I have gotten caught up in a lot of the dialogue out there, this cantankerous conflict about the-sandwich-shop-which-shall-not-be-named (being silly here folks, relax). In so doing I have gotten a bit off track from lifting up stories of people who are walking this path of faith as either gay Christians or as Christians who identify as gay allies. Let’s get back to that today shall we?
I’d like to introduce my friend Michael Hunt. Michael and attended seminary together but we couldn’t be any more different. We come from different communities, different traditions within Christianity and speak different languages of love and holiness. I am grateful for gift of getting to know one another afforded us by Candler School of Theology. Though we have not seen much of each other since graduation, we do occasionally run across thoughtful and empowering posts shared by one another on Facebook. And he has been on my mind. See, I know he is an ally and I knew that he has not always been in that space. I didn’t know how he got there so I just up and asked him if he would share with me, and you, a little about his journey. Here is what he sent.
““When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”–Audre Lorde
So I shall speak, and I hope someone listens, but even if they don’t, I can still say I am no longer afraid!
Growing up, I remember my mom warning to watch that person or that person (people she assumed to be gay). And not to walk a certain way or do certain things that would give the appearance of me being a ‘sissy’. Being a single mom she wanted to instill in me those things society says a father would normally instill.
See, I grew up in churches that constantly put down people who were homosexual to the point that the lesbian woman who loved the church so much would go to everything but not fully be herself in the midst of the church folks for fear of rejection. Even in my family there is no one who is openly gay, they keep it to themselves or distance themselves because of the rejection and being hurt the most by the people you love. I grew up in schools were students were facing major dilemmas about their sexuality and yet the community warned other students to be careful so that you won’t get “turned out”. I grew up in a city where certain parts were known for its “gayness” and if you were caught in the area many assumptions about your sexuality were made. I grew up in a school system where kids would beat up another kid who had “gay tendencies”. I grew up in a church where young people sought to find themselves, wishing that they would be accepted, but instead found hateful-looks, hurtful stares, and painful silence as they walked by. I grew up believing it was okay to deny someone the opportunity to express their love for another person who may be of the same sex or gender.
But you know, one day, finally, I GREW UP!!!
Today, I can say, “My name is Reverend Michael Asbury Hunt, and I am a recovering Homophobic!”
It took me awhile to be able to openly admit this, but I found the courage to do so after hearing one of my mentors who is an openly gay black minister say the he too was a recovering homophobic. This is something that I have to put into check daily. Something I inherited; was not born with it, but I know within the society in which I lived, the church, my family, there were never good conversations surrounding the issue. Even now I have family members who get upset when I correct them or ask them not to make certain comments. And let me honest, there are times when I have to catch myself about what I am saying or even what I am not saying, because sometimes silence can be just as hurtful.
During college, I had many friends who were gay, but I still believed that it was sinful and they needed to repent and pray about it. It has taken time, but through many discussions, readings and prayerful considerations, my thoughts behind this have changed drastically and I thank God for that! Some may disagree with me and that is okay, but I firmly believe that homosexuality is not a sin. However, I do believe that homosexuality, just as heterosexuality, can lead us to sin, separation from God (at another time, we can talk about my view of sin and my biblical interpretation).
It is hard to say this especially growing up in communities where this would never be talked about! And to believe that homosexuality is not a sin would be incomprehensible. So I type this post knowing the consequences that come. Some have stopped inviting me to their churches and some have bad mouthed me and spread rumors. But as I prayed and sought counsel, there have been many who have had an open mind and an open heart. I continue to pray that we begin to see how we as the church, we as a community, especially within the black church, can begin to heal and mend broken relationships between the church and the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex) community, who, if the truth be told are members of the church as well.
Some may be wondering, what changed your mind? When did this happen? A few things so, bear with me…
- I closely examined myself. I realized a few things. I realized that I had to reconsider why I believed what I believed and after hearing from God through many ways, I knew my opinion had to change. I even had to acknowledge that I myself am a sexual being. God created me to be that and I must accept it and enjoy it! We can’t talk honestly and openly about homosexuality without delving into sexuality and gender dynamics.
- I closely examined the life of Jesus. I found that in no writing do we find Jesus explicitly dealing with homosexuality, although he quite often dealt with the sins associated with heterosexuality. And Yes I am a follower of Jesus! And for the record, the Jesus that I love, adore, worship and admire did not go around preaching hate, or saying stuff like “love the sinner, hate the sin” which is clearly used to continue oppressing those who don’t view sin the same way as the one saying it does.
- I have many friends who have been in same gender loving relationships for many years and they are faithfully committed! More so than some friends/family members/church members who are married and creeping, or single and sleeping! (Good God Almighty!)
- I have witnessed my own friends/students/family members/church friends being disowned by parents/family/church/community for loving someone of the same sex/gender.
- I used to think that each gay person must have experienced some kind of childhood drama. Whether one believes this or not, the statistics show that the perpetrators of such trauma consider themselves to be heterosexual, and many are sitting in the pews and the pulpits Sunday after Sunday.
- The public persecution of gay people by religious institution is downright wrong and hurtful and the God I serve is loving and just and these so-called Christian religious folks are not examples of that. Just as St. Francis Assisi said, “ Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words”. This quote sums up perfectly my view on how the church has failed to be Christ and share Christ to the world. We have used words to hurt, destroy and demonize our brothers and sisters and have forgotten that Christ spoke very little but performed and did so much. We pick and choose what part of the Gospel message we want to proclaim. And well, I am sick and tired of that!
- When some of my childhood friends were experimenting with their sexuality, I was frustrated because clearly from my upbringing being gay was a sin. But years later, I realized that I was more frustrated because the church saw our young people struggling with understanding their own sexuality, and we said and did NOTHING. We turned our backs on them. We hurt them with words and with our ignorant comments. We left them to find out on their own, in a cruel unjust world. The church failed them and that is what saddens me.
- I watched a video that a colleague posted that showed many same gender loving couples celebrating life-long commitment to each other that has lasted 10, 20, even 40 years. What does love got to do with it? Everything!
- The issue of marriage has moved from being a religious institution to being the societal norm, and thus making the issue of adults being denied the right to marry, truly a matter of civil rights!
- Finally, I broadened my friendship circle. I got to know people from all walks of life, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, Latino, bi-sexual, queer, international, rich, poor, etc. As I opened myself to learn from others, I recognized that I can no longer hold on to the hate and bigotry that society has fed me over the last few decades. It is indeed a new season! It is a new day!
I am not gay and have no desires to be, but the sad thing is that I had to give a disclaimer. It is true that people read and hear what they want. So again, let me make this clear… This has nothing to do with my own sexuality except that I stand now in unity with my brothers and sisters, all those who have been marginalized, hurt, disrespected, and degraded because of their sexual orientation and/or the gender expression. I take this risk because I heard the voice of Jesus say “If you will come after me, deny yourself, and take up your cross, and follow me.” So today, I come out, carrying the cross, as an ally, and I pray that you do likewise.
May we all Speak Truth to Power: Let’s take up our cross and follow Christ!
Peace, Love, and Prosperity,
Michael A. Hunt is a native of a native of Baltimore, Maryland and an ordained Baptist minister from the black church tradition. His ministry has him serving as a university/college administrator and a social justice educator, shaping the lives of the leaders of today. He loves to sing, preach, cook, and play spades & poker. Michael fully believes and lives by this mantra, “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.”