My first draft in writing this was a beautiful seven page, academic analysis, of the relationship between the church and LGBT people. I’ll save it for class. I am a 32 year old, white, gay man, who was diagnosed HIV positive six years ago. From this you can probably guess that I’ve some very difficult interactions with Christian churches.
I came to know the Disciples of Christ not through a desire to find a new church home or even by accident. I had an Anthropology paper for a freshman Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion class. I decided to examine Christianity. It was in this process that I met Reverend Jesse Kearns of the First Christian Church (DOC) of Chico. I was focused on baptism, communion, and the Holy Trinity, not LGBT issues. There was something about speaking with Reverend Kearns that prompted me to call him; I had been wounded by well seeming ministers before, after the paper was submitted. I was afraid of what his reaction would be. I asked a simple question: “If I strung the letters L, G, B, and T together would you know what I’m talking about?” Why yes, yes he did.
There is a term Jesse introduced me to: “Walking Wounded.” There are those people that have been so injured by their experiences with Christianity, sometimes fatally, that they leave the faith forever. It should come as no surprise for those keeping up with LGBT news that many leaders in the Christian faith have been outspoken opponents, not limited, to issues like the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy or same-sex marriage, but even for the existence, the right to live for LGBT people.
I speak to those heterosexual, gender conforming, non-trans people that will read this. Put yourself in our shoes. Close your eyes and imagine that you are like one of us. That you are gay or lesbian, transgender, or don’t conform to the rigid gender binary system we have. Imagine growing up this way. Imagine keeping silent about something so fundamental to your life it is impossible to separate it from yourself. Imagine that your parents, friends, peers, coworkers, teachers, students, ministers, or parishioners denigrate, demonize, slander and desire to harm you. Imagine the isolation, terror, shame, and feelings of worthlessness that you would have. Imagine the courage you would have to summon to come out. Imagine the reactions of those who are important or close to you when you are finally honest with them. Imagine what that rejection or acceptance feels like.
I speak to my openly LGBT brothers and sisters. You already know the trials you’ve been through, and you even see the trails to come for others. Do not let fear or anger guide you but instead let compassion, understanding, and Christ-like love guide you. Meet those that do not know us, who fear us, and who hate us where they are. They are the victims of stereotypes and lies. Do not mistake tolerance for acceptance. Tolerance means you can be in the room, acceptance mean you have a place at the table. Your voice is strong, and your voice has power. Use it. You are called to witness for the LGBT community. You are called to make a difference.
I speak to those LGBT brothers and sisters that are reading this somewhere in the dark where they hope no one will see. You are not alone! Know that God and our Lord Jesus Christ are with you, love you, and will do so, always. The Holy Spirit will be there to comfort you. Wherever your journey may take you know that there are others who have been where you are and have survived, thrived, and continue to serve in their faith. Above all else know that God, our Lord, the Holy Spirit, and this disciple know that you have value just the way that you are right now. Stay safe.