Reason for Celebration

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”
– John 8:31-32

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

“He who would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will lose both and deserve neither.”
– Benjamin Franklin

In just a few short weeks, the time comes when we celebrate July 4th with fireworks, festivals and the usual fanfare. While I am the first to say that I am happily an American citizen since birth, I wouldn’t even begin to be so bold as to state that I am the most patriotic individual on the face of the earth, or that I even radiate patriotism in general at all. Certainly I love this country, and love living here, and I am grateful for the principles the country was founded upon. My heart, prayers and gratitude also go to all of those who defend our country and our freedom to the death, and I pray they only find themselves having to do so when that freedom truly is being threatened.

But it seems that the adjective “patriotic” and the blanket term “patriotism” in these and recent times have undergone somewhat of a redefinition and a facelift. It is a redefinition not unlike and akin to that which the terms “Christian” and “being a Christian” have been given in that it seems to defeat the purpose and drained it of much of its meaning, having deviated and morphed from its original intention and purpose into something entirely different from the original intent.

As with most issues, I feel the media has contributed to this occurring; so many unfortunately seem content to obtain their viewpoints, understanding and general knowledge from the media rather than from being in the trenches of life in all of its vast diversity and truly listening and experiencing with an open heart and mind. Just as some are content with having someone tell them what it is to be a follower of Christ and what the Bible says instead of reading it for themselves and truly following the teachings of Christ, some are fine with being told exactly what to think about other issues as well rather than thinking for themselves. (As much as I am grateful for how technology such as cable television and the internet has been utilized to bring us all closer together, I am concerned that it has made some minds lazy and seemingly absolved some from the task and responsibly of critical thought in the process; still, I elect to see the good in everything.)

But I digress, as I often do. Just as it has become so common for people to equate the term “Christian” to equal “conservative evangelical who believes in a literal Biblical translation” and edging out those of us who are Christian and elect not to subscribe to dogma (which in reality is quite distant from and neither related to nor in alignment with the real teachings of Christ Whom the religion was named for), it is becoming increasingly prevalent in recent years for people to equate “Patriotism” with “blind and unquestioning allegiance to the people in charge of the country” and omitting those of us who love our country but who are not afraid to question authority when it appears to create a detriment to the well being of all and threaten the very foundations and ideals upon which it was founded.

And as I was thinking about this the other day, I thought to myself that this can be contrasted to what has happened with Christianity over time. I recall a time when being Christian was about being kind to others, helping those in need, and doing good things to make the world a better place, rather than the curious obsession with what everyone was doing in their bedrooms or private sexual lives and with what gender they were intimately connected to, reproductive rights, censorship of contrary viewpoints, getting involved in the government, condemning different belief systems, and placing an emphasis upon influencing public elections by way of supporting particular candidates or parties, with the attempt to impose one black and white belief system on others via legislation being the predominant goal of getting those who would seek to do so elected to public office.

Okay, so perhaps there have always been divisions of Christianity along those lines, and there have always been those groups who both insist upon a literal interpretation of Scripture, those who see it as entirely metaphorical, and those who fall somewhere in between-and I am fairly certain that that will always remain to be the case. I just cannot remember it being at a point where it was this profound; this is probably due to the current state of our cultural climate.

In light of the trend of many to chastise those who are not in full support of our current President, or the decisions made by the current Administration, or the idea of laws which are limiting to our freedoms as citizens, people have been bringing up Benjamin Franklin’s quote about “He who would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will lose both and deserve neither” a great deal. Those opting to quote Mr. Franklin reference how fear of some despicable acts by religious extremists has given those in command carte blanche to slowly strip away the exact same freedoms which helped to make this a great nation-and the ones we celebrate the 4th day of July every year – “in the interest of our protection and security.”

Not to wax too political, but I do see a very strong and distinct comparison between the way many view what being a “true Christian” is today and the way many view being a “true patriotic American” is today; both seem analogous in that they involve the concept of sacrificing freedom in the interest of security, and the motivation to relinquish freedom is driven by raw fear. Just replace “the terrorists” with “the devil” and some of the statements made by those who push blind patriotism and allegiance to one leader and those made by those who insist on a literal and legalistic interpretation of Scriptures and they could have arisen from the very same camps (interestingly enough, many of those who insist on those unquestioning views of both the government and the Bible often belong to the same camp). It almost seems as if both parties are taking pages from the same book, and playing the same card of using fear and terror to prevent any questioning of authority and maintain control.

In any case, playing the fear card and using fear as a motivational tool, a weapon, and a means of preventing any questioning is a page taken directly out of every legalistic church I have ever seen. And when I think about Ben Franklin’s comment about individuals “giving up freedom in order to gain security,” it rings true: unfortunately, an increasingly disturbing amount/ faction of professed Christians have elected to do exactly that.

I vividly recall a conversation with an individual who had adopted this point of view; he was a reformed drug addict (God Bless him in that – I could definitely understand his feeling of freedom from the prison of drug addiction having battled my own addiction to alcohol and finding hope and the strength through my faith to defeat it many years ago) and we had an interesting talk about freedom as it relates to being a Christian. Initially, it seemed as if we shared more common ground, but as it transpired, we had some radically different and opposing viewpoints on the subject.

Every so often, I get into a conversation with a fundamentalist Christian who views my faith as counterfeit at least and dangerous at worst. While our conversation that while respectful and non-abusive, offered me a fascinating insight into the thought process.

He related to me about his former life, and how he had been set free from the nightmare of drug abuse, and it was an inspiring story. Then the conversation turned to my recovery from alcohol, and as I was relating some of what I went through in my own faith journey I began to detect a bit of animosity. When he found out that I belong to a liberal denomination (and sneered at the fact that I am a member of the United Church Of Christ), that I don’t believe in the devil or hell in a literal sense, and more about me and the fact that I am bisexual, he dismissed my faith as counterfeit and openly stated that he thought I was neither free nor a Christian. He went on to brag about how he had given up friendships with anyone who refused to listen to the gospel as he understood it and how he had regret about that, but that it was an imperative and a necessity for anyone to do so.

Not once did he mention anything I relate to Jesus; scarcely little was said about forgiving people or about being selflessly giving or caring towards others (Although he did mention helping others, to his credit – more on that in a moment.) But the overwhelming and vast majority of his ideas about being a Christian had to do with being against things (such as LGBT people and LGBT rights, people of other religions, liberals who supported social justice over legalistic dogma and rhetoric) instead of being for things (such as mercy, kindness, giving, and compassion.) I got the overall impression that he viewed God and his faith as a “get out of hell free” card rather than a meaningful relationship, and I felt bad for him in that regard, as I and others I have known all too well the limiting and binding feeling as well as the sense of distance and separation from and fear of God that mindset can give life to.

I respected his opinion, although I did not agree, and stated that I did not subscribe to the idea and could not discern how a God of Love, the One Jesus embodied in the flesh, could insist upon one very rigid and restrictive belief system for all people and that I did not think that subscribing to such as system was required in order to be Loved by God and certainly was not conducive to a feeling of freedom, but rather one of suffocation, restriction and not really being capable of letting the spirit breathe, be and flourish. I also related that when I found God that I had no more worries of a literal hell, as my freedom from alcohol abuse and fear about a judgmental God that seemed very angry and strict as well as very human was liberation from “hell” in and of itself.

He responded to my questioning without listening whatsoever to what I was saying, almost as if he feared listening to my journey would somehow invalidate his or validate mine as a different but equal experience. He then went on to chastise and criticize my faith, elevate his faith above mine, and point out all of the “obvious and inherent flaws” he said he found in my thinking. One remark really stood out to me. It was said with a tone of defensiveness as well as that I often hear engaging in apologetics, “But I have a lot of freedom in Christ and obeying the rules helps me stay free of the traps of the devil and in God’s Grace; if that means giving up what makes me happy, then that’s what it has to be. All that altruistic feel good dumbing-down is well and good, but it won’t mean a thing on judgment day. And it sure ain’t freedom. Hope you see that before it’s too late and I don’t have to say I told you so.”

I recall thinking to myself when he said this, “Can that really be considered being ‘free’? Is giving up rational thought going to get anyone closer to a place where they feel free?” My rationale behind thinking this was crystal clear and obvious to me; it seemed as if he had merely exchanged fear of a “devil” being or the concept of a “hell” for fear of a concept of God that would retract protection from this being dependent upon his thoughts, actions and feelings-none of which pertained to anything relating to what Christ truly taught. He taught that we were free to be as God made us to be and broke the chains which were being imposed on those worshipping God by the religious leaders of His day which emphasized religious ritual and dogma above all things, and instead presented to us a new way, one of Love and freedom with a huge sense of responsibility – albeit one we were given all of the tools to live up to if we take Jesus’ teachings to heart and practice them.

Instead, the emphasis of his particular brand of faith was not on directives such as forgiveness, compassion, or even courtesy – rather, it was upon eschewing certain behaviors and natural desires or feelings, consciously (and in some cases, obsessively and in an unhealthy manner) avoiding and denying any belief system, life choice, diversity, point of view and/or person which ran contrary or in conflict or opposition with a very narrow, limiting, and black and white interpretation and understanding of what his particular church had chosen to scribe into their specific dogma, and standing in not only judgment but a forced drive to shame and attempt to convert others who did not share the same ideas, points of view, or concept of God.

To add another dimension to this, often times, while things such as someone embracing one’s own sexuality or sexual orientation in a consensual manner which was in every way respectful of others and caused absolutely no harm or threat to others or their beliefs, or someone sharing a more open, wonder filled, and less rigid concept of God, or coming to the understanding that the Bible, while filled with timeless spiritual wisdom is not a document which is meant to be a literal, note for note, verbatim and never evolving manual for life were all thought to be anathema and mortal sins and/or moral failures, other acts which in reality would run contrary to the teachings of Christ were either excusable or forgivable. In fact, one of the core teachings of Jesus-the admonition from Matthew 7 to not judge lest we be judged (and what transpires when this guideline is not followed is to me an outstanding example of both natural spiritual law and what many refer to as “karma” in action; those who judged end up being judged by those they are judging the majority of the time) – was ignored completely.

Although he said he was now filled with a sense of “freedom from fear,” He had constant fear of being influenced by this powerful “devil” figure, nearly to the level of paranoia. Any opposing religious view, any media, any person who did not subscribe to the same or an extremely similar (at least at the core) belief system was avoided completely, or placed under judgment and a process of attempted conversion rooted in condescension, patronizing, and raw fear when the above failed to succeed. The end result was a person who was cut off from anyone outside of his church or like minded people. I will give him credit; he did offer to help those in need … for a price; if they were not willing to listen to his proselytizing then he would turn a cold shoulder, with the explanation that if they could not accept the faith or the seed he was attempting to plan, it was not worth the “investment.” That did not seem very selfless to me, but rather selfish: human beings became “points” to get him in better with God the more he converted. And I almost got the impression as if he felt there was some kind of “quota” he thought he had to meet in converting people to his brand of Christianity, which made it even more disturbing to me.

This type of “Christianity” to me is not freedom, but the worst sense of slavery. The limitations which arise from only being able to be who you are being restricted and narrowly defined by one set of parameters in a world where one size does not fit all is not only stifling and unfair, it is to me not conducive at all to any sense of freedom or any type of meaningful spirituality or relationship with God, let alone a sense of well being and following Christ’s directive to celebrate God’s Grace and express our gratitude for God’s Blessings and Love by passing on that love to others and demonstrating the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. To me, a God who would deny someone the basic freedoms to be who they are (with responsibility to others) in order to avoid hell or punishment or negative events transpiring in their life is as equally horrific as the concept of a literal devil at constant war with God for souls or an eternal hell.

In the end, I felt sorry for the individual who I had disagreed with about what “freedom in Christ” meant. While there is some truth that resonates from Ben Franklin’s statement about those who sacrifice freedom in the interest of security losing both in the process, I do not agree that anyone deserves neither. I feel that everyone deserves both a sense of freedom and security – whether I agree with all or any of their points of view or not.

I have encountered others who had other ideas about “freedom” as it relates to a more conservative fashion of Christianity that I thought also missed the mark. I have met those who think that because of “the sacrifice on the cross” that grants them forgiveness for any transgression that they are free to do whatever they wish, so long as they ask for God’s forgiveness. To me, not only is this an exercise in free license to do things that could be hurtful or have the potential to create harm to others (as in the case I witnessed of an individual representing a church who would constantly lose their temper at others and never make apologies, but would ask forgiveness for it) but also creates the potential for self destructive attitudes and behaviors. For example, the person who belongs to a church or belief system vehemently opposed to being LGBT yet who is secretly LGBT feeling as if they have to be forgiven merely for being who they are. Not only does this perpetuate a false sense of guilt and shame and is ultimately detrimental to a person’s well being, it can lead to self destructive behaviors and create a vicious cycle of fear and living a hidden and secret life which is certainly not an attribute of any sense of freedom.

Similar to this thought, there are also ultra conservative churches who deem being LGBT as “sin” or “sickness,” but who will allow LGBT people to engage in worship and the life of the church – so long as they make a permanent vow of celibacy or falsely attempt to “change” their sexual orientation to make it congruent with their dogma and in alignment with their politics. To me, this also has nothing to do with the idea of freedom. In my experience, none of the above ways of thinking are a healthy approach in an emotional or spiritual sense.

So what exactly IS the nature of freedom as it relates to being a Christian, and for me as a bisexual Christian? I can only discern this from a combination of both personal experience and my understanding of the teachings of Christ as well as some insight Paul shared on the subject that I have found both inspirational and insightful.

Jesus said, in a phrase often quoted by others (and at times, attributed to others as “the truth will set you free”) “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” What exactly does this mean?

In my opinion, it seems very clear: what Jesus taught – His teachings, Wisdom, and ministry – are the truth, the wonderful truth we have all been blessed with as one of the greatest gifts from God and the ultimate key to deeply knowing and experiencing God’s Love firsthand. The truth that we don’t have to change who we are or be someone we are not or limit ourselves, or our freedoms to fully know God’s Love. The truth that God desires for us to be whoever it is we are and offers us the strength and guidance to do so responsibly, with love and respect for all others and giving help and inspiration to others when and wherever possible as a wonderful benefit of living our true purpose in the world. The truth that Loving God is not about fearing God, or following a laundry list of man-made archaic rules which once arose from fear based in either ignorance or a lack of full understanding at the time they were scribed, or adhering to rules made by a society which was also unclear in their understanding of the complexity of human sexuality or the concept of sexual orientation, or following the set guidelines of any one group of people in regards of who we are supposed to be, how we are supposed to think, or who and how we are supposed to love, but that Loving God is about letting God’s Love flow through us to others, and expressing our reverence through demonstrating the ways and teachings of Christ instead of merely discussing the Bible and giving lip service to certain teachings while neglecting the most crucial ones, about how we are supposed to treat one another. It is the truth that God desires us to have a life filled with living to our fullest potential while causing harm to no one, and helping as many as we can, so that they too might be fully able to experience the same Love.

After all, Jesus did say that He “came that we might have life, and have it abundantly” in John 10:10, and that He “desired mercy, not sacrifice” in Matthew 9:13 and in numerous places spoke out against the fundamentalist legalists of His time, the Pharisees, for teachings that restricted freedom in place of religious ritual. These are but a few of the incidents and teachings that say to me that He came not to impose restrictions, but to offer us freedom from fear, dogma, and rhetoric, and a liberating, healthier and less of an attempted “one size fits all” black and white way of viewing and experiencing the wonderfully diverse world that God Created.

For some, the very thought of that kind of freedom – to be precisely and shamelessly the person who a Loving God Created them to be is nothing short of terrifying. Just as some feel rendered helpless by the thought that there are no limits to God’s Love and that by very nature it is unconditional and are still afraid of thinking outside of a narrow, easily explained black and white worldview in a world that is anything but, they also experience the fear which can come in conjunction with unashamedly being who they are, and allow their fear of other’s fearful reactions to, apprehensions about, and lack of understanding about who they are to overwhelm them, so they opt instead to hide. But there has never been any type of freedom in the closet, and in a vast majority of cases, staying there can not only keep the cycle of fear in motion for them but for others and can lead to desperate situations and actions which hold the potential for creating even more hurt and brokenness.

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians also had some very interesting thoughts on freedom. (I’ll be completely honest; while Paul has some of the most wonderful and inspiring passages in the Bible, he also has some that seem out of character and even disturbing, almost as if it is two different people!) In his letter to the Galatians, in a moment of clarity, Paul states “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1). Paul then goes on to talk about the concept of freedom in Christ, stating very eloquently in Galatians 5:6 that “in Christ Jesus neither being under the law nor being outside the law counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working/made effective through love.” This is a perfect addendum to what Christ taught, and a great reminder to embrace the fact that His teachings are the key to our freedom; these teachings have liberated us from legalism, and brought us into a new understanding of God as being about Love over Law.

Although he then makes a bizarre and rather unloving statement which to me is not aligned with the nature of what Christ would want when he says “I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!” (Galatians 5:11), Paul goes on to sum up thoughts on freedom as a follower of Christ perfectly, along with a crucial admonition and caveat about using our freedom wisely and responsibly:

“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self indulgence, but through love/the flesh serve one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:13-15.)

What I see him stating here is that while Christ’s teachings have freed us from the prison of religious legalism and into a new way of understanding and thinking about God, we should respect and not abuse that gift of freedom by being selfish, self-centered, and irresponsible or careless in the way we treat others and not allow our desires and goals to take precedence over the well being of others; he is stating that what must take priority over all is love and respect for one another and strive to practice the Great Commandment as we enjoy the freedoms we have been gifted with and obtained, which we cannot easily do if we are acting in selfish ways. He ends with a warning that if we elect to live in an unloving way, or in a state of conflict, that there could be serious consequences.

Although unfortunately many are probably more familiar with a similar quote from the “Spiderman” movies of “with great power comes great responsibility,” one of my absolute favorite quotes – and one which stood at the forefront of my thought as I was embracing my freedom after having truly finding God, becoming a follower and subscriber to the teachings of Christ and also as I was coming out as a bisexual is one from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.” To me, it is directly in alignment to what both Jesus and Paul were saying and rings resoundingly true.

In any case, freedom definitely does carry a huge amount of responsibility, but with freedom in Christ this seems even more emphatically true. We have the free will to do anything we desire in life, be that good or bad, loving or unloving.

Every day each and every one of us finds ourselves at a crossroads in our dealings with others, the decisions we make, and the manner in which we opt to expend the hours of the time we are blessed with. Sometimes, there are complex things to consider, at other times, the mundane but often what we are faced with can be rendered down to a simple consideration: “Do I do the right thing, or the easy thing/other thing (which can sometimes be and generally is ‘the wrong thing’)?”

There are those who choose to act with little to no sense of responsibility to others, but this can carry tremendous consequences; these are not to me “punishments from God” but rather natural law in the Universe that God Authored. As much as we hate to admit it, everyone possesses the freedom to “do the wrong thing” instead – it’s that whole “free will” concept. But those who choose to do the wrong thing are taking to risk of sacrificing their freedoms or placing them at risk. For extreme examples of this, those who decide to exercise their “free will” to steal from another or inflict bodily harm take a risk of losing freedom on a literal and physical level; those who have unprotected, anonymous sex with hundreds of partners risk losing their health, and endangering the health of others; those rulers who attempt to limit the freedoms of others are met with conflict, resistance, and in extreme cases, revolt and revolution. Those who elect to be selfish, inconsiderate or dishonest risk losing the friendship, trust or respect of others. And those who judge or act un-lovingly towards others risk brokenness, isolation and loneliness in time. The list of common examples of the “wrong thing” goes on.

In “doing the right thing,” as I often refer to it – meaning, to live the Truth of who God made me to be with love and respect for all of the rest of God’s Children (read: everyone) to the best of my abilities, and taking the time to place equal or greater importance to the needs and well being of others than my own is not by any definition to me limiting, restrictive, or threatening to a sense of freedom. Even when there are situations where I have found where I was tempted to do the wrong thing or in some cases the easy thing (withhold honesty to avoid confrontation, or do something that came up at the last minute rather than what I had previously committed to do, respond to anger with more anger, or look the other way when someone needed my help with something because I was “in a hurry” or “too busy”) I find it far more fulfilling to do the right thing because it feels good to, never under duress, out of fear or under threat of punishment-that to me is not love, and even acting in a loving way towards others out of a fear of possible consequences and repercussions of failing to do so to me misses the point terribly.

While being inconsiderate, uncaring and thoughtless carries with it heavy consequences and brokenness, I find that it is out of sheer gratitude for the freedom God has blessed me with that I want and strive to elect to do the right thing. And I think that is what the very reason why we are blessed with the freedoms that we are, both the freedom to be who we are and the freedom to pursue those things which are meaningful to us and that we are passionate about, those desires of our heart: If we are happy, free and fulfilled, we will be filled with joy and gratitude which we can then pass on to others.

Speaking of accepting the responsibility that comes with freedom, as a bisexual and a Christian I also came to a few realizations about what both Jesus and Paul – and even though she was not necessarily referencing the Bible, Eleanor Roosevelt – had to say about truth, freedom, responsibility and some insights I have learned about all of the above.

Christ’s teaching about “the truth making us free” can hold yet another significant meaning for the LGBT Christian, and that comes down to living the truth of who God made us to be, regardless of our sexual orientation, sexuality or differences from the orthodox, traditional and in some cases mainstream thought or point of view. I can honestly say that I have experienced this firsthand through the process of coming out as bisexual; I was never truly free until I could not only accept myself for who I was, but embrace the idea that God did too and I am who I am for a purpose and a reason.

It was not until I was able to adopt a healthier and Loving view of God that I could have even begun to come out and be who I really am, and even when I did that was a challenging process as I discovered that bisexuality for me means that I feel the need for an intimate relationship with both a woman and a man. It was then that my prayer was “Help me to find a way to live the truth of who I am in a way that is not hurtful or harmful to anyone, and to embrace the freedom to be who I am with a sense of responsibility to all others,” and thankfully, through faith and patience I was able to discern what that was and was blessed with an honest, caring, committed and healthy relationship with both a bisexual woman and another bisexual man who felt the same way as well as a sense of knowing that regardless of how unconventional this relationship seemed to others, it was still very much a blessing and a gift.

Some might argue that for a bisexual to live in this type of relationship with two partners could be construed as “pushing the limits of freedom,” but I respectfully disagree based upon my own understanding of faith, the concept of and relationship with God that I have, and the fact that these are relationships are not only real and genuine but also entered into honestly and consensually by all involved. One might not initially consider the relationship or the life we have as being “moral” or “ethical” – but I think it is high time that the LGBT Community as well as the sub communities which sometimes get left out (e.g., the leather community, the polyamorous, and other subgroups of the LGBT Community who are often omitted) in the interest of conformity and the attempt to assimilate rather than celebrate and respect our differences take back the terms “moral” and “ethical” and come to the wonderful and long overdue understanding that there is nothing immoral nor unnatural in being who it is that we are, whatever our sexual orientation or how we experience our sexuality, so long as responsibility is exercised. Everyone is different, and different strokes for different folks. It might be difficult for everyone to understand, but I feel that God is not asking us to all understand each other, but just love one another to the best of our abilities despite whatever differences we have.

I unfortunately hear a lot of tragic stories of other bisexuals – men and women, some Christian, some of other faiths, some in same gender relationships and some in opposite gender relationships – who have not ever truly acknowledged or understood their bisexuality and end up in relationships or marriages where one side of their sexual orientation is repressed, stifled, or hidden in the interest of conformity. As time passes, they become aware of this about themselves and this can lead to revelations which can shatter relationships either temporarily or permanently, situations where a partner or spouse is betrayed as one person lives a secret life on the side, or depression and self destruction. I was blessed in the fact that I was aware of, in a full state of acceptance of and up front about my sexual orientation before I met my partners, but I have talked with others who are living a life of quiet desperation and no idea where to turn, and I wish there was something I could do to offer more hope.

These issues can often bring up some difficult questions, and there’s no easy answer for or solution I can offer to bisexuals in these situations other than to turn to the Loving God I know for guidance and being honest with themselves and all others involved. Ultimately, the only solutions can be between God and the individuals involved as to what is best. Ideally, one’s honest admission of who they were would always be accepted, but until then I think the only viable answer that might help prevent these types of things from occurring moving forward is not imposing one set standard for every individual to follow, but rather the end of the shaming about anyone’s sexuality and sexual orientation. I know for a fact that if bisexuality – and even the concept of relationship and marriage styles which differed from the commonly accepted or mainstream were more accepted and discussed rather than conveniently eschewed, avoided or swept under the rug as a “dirty secret we don’t talk about” – that many of these men and women would never have to deal with these situations.

Similar to what bisexuals go through, many individuals who are gay or lesbian identified feel coerced into trying to be heterosexual when they are not, and end up in marriages or relationships where they can never be free to be who they truly are and be happy. If there were more understanding and acceptance of the LGBT Community and the diverse rainbow of individuals it is comprised of, and people were allowed to freely be who they are and love who they love, then the closets of pain so many find themselves suffocating in would become a thing of the past. Those who are truly homosexual would be able to develop relationships with same gender partners and those who are bisexual could develop healthy and honest relationships with either an opposite or same-gender partner, or both without judgment.

I continue to hope and pray for this to someday be the case, and there has been a lot of progress in recent years for the LGBT Community including more willingness on both sides (both those supportive and in the Community as well as those opposed to it or who do not understand yet are open and eager) to communicate, the freedom for same gender partners to marry, more and more churches and groups who do not omit or censor the “B and T” in LGBT, and those willing to have open discussions and reconsider old dogmatic and legalistic ways of thinking which exclude some from freedom. There is still much to be accomplished, but in the meantime, I feel comfortable and secure in my faith and do whatever part I can in the process, along the way doing the best I can to share the hope and blessings God has given me with others in need.

Whenever I encounter someone who is LGBT or questioning, I am never too busy to talk with them and offer whatever hope I can and let them know that the same type of hope and freedom I have found through my faith in God and understanding of what Christ taught is there for them as well. Having fully experienced it firsthand, it is a gift I truly wish to share; although freedom is often equated with independence, we are all very dependent upon God and one another, and God as expressed through one another, even when we attempt to create the illusion that we are not. Even when we think we are alone as I once did, God has this wonderful way of reminding us that we are not by sending angels disguised as kindred spirits into our lives, and I want to do that for others as best I can, and help them to discover what it feels to be free, free from fear, doubt, guilt, worry and shame-free to be one with God and live the purpose we were created for in this life.

Jesus and the Apostle Paul were very clear about the fact that allowing religious ritual and legalism to limit our freedoms were not what God is about, and simultaneously they also reminded us of the heavy responsibility that having freedom to truly be carries, and to embrace it and to exercise the gift of that freedom with care, love and respect for others. There are no limits to what we can do, dream or be, and we do not have to relinquish or give up who we are in to be Loved by God; Jesus taught that God does not want to restrict or restrain us, but rather to set us free, to help us breathe in the Spirit and have life more abundantly and live life to its full potential, the one that we were Created for.

Freedom to be who we are is not just for one person but for everyone, and regardless of where we are, it is all our God-given right. Once we are able to embrace this freedom, and use it responsibly, we will naturally be more loving and respectful of others and one step closer to the world God wants for all of us, where we are all individuals free to be who God made us to be, yet all part of the same Loving God and working together striving to be a living expression of God in the world.

As the time when we celebrate our freedoms as Americans on the 4th day of July draws near, it is only natural, normal and expected that we would celebrate the principles of freedom – the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness, freedom to believe as we want to believe, the freedom to be who we are and all of the other principles this nation was founded upon.

But in my heart, as LGBT Christians, wherever our place of residence, there is something far greater that we can express gratitude for each and every day: through embracing God’s Unconditional Love and the sense of wholeness and liberation that comes from embracing the teachings of Jesus of Love over legality, faith over fear, and the knowledge of God’s Love for each and every one of us, we are no longer held captive by fear, guilt and shame, we are not required to sacrifice who we are to be a recipient of God’s Grace and Love but rather free to live the truth of who we are so long as we exercise our freedom with responsibility to others, and we are truly gifted with unlimited freedom and potential to take part in God’s Plan to make the world a better place for all.

And that is definitely a reason for celebration.