To a Gay Anti-Christian Activist Who Suddenly Converted

A friend of mine is a gay artist who, up until a few days ago, was a tireless and fairly high-profile opponent of Christianity. His world recently changed when he realized that, despite his “hard-won atheism,” he was rapidly becoming a Christian.

“I’m sitting here listening to Jars of [bleeping] Clay and weeping,” he wrote me. “Mother[bleep]er! Where is this [bleep] coming from? And why am I okay with it? God[bleep] it.”

Knowing my history (see I, A Rabid Anti-Christian, Very Suddenly Covert), my friend asked for some advice about the phenomenon he was experiencing. That advice (which he was kind enough to encourage me to here share) was/is:

Hey, buddy.

Up until my freakish conversion experience I, like, you, basically loathed Christianity; I considered it at best appallingly stupid. Same as you thought!

That God. S/he sure is … seriously intrusive.

Anyway, yeah: I have some idea of where you’re coming from, and perhaps a bit of what you’re experiencing.

I’m certainly aware of your concern that becoming a Christian will mean having to give up aspects of yourself that you hold dear. Please put that fear to rest. Of all the things that becoming a Christian means—or issupposed to mean, anyway—one of them is not getting absorbed into the giant Borg of Christian Conformity.

Exactly the opposite is true, in fact. God desires you to be more of who you are, not less. God made you exactly the way you are. And God is more than aware that you’re the only person in the history of the universe who is anything even vaguely like you.

You’re it, friend. You’re the culmination of the entire, literally ageless stream of creation that ultimately led to your existence. You’d be letting God down if you used your new awareness of His/Her presence in your life and heart as a reason to suppress the person God made you to be.

You were a bold, irreverent, truth-telling artist before you became a Christian. Become anything else now, and I think you’ll just piss God off. God needs bold, irreverent, truth-telling artists. That’s for sure. I’m gonna guess that’s why he yanked you over to his team.

Here’s a few random quick Christian Points I’d definitely encourage you to bear in mind:

Christianity comprises two very different things: faith and religion. Too often people confuse the soul of Christianity—the deeply intimate faith part of it—with the religion of Christianity. Not the same things at all. Faith is the water; religion is the cup. You need a cup to share water; a cup helps you partake of water yourself. But water alwaysremains separate from whatever container it’s in.

Christianity is nothing if not rational. Part of becoming a Christian is not having to leave your brain outside the door; it’s not suspending your God-given ability to think critically. The idea that Christianity is not rationally supportable—that the Christian faith system is not at least as rational a response to reality as is any other faith system or philosophy—is nonsense. It’s just some freak of history that Christianity is today so easy to associate with Brain Dead.  (See my The Rational Genius of Christianity.)

It’s between you, God, and no one else. There is nothing in this world more personal, intimate, and tailored exactly for you than the relationship between you and God. Nobody but you can experience, feel, understand, or know that relationship. Nobody but you and God will ever be privy to the ever-unfolding dynamics that inform that relationship. What God says to you—what God shows you, how God proves him/herself in your life, how God moves you—always remains between you, God, and no one else. It’s the ultimate in Impenetrably Private.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t solve all your psychological problems. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean the angst of life just suddenly evaporates from your life. Christianity does grant you a comprehensive context for understanding the whole of the human experience. And that’s hardly nothin’. But it’s not everything. God gives you the big picture; but a lot of the little picture is still yours to paint. You still have to deal with whatever it is in your life that’s causing you whatever pain or trouble it might be. If you had a crappy childhood, for instance, then becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly resolve whatever psychological legacy with which that may have left you burdened. (I wish it did!) Everyone, Christian or not, ultimately has to take out their own garbage.

You don’t have to be any more “moral” than you are right now. If God wants you to change, you’ll change. If you have habits, or predilections for behaviors that are out of line with what is best and healthiest for you, then trust that God, in God’s own time, and in God’s own way, will smooth those behaviors away from you. In the meantime, go easy on yourself. Trust the process that is being in relationship with God. You’ll be all right. I’d say the main thing about becoming a Christian is that it means you can relax. It means that everything is okay. Even you!

Don’t sweat the Bible. You don’t have to understand or feel comfortable with everything in the Bible in order to be deeply moved by huge swaths of it. The Bible is a massive, deeply complicated, and arguably infinitely complex book. It’s exactly as complicated as any given person. So don’t worry about grasping, loving, or understanding all of it. Just pay attention to the parts of it that sing to you. Read that stuff. That’s enough. It’s certainly enough for now. It’s enough forever.

Find your church. There are as many different kinds of churches as there are kinds of people. Rather than trying to fit into a church, find a church that already fits you. Keep looking till you do. (For more, see myHow to Find the Right Church for You.)

You can curse. I think we both know how likely it is that you’ll continue to curse with the gusto of … well, me, for one. And that’s fine. Obviously, you don’t want to be a dinkweed about it. But God’s not a schoolmarm.He/She gets it. You’re free to use language in whatever way you’re old enough to know best. (See my I, The Comfortably Cursing Christian.)

I recommend Unfundamentalist Christians. I wrote the fourteen tenets for that group, which articulates a Christianity that keeps the Christ but loses the inanity.

Finally—and I know you already know this, but just in case—neither the Bible nor God condemns homosexuality.

For more on all this sort of thing, you might find these posts of mine worth your time:

What Exactly is the Holy Spirit?

What is prayer?

Once Upon Atone

Four sure and easy ways to deepen your relationship with God

No One REALLY Walks and Talks With Jesus

Advent, Easter and Ordinary Time: Knowing the Christian Calendar

Stars of the Old Testament

Congratulations on this amazing new development in your life. You’ll love it. If I can be of any other assistance to you, please don’t hesitate for a moment to ask. All love to you, brother.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • yankeeintn

    Just a teeny comment about being “more moral” than you are now. Obedience to the commandments is pretty important. Yes, it’s true that God will lead you in the direction you’re supposed to go, but sometimes it takes self-discipline and a willingness to go outside your comfort zone to get there.

  • Stephen Snead

    I love the post. But I do have a problem with the church thing. I tried Unitarian but it was such a mishmash that I don’t think it did justice to any of the major faiths. I tried the Vinyard Christian Fellowship (where I met my wife back in our more conservative days) IT was great for worship time but hard when it came to the politics and dogma. So, maybe “no church” is not always the bad answer. Although, there is strength in community.

  • JD

    I like the article, but my qualm is the “Don’t Sweat the Bible” part. The Bible is the backbone of Christianity. 95% of what we know about God is revealed to us by the Bible. Knowing it intimately is crucial. Advising him to only pay attention to that which suits his fancy is dangerous. It’s WHY ANTI-GAY CHRISTIANS EXIST. If you let people pick the parts of the Bible they like and ignore the rest, they come to incorrect conclusions, such as homophobia. Only when one knows and understands the entire Biblical story and context can one fully understand God’s will and Jesus’ teachings. My other small issue is that Jesus does call us to a higher level of morality, but other than those I thought the advice was solid.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

      Is the Bible the backbone of Christianity? Is 95% of what we know about
      God revealed in that collection of writings? That would be news to the millions of Christians throughout the faith’s history who never held a copy of the book in their hands because copies were that inaccessible, and even if they did have one, couldn’t have read it; or the early Christians who existed before the Bible was compiled. It would be news to the countless people through history, and in the characters of the Bible who saw God in nature, in the heavens, and in their imaginations.

      • JD

        The Bible isn’t necessarily the backbone of believing in God, but yes the Bible is the backbone of Christianity. Without the Word we have no real account of God’s will to lean on, to make an organized faith out of. Metaphysical proof of God has its place, but the Bible is our concrete rock from which to build upon. I stand by my assertion that it is essential in its entirety.

        • Birch Wind

          I appreciate your point in regards to the incorrect conclusions that people come to when they do not understand the context the many books of the bible were written in. I think in the beginning, when one first feels that draw toward Christianity, that it ISNT the most important thing, but I know that when I studied Old Testament in Seminary and tool Education for Ministry, via the Anglican church, I really did have a far better grasp on Christianity as a movement and although some people in the class were shattered that their childhood bedtime stories werent part of a factual history, at the same time a deeper respect and understanding evolved. One that did not need to be based merely in fiction alone.

        • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ allegro63

          I have to disagree. The Bible is important to Christianity, but it isn’t the backbone. Belief in God is the backbone with the concept of the church being a major player for much of Christian history. The Bible is one of the tools that help understand some of the concepts that can be found about God, particularly in the personage of Jesus. But any understanding of Christian history can easily show how minor a player the book was except to the religiously educated until the past few hundred of years. Considering the age of Christianity, that is significant.

          In other words, does one need a Bible to be a Christian? Does one have to read it, ever, to understand the tenets of the faith? Can one be a Christian without ever hearing the words “and the Bible says…”? Can one have a deep, wonderful understanding of God, of God’s love for them, and for humanity, and grasp the concept of what we are believers in God should be doing without a Bible to guide them? Absolutely.

  • http://www.mysticcomfort.com/ Mystic Comfort

    I miss your posts! This response was absolutely wonderful. I am not a Christian anymore and thus, have generally avoided Christian posts. But reading this made me re-think that as a blanket policy. I particularly love the His/Her, S/he thing you’ve got going on there. And the permission to keep right on being oneself. Good to read you again! ~Jeanine

  • Pubilius

    I love this! It’s awesome. It goes to show that there’s flow in both directions on the world view between atheism and Christianity and the need to treat everyone with respect– the Spirit still works today. From one gay Christian to another, keep being awesome, especially on this anti-bullying Spirit Day.

  • Robert McHenry

    I read the post… what it seems to define is spirituality… it could even define atheistic/agnostic spirituality… because it leaves out one belief that defines christianity… and that is… that Jesus was the savior, the son of god, who died on the cross so that our sins may be forgiven… even if you dump everything else… this would be the defining part of being a christian… and this is why I am not one… for me Jesus was an amazing teacher/preacher… he apparently gathered information from Jewish tradition and Stoicism… and other ancient near east philosophies… and crafted a beautiful message… but he was a man… and he died a horrible death at the hands of the Romans (not jews… but they were later blamed when christianity became the state religion of Rome)… and did not rise again. For me… the man Jesus and his teaching has always been more important than the God Christ and his miracles… and for me… the awe of life has always been reduced to nada via religion and the easy explanations that they offer.

  • Robert McHenry

    Also… being an atheist… is not the same as being an anti-theist.


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