Ah, the heart and the mind, the two guiding forces in my life. I am a gay member of the Anglican Church of Canada and have followed both my heart and my mind to Jesus. My heart longs for the pain and anguish in music surrounding Jesus’ death, the triumph of his love in the resurrection hymns. My mind loves to contemplate Bible verses, what they mean, how to translate them into lived life. I even like to listen to sermons, to debate them in my mind or with a pastor or a friend. I long for Jesus, I long to worship him, and I long to think about him. So why am I running away from my church?
I’m one of the lucky ones. I lived in a relatively small city, but my church, while not a “gay” church, is very pro-gay. It has a substantial gay population, church leaders who know and love gay people if they’re not gay themselves, books about how Christians can love gay people are distributed throughout the congregation, they baptize the children of gay couples in regular Sunday services. One great goal of that church is to help make a place for gay people, not only in the church, but in the larger society. These people have thought about and love gay people. And so I ran away from them. Why?
Sometimes I think it’s because most of the gay at that church is lesbians. A boyfriend once told me that homosexual people act gender stereotypes too. Lesbians nest, and gay men don’t. I felt like a gay rooster in a lesbian hen house. Ah, but that’s sexist. I don’t think I’m sexist.
Sometimes I think it’s because the people I met there loved me too much. I couldn’t have my devious little gay life anymore because everyone was always asking about it. No more secrets. But that makes me sound unfriendly and standoffish. I don’t think I’m unfriendly or standoffish.
Sometimes I think it’s because even though I have come out to the world, I haven’t really come out to myself yet. Being faced with issues that I can’t deal with week after week is hard. Oh, but that makes me sound like I’m insecure. I don’t think I’m insecure.
I think often about myself and my position in the church. I think about what a great place that church is for a gay person to be. What great people those people were for a gay person to know. My mind loved that church.
Don’t get me wrong, my heart did too. I loved the choir, the organist, the bells at Christmas, the trumpet at Easter, the “Why hast thou forsaken me” on Maundy Thursday. My heart loved the music as much as my mind loved the gay. But whereas my mind could appreciate the music, my heart was uncomfortable with the gay.
That’s it! I feel like my heart is betraying the gay around me and the gay inside me.
But what is the gay? What on earth does it mean? Sexual attraction? Masculinity? Feminity? Able to recite twelve gay authors in a single bound? Well, maybe all of those things — or none of them. I don’t know. You see, I’ve never been a big part of a gay community. Oh, sure, I’ve gone to a few bars, I’ve kissed a few guys. (A few? says my friend Laura, in disbelief.) But I’ve never fought the good fight, never lost something because I was gay. I’m eternally grateful to all the gay men and women who did. They and God made it possible for me to live the charmed life I live. And I will help and support and love myself and other gay people as I can. I won’t be ashamed of who I am and I will help you to feel that way about who you are, if you ask me. But I’ll do the same for straight people.
The wise Ben at www.gaychristianonline.org says that being gay means that you desire a life-partner who is of the same gender as you. The equally wise Rev. Paul Turner at www.whosoever.org, when someone asked him about who Jesus slept with, wrote that he didn’t care who Jesus slept with, that those kinds of personal and private relationships are personal and private, none of our business. My heart likes both of those answers.
We live in a public culture. The media tries it’s darndest to worm out every detail of everyone’s life. And people buy in thinking that everyone wants to know all about them. I buy in. And the frustrating thing for me is that the Bible in general, and Jesus in particular, does not talk about being gay or homosexual. Those words and their equivalents didn’t even exist in language when the Bible was being told for the first time. Gay was not public at all. My friend Pat at my home church often complained to me about the ‘gay’ sermons, preaching acceptance and trust of gay people. He didn’t like it being “rammed down his throat.” He doesn’t want it to be so public. His heart isn’t in the gay either.
Why does a congregation with active and open gay people in it need to be preached to about acceptance of gay people? I’m not being rhetorical. This is the root of my struggle as a gay Christian. My mind understands that the more people talk about something, the more likely they are to accept it. My mind understands in order for our issues to be recognized, gay people have to make some noise. My mind understands that the church is a good place to reach people with messages like this because it is an institution to which they look for moral guidance. My mind understands. But my heart wants the music. It doesn’t want to talk about being gay anymore. It wants to praise Jesus with talents and voice. Isn’t it the same message anyway?
So I sing songs of acceptance and love — Jesus’ acceptance and love. I strive to love as many of the people around me as I can. I try never to use the words “gay” and “straight” in church. I try never to talk about rights and responsibilities. I try to keep the politics away. The media loves to pull the church into the political realm. The media wants Jesus to be someone to blame and criticize for the faults of his followers. Some of his followers want him to be their backbone when they blame and criticize. But I don’t think Jesus was comfortable in the public realm. That’s why the Bible doesn’t tell us about the private Jesus. I think Jesus wanted to keep himself private and personal. The word needed to be public, the message that is love, not the man. Jesus is the word of God, but he was his own man.
So, I reach some reconciliation between mind and heart. “Gay” and “straight” are private and personal details. While they are important for me to think and talk about, I will try not to get too caught up in them, because my mind gets absorbed and my heart rebels. From now on, when I feel myself getting caught up, I will remember what’s private and what’s public. I will remember that the bigger message is love. I will remember that my heart and my mind come together in Jesus. And that, as it was for Jesus, my body and my relationships are private and personal.
There’s the kicker. I cannot know the bodily Jesus. The details of Jesus the man are and will be a great mystery. I cannot know all of Jesus’ thoughts, only the important ones that are expressed in the Bible. The details, like what he thought of the price of lunch, cannot be known. But I can know the spiritual Jesus. I do know the spiritual Jesus. The question is not “what would Jesus do?” I’ll never know for sure. The question is what does Jesus do. And Jesus loves.