I hate reading C.S. Lewis. He has this annoying little habit in his writings. Every time I read something of his, there is always a less-than-quiet voice in my head clamoring, “Look at yourself! Look at your life! You’re falling short here! And this part of your life, over here! Oh, and over there, too!” He never fails to force me to look at myself and acknowledge my own most painful shortcomings.
In his book The Screwtape Letters, a wonderful dissertation from Screwtape, a very experienced devil, to his nephew Wormwood, a neophyte tempter working on his first human subject, Screwtape explains the concept of “Christianity And.” It’s letter XXV, for those who wish to read it in its entirety. At this point in the book, Wormwood has been failing miserably in his efforts to lure his subject from God’s presence. Screwtape offers a new tactic to help Wormwood corrupt the subject’s faith — Christianity And.
My Dear Wormwood,
The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And.” You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.
As humans, there is a need to feel special, to feel unique. We need to feel that there is some place where we belong, a niche we fill. We want to have a community that has a commonality amongst its members. What we fail to do if we are not careful is to believe that Christianity is not enough of a commonality that can bring about that sense of community.
We as GLBT Christians … To even begin by saying, “We as GLBT Christians,” shows the pit I can fall into as just easily as the next person. I have just made myself to be a member of a “Christianity And.” By laying claim to Christianity and Homosexuality, Christianity and Transgenderism, Christianity and Heterosexuality, Christianity and Bisexuality, we automatically set walls between ourselves and our brothers and sisters. We have become Christians with a difference, and it can become so easy for us to focus on the difference rather than the Christian ties that bind us together.
I cannot grasp the concept of a “gay church.” For that matter, I cannot grasp the concept of a “straight church,” either. I absolutely understand that the GLBT population has experienced an unbelievable amount of rejection, suffering, misery and persecution from the “capital-C Church.” I am well aware that because of the lack of acceptance offered by most churches, there is a need for GLBT folk to realize that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender has absolutely no bearing on their ability to be loved by God. For many, one of whom is my wife, it was only by the love shown in a “gay church” that helped her see that God did not condemn her for her choice of partner. Even the mission statement of many GLBT-friendly churches will explain that heterosexual people are welcome and loved as well. But in many of the services, there are more than a few mentions of “we GLBT Christians,” what suffering “we GLBT Christians” have endured, how “we GLBT Christians” can spread love and blessings to others, how “we GLBT Christians” deal with coming out, and how “we GLBT Christians” are loved by God. If I were straight and at such a church, I believe I would feel uncomfortable and in some ways unwelcome. Though I would share a Christian bond with the body of believers at the church, I would not share the GLBT bond that everyone else shared. Our differences, our separate “Ands” that defined our Christianity, would seem to be repeatedly brought to the fore and cause, even if unintentionally, division.
Many GLBT people, sadly enough, accurately feel that they have been excluded, are unwanted, and are unwelcome at many churches due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. However, I wonder if the “gay church community” is any less culpable when it defines faith and spirituality in terms of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Are we not creating ourselves as just another “Christianity And?” That our Christianity is different from that of the straight community? Are we GLBT Christians just as guilty of building walls of divisiveness between us and straight Christians as they are?
See? Again, I must point my finger at myself first. “We GLBT Christians.” Thank you very much, Mr. Lewis, for causing me to acknowledge yet another of my shortcomings. Thanks so much for showing me my Christi-And-ity.