Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this. (Esther 4:12-14)
Channeling Esther in an A.A. meeting
Often in our lives, we find we must minister in both what we say and what we do. And we must do that wherever the opportunity presents itself. LGBTQ+ Christians tend to feel inhibited about sharing the Gospel. Who will listen to us?
There are times we are the only people those who need to hear about God’s love in Christ might listen to. In fact, we may have been placed in that situation, like Queen Esther, “for such a time as this.” She saved the Jews from destruction when nobody else could have. It was why the Persian king had occasion to fall in love with her, when he had droves of beautiful young women to choose from. God chose her for the starring role.
My lesson in God’s strategic casting comes to me most clearly sometimes in the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings I attend. Though the 12 Steps is a spiritual program, many of those who come through its doors are wary, even belligerent, about any mention of God. If gays — of all people — can continue to hang in there and believe in Something greater than ourselves, then so too can others who have been battered by organized religion.
Sometimes our conversations can be bruising. We must be tough, not tender, to get our message across. When I happened to mention in one meeting something that happened to me while I was at church, a young man attacked me for mentioning religion. I was instantly the enemy.
I calmly but quite firmly told him that as a lesbian, I was used to being told by straight white men what I was allowed to believe and what I wasn’t, and where I belonged and where I didn’t. I informed him that I belonged wherever I decided to be. Of course that was the last thing he expected to hear. I thought he might ask me why I, of all people, wanted to be a Christian, but I’d knocked him off his high horse. I’d also given him something to think about.
He’d probably been given a long list of people who don’t belong in church, and drunks were right there under gays. Like many who struggle with addiction, he was cast as a misfit. Those who want the misfits out want to run the show. If they point to the exit and we obediently march out of it, we surrender the stage to them.
The church belongs to all of us
But if we stay and challenge them, they must shut up or change. If we leave, they can go comfortably on demonizing and slandering us from a safe distance. But why give those who hate us exactly what they want? Why play right into their hands?
We may think it’s easier simply to leave, but the sort of people who make life difficult for us in church are impossible to escape. To get away from them completely we’d need to take a rocket ship to a galaxy far, far away.
This — and the fact that by the time they straggle into Alcoholics Anonymous, they’re usually desperate for help getting sober — is why so many who leave the church stick with the 12 Steps even though they find the same cast of troublesome characters there. But the question begs to be asked: Why did they expect those they met in church to check their human nature in the narthex?
The reasons other misfits leave are basically variations of the ones that drive out many LGBTQ+ people. These misfits may say, “But you’re gay, and that’s different,” but it really isn’t. Nobody in the church has been treated more shamefully than we have. Yet many of us — an ever-growing number — refuse to be driven out.
LGBTQ+ folks in settings often hostile to us also react with perplexity when we tell them we’re Christians. I’ve lost count of how many times, at social gatherings, gay Republicans have snarled that I’m “self-hating” because I go to church. Hello? Pot, meet kettle.
The church belongs to all of us. Not just to those who feel smugly superior to everybody else. Look at those Jesus is recorded in the Gospels as having first called into it: Tax collectors, prostitutes, motley laborers, Samaritans (who were despised by Jews as heretics). We know without any doubt that Jesus wanted them there because we read, time and time again, that He especially invited them.
Misfits: A heroic calling
There may be other reasons, though people are usually designated as misfits because those in power find it convenient to keep them marginalized. But misfits are called to challenge those in power. If we don’t do it, nobody will.
That has always been a heroic calling in the church. Jesus himself was a misfit who challenged power. That’s why he was crucified. And even that couldn’t stop him.
Misfits are “permitted” to stay only if they follow certain rules made by the powerful. Gay Republicans, for example, are not supposed to be religious. In conservative circles, we frequently hear ourselves spoken of as if we’re acceptable as long as we stay out of the church or synagogue. We hear that civil unions are okay, for example, because they’re not solemnized in a house of worship — as if it can be comfortably assumed that none of us care about that.
The inconvenient fact is that many gay conservatives are Christians or observant Jews. Where does that leave them? If some devout LGBTQ+ folks show no interest in political conservatism or the Republican Party, that very well may be why. They may be understandably skeptical about allying with people who tell them they’re going to hell and try to estrange them from God.
What’s important to understand is that God’s plan fits everybody in. Some people may not know what to do with us, but God does. There is no one who is left out, nor is there anyone relegated to the margins. And whose show is it really? The actual producer is not the self-appointed directors, but rather the Creator of us all.
Some of the misfits we encounter may be surprised to find themselves ministered to by the likes of us. Instead of Esther, they may be hearing from a very different kind of queen. God’s cast of characters is vast indeed. And Jesus loves every one of us.
A self-described “Libertarian Episcopalian lesbian,” freelance writer and the author of Good Clowns, a young adult novel published in 2018, Lori Heine published a blog called Born on 9-11 and was a frequent contributor to the website Liberty Unbound. A native of Phoenix, Ariz., she graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1988 and spent much of her life in the insurance industry before turning full-time to writing as a freelancer, blogger and author.