Nearly every gay person raised in the Christian world has heard it at least once in their lives: “You know deep within your heart that what you are doing is wrong. You know in your heart that homosexuality is not God’s best for you, and you are just unwilling to admit it, running away from the truth.”
Far too often, we hear this from the people we love the most: old friends, pastors, parents and siblings – the people who raised us, nurtured us, taught us how to understand the world. They are concerned, well intentioned, unaware of just how damaging, belittling, dehumanizing those 9 little words are: “you know the truth deep down in your heart.”
Underlying these words are a series of unyeilding, unempathetic assumptions: that we all know absolute truth, that knowing truth is a simple task – as simple as opening your Bible – and that anyone who fails to agree with the evangelical orthodoxy is simply delusional, of corrupt intention and character.
It is this series of assumptions – unwritten but universally understood doctrines – that weaponize Evangelicalism, and make it so deadly to so many people of good will who have genuine questions or doubts. When a gay person has doubts about the traditional view of homosexuality, that can only be interpreted as a deliberate blindness. I was told, on many occasions, “You are looking for loopholes to sin,” or, “you are unwilling to accept God’s commands for your life.” Your integrity is under fire, simply for asking a question.
I have a message I want to tell the world, especially my fellow Christians – a message that has been brewing in me for years: stop telling me what I know deep in my heart. You say that I know, deep within my heart, that living with the love of my life is sin, that homosexuality is an abomination, that I am just a wounded heterosexual waiting for the healing hand of God, that I know God’s commandments clearly and am choosing to disobey.
I know nothing of the sort. In fact, I have known just the opposite: that love is good, that homosexuality is natural, and that as long as I resist my orientation, I will resist living life fully in the present moment. A small part of me has known this through darkness and agony, through prayers and tears, and I have even known this when I was an ex-gay, and then a young gay man committed to celibacy and the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. I have known, in my heart of hearts, that the church has been misled.
We disagree, for our hearts know different things. This is the great wonder and tragedy of human nature: our hearts are complicated, incomprehensible things. One man may know in his heart that there is no God, another may know that God is closer than his own skin. Our infallible hearts inform our every step, and we can only follow and discern and question with as much integrity as we can. While truth may be absolute, the human heart and mind are not, and we can only strive to live as best we can, with what little shards of truth we have in the mirror houses of our souls.
I’ve done my best to follow God, to follow truth, to know what is right and wrong, while fully admitting the fallibility of my mind and heart. I will always cherish my capacity to be wrong – without it, I can learn nothing. I now simply ask that you, dear Christian, do the same. I will never tell you what you know deep in your heart, and I request the same courtesy. Because our hearts know different things, and until we accept that, we will never have a life-giving discussion about homosexuality and faith – or anything at all.