For anyone who has read the gay and lesbian Christian message boards, particularly on Yahoo, you will notice that the fundamentalists who post all say the same things, make the same biblical arguments using the same threadbare six verses, and in the end, come to the same conclusions. Gay Christians (an oxymoron in their worldview) have two choices: either leave the “homosexual lifestyle” (whatever their stereotypical view of such a thing might be) or leave Christianity. To them, a choice must be made. It is an easy choice in their view, since gays and lesbians chose to be the way they are in the first place.
In their view, it is quite simple, “gay Christians” need to put up or shut up. Renounce either your “choice” of homosexuality or your “choice” of belief in Christ and God.
To be fair to the fundamentalists, this choice has been offered by many atheistic or Christianity-hostile gays and lesbians as well, so the hostility toward gay Christians comes not only from outside our community, but within as well.
To the fundamentalists, “gay Christians” are the worse kind of sinners because they use the Bible to “justify” their “sinful” behavior. They will twist scripture around to suit their needs. Then, they have the temerity to suggest that their interpretations are correct simply because they’ve followed some “historical criticism” method touted at those liberal seminaries that teach people to actually explore their faith instead of just accepting the Bible as the literal Word of God and being done with it all.
So, fundamentalists feel very smug in their conviction that they have captured God in the dog-eared pages of their King James Versions and their grand, ornate God cages they dub “Worship Centers.” All the while, they insist that “gay Christians” have destroyed the “Good Book” with their continued use of it to assure themselves that their walk with God is just as pure and holy as the fundamentalists’. The horror! Who are these people to take the Bible, interpret it, and then say that God loves them just as they are? Who do they think they are?
What’s a poor gay Christian to do?
Obviously, a choice has to be made. The fundamentalists have plastered a “No Fagz Allowed” sign on the door of their clubhouse and have refused to budge. They have threatened to hold their breath until they turn blue. They have stomped their feet in self-righteous rage and accused us of tainting the faith somehow with our continued insistence that we too are children of God. They have demanded we change our ways, renounce our “filthy lifestyles” and win the love of God.
When that tactic fails, they inform us that since we love our “sin” more than we love God then we should just stop calling ourselves Christians, renounce our faith and move on into the life of debauchery and licentiousness that we obviously crave. We cannot be with God, they say, and be gay as well. God will not allow it. They know, because they can speak for God, and God said, “Read the sign ‘fagz’ and hit the road.”
However, it begs the question of who is it that is actually sinning in this scenario. If sin can be defined as “alienation from God,” who is it that finally commits the worst sin: the person who chooses willfully to alienate themselves from God, or the person who pushed them to the point of alienation? Jesus warned the Pharisees that because they shut the gates of heaven on those seeking to get in that they themselves would not be allowed into heaven.
Gay and lesbian Christians, through struggling with their faith, are seeking that gate to heaven. They are seeking a passage that will connect them with God. The final sinner in the picture is the person who slams the gate shut, not the person who seeks to come to God, even though that person may not have worked out all areas of “sin” in their lives.
Of course, the fundamentalists do not see it this way, no matter what Jesus might say on the matter. Gays cannot be Christian because of their sin, end of statement.
However, isn’t one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith the belief that when we come to God we don’t have to be clean of our sins? Isn’t another basic tenet of the Christian faith the belief that we all sin and fall short of God’s glory? Isn’t another tenet of the faith the belief that God forgives us not once, but seventy times seventy? And, isn’t it another tenet of the faith, or maybe it was just Jesus’ words in the end of the Gospel of John, that we are not to be concerned with the fate of another believer but instead focus all our energy on following Christ?
So what if some believers consider gay Christians “sinners” — we are all sinners. Not one of us is perfect. Not one of us will ever be perfect. We can strive for it, certainly, but we most likely will never reach it.
Ah, but the fundamentalists say, the big difference is gays and lesbians “continue” in their sin, not renouncing their sexual orientation and seeking forgiveness for their “behavior.” Ah, there’s the rub. Therein lays the yawning chasm between fundamentalists and their gay and lesbian Christian brothers and sisters.
The impasse is over whether or not homosexuality is a sin in and of itself. This is where the options are given — get out of the “lifestyle” or get out of the faith. This is where the prooftexting begins. This is where the fundamentalists tout the Bible as the literal Word of God, giving them the confidence to speak for God. This is where the gay Christians say the Bible is authoritative, but not literal, and when put into its proper context says nothing about homosexuality, as we know it today.
Here we reach the end of the road for dialogue. Here is where the shouting begins. Here is where the recriminations begin. Here is where the cajoling begins. Here is where the threats begin. Here is where the choice is given — give it up or get out.
What’s a poor gay Christian to do?
However, maybe there is a third option; it involves give and take from both sides. It involves real dialogue. It involves work on both sides. It involves getting to know one another as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, instead of believing the stereotypes about “us” and “them.” It involves the realization that how we treat one another has repercussions for the fate of the larger body of faith. It involves realizing that we are all intimately connected, all manifestations of the same life-giving force of God.
Gay Christians seek entrance into the kingdom. Fundamentalists seek the “destruction” of a very major part of the gay Christian, namely, the “gay” part of their moniker, as payment for entering that kingdom. The ones most likely to budge in this situation are the gay Christians, who instead of giving up “gay” give up “Christian.”
Is this really the goal of fundamentalists? To destroy the faith of another person and to strip someone of their connection to God, forcing them to choose “sin” and alienation from God? Christ had an opinion of such a deed and the Sanhedrin was branded as one of those who shut the gates of heaven on those seeking entrance.
Do they realize the fact that many gays and lesbians will not even approach God knowing that they may have to face a fundamentalist as the gatekeeper?
If they take no pleasure in such ideas, then why do they continue to set themselves up as the gatekeeper? Why do they keep giving out a list of do’s and don’ts that drive people away from God? Why do they seek to assuage their own egos by setting themselves up as the person who can stamp their “get into heaven” card or pass out “straight to hell” cards with impunity?
Faced with this kind of vindictive, sadistic gatekeeper:
What’s a poor gay Christian to do?
The answer to both fundamentalists and gay Christians is simple: drop the prooftexting. Arguments about the Bible are fruitless simply because they do not share a common starting point. Those who believe the Bible to be inerrant will never agree on any issue with those who believe the Bible to be authoritative but not inerrant. It simply will not happen. Arguments will go past each other and never the twain shall meet, so the fruitless bickering continues.
What should replace it?
True, honest, dialogue.
Dialogue is not arguing. Dialogue is not saying, “I’m right, you’re wrong and here is why.” Being in dialogue means really listening to another person, hearing their story, feeling their pain, feeling their fear, allowing yourself to be open and vulnerable to that person. In this way we stop seeing each other as “enemies” instead we see each other as true human beings with anxieties, joys, fears, hopes and dreams. We are all very much alike, all seeking the same things, all experiencing the same world with all its dangers and blessings. We must remember that we are all connected, all manifestations of God on earth — none more righteous, pure or holy than the other. All seeking that same connection back to God.
It will demand a lot from both sides. However, we must keep in mind that the goal is the same: connection with God. We are all seeking entrance to the kingdom and neither of us can appoint ourselves as gatekeeper denying entry to those we personally feel are “sinners.” Truly, only God knows the heart, only God knows the true sin of any of us. That is something we need to realize — all of us — gay and straight Christian alike.
Once we can agree that only God knows our sin and only God can judge that sin, we can get about the business of loving our neighbor as ourselves. To do any less is to profess that we do not trust God with the task of knowing, judging and convicting hearts bent on sinning. To continue to condemn each other as “sinners” instead of edifying one another as brothers and sisters in Christ belies our human tendency to set ourselves up as judge and jury instead of handing the matter over to God.
For those who want to know the fate of another believer, take Jesus at his word when he asks, “What is that to you? You, follow me” (John 21:22). Let us lay aside our judging, our threatening, our cajoling, our insulting, our bickering, our hatred and our ego’s need to be “right.” Let us instead rejoice in the fact that each of us, fundamentalist and gay Christian alike, have come to a place of faith in God. A place of knowing that connection to God is what we seek. Let us get out of each other’s way and trust God to handle any areas of sin in our lives. Let us seek to open wide the gates of heaven to all who seek to end their alienation from God. And finally, let us trust God enough to know who sins and who does not and how best to handle any sin.
What’s a poor gay Christian to do?
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.