My Excellent Cyberspace Adventure (Or, How Not To Win Friends and Influence People)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Since I found a church home, at long last, a little over a year ago, God has been doing a work of spiritual healing in me. It has been good for me to be in a place where everyone — gay and straight, black and white, young and old, liberal and conservative — is not only welcomed, but cherished. It has helped me to become a more tolerant, less angry person. I now realize that many who disagree with me do so not because they are monsters, but because they don’t understand me. And even, sometimes, because they are right.

Spiritual growth can, however, bring about yet another roadblock to our progress. It can make us overly pleased with ourselves. I’ve been pretty proud, lately, of what a good, kind, understanding Christian I’m becoming. So God just had to take me down a few pegs.

As a relatively-new blogger, I frequently post comments on the blogs of others. This is the only way I know of to generate recognition for my own blog, and it helps to keep me honest and my writing sharp. I’ve learned a lot about how to write a blog from visiting those of others. And I thought I was up for any challenge — until I ran across the sort of lying, homophobic garbage that always makes my blood boil. Suddenly, I was right back in the ring with my gloves on.

On one of my favorite blogs, a commenter made the claim that in countries where same-sex unions are legally recognized, there are higher numbers of children being raised in single-parent homes. Now, this may or may not be true, and it is not my purpose here either to prove or disprove it. But what this individual was trying to say (or at least darkly hint) was that the single-parent homes were the fault of same-sex couples. As the overwhelming majority of parents are heterosexual, this claim is so ludicrous on its face that it could not go unchallenged.

I still think I was absolutely right to issue that challenge. My mistake was in having done so when I was angry. I can’t help being sick and tired of listening to lies about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, especially when such groaning whoppers come from self-proclaimed good, moral Christian folks. But I should definitely have taken a chill pill before taking anybody on.

Boy, howdy, I was attacked on nearly every side! As far as I can tell, all my assailants were straight people, thought there was one of the inevitable “some-of-my- best-friends-are-gay” types, who — as usual for this sort — leaves you wondering why the hell any self-respecting gay person would give him or her the time of day. The most interesting (and relentlessly vicious) assault came from someone very, very angry because I — as lesbian — dared to think I am a Christian. Was this guy a raving fundamentalist? No, he was a dogmatically-vehement atheist!

I wish I could say this was the first time I have had this seemingly-bizarre experience, but it has happened more times than I can count. Many of those who reject religious belief seem to need their Christians to be as narrow-minded, bigoted, hateful and legalistic as possible. I guess this is how they justify the decision they have made. Did I say “decision,” rather than somehow-inevitable reaction? You bet I did — because a decision is exactly what it is.

The choice to believe or not to believe is, for each of us, always and entirely our own. Nobody else can make that choice for us, nor can anybody un-make it for us. We can no more credibly blame the choice we make on others than they can blame theirs on us (and the fact that “they’re letting gay people be Christians these days” did, indeed, seem to be my atheist assailant’s excuse for why he wanted no part of the Christian faith). Whatever choice we ultimately make, regardless of whatever excuses we may offer for it, is based upon our own priorities. He chose to be an atheist, and I chose to be a Christian — and the fact that I am gay left me no less free to make my decision than his apparent heterosexuality did his.

Divorced heterosexuals raising children by themselves, as well as those who have walked away from their parental responsibilities, need to stop blaming their problems on gays and lesbians. I am tired of whiny, childish, irresponsible people of every orientation. We are the adults, and whether we have kids of our own or not, we have a younger generation to raise. Some people need to climb out of their playpens and get over it. And trying to make statistics say something they do not does nothing but slander the innocent — most of whom, thank you very much, have been slandered quite enough already.

My donnybrook with those other blog commenters was not my finest moment. It showed how far I have yet to go in channeling my anger — well-justified as it is — in a positive direction instead of a negative one. I had much to say that deserved a hearing, but throughout that entire thread, nobody was willing to listen to a thing besides my all-too-obvious rage. They very well may not have listened to me, no matter how calm and clear-headed I had been, but I was my own worst enemy, handing them an easy-as-pie excuse to pooh-pooh me. All I heard, in response to that I said to them, was how “irrational,” “hysterical,” “hostile” and “self-indulgent” I was, and unfortunately, about at least that much, they were right.

I missed a golden opportunity to witness to some obviously-very-ignorant people about my faith. Who knows when (if ever) they will get another chance to hear the viewpoint of a lesbian Christian? The experience was so embarrassing, I struggled against the idea of writing about it for Whosoever. But as it highlights what, it seems to me, has become a common struggle for us all, I knew I had to share it here. God allowed it to happen for a reason.

The real division, in our society, is not between “Left” and “Right,” but between those who will communicate civilly and maturely with others and those who will not. Those on the fringes — be they Left or Right — will never sit down, break bread in peace and calmly listen to one another. They are invested not in peace, but in war. Their problem is the same as that of the leaders of our military-industrial-complex State: they need enemies, they need to be at war, and they need to hate. If the rest of us don’t wake up very soon, and realize that they are playing us — like pawns in a gigantic and deadly chess-game — then they will destroy our very civilization itself.

Nobody gets “played” more cynically and callously, in our culture-war-torn society, than gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Few on either “side” give a rat’s ass about us, one way or another. But there are some (and a growing number) on both sides who do. They are our heroes, our real champions, and we should encourage them by thanking them every chance we get. Truth be told, and human nature being what it is, that’s the only way we’ll ever get more of them.

Not everybody on the Religious Right is bad. Many are very good folks who sincerely want to live godly lives. It is criminal, the way the Religious Right corrupts and exploits them. But we must never forget that it plays upon some very real fears. If those fears are not justified (and of course, most of us think they are not), then we need to stop screaming nasty names at them, accusing every one of them of being one-dimensionally evil, and either ignoring or making fun of their fears.

There is nothing wrong with not wanting a very divisive issue (ours or any other) to split the Church. I don’t believe other Christians are horrible fiends because they are concerned about this. If we can’t see things, even once in a while, from their point of view, then why on earth should they bother trying to see ours? It defies logic that we should expect to receive consideration unless we are willing to give it in exchange.

In the course of her own histrionics about gay marriage, single-parent households and the supposed decline of western civilization (she got quite as emotional as I did, though for some reason only my emotions seemed “self-indulgent” to her), my fact-fudging adversary bemoaned the rapid societal change of the Sixties and Seventies. Now, a lot of good things happened during that period, as well, but I am old enough to remember it firsthand, and I can tell you, it was a scary time to be a kid. My parents had a lot of the same concerns that she does, and they certainly weren’t devils from Hell. It must have been a scary time to be a parent, too. I can hardly fault many people for being suspicious of further, seemingly-rapid societal change — especially when they don’t understand how it might also benefit themselves.

I don’t remember whether it was the lady herself or someone else commenting on that thread, but the possibility was raised that the reason there are more single- parent households in countries tolerant toward same-sex unions (if, indeed, there are) could be that people in those societies generally tend to be more permissive. In which case, perhaps it is that overall, indiscriminate permissiveness itself that is the cause of the high divorce rate. This makes sense to me. And though I wish more people supported our rights because it is simply the right thing to do, instead of because so many seem to find all conventional morality irksome and out-of-date, it’s hardly our fault so few of the champions of conventional morality bother to be real Christians and respect us as human beings.

Absolutely nothing is stopping these self-appointed guardians of morality from actually living the morality in which they claim to believe. Whosoever is a prophetic voice, calling them to account for their hypocrisy. If all those dastardly, permissive countries are really pulling the pillars of civilization down around our ears, that hardly justifies the way their detractors parade around behind the Banner of the Cross, yet show no willingness to do anything but crucify Christ all over again every chance they get. Truly Christian civilization is a balance of personal duty and compassion toward others. Whosoever performs a valuable service in calling our society back to that sense of balance.

There are also those who fear that full GLBT inclusion in the Church will lead to a greater general laxity in the way the Bible is interpreted. Of course GLBT Christians are no more likely to all agree with one another on religious doctrine than are their straight counterparts, nor should we be expected to toe a single line. But it harms the cause of full inclusion when we ignore or antagonize gay Christians more conservative than ourselves — and I hear people in our community do this all the time. It puts forth the very same erroneous and counterproductive message they so often hear from the Right-Wing churches that have rejected them, which is that gay Christians cannot be (as they understand it) “real” Christians.

Who, exactly, is a “real” Christian and who isn’t is a common argument in the GLBT Christian community — and it is a tiresome one. We need to stop letting straight Christians set us against each other like that. We’re ALL real Christians, and Whosoever is one place we can all meet and exchange ideas (at least in cyberspace) and have a really excellent adventure together as we grow in faith. I’m not afraid to share my foibles and follies with you here, because many of you have done the same with me. I trust you, and our ability to be community together, wherever in this big, wide world we are.

Some people are simply never going to change their minds about the reality of the Virgin Birth, the divinity of Christ, the doctrine of the Trinity, the bodily Resurrection, the atonement or the existence of an eternal Heaven and Hell. I know, because in all likelihood, I am one of them. I came out as a lesbian, and gave up trying to make myself straight, because I found out I could be a traditional, Bible- believing Christian AND be self-affirmingly gay. Had I made no such discovery, I would still be in that closet, doggedly trying to make myself straight. I don’t mind if you make fun of me, but please don’t go making it more difficult for me to minister to those still wrestling with this issue by furthering the impression that gay Christians have no choice but to interpret the entire Bible as liberally as possible.

Make whatever choice seems right to you, but don’t forget that it is a choice. The number of options open to us grows greater every day. Hip-hip-hooray — go us! If we expect others to become more tolerant of us, we must learn not only to return the favor to them, but also to be more tolerant of each other.

Dogmatic, rigidly anti-gay Christians have become so twisted, so spiritually sick, that they would rather see us in Hell than in church. Think about it. It’s enough to chill your blood. These are sorry, petty, pathetic little people, and the fact that they have the gall to call themselves Christians is a disgrace to Jesus and to everything He ever stood for. When we take upon ourselves the limitations they would impose on us, we only sabotage our own freedom.

Whosoever stands in a unique position, perhaps in all of Christian history. We can help rescue the Christian faith from the Religious Right, and to bring true renewal to the Church. But we can only accomplish these things if we are careful to see our adversaries as individuals, most of whom are trying to live the Christian life the best they can. They are not evil, merely misguided. The irony is that they think they need to rescue us, when they are really the ones in need of rescue.

We must remain genuine and faithful Christians, even when our adversaries refuse to be. As time goes by, the contrast between us will become increasingly clear to all honest people of goodwill. Whosoever can be a forum to help broker a lasting and healing peace in the Body of Christ. God does not take sides; God is interested only in justice and the truth. And we must be, too.

We will never reach those whose hearts are closed and whose minds are already made up. But only God knows for sure just whose mind is made up and whose remains, at least a tiny crack, open. May I never again behave in such a way that I disgrace the very people whose cause I’m trying to advocate. May I try harder — much harder — to make a distinction between the Religious Right and the many good people who rally behind it because they have fears I have done nothing to help assuage. And may I always strive to be one of the peacemakers Christ extolled in His beatitudes.

All believers and seekers, of every orientation, are welcome here at Whosoever. We advocate the full and unconditional inclusion in the Church of everyone who wants to be there. On other issues, we explore many points of view, but we do not take sides. We realize that GLBT Christians exist, as do straight ones, on ALL points of the spectrum, both theologically and politically. And we are here to serve every one of you, without exception.

Please be patient with us. We have a daunting task ahead. It is always “safer” on the dry land of an island, while under the feet of those of us on the bridge rush troubled waters, indeed. But we are determined to reach all we can with the hope of peace and reconciliation. The only way to stay, truly, above those troubled waters is to remain balanced between both sides of the shore.