When my first boyfriend broke up with me, I felt alone. I felt that I was unworthy of him, I was unworthy of my family and my church, and most depressingly, I felt unworthy of God. Because I felt as if I was an abomination to God, I attempted suicide multiple times.
One night after contemplating suicide heavily, I shouted out to God, “Why did you put this in me if you’re just going to hate me for it?” The reply brought tears to my eyes – “I love you.”
~ Aaron Crowley, an excerpt from There is NOH8 in Jesus (November 21, 2012)
The first time I ever heard the words “gay” and “homo” in public was during my freshmen and sophomore years of high school. May 2008 was the first time I had heard of the term “gay marriage”, when a close upper classman of mine—now a soon-to-be first-year grad school student in the fall at UC Berkeley—addressed in an exclusive e-mail on behalf of Youth Alive, my high school’s Christian organization, on how he feels about the gay debate:
Are Christians against gays?
You’ve probably heard this question or you might’ve asked yourselves that also as you watch different protests on TV. We need to clarify the term “gays.” The concept of homosexuality vs. homosexuals. The Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27); it wasn’t God’s original intent from creation. That’s the basic definition of any sin, not part of God’s original plan.
Is God against homosexuality? Yes.
But is God against homosexuals? No.
~ Eric C., an excerpt from Memory Verse: Week 5/19/08—Homosexuality Part 1 (2008)
At the time, I strongly agreed with everything Eric wrote about in his e-mails on homosexuality and homosexual behavior being a dreadful sin, and something that Almighty God would send a person to a fiery Hell for.
JUNE 27th UPDATE: Quick note on my statements above over Eric’s views. After a brief misunderstanding, he wrote me not too long after I originally posted this column online, stating that he is NOT anti-homosexual orientation, and never will be. The views I have expressed are solely my initial thoughts upon first reading his e-mail on the subject over five years ago. I further apologize on both of our behalves if any misrepresentations and misconceptions seem to currently be directed towards the gay and lesbian crowd.
As a person continuously seeking to reform and re-evaluate his previous views on homosexuals and queer culture, I am now here to indiscriminately and unconditionally love homosexuals just as the people all of you are—regardless of whatever church minister or congregation inexplicably has been told and has held against you, and regardless of how they have distorted and misconstrued Christ’s authentic command to “love your enemies and pray for those who have persecuted you.”
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
Now in retrospect, however, I realize how much of a blind fool I was when I was playing the hypocritical Christian card the entire time. On the outside, I was publicly active in taking a hostile anti-homosexual stance, calling out friends and classmates who wanted to vote No on Proposition 8, since I was—and still am—raised to literally believe in the sanctity of one man and one woman in holy, harmonious matrimony. Until I realized these so-called “conservative” Christian leaders were not leading very sacred and harmonious lives at all.
That idealism began to crack and shatter during my junior and senior years onwards.
After vowing to leave that high school club, and all my attachments and associations with it behind, I again was left feeling excluded and ostracized from both family and peers whom I thought were douches for not accepting me as a flawed person—with all these thoughts running through his head, let alone mention his poor work ethic.
Back into my closet of emotional insecurity I went. A closet I psychologically built myself in, so that I didn’t have to face the experience of going through continuous rejection time and time again.
And then something happened…
Fast forward to May and June 2011, towards the end of my senior year. After initially attending one last Youth Alive meeting on a Monday around lunchtime, I eventually left again, shaking my head angrily and thinking, “No. I’ve had enough of this bullcrap.”
What I didn’t care to realize the moment I quietly stormed out was that a friend had caught me leaving, and within mere moments, he came to console me. “What’s the matter Josh? What’s going on?” I initially was too angry to say how I really felt on the inside, but I gradually released some steam. “I’ve had enough Andrew. I’ve had enough of this Youth Alive shindig! I want out! I’m done!” I wanted to further scream, “I’m through with God” as well, but did not plan to take the matter too far.
Fortunately, Andrew’s been more than sympathetic to hearing about my conflicting spiritual frustrations. He’s been UNDERSTANDING, and to this day, I cannot imagine not having a more sincere and caring friend than him, as a straight bro. 🙂
As for leaving behind this “conservative” brand of Christianity I grew up submissively obeying and adhering to through the end of my high school years, I now honestly view the nuances of meanings behind the Passion story and the significance of the Cross in a new Progressive kind of light. One where all are loved unconditionally by God, and where He only sees the broken sinner in need of healing and reconciliation, not the weight of unbearable sin crushing the sinner.
Progressive Christianity is an approach to the Christian faith that is influenced by post-liberalism and postmodernism and:
- Proclaims Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, Savior, and Lord;
- Emphasizes the Way and teachings of Jesus, not merely His person;
- Emphasizes God’s immanence not merely God’s transcendence;
- Leans toward pantheism rather than supernatural theism;
- Emphasizes salvation here and now instead of primarily in heaven later;
- Emphasizes being saved for robust, abundant/eternal life over being saved from hell;
- Emphasizes the social/communal aspects of salvation instead of merely the personal;
- Stresses social justice as integral to Christian discipleship;
- Takes the Bible seriously but not necessarily literally, embracing a more interpretive, metaphorical understanding;
- Emphasizes orthopraxy instead of orthodoxy (right actions over right beliefs);
- Embraces reason as well as paradox and mystery — instead of blind allegiance to rigid doctrines and dogmas;
- Does not consider homosexuality to be sinful;
- Does not claim that Christianity is the only valid or viable way to connect to God (is non-exclusive).
Upon a detailed and painstaking scholarly personal investigation of my own now in college, I largely agree with most of these points—except for perhaps the supernatural theism one.
Moreover, to clarify my now redefining stance on the multi-layered “homosexuality is a sin” argument, I will only say this: He [God] may judge your sins, but He does not judge your sexual orientation, and we need to keep these two separate from now on, socially and theologically. Period.
And for all the conservatively-minded homophobes out there, while I can understand your reasons for hating gays—as I was once as well—in all serious honesty, you’re missing out on some great eye-opening opportunities to witness to and to get to know several of them as the awesome people they are BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE. And yes, even their faults and sins.
Recently, I sat in my adult Sunday School class while my pastor spoke about grace within the United Methodist tradition. She described how, in the midst of the grace that is always present for all of us, we often find ourselves in profound moments of justifying grace—moments of affirmation when we recognize that we, too, are loved. We, too, are welcomed. We, too, are forgiven.
For me, my coming out as an LGBT ally has been inextricably intertwined with my experience of justifying grace.
The irony of my situation is not lost on me. While my coming out as an ally has been so very humbling and faith-affirming, I know that for many, the experience of coming out is anything but. Most of all, I know this has to change.
This is why I feel so passionately about continuing to push myself to speak up. Even when it is uncomfortable. Even when I have doubts. Even when I’m sharing not necessarily with like-minded members of the faith, but with that same Facebook community which initially brought me to tears.
Above all else, I believe that this message and this experience of grace is for all.
And I want to help proclaim this Christian message.
Even me? Yes. And even you as well.
~ Holli Long, an excerpt from Experiencing Grace: My Journey To Becoming An Ally (June 17, 2013)
As an additional side note worthy of mentioning, I now also believe 17-year-old Graeme Taylor from Ann Arbor, Michigan is TRULY AN INSPIRATION, not only for standing up for a teacher who was suspended, but perhaps even more so for coming out of the closet (quite literally) and being honest, open and accepting of himself that he’s gay.
You got yourself another fan and an honorable ally Graeme. I’d hug you and kiss you as well if we ever have the chance to meet in person!