Quite often, when someone finds out exactly what it is that I believe as a Christian, the question that many of them (mostly those who seem to have some issues with the idea of Christianity or spirituality of any kind in general) is, “Why even bother being a Christian? You don’t fear God, you don’t subscribe to all of the dogma, you don’t fear hell because you don’t believe there is a hell. You don’t think that God is going to “punish” you somehow. You have very liberal views on sexuality. You don’t think the Bible is literal. You acknowledge the validity of other religions and do not condemn those who have a lack of your beliefs, and you don’t seem to think there are all these rules and requirements, so why? Why not just abandon the whole thing?” And my response to their black and white, either/or thought process as well as media-driven and obviously fundamentalism-based ideas of what constitutes “Christianity” is always the same: “Because I want to be, because it feels right in my heart, and because I believe in it.”
That is nearly always followed by another question: “Well, if God does not require you to literally follow the Bible to the letter, what is it that you think is required of you as a Christian?” And I ask them, if they are open to actually taking a little time to read the Bible that the answer to that question is not too difficult to locate. Sexual orientation is irrelevant to that I feel the crux of the Christian Faith is.
On one stance, it can be summarized in what is known in secular society as the “Golden Rule” and in a statement of which there are many variations that appears in most of the major world religions. This would be the “Great Commandment” of Jesus: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). This is also referred to in John 13:35: “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
But if one also examines the collected teachings of Christ as illustrated in the New Testament as a whole, one can also arrive at a similar conclusion: The basic summary of being a follower of Christ, or a Christian, can be said to treat all of God’s children-meaning, everyone-with the same love and respect with which we ourselves would desire to be treated. In my opinion, to behave in such a manner is the ultimate form of devotion, love, respect, honor and gratitude to God, which also fulfills the other admonition of Jesus, to “Love God with all our heart, mind and soul and strength” (Mark 12:30). Jesus Himself states in Mark 12:31 that “there is no other Commandment greater than these.”
One might argue about Jesus saying that He came not to “abolish the Law, but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17) meant that his New Commandment was merely an “addendum” rather than an actual “revision,” but I think that what He was actually saying was for the people He was speaking to (then and still today) to reprioritize a little; to take the emphasis of legalism out of religion and replace it with an ethic of mutual love and respect for each other as He was telling us that this was the only true way, regardless of one’s personal ideas and beliefs, to become closer to God.
Although Jesus approached these teachings in a new and radical way which gave ire to the legalistic religious establishment of His time on earth in human form (just as the emphasis on love, acceptance, and respect for others regardless of who they are seems to draw the ire of some religious conservatives thousands of years later, still, today), they were not exactly “new” concepts. Micah, in the Old Testament, contains the following verse so often referred to and quoted in many pulpits still today when the Gospel of Social Justice is taught: “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
The Bible is overflowing with admonitions that call for social justice as being key to walking closer to God. To follow the Great Commandment of Jesus to treat others with the same measure of Love that we would wish to be treated is to me not to merely treat others with love and respect and offer kindness and compassion, but also to offer acceptance, affirmation and support. Part of this support is reaching out to those who feel disenfranchised, as Jesus did in His days on Earth living a human life, and offering to come to the aid of those who we know are being treated unfairly and in a way which is devaluing or detrimental to their sense of well being, inner peace, and self.
For me, being a follower of the teachings of Christ is not merely about treating all others with the same love and respect and kindness with which I would want to be treated, or doing the honest and ethical thing as often as possible. It is doing what little I can to try and make this wild and often mysterious journey we call “life” and the world a better place. It is reaching out to the disenfranchised who I feel I can speak to in the hope that maybe my journey or my faith will give them a little hope. And, it is doing whatever I can to speak out for justice, or better facilitate justice in a manner that strives to be respectful of all various opinions, beliefs, and points of view.
The sin of silence
Regardless of what one’s concept of “sin” would be, many people try to define “sin” as something that we “do” to another which is hurtful to them and ultimately detrimental to our relationship with others, and ultimately, God. I would say that “sin” (or, to look at the original meaning of the word, “missing the mark”) is any time when we are either aware our actions are going to be hurtful to another and do them anyway, or when we are not being fully aware and act in a way which is hurtful. But today, I suggest that perhaps there is another possible definition to what “sin” is, that sometimes it is not something we “do” but rather the times when we allow bad things to be done to others. We are spiritually aware, we know there is something we should do, and we allow our own fears to prevent us from doing it; the times when we see injustice, know that our voice could make a difference, and still remain silent. I have in the past in prayer found myself help us past the fears that can cause these “sins of omission.”
I unfortunately seen it happen quite a bit. The times when the parent of a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child will be at a social event, and there is a group of people engaging in a vicious tirade against same-gender marriage or LGBT rights, or protection for the LGBT community against obvious, blatant discrimination, and the parents say nothing in defense, even thought they feel the injustice. The instances in which a Minister will firmly believe in his or her heart that their congregation should welcome and affirm LGBT people, but in order to save face with the denomination, will not take a stand and instead continue to allow the hatred and homophobia to be perpetuated by the more “traditional” parishioners his church who feel compelled to cling, in fear, to prejudices and archaic ideas which knowledge from science, psychology and other studies have taught us are in reality, no longer valid. The homosexual politician who pretends to be heterosexual, or the political figure with a homosexual child who denies them publicly in order to please his homophobic voters or receive donations from those who wish to promote an agenda of intolerance. Or, in other cases, the political figure who knows deeply in their heart and soul that it is wrong to legislate any type of discrimination or speech and laws which facilitate and create a breeding ground for homophobia, but in order to gain a larger voter base, refuse to take a solid stand against ideas and legislation which would deny rights to a class of people based solely on their sexuality or sexual orientation.
I recently talked to someone who was rather liberal in thought and, in fact, agreed with the “radical” types of beliefs I have in regards to sexuality, sexual orientation, and relationships and the definition of marriage. I was a bit surprised to discover that this person was a member of a denomination and a church in a small, rural Southern town traditionally known for its conservative views on such topics. Yet, in talking to this person, what I found was astonishing. Even among individual members of a congregation whose Pastor spoke vicious and incendiary rhetoric and vitriol towards anyone LGBT, quite a few members, when asked individually what they felt about LGBT rights had the same response: “What they do in their personal lives, their bedrooms, and who they are happy with and love is between them and the Lord, and it ain’t my business to decide. Jesus told everyone not to judge. If they want to love each other, they ought to have that right.”
Yet, they were afraid of “what others might say” or that certain individuals would not accept them if they knew that they individually did not subscribe to the “party line.” To be inclusive, as Christ admonished us to be, would be “nonconformist” and socially “unacceptable” to a few outspoken members of the congregation. This person, quite frustrated asked me, “What should those of us who agree with most of the teachings in regards to salvation, caring for others, and walking with God but who do not agree with the outdated discriminatory views do in this situation?”
My response was, “Well, what do you think Jesus would do?”
They were silent for a moment, and said, “I think He would stand up for the sacredness of every human being, despite what one’s individual opinion of that person’s identity might be.”
Sadly, I did not hear back after that. I pray that these people found the courage to stand up for what was right, and not just what was popular in the church they are in. I hope that is what happened, and that God gave them the strength to let Love overcome fear in this situation.
Growing in knowledge
All too often, the adherence to “Biblical inerrancy” is chosen over the advisements of Jesus, the founder of Christianity, to be inclusive. While such a creed of Biblical literalism may seem to be in favor of promoting the word of God to them, it supercedes the teachings of Jesus, without Whom Christianity would not exist. Much of Christianity as I see it portrayed today seems to be less about seeking to know God through Christ, and more about worship of the Bible, the book, itself. However, I recall a statement made by a worship leader in church once that has always stuck with me: “The problem is not the Bible itself. The problem is that humankind has allowed the Bible to be closed shut thousands of years ago and never reopened and continued to include the new knowledge and understanding God has blessed us with as we fully grew into spiritual maturity.” I could not agree more. The Bible is a book; we, humanity, are a part of God, the Most High, and if we blindly obey literal interpretation of a book rather than the words of Christ Himself, we could be missing out on a larger picture.
I feel it is a safe statement to say that despite the challenges we still struggle with and face, that since the days in which the Bible was written, the world is, overall, a better place – at least as far as our understanding of each other. We have evolved as human beings, and God has blessed us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding which was not available in that day and age. I feel that this type of evolving as human beings is nothing short of a wonderful gift of our Creator in order to facilitate humanity having a more peaceful, fulfilling and harmonious existence together and work to create the state of Heaven on Earth which Jesus alluded to in His teachings, which I feel were being communicated to us from the Source, from God. That is one reason why it is often perplexing to me and somewhat distressing why so many who profess to be followers of Christ are so resistant to incorporate this knowledge into our faith, in order that all may experience life more abundantly, that barriers of fear which we allow to create the illusion of separation between us might be broken down with love and understanding, that we may continue to evolve in our knowledge of God and embrace Godës Love, further creating the Heaven On Earth Jesus alluded to.
One thing I have noticed in the past 20 years or so is a huge increase among conservative Christianity to especially single out the LGBT Community for discrimination and as being especially “undeserving” of God’s Grace if they remain “unrepentant.” This recently has become more prevalent in the media, largely due to the current same-gender marriage debates that have become an integral part of American political forums and campaigns. While it is my opinion that this has been made a tactical issue not only to appeal to those whose religious beliefs condemn those who are LGBT, I feel that it is also meant to be an appeal to the faction of society which seems to need an “other”, a perceived “enemy” and the portion of society who, although they may not adhere to Biblical literalism being used to legislate, still cling to homophobia through ignorance. Some of the current bandwagon against same-gender marriage is self-righteous indignation, but a large portion of it is political posturing, using Christianity and faith as a “wedge issue.” It is far more politically than religiously motivated, and intended to divide. It is not only to appeal to the homophobia that tragically exists in the Christian faith, but also in secular society.
Take for instance the tragic announcement that for the first time in years, our government has proposed to amend the United States Constitution to discriminate against the LGBT Community, and insinuating that those opposed to such an amendment are guilty of dissention. Simultaneously, there has been a calling by the same proponents of this Amendment for the promotion in the public school system for “Abstinence ONLY” sexuality education, meaning that students are taught not to engage in any type of sexual intimacy prior to marriage. Now, if the education is teaching that any type of intimate relationship outside of marriage is “wrong,” and same-gender marriages are not allowed, well, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to interpret the message being sent. Unfortunately, this message will result in many young LGBT people being at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, as well as being educated that unless they are heterosexual, they are not equal to others. It will also facilitate many more LGBT people forced into the closet early on, which is, I believe, the calculated intent of these measures.
It is a touchy issue, but I think that the majority of problems that the Christian Church faces in regards to not wanting to take the final step towards ending the last bastion of discrimination that it faces-that of discriminating against those based strictly upon their sexual orientation-has a great deal to do with the manner in which the church addresses sexuality. While sexual orientation is not merely defined by what one’s individual sexuality may or not be, I really feel that a great deal of the stigma against the LGBT community by a great deal of the church has more to do with the unnecessary fears about a natural part of who we are as the human beings God Created us to be.
What I feel people have not yet comprehended is this: just as some people were created with different skin pigmentation, some people were created with different physical attributes, and some people were created with different genetics which have an effect on the level to which certain gender traits are manifested, I think that many studies have begun to reveal that people are created with different sexual orientations and sexualities separate from orientation. I feel that some are predestined to be attracted only to the opposite gender, some only to the same gender, and some equally to both genders. It is part of the mystery of God.
At times I wonder if God is merely exercising a diversity of creativity more than we could comprehend, or if God is seeing how we as human beings respond to those who are different from the “accepted mainstream,” knowing that eventually, we will grow and understand and learn to respond with Love and not fear. I’m inclined to think it could be a little of both, though I favor the former more than the latter. Whatever God’s Reasons for creating all of us so wonderfully diverse, I do feel that not questioning “Why?” but rather allowing Love to guide our lives in attempting to love and understand diversity, is the most appropriate response.
I think that one of the healthiest decisions that the Christian church could take-as some courageous denominations have already done-is to accept the fact that ideas and beliefs about human sexuality and the diversity contained therein have evolved and grown immensely in the interim between the times in which the Bible was written, and when Jesus walked the Earth (although His spiritual teachings to me are forever timeless and relevant regardless of one’s sexual orientation, choices or life), and that in the time elapsed between Biblical times and now, human understanding, especially in regards to sexuality and interpersonal relationships has also advanced considerably. Practices once feared to be “unnatural” have been shown through biological, physiological, and psychological research, in fact not to be unnatural; and what might have been deemed as “immoral or sinful” at one time due to the cultural and societal mores of the day do not always necessarily apply to this day and age.
The role of the church
In a book that played a part in the influence on my to turning to Christianity many years ago, Stephen Glauz-Todrank’s Transforming Christianity, he states the following:
“The fact is that people want to express their sexuality in a wide variety of ways. Some fit the mold of heterosexual monogamy in marriage, but many chafe under such restrictions. One set of rules does not work for everyone. What if we Christians were to encourage designing new laws and enforcing old ones that protect people from exploitative sexuality: rape, child pornography, pedophilia and all the rest? What if we educated ourselves and our children on the joys and risks of various sexual behaviors and then encouraged them to find the balance that is right for them?”
I would agree with this idea, as well as add to his statements that it is also imperative that we teach that homophobia and hatred are against the nature of Christ, and speak out in favor of same-gender marriage as well, but I really do feel that much of the issue is the terror of sexuality.
I have seen, in a few liberal churches, this very sentiment being expressed and this very sensitive topic being addressed in a positive manner. In some of the sermons I have read from the Metropolitan Community Churches (the San Francisco congregation and others) I have seen the reality of sexuality acknowledged, and the denomination I belong to, the United Church Of Christ, has partnered with the Unitarian Universalist Association to create the comprehensive sexuality education program “Our Whole Lives” which is advocated by the Justice And Peace Ministries of the UCC.
While I do admire the sentiment of such ventures, I am not suggesting that the church itself take on the role of “sexuality education.” Despite the intentions of programs such as “Our Whole Lives” I feel that the nuts and bolts of sexuality education really is a realm that belongs to other institutions. I feel it is no more the church’s place to teach sexuality just than it is the place of the public school system to teach one specific religion, but rather acknowledge that religions are diverse and a fulfilling aspect to many lives just as diverse sexualities.
I do feel that the role of the church is not to endorse nor to condemn specific sexual behavior or practices, but rather spiritual behaviors and practices, and to teach the Gospel of Christ as it can be applied today regardless of one’s personal decisions and identity. In my opinion, the church is not there to teach sexual morality save for the admonition to avoid dishonest, unethical, or exploitative behavior that lacks consideration and respect for others and the admonition that sexuality in all of its diverse forms is a gift to be respected, and remember that with the freedom to be who we are comes a responsibility to the emotional, physical and spiritual well being of others. The church is there to promote other values; to teach what Jesus had to say about revealing the mystery of God within, becoming closer to God, how to relate and interact with others, and how to make the world a better place.
If one follows the spiritual teachings of Christ, and takes them to heart, I think that is all that is necessary regardless of one’s take on the nature of sexuality and sexual orientation as He teaches the necessary ethics which are timeless and can be applied to any Age or to a society regardless of how much we have evolved in understanding. Jesus was a spiritual teacher, not a sex educator, but He did stress a set of ethics all regardless of sexuality or sexual orientation may benefit from. When one goes back to the New Commandment or the “Greatest Commandment” or the “Golden Rule” it quickly becomes apparent that regardless of sexual orientation or practice, exploitative behavior, lying and betraying, or doing harm to one another are all things which can interfere with a sense of Oneness with God, and therefore “sin.”
But I also feel that it does not hurt to encourage honest education, and in some cases, assist to facilitate society’s moving past outdated and archaic notions and views about sexuality and sexual orientation by encouraging the promotion of honest, non-biased education. By all means, teach abstinence as a valid choice regardless of sexual orientation, but not the only choice, and provide the necessary information of health protection in regards to sexuality. Acknowledge that we, as a collective Creation of God have evolved in our understanding, and acknowledge that education is a step towards preventing discrimination. Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding leads to acceptance, rather than mere tolerance, of diversity.
I wish we could more fully acknowledge that the purpose of the church Jesus founded was not to legislate or govern or regulate the sexuality and sexual practices of and what goes on in the intimate life of consenting adults in their relationships, but rather to promote an ethic of peace, honesty and respect for others and individual responsibility. We need to do what we can to cease the demonizing of a natural function, and express that sexuality in and of itself is not negative, bad or “evil,” it is how one chooses to express it that can render it so. Expressed in a way that is respectful of others, it is a blessing; expressed in a way that lacks consideration for others, it can lead to hurt. Our sexuality and sexual orientation is not a force to be feared, but rather to be understood and respected as something real, a part of how God made us however different, a gift to be used wisely, how we were born.
Don’t misunderstand what I mean. Sexual orientation itself is definitely not strictly centered around sexual acts or behaviors, it goes far deeper on levels beyond the physiological, on an emotional, psychological, and regardless of what some may think, a spiritual level. But I really do feel that much of the stigma that has allowed sexual orientation to remain a tolerated prejudice has to do with the fact that many people are still choosing to live in a state of fear about sexuality in general, and particularly same gender sexuality. When that issue is brought out into the open and shown not to be a force of “evil” and that our impulses as human beings can, in fact be trusted when we allow honest education to be combined with cultural awareness and be tempered by the loving ethics of Christ, I think that the last aspect of discrimination that has divided Christians and society for so long will begin to break down, and relegated to the same level as other forms of discrimination such as racial and gender based discrimination that the church once sanctioned and “allowed.” While it is true that there are still a few denominations out there that continue to perpetuate gender and race based discrimination that may not wish to break down these barriers, I do feel that there will be some which have already grown to understand that in the teachings of Christ there really can be no discrimination and which have already progressed to being more inclusive who will end the discrimination against LGBT people as well as being against the nature of Jesus.
But although there are a great many congregations-both liberal congregations and theologically conservative but socially liberal congregations-which embrace the LGBT community and the diversity contained within with open arms, in my opinion, too rarely does one see these ministries doing enough outreach. Yes, the LGBT support organizations within these churches do so-but the ministry is often silent, and more of a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as in: “We will not ask you to change who you are to belong here, but don’t tell the rest of the congregation who you are openly.” While the idea that they will accept people “privately” regardless of sexual orientation, the environment created is to me not truly “inclusive” and certainly not really conducive to promoting social equality and justice. To me, it seems to be creating tolerance rather than acceptance, and the two are not one and the same thing.
So far, aside from many wonderful denominational efforts, few denominations and congregations make the required effort of outreach to the disenfranchised and spiritually hungry in the LGBT Community as I feel and believe that Jesus would. While many, the Metropolitan Community Church and the United Church Of Christ, for example, do make a great effort towards reaching out to those people, many do not reach out to the friends and supporters of the LGBT community in mainstream society. While it may be premature to expect the majority of Christianity to speak out in favor of LGBT rights at this time, we need to encourage all Christians within the LGBT community to speak up for equal civil rights for the LGBT community not only on the grounds of secular humanism, but on the grounds that discrimination against anyone for who they are is un-Christian, if one studies and embraces the essence of what Christ taught. I, and many others, would cite homophobia, bi-phobia and transgender-phobia as being against the spiritual teachings of Jesus or what He would have done. I would even go so far as to deem homophobia a “sin” as I feel all hate is a “sin.” I feel that allowing one’s fear and misunderstanding to foster a sense of loathing and the withholding of rights to others is “missing the mark,” and not what God intended, or “what Jesus would do.”
Despite what the media, which I have found to be predominantly controlled and dictated by groups with more of a discriminatory or condescending mindset to the LGBT community, would have most of us believe, there are a lot of non-LGBT people who are adamantly supportive of LGBT rights. However, there are many people within our community who remain silent and that whom I feel could be doing more to speak up. This would be the portion that has been, for the most part, felt the prison of fear push them into the closet. Much of this is due to the current hostile climate towards the community-further exacerbated by the burgeoning debate about same-gender marriage as it becomes an “issue” in the next American presidential election-and the travesty to civil rights that is the last bastion of “socially acceptable” and sanctioned prejudice and discrimination: homophobia, which also manifests in bi-phobia and trans-phobia. And it is a tragedy, for there truly is a larger majority of voices that could be crying out for justice in society than the chorus we currently hear. And if there were ever a time to be vigilant, that time is NOW.
One such group of people can be found in a portion-a sometimes maligned group-within the LGBT community, and that is the diverse yet open minded group of people that comprises the bisexual community. Many in the bisexual community considered me crazy when they ask how can you possibly be who you are and live how you live and still want to call yourself a “Christian”? It is tragic that their understanding of Christianity has been tainted and colored in an unfavorable light due to the actions of a few individuals who do not in reality speak for the majority of the Christian faith. I try my best to educate them on God’s Love.
I have had people ask me, “Why did you choose to be out as bisexual? You could have just said that she is your girlfriend and that he is your ‘best friend’ and avoided all of the conflict.”
I replied, “Sure, but that would to me be wrong. By hiding, I keep others in hiding. But by coming out, no matter what type of prejudice I might be confronted with, I am letting people know that I am not ashamed of who and what I am, and they should not be either.”
I find myself in two different worlds and it’s not always easy to take a stand. In my church, when they voted to be open and affirming to gays and lesbians, I was the one who spoke up for bisexual and transgender to be listed in that as well. Being an out bisexual comes with its challenges, which is why, unfortunately, a great many bisexuals choose not to be. It can be difficult when hardly anyone seems to understand, but it is a challenge I gladly accept and in my heart I know that this is Godës Will for my life, perhaps one of the reasons of why I was created to be who and what I am. I truly feel it an imperative to share the love, affirmation and abundant blessings God has given me with others.
But this is not merely for self affirmation, personal gain of any type, or wanting to “belong” to the LGBT Civil Rights Movement. It is not done with smug self-righteousness or any self-serving purpose. For all the flak I do get as a consensually non-monogamous bisexual (no matter the level of honesty, commitment and ethics that I practice in my relationships with both my female and my male partner), many times it would be easier both in heterosexual and gay/lesbian culture to remain secretive about these things. But “easier” is not always “better.” It takes courage to be out, and courage is something that I have prayed for “without ceasing” as I have often found myself facing harsh criticism not only from those who cling to homophobic ideas in the heterosexual world but from the gay and lesbian community as well.
In some ways, the way in which some factions of the gay and lesbian community choose not to include the bisexual and transgender community in the struggle for equal civil rights is comparable, on a level, to the way in which the African American community in the church is hesitant to include sexual orientation in the fight for civil rights. However, even if my voice from my perspective is not always heard, I still strive to speak out.
My entire purpose-why I continue to speak about the things which I do, to contribute to Whosoever and in other places from this unique and unorthodox perspective, is to reach out to others like myself out there, and to let them know that they are not alone. On the occasion that someone writes to me to tell me that they were given hope by something I said, it is warming to my heart and makes me feel as if I have done something to fulfill a purpose God has made for my life, I have made a difference. Acceptance and understanding, as well as a sense of peace and belonging, often comes one slow step at a time.
Bisexuals as bridge builders
Many bisexuals are accused by both heterosexual and gay/lesbian culture as being “fence sitters,” unable to “make a choice.” Yet that is not what I wish to be known as. The world God Created, as I understand it is not “black and white,” “gay or straight,” or “for or against” but all colors of diversity. I DID make a choice, the choice to honor the unique person God made me to be, to live my truth in a way which is loving and respectful of others, and to reach out to others and pass on the gift of Love and Acceptance I found through God as revealed in the teachings of Jesus. And part of that choice is to foster open communication between the cultural divides in this society, to be a “bridge builder” instead.
Bisexuals can bring some unique perspectives, as well as some delicate issues and challenges to the table of spiritual debate and LGBT issues as they pertain to the struggle for civil rights. On one hand, we can at times be seen as “detrimental” to the issue, as we challenge the assumption held by some that sexual orientation is a “choice.” But is this really a good assumption in order to be accepted? I would disagree. It does not matter if one’s sexual orientation is choice or not, I feel it is still not grounds for discrimination.
We can also be perceived as a threat to the fight for same-gender marriage (and especially those of us in relationships with a partner of both genders) but the truth is, at least for me and other bisexuals I have met in similar relationships, is that regardless of what our personal lives are, we support the full and equal rights for same gender couples to marry monogamously. And, despite what many might believe, we would not attempt to make the state-nor any church-recognize a marriage between more than two people. Those issues are, at least for me and the woman and man I am in relationship with, between us and God, and I realize and understand that to speak out now for a formal recognition of such a relationship could impede the struggle for civil rights for gay and lesbian couples, as well as bisexuals who have chosen monogamy with a same sex partner, to marry. I feel it would not be prudent to bring that into the same gender marriage debate.
One factor which I do feel is important in discussions of LGBT equal rights is a deeper consideration of the bisexual and transgender contingent without impeding upon the struggle for equal rights for gay and lesbian individuals. Some of the issues that can be addressed in a discussion of the “B” and “T” when it comes to the LGBT civil rights movement may not be the easiest to address, for sure. I can only personally speak from a bisexual perspective in that regard; but there are some different things to take into consideration. For one, the fact that there are many bisexuals such as me who have chosen poly-fidelity, the commitment to a partner of both genders, as an ethical and moral relationship. I feel that there must be some way for the church to be more accepting of such situations while at the same time extolling monogamy as an ethical and moral choice for others. I’m definitely not suggesting that the church promote casual or meaningless sex or promiscuity (as many would accuse this of being) but rather acknowledge both poly-fidelity and monogamy as valid options for relationships.
These are tough and difficult but necessary issues and questions to tackle, no doubt, but I feel it is time the evolving church did address them in this day and age without imposing restrictions on individual freedoms, practices and decisions best left to the people involved and God, or a specific “do not” list other than “do not harm others” emotionally or physically. A discussion that can foster education and understanding, bringing diverse views together rather than alienating some at the expense of others; finding the common ground. And then, working towards mutual acceptance of all people, one step at a time.
Some churches don’t want to touch the issue of a bisexual with multiple (female and male) partners. While I understand their logic behind being afraid to offer support to those of us who are not in the traditional relationship format, I feel extraordinarily blessed to have found some in the Christian faith who will listen and embrace us with an open mind. I feel that a great many Christians who identify as bisexual, while we may not be heard just yet by many congregations, can play a part in educating those outside of the church in secular society of the injustice that homophobia does to the LGBT Members of society. When I speak out against homophobia, I do so not only from the vantage point of being a bisexual, but from the vantage point of being a Christian who feels it is strongly against the teachings of Jesus to discriminate against one simply for being who they are. Speaking out against homophobia is imperative regardless of orientation.
“Fear not …”
I feel that it is not right to sanction an attitude of unequal rights to a person or a group of people. Regardless of what your opinion and personal belief system says about someone’s sexuality, it is not in the Way of Jesus to denigrate and devalue them as inferior and I strongly feel that if people are acting in a way that is respectful of others, they should not be criticized for being who they are. To do so-to remain adherent to Biblical literalism and in doing so, acting in a way that is discriminatory to others and creates friction between those people and their sense of oneness with God-is to become as the Pharisees which Jesus denounced for allowing Law to override Love and attempting to make those people feel separate from God, keeping them out of the Kingdom of Heaven (which I understand Jesus to mean as a sense of Oneness with God). It is not what I feel Jesus would do, and I feel He would weep at the way His name is being used.
It is often said that the LGBT Community seeks “special rights,” but I feel nothing could be further from the truth; it is simply equal rights. Some do not wish for the struggle for LGBT Rights to be compared to the struggle of African-Americans for civil rights, and issues past such as the abolition of slavery. Yet, I would compare it. The repression which comes from having to silence oneself about their sexual orientation, about feeling unequal in society, about having to feel as if unless they “repent” they are unacceptable to God and unworthy of equal rights is, to me, a type of slavery. Many conservative Christians are speaking out in the media now that LGBT Rights cannot be compared to civil rights struggles for African-Americans.
But why is it that you don’t hear of liberal Christians and LGBT and LGBT affirming Christians in the media more? Why is it that you so rarely hear a religious leader speak out against the discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people? Why do denominations such as the Metropolitan Community Church, The United Church Of Christ, and many churches in the United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, American Baptist and Episcopalian who have openly embraced and accepted the LGBT Community not speak out more to the mainstream media that they have taken a firm stance against anti-LGBT rhetoric? I have heard arguments that “the liberal Christians and the LGBT Christians, and the Christians who speak of sexual diversity in a positive and non-judgmental manner are not ëtrue’ Christians as they ëpick and choose’ which parts of the Bible to follow.” Yet, they cannot seem to see the hypocrisy of the same thing they are accusing non-literalist believers as they dole out judgment, deny basic human rights, and engage in false witness against the LGBT community.
My personal take is the harsh truth exists that we currently live in a culture of fear, and that fear is what people seem to listen to more than Love because of this. But I think that fear is, in fact, the root of all evil. As it was in the time of Jesus and the Disciples, many seem consumed by fear still today. I do not see this as being Biblically based, or at least not based in the life and teachings of Jesus. “Fear not” is said 365 times in Scriptures, one for every day. Jesus Himself said, “…be not afraid” (John 6:19), and there is the oft quoted verse from 1 John 4:18 that “the perfect love casteth out fear.”
Yet tragically, much of mainstream Christianity is based on an ethic of fear and not love. Fear of sexuality. Fear of things we do not understand on a personal level. The unfounded fears I have heard that “if we allow same gender relationships and marriages to be affirmed, then the human race will not propagate” (which, considering the dangerous overpopulation the word faces, is not only an unfounded fear but a frivolous one as well). Fear of hell. Fear of God’s Wrath. Much of the Christianity we seem to hear the most about seems more about fear, and not love, although it is love that brings us closer to God and fear which creates the illusion that we are separate from God. In order to facilitate this type of fear driven theology, an “enemy” is needed, in some cases another religion, those who don’t believe what is “required” by a certain group, in some cases another culture, and tragically, those who are LGBT. My point is that I feel it will not be until Christianity can abandon the ethic based on fear and embrace one based instead on love that more churches will be able to fight for the equal rights of LGBT people.
Until then, it may be up to brave and courageous individuals to take a stand; in some cases, these individuals have formed groups fighting for LGBT equality on spiritual grounds. Mel White’s Soulforce is an awesome example. (I truly think and still maintain that Mel White may very well be the LGBT voice for this generation as Martin Luther King, Jr. was the voice for another civil rights struggle) I feel he has done a great deal for setting a truly Christian example. One of the most publicly Christian, or Christ-like acts I have ever seen someone do was by a heterosexual friend of the LGBT Community, the father of Matthew Shepard, when he chose to forgive the men who murdered his son for no other reason than the fact that he was gay, and they felt the had the “right” to take his life upon that basis, and chose not to seek the death penalty. Such examples send a strong message to those who would hide prejudice behind faith.
Recently I watched a debate between a representative of the Human Rights Campaign and one of the individuals who wrote the “Federal Marriage Initiative.” For those who are not aware of this (and if you are not, then you should be), it is the proposed Amendment to the United States Constitution to “define marriage as being between one man and one woman.” What I found the most interesting about this debate was that while the LGBT representative presented a diverse array of legitimate arguments against the Amendment, the individual supporting the Amendment did not seem to have any legitimate argument aside from “setting the proper example for children.” I particularly liked the assertion she made in response to the old and tired argument that equal rights based on sexual orientation were not valid and not comparable to equal rights based on race because “sexual orientation is a choice.” Like many, the woman from HRC did not feel that sexual orientation truly IS a choice, but she wisely stated that even if it were a choice, a person’s rights and equality as a human being should be protected by Law. After all, for one to choose the belief in Biblical Literalism, as the opponents of the LGBT very often do, is protected.
Even if being homosexual, transgender, or in my case, bisexual were a choice (which in my heart I do not feel that it is), shouldn’t we honor the rights of the individual to pursue their own truth in such a fashion that is loving and respectful of others? For some, this means monogamous marriage or relationships, for others it may mean fidelity to more than one partner. I feel that the only “choice” with sexual orientation is the choice to live in a state of inner peace and self confidence, a state of self awareness and actualization of who God Created them to be, and a state of being true to that person, or the choice to live in a hell of self repression, self hatred, and denial. Once can choose a life of love and embracing who God made them to be, or choose a life of fear, repression, and anger. It would seem to be that Christianity would be on the side of the former-the choice of love- rather than the latter “choice.”
There seems to be so much talk among many congregations about civil rights, yet so many things that I feel the church could be doing which are being left undone. What I feel are some of the biggest problems facing society today-racism, sexism and homophobia-are not addressed as frequently as they should be to begin with. Homophobia, unfortunately, is often not addressed at all by many religious leaders, on the grounds that fear of anything same-gender is a required accompaniment of Christianity.
I honestly, as I have said so many times, do not think Jesus cared “one jot or one tittle” what one’s sexual orientation or sexuality would be. He sure would have a few things to say about homophobia, though. Homophobia, the type of fear of those who are not heterosexual, which is being perpetuated both in many churches and in secular society, is hurtful to others, and therefore against the very fabric of what Christ was all about. I feel it is the duty of the LGBT Christian Community to put aside any differences we may have within, and let this be known to the world. It’s time to find out common ground and stand together.
In Christ, religious laws are overridden by an ethic of love for one another. Love IS the Law by which we are urged to govern society, and what we sow, is also eventually what we reap. If we sow defensiveness, that too is what we shall reap. As Jesus illustrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), it is not our ability to adhere to religious laws and codes that is important to God, but our ability to show unconditional love and compassion, first by showing our gratitude to God through Love for others, and through not allowing any prejudices we have to override that ability to be loving.
Regardless of our individual differences, or how some may have radical views as opposed to more traditional thought, we are all one, all made by God. I think we should “be not afraid” and trust in God that this movement will not hurt society nor Christianity, not making it less, but more, sacred . I hope that the liberal and especially the LGBT based congregations will call on the deep faith that we have, and rise to the challenge of speaking up. As for those churches who will maintain discrimination based on sexual orientation, one could remind them what Jesus said about “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45) and that regardless of the areas on which we disagree theologically and socially, there still is a calling to be truly compassionate. After all, even those who might disagree with us have to admit that Jesus did say not to judge (Matthew 7), regardless of whose beliefs we feel are the “correct” ones.
How to get started
It starts with the individual, and one might ask, with all of the discrimination still rampant, “What can I do to help?” It can be as simple as something that at first glance could be seemingly insignificant, such as making a difference individually. Whenever I hear someone discriminating against anyone LGBT for any reason, I stand up, and let it be known that this is not acceptable. Why? Because I feel that it is the right thing to do. Not only that, but I feel it an imperative to do so in accordance with what Jesus taught. I feel that when we deny another human being equality, or stand by idly and allow discrimination to occur, we are doing as Peter did when he denied Jesus (Matthew 26.34 and 75).
The Earth and the life with which God has blessed us all is all common ground, the same ground, and it is all Holy ground. We may come from different perspectives and be all wonderfully diverse and different, but we are all children of the same origin, the Most High. We are all unique Creations crafted by God, diverse in so many ways, and those differences include diverse spiritual interpretations, sexual orientations and sexualities as well as differences in ethnicity and gender, and it is time that we let go of our need for an “other” in order to feel strong in our faith.
Let us attempt to break down the barriers of fear which divide us from one another and from God, the barriers of black and white, LGBT and heterosexual, liberal and conservative, and so on. So long as there must be an “other” to be left out, demonized, and ostracized by the many, then we are in my opinion still not listening to what God has to say through Jesus. If certain groups are left out, then we are leaving out a part God intended to be a part of this world. By all means, the Christian Church should not abandon the teachings of Christ about Love and Compassion nor discount the potential for spiritual wisdom, social commentary, and knowledge about human nature and how we have learned about one another and social relations over time as God’s Creation that can be gleaned and extracted from the Bible outside of the teachings of Jesus. But it is time for us to write some new chapters.
The only source for strength in the face of adversity which faces us as LGBT individuals is ultimately from God alone, and the hearts, minds and souls God Created us with, and I feel that it is time that we evolved spiritually to the point where no type of discrimination against love and individual happiness is acceptable, on both humanitarian, sacred and Christian grounds. To continue to allow homophobia and hate, especially in the “name of Jesus,” is to me to refute all He was, and is all about. No matter who you are, God has a purpose for you; that purpose could very well be for your unique voice to make a difference. Let us cry out for social justice, not merely from an LGBT perspective, but because we are Christians.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.