Being Christian and Gay—Part 7: Living Between Two Worlds

Posted: October 17, 2017 in Being Christian and Gay, Gay Life
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In this post, I’m moving beyond sexuality to talk about straddling a fence. Living Between Two Worlds authentically and with integrity is not easy. Attempting to live such a life for a gay person is compounded by a perceived oxymoron—a gay Christian—by both the Christian community and the gay community.

Many conservative Christians begin from the viewpoint that a gay person, by virtue of being gay, is a sinner in need of salvation. Therefore, they naturally assume a gay person is not a Christian. Their rhetoric begins with an Evangelistic appeal to the gay person, who, in reality, may be a born-again believer.

The gay person begins from the viewpoint that Christians have hurt them and are the enemy of the LGBTQ community. Thus, no self-respecting gay person could be Christian. Most LGBTQ people don’t espouse hatred toward Christians. Some believe that the church they grew up with turned their back on them. A response of many LGBTQ people is that the church has no relevancy for them so they quietly ignore Christianity. Why expend emotional energy on something that may have hurt you in the past, does not reach out to you in the present, and will probably hurt you again.

I am a Christian who happens to be gay. I have been a pastor for churches. I have served God as a missionary in Southeast Asia. I have aided in giving birth to new churches. I have offered wisdom to Christian ministry leaders. How can this be? you may ask.

There are some who would strike a strict hard line on one side or the other of this conundrum—being gay and Christian. It is impossible for one to be both Christian and gay both sides would proclaim. Such a position immediately cuts off conversation before it even starts. Hard ideological lines are drawn with a clear conscience on both sides. Each has a solid argument for their position.

While I was still hiding much about who I am, I wrote a poem titled “The Wall” in which rear-view-of-a-man-standing-on-sea-wall-another-man-looking-through-BKKJJ5I talked about living in one world on one side of a wall but looking longing toward the other side. I now live confidently and comfortably on both sides of the wall as a Christian who is gay.

However, there is the beginning of a little crack in the argument from both the Christian side of the wall and the gay side of the wall.

On one side, Christians would say something like, “Well, I guess being gay and Christian is the same as someone lying or cheating or even stealing and still being a Christian, albeit a flawed one.” They would say there are no perfect Christians, that no one is perfect this side of heaven. Therefore, just as there are Christians on church rolls who are guilty of sin, so, they suppose, there can be gay people on Church rolls.

On the other side, there are some gay people who would say, “Well, there are probably some Christians who don’t hate us, but I’m still not sure I want anything to do with Christians.” They would say that some LGBTQ Christians compartmentalize their lives and try to live in two worlds, one gay and one Christian. Or, they might think that some LGBTQ Christian may have an ability to allow the pain and anger hurled at them by the Christian community to pass over them leaving them unscathed.

The Christian community and the gay community are each big tents. To lump all Christians into one pot would make a very interesting stew, as would lumping all LGBTQ people in another pot. And yet, that’s exactly what each side does. Christians will point to the extremes of LGBTQ people who live for sex, flaunt it, and exhibit it in all ways possible as a definition of all gay people. On the other hand gay people will point to picketers who stand outside of events with signs that say “Burn in Hell,” “Kill the Fags,” etc. as the position of all Christians. Such passionate rhetoric on both sides does not allow for reasonable conversation. Both sides use the proverbial philosophy “My way or the highway.”

When I tell gay friends, who know I am gay, that I am also a Christian and am faithfully involved in my church, they struggle to come to terms with a paradigm that is incongruent to their image of Christianity. And when Christian friends, some of whom I have known a long time, discover I’m gay, they are confused, don’t understand, and also struggle to make sense out of an unfamiliar paradigm.

One has to get inside a new paradigm to understand that it is possible to be both gay and Christian. Moving to a different, unfamiliar point of reference requires seeing relationships and events from a different perspective. It doesn’t necessarily mean forsaking one’s position. It does mean viewing life through the other person’s eyes. This is a difficult thing to do because it means understanding who that person is and how they think.

Getting inside a new paradigm includes asking “why” questions about perspective. A meaningful conversation is possible upon getting inside the other person’s world enough to understand, from their point of view, what they believe, why they believe it, and how they process it.

Genuine sharing of ideas, thoughts, questions, opinions, fears, and perspectives becomes possible for all participants in the conversation when, like the proverbial light being switched on, they can both exclaim with an edge of surprise “Oh, now I see what you mean.”

In a recent New York Times article, Gia Kourlas writes about Justin Peck’s “The Times Are Racing,” a ballet in which two men in the central pas de deux broke tradition roles. “At one point in the Ballet,” Kourlas writes. “Daniel Applebaum takes Taylor Stanley’s hand and they walk to the back of the stage. ‘I am holding his hand onstage because he’s offering it to me,’ Mr. Stanley said. ‘I take it, and that just fills me so much in so many ways. It’s so nice to get to step into a role where I feel I could actually potentially fall in love with the person I’m dancing with, as opposed to pretending to be a prince falling in love with a princess.’”

Mr. Kourlas continues, “Originally, Ms. Lovette cast Mr. Stanley in her ballet because the women she was considering for the role were all taken. ‘I wanted to find a dancer that had a very liquid quality—a strength but also a dramatic side and a contemporary feel and I wasn’t finding it,’ she said. ‘Then I thought Taylor has that. That’s exactly Taylor. Why can’t I put two guys together?’ The effect, she said, blew her away. ‘Suddenly, they could just be themselves.’”

So here I stand: one foot in the Christian community, one in the gay community and being myself in both. I do not hide my identity in each community from the other. I hope to engage each in a conversation about the other. It is my desire that these two communities will discover a shared humanity and welcome each other into their divergent worlds.

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