On Why I Hate/Love Homecomings

The next post in this series is from Matt Richards. Matt is a Church Planting Intern at Urban Village Church, a Social Worker at the University of Chicago and he received his M. Div from the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Recently, I went and saw a play that one of my friends wrote called, “The Homosexuals.” It tells the story of a group of gay urban men who become family for one another. There is a very moving scene in which one of the characters recalls feeling utterly drawn to one of his male friends during adolescence and realizes at that moment that he “could never get close enough.” At that moment, he realized that no matter how deeply he was drawn into the life of this other person, there would always be more left to know, always places yet to traverse, questions yet to ask, words left to utter.

I remember a few of these magical moments. They will be etched into my memory forever because they were the beginnings of me feeling beauty inside my bones. These were moments in which I began to understand that there was some pulsating force inside of me that would lead me into the world of other people. Let us call it a basic curiosity or desire. That we often have these experiences before we have completed puberty, conveys that these experiences are not reducible to questions about who is putting which genitals where which, unfortunately, is the impoverished vocabulary employed by most of our churches when speaking about “homosexuality.”Instead, these are moments in which we begin to comprehend that we are not enough for ourselves and never will be. We are not at home.

I also remember sitting in front of the television when I was a child and listening to Robert Knight from the Family Research Council tell a national TV audience on CNN’s “Crossfire” that the average gay man consumes “80 lbs of feces in a lifetime.” I remember realizing that this dazzling mystery inside of me was nothing more than smut in the eyes of this man. He was disgusted by people like me, so much so that he could think of nothing better than to contrive the sorts of lies that prevent humans from thinking clearly—that is what disgust always does and it has regrettably been a Christian political strategy for a very long time.

However, this was an important experience because it was a more honest expression of the sort of Christian homophobia and heteronormativity that today tries to reduce gay intimacies and desire to acts of penetration or some issue that straight people (especially theologians) can puzzle over into the wee hours of the morning, studying with passionless detachment. This is strikingly different from Jesus who was always keen to a fascinating detour into some particular persons life.

I don’t argue about my gayness anymore because I feel no inclination to justify it. When I share in fellowship with my friends, when we show up for one another in surprising ways, that feeling of dazzling beauty arises again. I look around and I see surprise and delight in the faces of friends who have traveled long roads to arrive at this moment.

God creates all of us in such a way that we cannot be enough for ourselves. Ever. Think about that. We want everything near at hand and all at once but the tape will not play out that way. Consequently, we will all need companions, and lovers, and late night phone calls with friends. If we can’t go home, we will need people who help us discover where home now is. We will need banquet tables filled with beverage, and warmth, and people we love. Hopefully, like Jesus, we will endeavor to share all of these things with people who feel far from the center, who feel as if they have no one.

I imagine that Jesus’ return will be a final homecoming. One in which all of my friends will be free to go home to their Christian families on Thanksgiving. When they will not be regarded as disappointments or prodigal children who left town. Instead, they will be recognized as the beautiful, complicated, searching creatures that they are.

This eternal communion table indeed feels many worlds away. Part of the final communion I dream about is one in which the Church stops acting like “homosexuality” is my great spiritual dilemma. Instead, it will recognize that it’s all the other stuff.  My insecurity, my silence in the face of injustice, my weariness about the state of the world, my lack of trust in God, my obsessive need for control. When the Church starts treating gay people like the textured creatures that all humans are, I will perhaps believe that home is just around the bend.

But until then, I try my best to remind myself that God can and will accomplish things that I cannot imagine. I pray that some of these unimaginable things will happen inside of me. We all need the cross and the empty tomb— signs of the God who is with us and for us until the end of all things. The shit storms of life demand that we try and remind each other of these things. That is the task of the Church and the interesting and difficult work of Kingdom building: that our lives become tangible expressions and reminders of the communion that is yet to come. May we all—straight, gay, bi, lesbian, queer, trans—be people who do just that. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Much love.


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  • Frank

    Yes it is true that God can and will accomplish things that we cannot imagine, including healing people of their sinful desires. The empty tomb should signify that we must empty ourselves, including our sexuality, and be born a new, including our sexuality.

    You probably no longer try to justify your sin because deep down you know you cannot.

    • Kevin Harris

      Frank – It is a bit presumptuous to make such statements by assuming that Matt has not sought to empty himself in his pursuit of God with regards to his faith and sexuality. That is, unless you personally know Matt and the comment above is reflective of that reality. In that case, I would recommend having such a discussion in confidence with him.

      Such knee-jerk reactions are not helpful in moving conversations about faith and sexuality forward in a positive manner, nor are they befitting given the openness and vulnerability entailed in relating part of a personal journey like Matt has done with this post.

  • Matt, I thought this was honest, heartfelt, and very beautifully written. Thank you for opening yourself up and sharing with us. God bless you!

  • Amy

    Frank – seriously! I’d like to believe in a God that would be more annoyed with your attitude to a Godly man trying to work out his salvation, than with a servant of his who made in his image knows that his sexuality is just one part of the beautiful person he is. Unfortunately though nothing that anyone can say will convince you other wise – so bring on glory, because there will be so many surprises as to who gets to sit with him and hear the words well done good and faithful servant.

    This post is moving and amazing and constantly through this website opens my eyes even more. Lets have the conversations. Lets have the homecomings. more and more please!

  • pmview

    Matt, I read with interest your perspectives from earliest memories, impressions and comparisons. I appreciate your awareness levels as an adult to go back into emotional archives and help others follow along your internal dialogue. I found this narrative endearing as though you’ve included me into these sacred turning points. Thanks for sharing and helping me to find the hope you’ve developed over the years.

  • Matt

    Thanks for all your comments. I did want to respond to Frank’s question/point about self-emptying (kenosis). There is a christological debate mostly surrounding Philipians 2:5-8 about the compatibility of God’s divine and human nature which we don’t have time to address, interesting as it is. The more relevant implied question is whether a gay affirming sexual ethic (my position) is incompatible with the ethic of self-sacrifice which Jesus perfectly lives out. The assumption in Frank’s position is that it is, namely because it is assumed that I am simply seeking justifications for the sex I want to have. I would argue that this is quite wrong. In fact, opening ourselves to the Other (God and human others) involves sacrificing the illusion of our own sufficiency and becoming vulnerable to the work and influence of others. God creates us in such a way that we have to become truly open to otherness rather than turning God or other humans into instruments of our own will (this seems to be Paul’s concern in Romans 1). So, kenosis is a very important part of modeling our lives on Christ’s life and learning how to desire others well without violating their integrity. All Christians must think about how their desiring lives reflect Christ’s kenotic ethic. If you want to argue that gay affirming Christians are denying kenosis, that would require an argument which, in my experience, is precisely what is often lacking. As Jesus demonstrated, conventional wisdom is often wrong and needs to be unsettled. I would call for a little more unsettling.

  • Amy

    Matt, I was touched and moved by your poetic description of your life and relationship with God and others. Thank you for your openness.

  • Drew

    Gosh, how nice for straights who don’t have “justify” their sexuality and manage to get their needs for intimacy, connection…for HOME met in ways that are granted approval by the church and that they don’t have to second guess and wrestle with.

  • Matt, thanks for telling the truth!

    So beautifully written — and, more importantly, so beautifully and honestly lived. I am profoundly grateful to have you as a colleague.

    Your ministry reminds us that being LGBT is not a liminal/edgy/marginal Christian identity. Oh, no: we are already at Jesus’s table.