Come, dream a dream with me; come dream a dream with me; come dream a dream with me; that I might know your mind;
And I’ll give you hope, when hope is hard to find; and I’ll bring a song of love, and a rose in the winter time.
So go the lyrics to a popular hymn in the UCC church I have been a member of for several years now. Sometimes, these words have truly lifted me up when I felt like hope was hard to find. There have been times in my life when I have honestly felt like there was no hope for me. There have been times in my life when I felt I had not a friend in the world, at least not one that loved and accepted me for who I really am and not for what I was pretending to be, or pretending not to be.
I have gone from seeing the Bible as a book that limited me in life to seeing it as one that gave me the strength to be an individual without fear of condemnation. Just like sexuality, the Bible has through the centuries been used in ways which were constructive and destructive. Both have been used with love and caring and compassion, both have the power to bring people closer together and bring joy and happiness. Used with selfishness and the desire to manipulate, control and hurt others, both have the power to divide, destroy trust, and create scars which take a very long time to heal. I used to perceive Jesus or anything about Him as something to be avoided at all costs; yet it was only through Christ that I found God again. I once thought I could only be loved if I changed, until I realized that the only way I could ever find and maintain true, pure, and sincere love was to be myself and realize that God created me the way I am for a reason and a purpose. I realized I had to open up and allow God to lead and guide me to others like me who were in need of love, compassion, and hope, a voice, an outstretched hand and a smile telling someone else they are not alone, that God loves them, too.
I realize that in being bisexual, I have no judgments against either the straight or gay communities. I have the ability to understand the needs of both and to help bring the two of them together so that the issue is no longer about which orientation is the “better” one, but the issue is no matter what our orientation, how are we serving God? How are we helping others? How are we healing those who are hurting? How are we working for peace on Earth? How are we embodying the love of God and Christ for these modern times?
One source of fear and terror that kept me far from Christianity in the past (in fact, my misguided understanding of it led to my getting involved with satanism as a teenager) was the last book in the Bible, the one so frequently used to perform what I refer to as spiritual terrorism on others by some fundamentalists, the book of Revelation. I was literally so sure that 1) God was going to come and destroy anyone who was not fundamentalist Christian and burn them in hell forever; 2) I was definitely not willing to worship such a God; and 3) I was going to be going to hell, that I chose to worship the devil as the lesser of two evils. If God were such a being that would create human beings with desires that felt so natural and then punish them forever if they acted on or acknowledged them, even in a loving context, I chose the devil. Of course, I had no problem following the Ten Commandments as I understood them, or the Golden Rule, or all the wonderful things Jesus had to say. The Way Jesus taught, to forgive our enemies and in all things to be loving and compassionate, isn’t always the easiest in this world and these times but it sure is worth it. But because of my upbringing, I was not fit to be a Christian simply because I was “immoral”.
But now, I receive some of my greatest hope from the book of Revelation. Is it because I feel that fundamentalists are the real “antichrist” who are using their beliefs to turn others away from the true Jesus. But, do I think that it is they who will be in the “lake of fire” rather than I? Absolutely not.
In my vision of God being unconditional love, there can be no casting of anyone into a literal lake of fire to begin with. It is those who act in unloving ways towards others who cast themselves out into a horrible disconnected feeling from God and love that is far more painful to the soul than any imagined fire and brimstone hell that anyone could dream up. God seeks to save us from feeling this way or acting in such a way that would cause us to feel this way. I see in Revelation the story of what real and sincere faith in God’s Amazing saving Grace can do for each and every one of us, whether we are liberal, conservative, moderate, or fundamentalist Christians.
If we consider that the book was written during a day and time when Christians were being murdered for simply being Christians (not unlike people who are not hetero get murdered just for that reason today), then it is not hard to see why hope was needed. If you really look at the story, it’s like when our own personal world seems to be collapsing and coming to an end around us; nothing is going as it should, the sky seems to be falling. At this point we have two choices: give in to our fears and worries and doubts and worship the “false Christs” of money, drugs, alcohol, selfish pride, or utter hopelessness, our allow ourselves to be “caught up in the Spirit” by putting our focus on God and the faith we have that God is going to restore and make all things new if only we are patient and believe. When we are caught up in the Spirit, knowing we are safe and protected in God’s Loving Care, the world can be falling in around us and everyone else may attempt to drag us down in their personal miseries but we remain unscathed, even as we reach out to others in their struggles. But some seem to remain outside God’s Love, and do not wish to give it a chance, no matter how much we try to be good witnesses by showing them all the good God has done for us and being loving, caring people, and by living the teachings of Christ to the best of our ability in all we do. No, it is not always easy, but God will see us through. And even when it seems to be subsiding, it seems like the “beast” or “devil” of our fears or whatever trial opposes us is “unleashed for a time again” to test us-perhaps God lets this happen to show us how strong we really are-and then finally, we see the rewards of faith and putting our trust in God and putting God first during the seeming end of our world-a time when whatever has been causing us pain is resolved-where there are no more tears-and we have a more fulfilling, permanent, and stronger and resilient sense of peace-Heaven-than we ever had before the crisis.
When I see Revelation like this, it gives me a real sense of hope. It makes me recall how I have been through my own personal struggles and how when I did, God gave me a greater sense of peace than ever before. I went through so much pain beore I finally realized that I am the way I am, that is how God made me, and that God has a place for me in this world. It is my mission to reach out to other GLBT people and to let them know that if they listen to what Jesus really said and read and study the Bible with an open heart and mind instead of just letting those who might use it against them to interpret it for them, and if they follow the spiritual teachings of Christ, they will find out that not only does God love them just as they are but that they, too, can have a fulfilling life better than they ever imagined before! After all, He did say that He came that we “might have life, and have it abundantly.” My life has gone from one of isolation and fear to one of true abundance and I have so much to thank God for that if I started making a list now without stopping, I would never finish.
I knew from an early age that I was bisexual. I denied it for a long period of my life which led to my acting out in very self-destructive ways, including dishonesty with myself and others, “pretending” to be homophobic in front of my gay-bashing friends, and the nightmare of alcohol abuse to numb my mind that nearly destroyed my soul. But I went through some major life-shaking events that led to my knowing that if I was ever going to be happy then I had to be myself. I was only able to accept and acknowledge it after I became a member of the church and made an honest commitment to God through Christ.
Just for the record, being bisexual is a very real orientation and there are many ways in which it is expressed. There is as much diversity among us as there is among the straight and gay communities. More than anything, bisexuality is the openness and potential for love/romance/sexual intimacy with members of either gender. We do not, as some stereotypes might suggest, sleep with “just anybody”. It cannot be clearly defined by anything one “does” any more than hetero/homosexuality can. It’s just something some of us ARE. There are some of us who are in mongamous, deeply committed relationships and marriages, with members of either gender. There are others who never marry. There are some that are in committed relationships with both genders. I judge none. I will only say that as a Christian I believe in honesty, fidelity, caring, compassion, and integrity, with love being the vital core of any relationship. Those are my “sexual morals”.
I am sad when I see members of the gay and lesbian community condemn bisexuals. After all, we fight so many of the same battles, the internalized homophobia, the discrimination, being “closeted” to family, friends, etc. When we hear hatred against ANY community, at least in my experience, we do not tolerate hate at all. Of course, I do not tolerate hate as a Christian. But it is the common “stereotypes” about bi people that keep me from being out to a lot of people-stereotypes not too unlike those people have about other groups. I feel that negative stereotypes are wrong. After all, negative stereotypes about Christians kept me far from Jesus for almost thirteen years. Some people feel that we are “gay but in denial” and others feel that we are just “confused”. For some of us, however, that is not the case. It does not matter what others believe about us-all people-regardless of orientation-have the potential to be Christians. In my mind, heart, and soul, the key measure of being a Christian is what resides in one’s heart-the Loving Spirit of Jesus Christ. As the song says, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Hope is the one of the most important things we have as Christians, whether we are straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or transgender. Hope is created by the need for love and is the catalyst that puts our faith into action. If those of you reading this feel as if there is no hope, take heart, God has a place and a purpose for you and loves you just the way you are. God wants to give you greater happiness, love and joy than you have ever known in your life. Listen to God’s still, small voice-remember that Jesus told us what the really important things were about being a Christian-and open your heart to receive God’s unconditional, eternal love. And do not be surprised if God sends angels disguised in human form to reassure you, through a friend or therapist that can offer hope, through some new friends, through a support group or a loving and accepting church, through a stranger you may meet, through a loving gesture. It all happened for me. God has constantly been there for me, guiding me gently to angels that would accept and nuture my sou -a loving church and denomination in the UCC. My heart was warmed when Paul Sherry sent a letter to all churches in our denomination calling for full affirmation and acceptance of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in the full life and ministry of the church. Usually bisexuals are not mentioned. I found some wonderful therapists who helped to heal me from the guilt, shame, and fear I had felt for so long. I found some wonderful new freinds in the bisexual community and in addition to the years of volunteer work I have done for AIDS/HIV patients I now donate my time to the bi community to help offer support to others in the process of self-acceptance by helping them to know that God does not condemn them and that there is peace in the real teachings of Christ. I have fiound a wealth of new and positive friends, and a lot of literature that has helped me, and one of the best things is that in the social events I attend in the bi community, no alcohol is allowed-that helps to protect me form the clutches of that particualr demon. God has answewred my prayers for love, support, and purpose and will do the same for you, if you just believe.
Be honest with God when you pray, and know that sometimes pure hope and longing of the heart can be the purest and most genuine form of prayer, if you can’t seem to find the words. And put God first always by acting with love and compassion for all the rest of God’s Creation. God can be very creative, and will sometimes surprise us in positive ways we never thought of before if we do not limit God by putting Him/Her/Spirit in a box of limitations. Sometimes the answers to prayers can be better than we ever imagined! Again, even if people who claim to speak for God have discouraged you because of who you are, they are not God. God’s words soothe the heart, not torment the soul.
And God will always listen, always care, never leave you, support you when no one else seems to, always love you unconditonally, help you find a way to make all your dreams a reality in a way that works for the Highest Good of all Creation, and yes, always give you hope, especially when it seems hard to find.
Peace, Love and God Bless.
John Campbell is a native of Alabama.