One of the Bible verses that has often made so much sense to me is one of Paul’s. I can honestly say that while I do not agree with many of the statements attributed to Paul, his views on salvation, love, the nature of Christ, and the Love of God seem to be right on. The verse that has meant a lot to me in my own personal faith journey has not been the one about “all are one in Christ Jesus” or the one about “Faith Hope and Love,” though those have played a key part in my spiritual growth and wellness. The one that has been the best possible description of my faith journey, as well as that of many others, not only many of us in the LGBT Community but those outside it as well, has been , “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” For myself, an openly bisexual, polyfidelitous man who is also a Christian very seriously committed to following the loving teachings of Jesus, it has been the catch phrase at times. That road to salvation can be a rough and rocky one, but standing where I do now, having weathered that storm, one I could never have made it through without God’s Help, I say to all, it is a road worth traveling, and that once one arrives at the destination it leads to, any rough places along the way suddenly appear to be speed bumps rather than the major hurdles they seemed to represent along the journey as we were navigating through them.
Those familiar with my writing may be well aware that I fall into the liberal category of Christian thinking. I do not see the Bible as literally true, but I definitely believe God is within the pages of the Bible, that it represents the human need and journey to understand God. I believe the Bible tells the story of how a people of faith long before us were radically transformed by a socially liberal, human yet truly Divine, and uncommonly loving human being named Jesus Christ. He who showed us through His life and death and ultimate resurrection as the Holy Spirit that through our faith in God and goodness of heart, anything we dream is possible. He showed us the way our Creator would ask us to live — with love and respect for all others. Prophet, psychologist, liberator, social activist, spiritual leader — I feel that he was all these things in addition to Lord and Saviour to all humankind. I believe that if the Religious Right were there to experience His ministry of healing, they might very well be appalled at His unconditional Love and inclusiveness, amazed that the head of the church they represent expressed no condemnation for all human beings who come to Him, regardless of their sexual orientation. All He requires, and all God requires, in my faith, is an honest, loving, caring, open, compassionate heart, and a sincere willingness to show our gratitude for God’s abundance of Love through Love for our fellow persons.
I was not always as free and happy as I am right now, and getting to this point is something I could never have done without God’s Help and all the human angels God sent me as answers to my prayers. I was never able to accept myself as God Created me, as a bisexual, until I accepted God into my heart and made a commitment to Christ to always do my best to be a loving human being. What a long, strange trip that has been — one filled with joy and tears, sorrow and happiness, fear and wonder, and faith, hope and love-all the good stuff that the best Bible stories are made of!
I will spare everyone reading the depressing details of the psychological abuse I went through, and how I suffered because of the things I did say and deep inside how I suffered because of the things I didn’t. I am sure that all of us have our fair share of stories about how we struggled for self acceptance, only to find out later that it was there all along if we would only be still and know, and listen to the “still small voice” of God in our hearts and imprinted on our souls. For me to write down my faith journey in one article is something I have attempted to do before, yet have found myself writing and writing to the point where I have finally come to the understanding that it will eventually be a book I will write. But I will try to capture, after having tried all night now, the essence of how I know God is with me, even when some others say that I should not even call myself a Christian.
God has this way of reaching out to us that I still to this day am amazed by, in wonderful if often mysterious ways, ways we never could have imagined. A shred of wisdom I have learned and that I have passed on to those who feel discouraged and have all but given up on God is to “take all the things you were taught about an angry God and a literal Bible and put them aside, and begin with Jesus.” That is what I had to do. I can honestly say that God has walked with me every step of the way through going from living a miserable and closeted lie of a life as an abuser of alcohol and a repressed and angry soul to living my truth as a bisexual, a Christian, and a loving human being who has learned to love himself and others as God’s Creation. And unlike some, who were loyal to their church and religion and later had to deal with the seemingly irreconcilable gap between their spirituality and sexuality, I was not able to be honest with myself until I was honest with God.
Before I was really honest with God, I was deep in the throes of emotional pain and suffering over a broken relationship. I had gotten to the point of desperation so deep that I had gotten involved not only with someone who claimed to be psychic but also with fundamentalism for the second and final time of my life. I was blaming all of the things in life that I could not handle, the actions of others who I cared about that hurt me, on “the devil”. I was trying to “change.” I became convinced that I was “evil” and that my sexual orientation was a symptom of “possession.” I felt as if, when I said the prayer for God to “heal” me, I was committing the greatest sin I could ever commit in my entire life. It felt, inside, as if I were slapping God in the face and saying, “I’m defective. Why did you make me like this?” That felt very wrong in my heart and soul. And it was a prayer that I thank God daily for not answering, because from my soul it was not an honest one. It was a prayer I said because I felt I had no other choice, and God in my experience can see inside us and past the veil of fear we often let surround us, into our souls where the truth about who we were made to be resides, and see past those fears. In my case, what I really longed for was the love and acceptance I had never ever really had, and that is what God gave to me instead.
I recall a few days later having a very bad experience with the fundamentalist prayer line I had called for support and then severing my ties with them. Yet a few days later, they sent another pledge card in the mail, and with it a promise that if it were mailed in (with an optional donation) by a certain date, my prayer would be answered. But at the same time, God had been whispering a new song in my heart, a song that was getting louder and one that I could not resist singing along with for too much longer. I kept hearing God in my heart saying to me that who I was was not an abomination, but that the person I was trying to “change” into was the real abomination, and that I needed to find a church where I would be loved and accepted as who God made me. “Coincidentally” I had been doing some research and finding out a lot more about a denomination that was not only accepting of bisexuals, but also ordained gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. I had read a book by one of their more liberal pastors whose spirituality was closer to what my heart really believed, and I had written down the address. It was the last possible night to mail in my “prayer request” (which was to get my relationship restored) in time, and continue following their path of fear and supporting their homophobia, or find a church where I could develop a real relationship with God. I decided that on my way to mail the card I would drive by and see the church I had been thinking of visiting. When I saw the marquee on the church, I decided not to mail the card: it read, “Don’t Give Up-Give in to God.” I visited the church the following Sunday, and was confirmed in a formal confirmation ceremony one month later.
In church I asked God, “What can I do for You?” and the answer I received was one that remains in my heart: “Reach those who might not otherwise be reached with the True message of My Child Jesus: That of My Unconditional Love of every soul, forever.” Another “coincidence” that occurred as I was in the process of finally “coming out” to myself as bisexual was a true blessing: I saw an advertisement for a therapist who specialized in issues relating to “psychological religious abuse” and sexuality/sexual orientation issues, something I had prayed for guidance with. The ad read, “It could be the answer to your prayers.” She ended up being the therapist who not only helped me past the repression of my bisexuality but also helped me past my repressive religious upbringing as a Southern Baptist, and guided me to a support group for bisexual men and women. My cable was shut off and I was without television and ended up joining a book club-one that seemed to have just the positive books on spirituality, healing and sexuality I needed to educate myself better. I also finally bought a new Bible and began reading it with heart, focusing on Jesus as the center of my faith. Life was getting better every day, and I was feeling wonderful.
Then all hell broke loose.
I totaled my car, the girl I was still in love with took off and ran away with her boyfriend and trashed the house we had once lived in, leaving me with a mountain of bills and an unfinished lease, (which really surprised the psychic, who slipped and exposed her fraudulence to me in a moment of error-not that I was not already aware of that). I had to move, I lost my job and was unemployed for a long time, and incurred many large credit bills, not to mention the thousands the psychic and the girl had cost me. I had panic attacks left and right, and it was a very trying time. But God guided me. While I was unemployed, I did volunteer work for my new church (which was even more inclusive and accepting than the other. They have a saying: “We do not tolerate diversity here, we affirm and celebrate it!”) and donated my time at a non-profit agency for those with HIV/AIDS, where I made friends with many wonderful people and found true pleasure in helping others, as I worked out my salvation, praying daily, reading and learning and talking with others, and working with my therapist. I began to attend a Bible study group and there I met another bisexual Christian, in a group designed for LGBT Christians. It was only after that healing few months that I was able to smile, look in the mirror, and say, “I am a bisexual, God made me this way and has a special plan for my life. He loves me just the way I am.” That was one of the most wonderful moments in my entire life so far, and I will never forget the feeling of peace that washed over me as I sat there at that stoplight on my way home from church.
My therapist and my Minister guided me through the often difficult waters of overcoming the repressive Christianity of my childhood. I began dating again for the first time in several years and met a wonderful woman and a wonderful man. Though these relationships did not turn out to be lasting ones, they still brought me happiness and peace that I had not known before I had known God’s Love. My therapist urged me towards finding the support I needed, to a place where I would make new friends and feel accepted. I did not feel totally “at home” in the gay community, as many did not see bisexuality as “real”, nor in the heterosexual community, where no one understood either. As I was doing volunteer work, I discovered a flyer for what I had been looking for: “Bisexual Support”. It was then that I began to attend discussion and support groups and was so joyfully blessed to find people who were like me that it brought tears to my eyes. As I was driving back from a weekend conference where I had met hundreds of other bisexual men and women, and several who were Christians, I cried tears of joy, and though I heard no external voice, that “still small Voice” seemed to say, “I love you”. I began to meet others who had successful relationships and marriages, and discovered that there were others like me who held a loving polyfidelitous relationship with a man and a woman as an ideal. But most of all, I felt love and support and acceptance, and an overwhelming desire to help others feel the same thing. I felt the desire to let others who are struggling know that God is there for them and there to help them, if they would only open their hearts to the loving teachings of Jesus and the Great Commandment, the Golden Rule, to show our thanks and Love for God through being loving to all of God’s Children.
There was one other moment when I felt the greatest liberation of all. I had written what would be my first column for this magazine. I had been doing a lot of writing. Ever since the terrible murder of Matthew Shepard I have felt an even greater need to share my faith with everyone and God has gifted me with a talent for expressing my thoughts and articulating my feelings through my writing. As it was time for the article to go online, I had originally decided to put it under a pseudonym but at the very last minute I knew that this was wrong. It was time to come out to the world and let everyone know who I am and that God does not ever want me to be ashamed of who I am. I felt such a peace wash over me, not unlike the peace I felt when I came out to my Mother, who is so loving and accepting, and when I came out to others. Now I not only am grateful for the opportunity to share my faith here, but I also write a monthly column for the local bisexual community newsletter from a Christian perspective and also for my church newsletter, and am currently heading a bi support organization in my home town, trying to help others find love and acceptance and hope. I’m always searching for ways to let every soul know that they are loved by God. I have been labeled by quite a few a “liberal Christian Evangelist”. But my faith is sometimes tested by those who may not understand me, or have experienced life as I have.
Just as many conservative Christians see my bisexuality as a “mental illness”, many gays and lesbians see my bisexuality as a “cop-out”, and either label me as a homosexual man afraid to come out of the closet, or a confused heterosexual who likes to “live on the edge”. Some who accept my bisexuality question the morality of my living in polyfidelitous relationships. But in my heart I know that the truth is that I have an equal attraction to women and men, and the need to have a loving, committed relationship with a man and a woman. Some bisexuals live a celibate life, some choose monogamy with one woman or one man, some realize that bisexuality is simply the potential for being attracted to and intimate with both genders, and others, like myself, choose polyfidelity — having an honest, loving, and committed relationship with both a woman and a man. It is a way to express the truth of my being without creating brokenness. Still others have other styles of relationships. To me what is most important is ensuring that any relationship entered into is loving and caring. I personally feel that what is right for a person is between them and God, and for someone to demand that a bisexual person choose a man or a woman is equally as unfair as a conservative Christian telling a homosexual that it is okay if they are gay or lesbian, so long as they never act upon their same-sex feelings. I feel that a better statement would be to encourage them to act upon their feelings, but do so with love and respect for others. I am certain that much of the concern is borne of the fact that the Christian church, over the years, has attacked human sexuality, due to the intense happiness that can be experienced on a spiritual level under the right conditions and the intense pain that can be inflicted emotionally under the wrong ones. But my faith tells me that no consensual and mutual sexual act is a sin against God, rather, it is the conditions under which we express our sexuality that renders it a positive experience of growth or a destructive instrument of brokenness.
Were it not for God’s Amazing Grace, I would know nothing of the joys I have been blessed with finding in such relationships, or the wonderful friendships I have been blessed with, or the abundance of joy I know now in my life. For it was God that led me, a brokenhearted and suicidal wreck, to a church and denomination where I discovered for the first time in my life what Jesus was really all about — liberating the human spirit from oppressive rules created by other humans and encouraging all of us to know we are not distant from God, but that in fact God is as close as our next breath or beat of our heart. It was God that led me to a loving and caring therapist who assisted me in the process of embracing my sexuality as a gift from God rather than a dirty secret to be ashamed of, and helped me to find a supportive organization for other bisexuals. It was God that led me, frightened to death that I would have to choose between a committed relationship with one man or one woman where part of my being would remain unfulfilled, to discover that there really was a way that I could maintain a loving and committed relationship with both, and even finding support and fellowship with other Christians who had done so, and who lived happy lives.
It was almost if, when I would pray to God, from the depths of my heart saying, “This is who I am and I do not want to give up part of who I am, yet I seek to follow the guideline of Christ to fulfill the dreams I have in life in a way that is loving and respectful of all others. Please help me God. I know You have the right answer,” everything that I needed would fall right into my lap. It is my experience that God will give us everything we could ever want or need and more, if we are willing to ask with a pure heart and in Jesus’ name and not merely by saying or asking things of God in vain repetition.
Asking something in Jesus’ name, to me, is not making a request of God and tacking on words about Jesus. It is not something we can put into words, rather it is something we must live. It means not only knowing as Jesus did that God will always come through for us in our time of need, but doing the best we can to embody God’s Love as demonstrated through Jesus as we ask God to guide us towards that which will make us whole, happy, and fulfilled and a blessing to all the rest of God’s Children. To me it means putting Love for our fellow human being as top priority, trusting that God will provide anything that we need along the way. I have experienced this in my own life. Whenever I have attempted to accomplish something without putting my faith in God, I have not found the success or fulfillment I was seeking. But with God in my life and heart, I have found peace in all that I do.
Other Christians question the fact that I am respectful of the spiritual paths chosen by others, such as Judaism, Buddhism, or Hindu. I believe that all paths do lead to God. Yet I still feel that unless a person is willing to listen to what Jesus had to say about God and take it to heart, that no spiritual path will be as ultimately fulfilling as it could be. We must learn to know God as intimately as Jesus did, as Loving Creator, Who Loves us and wants nothing more than our happiness and well being, Who Loves us with an unconditional Love and seeks to help all of us turn swords into plowshares, fear into faith, despair into hope. My moral absolute is the Commandment Jesus gave us to show our thanks to God for all we have by being as loving as we can all the time to all the rest of God’s Children. Yet I have found God deep at the spiritual heart of other religions. It was through the startling similarities in world religions that I began to see just how True Jesus’ teachings were, that He spoke a Truth about God and why we are here that resides at the heart of other faiths. God wants us to be loving to all others, and to live in peace and harmony with God and each other. That is Heaven, in my opinion.
So, as it is for me, some of these things may be true for some of you reading this. My only desire in sharing is to possibly give hope to others who may be struggling and in need of a comforting word. But let me assure you, if you are loving and pure in heart, and willing to do the best you can in all that you do, I have found it resoundingly true that God will hear the longing of your heart, even when you may have lost contact with it yourself. God will grant you your heart’s desire, if you believe and do your part, too, my Mother always says. As you begin or continue on your own personal faith journey, I would remind you never to underestimate God’s Love, or Grace, for all things are possible for the one who believes. God quite often, and very pleasantly, surprises us in wonderful and mysterious ways human beings don’t even imagine are possible. That is one of the best things about an intimate relationship with our Creator — knowing that no matter what we are going through, God will always come through for us. All we have to do is pray listen and believe.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.