Brian’s Story P2
Last week, I told you that looking for “the perfect” explanation of the clobber passages was ultimately unfulfilling. It didn’t inspire confidence in my theology, it didn’t do anything to relieve my shame, and it certainly didn’t breathe life into my faith.
I found something that did. It’s the same something that Fr. Shay found. And it became the basis for QueerTheology.com eight years ago.
But the paths to progress and healing aren’t linear and anyway, sometimes our faith needs inspiration from unexpected places, so before I get there, an aside.
When I was 18 and a freshman in college, I hit a breaking point. I didn’t have all the answers to how being gay might fit together with being Christian.
But I was damned near sure that I was going to have to reckon with it.
My friendship with Robbie shifted something in me. At the time, it was hella stressful. Homosexuality went from this thing I did sometimes — look at porn, linger too long in the bathing suit section of a catalog, think the wrong type of thought — to something that I was. Constantly. It was inescapable. Every cute boy, every moment with Robbie, every moment away from him: I was constantly aware that this wasn’t just an action, it was some part of me.
By the time I was starting college, I’d already stumbled upon what has become one of my favorite Bible verses: “Test everything, hold fast to that which is good;” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. (BTW if you want some daily doses of queer-positive spiritual inspiration, enter your info here to get daily affirmations emailed every weekday).
I also knew that God created me, and that I was very good. So I decided that was enough.
That God trusted me. Maybe even that God could be my wingman. But definitely that, no matter what, God would love me.
In the greatest commandment, Jesus shares that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love of God, love of self, and love of others are all bound up together, I had to learn to love myself.
So, I stopped trying to figure it out.
I stopped researching the clobber passages. I stopped going to church. I mostly stopped reading my Bible, too. Unbeknownst to me, thousands of miles away, Shay was doing the same thing. He talks about that in A Guide to Recovering From Fundamentalism. We wouldn’t meet for another 5 years, but God was leading us down similar paths.
I started making gay friends. Then I started telling them that I was gay, then telling my best friends. Eventually, everyone knew and I was out.
Meeting all sorts of LGBTQ people, from all sorts of different backgrounds, in all different places on their journey was crucial for me. Different religions and no religions, some with wonderfully accepting parents, others who had been kicked, some who weren’t out yet, others who had been out for decades.
Friendships are sacred. We are social creatures. We need community.
I went to queer parties and met guys and had a bunch of one-night stands. I got crushes, tried dating, fell in love, and got my heart broken.
At the time, it sometimes felt a little messy. It took me a while to stumble through creating a sexual ethic. I bumped heads with my parents A LOT and had to learn the hard way to develop my own support systems and set healthy boundaries.
Eventually, I got involved with LGBTQ-activism, confronting discriminatory policies at Christian colleges. Then I plugged into activism in New York State, and eventually NYC. The work pushed me to become more intersectional in my thinking and organizing. A good friend, Tauret, told me to read The Color of Violence rather than explain to me why she opposed hate crimes legislation. The book, and the example she set by giving folks, even your friends, work to do, was a revelation for me.
It was in protest lines and squaring off with police and huddled together in rural basements and crammed into tiny closets of rooms in the NYC LGBT Center that I felt the presence of the Spirit more than I’d ever felt in a Bible study or evangelical worship service (and I thought I’d felt a whole lot of spirit before).
Eventually, I found my way to progressive Christian churches. Places that took their faith seriously but also made room for doubts. Places where Bible studies and AA meetings and beds for homeless folks were side by side.
But, as wonderful as those places were, there was still something missing. Even though progressive Christian churches often have LGBTQ members and sometimes even LGBTQ staff or pastors, I found myself hungry for more.
I didn’t want to be told how I could fit into this faith, I wanted to explore what new insight queerness had to offer this ancient faith.
At the time, the “LGBT Christian conversation” was almost exclusively focused on defending our right to exist and trying to explain the clobber passages. So I started making YouTube videos about them, but I had no interest in being on the defensive.
We’ve all heard the same arguments.
John Shelby Spong and others made the case decades ago. I wanted to find out what was already queer about those passages. What were we missing?
I started talking to Shay more and he was doing similar work. We started looking for even more queer connections. We kept sharing what we were figuring out.
At bible studies and small groups…
At the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference.
When we discovered that there were no LGBTQ speakers (only a few featured artists) at the first-ever Wild Goose Festival, Fr. Shay and I went rogue and wore our Legalize Trans shirts the entire festival, drawing to us folks who had questions and were HUNGRY to go beyond the 101 conversations.
We saw over and over again that proactively proclaiming a queer gospel, rather than dryly, defensively trying to argue over ancient translations, is what liberates both LGBTQ people and soon-to-be straight, cisgender allies.
So we registered the QueerTheology.com and domain and hosted a Google Hangouts course on how to queer the Bible. 10 people signed up. So we did it again with another 10. And then again. And we kept asking “What else?” What else is missing? What needs to be said?
It’s why Shay was writing about deconstruction years before Rachel Held Evans popularized it. We were talking about purity culture with @ No Shame Movement all the way back in 2014. It’s why I was the first queer Christian to talk publicly about polyamory, even though it brought death threats.
(If you want us to talk at your church or school about one of these things, we’d love to! Let’s talk!)
When you lead with queerness, God reveals themself more and more. When you combine that with love and service, so much is possible.
I think a lot about my sixth-grade Sunday school teacher, Mr. McKinnon these days. He had such a passion for spreading the gospel as he understood it. He was the first person that made Christianity engaging for me. Unfortunately, it was at a church that has no place for LGBTQ people, or women in leadership. It has no place for anyone outside of their narrow definition of the right type of Christian, everyone else is damned by God to hell.
Those evangelical Sunday school teachers taught me that if you have a life-saving message, you can’t hide it away, you’ve got to share it.
I’ve seen how listening to queer people, how queering Christianity, how honoring the sacredness of queer friendship and family and bodies and sex is liberating and life-giving. It’s connected me to something-bigger-than-myself-which-I-guess-is-what-we-call-God.
So we keep sharing it. Because the queer gospel is good news.
If you’re ready to move past the point of wondering whether it’s okay to be LGBTQ and Christian and now you’re asking “how do might faith and my sexuality or gender enrich one another?” we put together a short series to lead you deeper and deeper into the queer Gospel.
Divine revelations are already inside of you. We’ll help you tap into the whispers and yearnings of the Holy Spirit (she’s queer).