Here’s a letter I recently received:
I just found this blog and I am so excited! I did not know so many other people out there believe as I do.
I grew up in an evangelical mega-church in Iowa, and was raised to know what I believed, and why I believed it. So for that reason I thank my crazy church, because when I got to college and actually met people who weren’t white or straight or Christian, I started to do my own research about why I believed things such as “homosexuality is a sin.” And I realized that I did not have a reason to believe that. I completely agree with what has been stated on this site over and over, which is that if people would only read the Bible in context, and use their logic and reasoning skills, they would come to the same conclusion about the “sinfulness” of homosexuality, which is that it’s no sin at all.
I did not, though, do a complete 180, and throw away my faith in God. I just had to change some beliefs not central to my core beliefs.
The Christians at my church do not understand this type of thinking at all. They believe that you have to take all of the Bible literally, or take none of it at all. The atheists at my college think the same way; the only difference is that they have decided there are inconsistencies in the Bible, and so have tossed out the whole thing — which, in my opinion, is just as bad. I have not yet met another person (offline!) who is trying to find a way to bring faith and social justice together.
If anyone has an answer to my question I would appreciate hearing it. I am wondering if I should stay at my church (which preaches each Sunday against homosexuality — which is specifically cited as a sin in the code of the Assemblies of God international church) and try to make a change from the inside, or should I just get out of that hate-filled place, and find an open church? The latter would be easier, but I wonder if it is right to leave my friends and family behind that way? It is stressful to stay in that environment, because there I am attacked by pastors who accuse me of misleading their flock, and I have been told by my parents that the devil has confused my mind. But if I let them drive me away, how will they ever hear the truth?
Amazing. You guys just kill me with these letters.
What a good, open, well-meaning heart this person has! Honestly, it’s letters like this that send me to sleep every night optimistic about the mission upon which so many of us have embarked. Ten people like this in the world can end up changing the world.
Though, that said, here’s my two-cents on question at hand:
Dear Inspiringly Good-Natured and Earnest Young Person,
Leave your church so fast you leave airborne bulletins in your wake. Life’s too short. The primary thing to which we all must tend is ourselves. You don’t need anyone in your life — and especially not anyone as meaningful as your parents and church leader — telling you that you’re evil, weak, stupid, confused, manipulative, blah blah blah you scare us because your love is greater than ours.
I’ve been in the “But wait! I’m making sense!” business of intra-religious dialogue for a long time now. And it’s been my experience that you’re about as likely to come across a guitar-playing peacock as you are a fundavangelical-type Christian willing to reconsider their conviction that (in essence) God hates fags.
That’s not to say such questioning folks aren’t out there. There are plenty of Christians (and more every day, praise God) who are realizing that the case for the Biblical justification for the full acceptance of homosexuality is at least as credible as the traditional case against it.
But given what you’ve written, I don’t think there are too many peacocks in your church trying to pluck their way through the “Free Bird” guitar solo. A big part of life is going with the odds, right? Well, odds are you would do more good out in the world leading a healthy, nurtured, loving life than you would staying in a place where it was generally accepted (and from the top down, no less) that you wouldn’t know Satan from Santa.
Here’s my real (and non-cartoonish) suggestion for how to leave your church: tell your pastor, your parents, and perhaps a few others whom you think should be there that you want to meet and talk with them for one half-hour without being interrupted. At that meeting explain to the group that you have arrived at the decision to leave your church. (It’s likely that right about there you’ll be constrained to remind them of their agreement not to interrupt you.) Share the pain that decision causes you; how much the church means to you; how difficult it was for you to decide as you have. Lead them through the process by which you arrived at the conclusion you have. Don’t try to sell them on why you’re right about gays and Christianity; just talk to them about what being so sure you’re right on that issue has meant, does mean, and will continue to mean to you.
During the conversation following your half-hour solo, try asking your pastor if he would be willing to facilitate any sort of congregation-wide conversation about the LGBT/Christian issue: a one-day symposium, perhaps, or an ongoing series of classes and discussions. If you’ve given it as much thought as you have, surely there are others in your congregation who at the very least would appreciate an open, honest conversation about an issue that is, after all, cleaving the American Protestant church. Ask your pastor if there isn’t a way that, as a church, you guys could at least talk about the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity. (If he shows any interest in moving ahead with such an effort, send him to This I Know, a wonderful [and wonderfully inexpensive] tool for churches with groups looking for a safe and comfortable atmosphere in which to constructively and productively engage about this issue.)
If your pastor is open to that sort of endeavor, then who knows: you might end up staying at that church after all. But if he’s not, and he tells you he’s not, then he’s just another blind man leading blind people around in ever-tightening circles. Then with a clean conscience you can do as Jesus advises his disciples to do at Mark 6:11:
And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.
Jesus said that to his disciples as he sent them out into the world two by two. If you leave your church, you may feel as if you are doing so alone. But rest assured that the other person in your two-person team will be Jesus himself.