It’s been a long, painful and perilous journey from a life of suffocating fear and self-loathing toward a life of fearlessness and love. I spent most of my teenage and adult years trapped in the impenetrable coffin of my self-loathing, absolutely convinced that I was unlovable to God. As a young boy growing up in the evangelical world, I somehow absorbed the message that being gay makes a person loathsome and subhuman. When I started to discover that I was gay myself, I became the victim of my own undying disgust and hatred. Like a supernova, my being collapsed upon itself, the object of its own unquenchable disgust.
Once upon a time, there was a fast talking, chain-smoking bisexual Texan pastor named Robert who sat me down and gave me a stern talking to.
“Listen Stephen,” he said. “The world is full of assholes. And if you lose your sanity over them – if you lose your happiness because some asshole out there thinks you shouldn’t get married, or thinks of you as less than human, what then? Have you changed their minds? No. You’ve just lost your own life to them. You’ve let them win. They’re still assholes, and you’ve sacrificed your happiness to them. Why should you give a fuck what they say, man? Live your life.”
I was traumatized by my time in church. The years of sitting in pews, Bible studies, and coffee shops with Christian leaders, listening to variation upon variation of how wrong homosexuality is, slowly eroded me. Words might not seem that powerful, but if they are a steady trickle, coursing over your young mind which is porous as fresh soil, they carve out whole canyons of self loathing.
Last year, I wrote an article called Talking About LGBT People: A Tutorial. The basic gist of the article was that, when it comes to straight, conservative Christians trying to understand gay people, listening is better than talking. This thesis is obviously a good one: we should all listen more intently, and be less willing to offer hair-trigger responses to difficult situations. I stand by that central thesis.
But, for the past year, this article has been a grain of sand in my conscience, irritating and troubling me. I’ve meditated a great deal on my words in this post, and I now believe that an amendment is in order.
Wendy VanderWal-Gritter – a Christian thinker, ministry leader, and straight ally – has long struggled with the dynamic tensions of being a person of faith who also embraces the gay community.
Several years ago, as I was journeying out of the traditional theological view of gay marriage, I read an extraordinary book by Dr. James Brownson titled Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing The Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships.
Bible, Gender, Sexuality is a thing of theological beauty: elegant, persuasive, and deeply compassionate. It was the book that allowed me to finally pack my bags and walk with confidence into affirming gay marriage and my own gay orientation.
This morning, as I was scrolling through my feedly app, I came across a particular post from an ex-gay blog called Your Other Brothers (they would probably object to being labeled as ex-gay, but that to me seems the best approximation of their work.) Much as I disagree with the guys on the blog, I enjoy reading them. They are figuring life out the best way they can, and I relate to their journey – mine was very similar to theirs before I came to fully embrace being gay. the post in question was a discussion about Trey Pearson, the Christian rockstar and frontman of Everyday Sunday who recently came out as gay. One sentence read, “I can see his heart behind coming out, coming to terms with his sexuality, and all that. But it’s all heart. He’s leading by feeling in lieu of fact.” The simple fact being, I assume, that the Bible is clear, and that no amount of human suffering should dissuade us from that clarity. This is clearly seen as a strength among many Christians, but I see it as anything but.
Once upon a time, I was known almost exclusively on the web for being a gay Christian. I wrote day in, day out, about the experience of homosexuality and faith, and I eventually developed a tidy following for my work. For almost all of my late teens and pretty much all of my twenties, I dedicated my life to sorting out the puzzle of my sexuality, and it consumed my every thought. It kept me up at night, I wept, I cut myself, I plunged into deep depression, I read and prayed and talked, I searched desperately for the love of God. And, all along the way, I wrote untold thousands of words in poetry, fiction, journal entries, and articles.
In 2014, Michael Coren – the conservative Catholic columnist, television personality and bestselling author – made international waves by coming out in support of gay marriage and leaving the Roman Catholic church. Earlier this year, he published Epiphany: A Christian’s Change of Heart and Mind Over Same-Sex Marriage.
I found his book heartfelt, beautiful, and compassionate. I am always moved when someone like Michael Coren – someone who represents the conservative Christian vangaurd – publically switches views and risks disgrace from his own camp. I reached out to Michael to discuss his book, his thoughts on the church and the LGBT issue, and (as he describes it delightfully in his book) his “conversion on the road to the rainbow.”
Today, we are continuing our interview with James Brownson regarding his book “Bible, Gender, Sexuality”. Be sure to check out part one.