We as Gay and Lesbian Christians have a special knowledge, a significant experience with the forgiveness of God. For many of us, being lied to by mainstream Christianity caused us to walk away from the Christ of love. Coming back to God years later to search for the truth, required a great deal of courage and humility. It is very frightening to ask the God of all creation if we as a people are truly outcasts in His/Her sight. The entire process of being forced to leave God because of those who misrepresent God, and of being called “abominations” to God has left many of us with deep scars of shame or guilt and the need to receive forgiveness at the deepest level of our soul. As disenfranchised Christians we share this as a common cord in our understanding and acceptance of God’s love and grace. While we could sidetrack at this point and go into an angry rage toward those who lie to us about not being able to be gay and Christian, I think it is best for all of our souls if we leave that to God. It is a serious indictment of someone to accuse them of stealing a person’s faith. Mark 9:42 is not just written for children. The word children has also been interpreted as “believers”.
But whoever causes one of these children (believers) who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them if a millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.
It is best left to God to deal with it. The lies and bigotry of mainstream religion has caused many of us to stumble and fall away. The road back is painful, frightening and very uncertain. Marcus Borg writes in The Meaning of Jesus, “God was accessible to the marginalized because Jesus was from the marginalized himself. Jesus knew that tradition and convention were not sacred in themselves but, at best, pointers to and mediators of the sacred, and at worse, a snare. Jesus knew an oppressive and exploitative social order that legitimated itself in the name of God and he knew that this was not God’s will.”
One of the most beautiful stories of forgiveness that many gay and lesbian Christians relate personally to is the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. The two sons could easily represent today’s Christian communities. The older son would represent the straight, fundamentalist Christian community and the younger son the gay/lesbian Christian community. How many of us have felt driven away from God by our straight Christian brothers and sisters. We gathered up our spiritual possessions and left the church. After years of wandering trying to find the connection that we had lost, that old familiar feeling of love and care, we decided that the only way is to go back. We are driven to find out if we are truly welcome in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps someone has told us that God is seeking after us and it’s really O.K. Perhaps they’ve told us that for years, and we didn’t believe them. Perhaps we were worried about the older brothers or sisters (straight fundamentalist Christians) not accepting us as they did before. They threw rocks and stones at us before. They called our jobs, our wives or husbands, or our parents, to tell them that we were gay. Why would it be any different now? Could we go back and not tell them that we are gay? Just go to church. But then God doesn’t accept dishonesty and that’s putting negative energy into denying who we really are. That wouldn’t work for very long. Spiritually we’re dying with hunger, we have no spiritual money (gifts, blessings) and as we pass by we see through the windows of life that there are Christians experiencing revival. The heavens are opening. We want that. We want our relationship with our creator back. Our souls thirst for those blessings.
While it is true that we walked away from God before, it is also true that we were driven out, forced to make that walk by those who baptized us and broke their vows to us of support and community. Just like an older siblings betrayal to a younger one. So we muster all the courage that we can, grab the hand of a kindly pastor or friend that says we can be a part of God’s kingdom, and we cautiously take one step across the line of heaven. We Don’t know how we’ll be received. Perhaps God will be angry at us for leaving. Perhaps we are an abomination and we’re not wanted at all! Perhaps we no longer deserve to be called God’s children. So we decide the safe way is to ask God if we could just work for him – be a servant. We could have a little of God’s glory in exchange for doing the work that nobody else wanted to do. So we say, “God I have sinned and I am no longer worthy to be called your son or daughter, let me be like one of your servants” (vs. 18,19). But something strange happens. The words aren’t even out of our mouths when God hugs and kisses us. God immediately gives us new clothes. He/she orders a feast prepared, and shows us to our new room in the house of his/her love. It is a time of celebration! Heaven has a party because we came home! We can hardly believe it. A simple thank you or “Praise the Lord”, falls flat in response to the joy and elaborate preparations for our arrival. We stand in awe of our God who is bigger then all of the problems; bigger then all of the bigotry and has been waiting for us. Then we know for sure that our older brother and sisters were wrong. There is no mention of “abomination” here, only joy of return. Some of our older brother and sisters are partying with us, but many others of them are not happy that we’re back. They still cling to misinterpretation and mistranslations of the Bible that claim that we are unwanted. They cling to their hatred even though they see the celebration that God has thrown for us. They pick up their stones, but this time God stops them. God tells us to go back to our community and tell everyone that there is forgiveness and love available. The only way to stop the lies of our older brothers and sisters is to tell the truth to the ones that have been so hurt by them. So as they heckle us on our parade routes and activities, we have to love them. We hope that someday they’ll gain love and understanding and be able to leave their hate behind and experience the joy with us. We counter their lies and hatred every time another church joins the ranks of those that support us; every time a church has a booth at a gay pride festival or march’s in a parade. The number of supportive churches is growing. We are loved by our God who says “Be Joyful, you were lost but now you are found.” Dear readers, this is not a fairy tale. This is the experience of thousands of your gay brothers and lesbian sisters.
We experience the great well of the forgiveness of God as it overflows into our lives. It touches our souls and heals us. It guides us and teaches us God’s ways. Only God can forgive and only God can teach us what true love is. God will find us and meet us where we are. It only takes the first step over the line of heaven. Jallen Rix wrote a song called “Down At Stonewall” :
The church bells are ringing.
The members wear their best.
In the pews they are waiting.
For their Holy guest . . .
There’s a sense that something’s missing.
The guest of Honor never shows.
I saw Jesus down at Stonewall.
That’s the place we finally met.
I saw Jesus down at Stonewall.
He didn’t seem the least upset.. .
Now I always see him down there.
He’ll always draw me near.
When I ask him why he does it.
He say’s there’s too much hate between the sacred and the queer.