When I’m not having awkward conversations with Christians about homosexuality, I find myself having awkward conversations about another aspect of my life: I’m a Christian who practices and teaches yoga, and reads Tarot cards. For many Christians this exiles me to the far fringe of the fringe – to those “crazy Christians who worship Sophia and call themselves Episcopalians.”
Today, we are continuing our interview with James Brownson regarding his book “Bible, Gender, Sexuality”. Be sure to check out part one.
Last year, I read an extraordinary book by James Brownson called Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. I found it personally cathartic in my own journey as a gay Christian, as it helped me sort through some major theological questions I had at the time, but I also found it to be one of the most lucid, comprehensive, and brilliant discussions of scripture and homosexuality I have ever read. Dr. Brownson manages to combine academic and scholarly brilliance with a patience and gentleness that is much needed in the church surrounding debates about homosexuality.
I have to be honest: I hate going to church. Lately, my sponsor has been encouraging me to pick up church attendance again, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about why I hate it so much: why I find it, at best, intolerable and boring, and at worst, painful and overwhelming.
The tide started to turn, perhaps, when my editor was reading a piece for my previous blog, “Sacred Tension”, about being gay and Christian. She looked up at me and said, “Stephen, I can’t let you publish this.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because people would feel attacked, belittled, dehumanized,” she said, “I won’t let you publish this piece, not in its current form.”
“The church is a whore,” wrote Augustine, “But she is my mother.” Too often, I have heard this quote used to say, “yeah, the Church is messed up, but family’s family. I can’t leave, even if I wanted to.”
I’ve often wondered if the people who so willingly fling this quote around have any notion of what It’s like to have an abusive mother.
Depression has always been a part of my life – it has always been lurking in closets and under beds for me – but 2014 was the year it decided to come out in full force and pin me to the ground. My world – a world once teeming with social connections, creativity, and activity – collapsed in on itself. It was as if the atmosphere of my vibrant little world was sucked out by a passing planet, and I was left fighting for life.
I am a gay Christian, raised in the conservative, Evangelical Christian world. As a teenager and young adult, I grew up in the ex-gay world, where even just the identity of gay was considered sinful. After many years of struggle, I eventually came to an affirming position on homosexuality in 2013 at the age of 24. I also wrote a blog, called Sacred Tension, which engaged in dialogue about faith and homosexuality.
I am at the Abbey of Gethsemeni as I write this: home of Thomas Merton, and one of the great mystical and ecumenical centers of the world. The Abbey has a plain, simple beauty about it, and is transfixed in a perpetual silence – a silence so deep it feels like a physical substance. I am taking this time to rest and reflect, to process the past year and prepare myself for the new, and to open myself up to the presence of God.
This was a year of hermitage. It was a year of letting many of the social, creative, and interactive plates I was spinning come crashing to the ground. I needed to retreat to focus on more important things: my mental health, and my work. My involvement in gay activism all but vanished, and my previous blog, which had seen some mild and enjoyable success, collected cyber dust and eventually expired.