Do I Belong? Part 1

The following post is by our friend Jimmy from Tennessee, a teacher and professional musician. You can check out his blog at http://queerconfessions.wordpress.com/.

I have asked myself one question in the thirteen years I have walked with Christ: do I, as a gay Christian, belong in God’s church? I was teased and bullied at my Christian middle school for being the quiet, shy, and sensitive one. While I excelled in Sunday School, knowing the right answers did not give me a sense that Jesus cared for my life. I was a confused 13 year-old boy who felt alone in the world, who had no friends, and who had never known another gay person in his life. It would seem that, as a young boy, I did not have a place in God’s family.

Even my early days as a follower of Christ were difficult. By the time I was entering high school, I had no idea what the Bible said about homosexuality, so I took it upon myself to look. I’ll never forget the first words I read from the Bible as a young Christian. “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites…none of these will inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor 6:9-10, NRSV). Sodomites won’t inherit the Kingdom of God? Who exactly is a sodomite? I had never had sex with a man, but I had looked at gay pornography. I lusted in my heart, and that made me an adulterer according to the words of Jesus. Paul was telling me that I, an adulterous sodomite, could not inherit God’s Kingdom. I was confused. I also had no one to talk to; I was locked into my closet of fear and solitude.

I carried that fear with me for a long time, but I finally broke my silence when I was a sophomore in high school. I came out to a straight senior in my church youth group, and I will always cherish the words he said to me that night. He said, “Thanks for telling me, Jimmy. You’re still my friend, and this doesn’t change who you are.” You mean this older kid – the jock, the most popular person in our youth group – wasn’t going to beat me up? Gossip about me? Judge me? That I could freely be myself around another person? Fifteen year old me was ecstatic! Jesus taught me an important lessons through my friend’s words: my sexuality is not my entire being. I, like every living person, am a complex soul with a personality unique unto myself, and above all, I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

As I came out to more people, the answer to my foundational question – do I belong in God’s Church – began to change from a timid “no” to a resounding “yes.” When I shared my sexuality with my youth minister and other friends from my high school youth group, they all replied quite similarly to my first confidant and trusted friend: you’re still the same guy we love. I met some amazing men on a church retreat during the summer before I moved to Tennessee for college, and they welcomed me into their fellowship when I came out before them. Those three men – Billy, Byron, and Michael – are my dearest brothers nine years after that church camp. They are all straight Christians, yet we have sharpened one another as iron sharpens iron. And many of the people I met in college also welcomed me, all of me, into their churches and campus fellowships.

I have been told by some more progressive people that those who hold a traditional view of Scripture and homosexuality can never truly love gay people, but I know for a fact that they are wrong. Dozens of people in my life prove those people wrong; so many of my closest friends are straight, evangelical Christians. They are also my roommates, my colleagues at work, my neighbors, and my friends. They support me during times of great joy and times of great sorrow. When my father passed away four years ago, this conservative Body of Christ went to great lengths to care for me and my family. They expected no payment or favor in return.

Do I have a place in God’s church? Yes, but not because people welcomed me in the church. I belong in God’s church because it is that same God who ruled that I have a place in this church through Jesus Christ. It is His body – the Church – that has turned God’s edict into incarnate, genuine love.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Sara

    This is beautiful–very inspiring to those of us who are struggling with this and asking the same exact question: Do I belong? Thanks for this.

  • JLynne

    There are lots of churches out there. As a gay person, you do need to find the right one, and when that happens, you will be able to focus on Christ, and not the hostile social envirnoments that homophobia unchecked creates. Like segregation there is dejure and defacto and this is the same with homophobia within heteronormative conservative churches and other institutions.

    Most of us have been bullids, teased, humiliated and treated like dirt. However, there comes a time when you learn how to fight back on every level available. I will never tolerate a dejure system, but I will fight to change defacto ones. It’s how I pick my battles as a conscious lesbian who will not be bullied, sexually harassed, and I will not tolerate sexism either. We as gays and lesbians determine the rules of our lives, not hetero people. We create our own institutions, we write our own theology, and we are awake and alive to our purpose on earth, and we speak to god in ways unique to our spiritual gifts, of which we have many.

    When you are young kid, it is awfully hard to escape dejure homophbic and woman hating systems. You’re kind of stuck with junior high, cruel churches, in your face womanhatred from pastors, priests etc. If you can find ways of light, read books, make new friends, and find a spiritual life that will fully honor women’s liberation, liberation from racism and homo hating places, then you can go to the next level. To find the true lesbian place in herstory, to rise above all of that indoctrination, and to find literally a room of one’s own is central. Then you can see the liberals and the conservatives as essentially the same…. all hetero people live in a majority, and whether it is dejure or defacto they oppress gays and lesbians, and they take the name of god in vein to do it. God finds her way to communicate with unique human communities, including the essential gifts of gay men and lesbians— the people who go out in the world, the creative spirits who were not created to “reproduce” but to “produce”—

    Our movement of liberation has moved ahead light years from say where we were in 1992 or 1972. We have our own churches and a creative and productive network worldwide making the world safer for gay and lesbian kids. Anytime a group liberates itself from the evil of oppression, god smiles on this awakening. Today, the gay and lesbian movement is probably THE civil rights cause of our times. There will be millions of straight people who sit this one out, just as there were millions of straight white people who sat out the black civil rights movement… the folks in the all white churches back in 1964. History and herstory don’t look kindly on oppressors. Christ does not look kindly on the gay haters and bullies.
    He is present anywhere gay people are, powerfully fully present just for us, both in his male form and her female transformation.

    And if we believe that Christ is fully human and fully divine, we will see the second coming of Christ return as a woman to judge the living and the dead, and I think the male half of humanity will have a lot to answer for that’s for sure. God sides with the oppressed always, and she hates it when the oppressor puts locks on her church!

  • Jack Harris

    I applaud you for being open to the love others give you even from people who fundamentally disagree that you live your life as a gay man. I also have a few folks like this in my life, but precious few. They know if they wish to stay in my life that they don’t cross the line–there is no space to question me or my partner or the general fact that I am gay. They know that I am strong in my faith as a gay christian and that I will not tolerate being insulted–thats the only way it works in my world.

  • JLynne

    Actually, Jack that was a very interesting comment. To tell you the truth, I have a lot of friends and acquantences in my life, but I don’t often know what people believe about lesbianness. They could be very conservative, they could be fundamentalist christians, who knows. In Los Angeles, it’s actually rare for mean straight people to dare say anything mean at all. I assume when heteros ask me no questions at all, or don’t want to know about my personal life that it is a kind of erasing homophobia or fear of saying something wrong. So it’s silence what that type of hetero. But a gay person or lesbian person will immediately want to really know me, will know what to say, will have a certain kind of connectedness that straight people just don’t have. They might bumble around as rather clueless liberals, so in some ways it’s not much of an issue. I do feel exhausted at times with the straight world, and really feel the most at home in all lesbian groups. It’s weird to see all this right wing anti-gay stuff out there, and I know people are homophobes and womanhating… they just are. But out and proud lesbians and gays would never go to those stupid churches to begin with. So we have a political movement to fight for civil rights, and that’s good, but I’ll always be distant from the hetero world, bored with their children, their lives, and as a lifelong lesbian I’ll always really love just the company of women. So no matter how “liberal” hetero people are, they still don’t feel lovely and wonderful, they will never make me FEEL much of anything really. I know that sounds kind of bad, but really, I don’t deeply feel at all with them.


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