christians do.
I had a come to Jesus meeting about it.
“I’m angry with you,” I said. “You have created a barrier between me and those I love. This is your rule. It’s your fault.”
I sat quietly for a long moment in meditation and prayer.
Days, actually. Weeks. Months. A year or more.
I wrestled and wrestled with this. I knew what I wanted to do, but could I do it?
Did it make me a bad Christian?
Did this mean I was compromised? A farce? A whitewashed tomb?
Did this mean I couldn’t love God anymore?
I made up my mind.
“God,” I said. “I’ve read the Bible my whole life. I’ve faithfully studied your word in earnest, to the point that it is written on my heart. I have come to the conclusion that I have made this whole thing more complicated than it needs to be, and I must choose to love people — all people — without qualification, qualifiers or asterisks. No more ‘love the sinner hate the sin.’ No more ‘I don’t agree with your lifestyle but I love you anyway.’ What person wants to be loved like that? I just can’t do it anymore.”
I swallowed. “And if this makes me a bad Christian — if this makes me compromised — then I am compromised.”
It felt like a breakup. I knew then I would belong in no church I knew of at the time.
Actually, I got kicked out.
Since then, I’ve been to every gay wedding I’ve been invited to — and cheered.
Those cheers felt way more natural to me than all the reservation and judgment of my past.
I’ve been cussed at the Christian way. They call me compromised, lukewarm, misguided, whitewashed, the believer of a false gospel, a witch, a Jezebel, a false prophet, a heretic, etc.
But it’s only right. After all, my LGBTQ+ friends have been called worse, and have experienced much worse.
“But theologically …” people argue.
“Theologically,” I respond. “Jesus would have told you to drop those stones in your hand and move on with your life.”
The life of a compromised Christian can be a lonely one, but I have found a ministry since and the mission is to love and not judge. It’s virtual, but it’s something.
You know what’s ironic though? I feel more connected to God than I ever did before. It’s like the further in love we fall into with humanity, the more we begin to understand God’s unrelenting love for us.
And I think, perhaps, God isn’t mad at me. In truth, I think He’s quite the opposite.
If He is, as many people think, I’ll gladly burn for it; as Jesus went into the very depths of hell and took the keys of the grave.
But I think Victor Hugo said it best, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”
When I started loving LGBTQ+ people — or as I like to call them, people — without qualifiers, I think a bit of the veil was ripped away and I truly began to see the face of God; the one whom my soul loves.
And His face is gay. You know, the happy kind.