Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coming Out as Christian

So, now that you all know the steps I went through to come out as “queer”, time to talk about the other-half of my identity as a Christian.

My membership in the body of Christ became public on April 16, 1968 at Christ Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, when Rev. Lloyd Foneville baptized me in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. From that point forward, I was marked as Christ’s own forever. God, of course, already had my number before the Episcopal Church got me. The baptism put me on the path that my parents and godparents chose for me to follow. Later, as a teen-ager, I would proclaim my desire to stay with Christ through my confirmation. You can read all about that journey here.

Being Christian is not as risky in society as being gay. Many people in the United States are Christian, or at least were raised in a Christian household. And, despite what I used to hear from the members of the Christian Coalition who insisted they were persecuted, I am not aware of a huge problem with Christians getting beaten or denied jobs or housing or custody rights of their children simply because they worship Christ. Unless they also happen to be queer.

Queer and Christian? Impossible!

No, it is not. And I should know since I am among the members of the flock who wear both labels. My necklace sports not only the inverted triangle of pride, but a crucifix and a mustard seed. My car not only has a rainbow sticker, but also the shield of the Episcopal Church. My heart not only feels love and attraction to women, but it is made softer and fuller when I remember that God is my strength and my redeemer. And as the wolves wag their tongues with invectives and try to encircle me, I know my shepherd will come to my aid, especially if I call out his name. And he doesn’t care that I’m queer. He knew that all along.

My blog has entries already that discuss the clashes I’ve had with fundamentalist Christians who would want to sever my relationship with God. And I have struggled to come to the place that I’m at today where I finally understand that there is no one who can break me from God but me. I am recalling the reading out of John’s gospel from the Fourth Sunday of Easter in which Jesus talks about being the shepherd and the gate, and that his sheep know his voice and will follow him and not a stranger. I realize now that on many occasions I have heeded the sound of the stranger’s voice, the one that would tell me I’m condemned to hell because I’m a lesbian.

Trouble is the strangers’ voices have been amplified for too long. And not only have members of the LGBT-community been swayed by their message, many straight families have as well. And church leaders have also allowed the thieves of Christianity to get the upper-hand by remaining silent instead of picking up their own megaphones and proclaiming that the Good News is that Christ died and was resurrected for everyone: that includes people who go to bed with members of the opposite sex, same sex, or nobody at all.

Sex. Yes, I think that’s where the big break down has occurred. At Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson’s consecration in New Hampshire five years ago, there was a moment given for any one who objected to his election as a bishop to have their say. And did they! An Episcopal priest from Pittsburgh launched into a pornographic description of gay male sex acts using that as fodder for why Robinson was “an abomination”. The idea of people having sex, particularly gay sex, sends some folks into a whacky, wigged-out, whirligig of weirdness! I think some of this is borne out of the writings of the apostle Paul who seems to have a never-ending struggle with keeping his mind off the flesh and focused on the spirit. But, again, I don’t believe that the “who I sleep with" matters as much to God as the “how I treat that who” I am sleeping with. I believe that where there is love and respect without coercion or manipulation, God is there. So I’m not exactly sure what was going on with the Pittsburgh priest except, perhaps, that he needed to spend some time looking into his own heart and wondering why he was so curious about sexual practices that were a little “racier” than the “norm”.

So all of this deals with my perception of the heterosexual community’s reaction to me. But I have to say I have run into many straight people who seem fine with having me join them in worshipping Christ. I’m not so sure about my brothers and sisters in the gay community.

I have encountered several different reactions to my faith. There are those who take the “to each their own” stance. But there are many who, if I say I’m Christian, either go silent, or look away. Or they tell me why they aren’t as if they expect me to start arguing with them. I keep thinking that issue here has to do with whatever trauma has been inflicted on gay individuals by churches or synagogues. There are just too many stories that I’ve heard from people about family members “praying for them” that they might “cure” them of this homosexual affliction. I have heard from lesbians who attended the Episcopal Church in the earlier part of this decade only to be met with a sermon so homophobic and misogynistic that they left in tears, never to return again. Such stories are painful to hear. And I do understand how rotten it can make one feel. To those who have felt that rejection, all I can say is to remember who is rejecting you: people, not God. Even the one with the collar standing in the pulpit is still just another human being in the same soup with the rest of us. And they are more likely to make mistakes than the shepherd who knows you by your name and your true self.

In the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, there is a statement that I believe speaks volumes: “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid.” From the very closeted to the most out and proud among us, God knows you more completely than any person or religious institution will ever know you. And He never walks away and his love for you and desire to be in relationship with you is deep and real. And he will continue to call for you, even as you wander away. Listen for him.


pineyflatwoodsgirl said...

Hi Susan,
Are you as curious about the new rev as I am? I hope he accepts all his flock. I'd hate to have to leave that lovely place....

SCG said...

Yeah, I'm hoping he accepts everyone as well! It would be a huge bummer if St. John's went backwards.

Anonymous said...

To the pineylatwoodsgirl, I have heard from Bishop Gene Robinson and he says that St. John's has hired a "good guy". He knew him and feels he will heal the wounds.
And God loves all of us.