A liberal lesbian in a fundy Christian ministry: Not. Good.

A liberal lesbian in a fundy Christian ministry: Not. Good. October 9, 2012

Dear John,

I am part of a ministry that answers prayers via email and sends out encouragement, as well as answering biblical questions. The ministry is rather conservative, and after speaking to my fellow members I know that I’m the only liberal Christian amongst fundamentalists.

I am starting to doubt whether or not our prayers actually achieve anything; as a lesbian I also feel castigated by their anti-homosexuality stance. (I haven’t mentioned this to them—and never mind my universalist beliefs.) My time here started off well enough after the initial discussion about my testimony (I struggle with depression and self-harm; I’m a barrel of laughs, see). But after over a year I feel more and more disillusioned with the ministry. I’m not doubting the existence of God (well, not as regularly as I once did, although I’m a great believer in what doubting can achieve), but I am doubting what my prayers are actually achieving. I just don’t see the results, and am rather sick of the expression, “God answers either yes, no, or not yet.” I’m scared of being myself with them for the fear of being judged. I know if I said I’m a lesbian who believes in side A theology, I would be ripped apart.

Thankfully I am not admonished for admitting to relapses in terms of depression and whatnot, but my reluctance to be open about who I really am is getting to me. This builds up on the fact that my parents deny my sexuality even though they are atheists; they also deny my Christian beliefs. I feel that the only Christians I interact with (except the few on Tumblr that I talk to because I don’t attend church or a youth group anymore) will reject me. I don’t know whether I want to leave the ministry or not, and I don’t know how to talk to my parents. The only opportunity I see is that I’m off to university, but I don’t know how to utilize that. I really am floundering a little. Any help would be greatly appreciated. (And do I get better advice if I say your website is wonderful? Because your website is wonderful.)

Phew. Good thing you threw in that last part, or I’d have told you to stop being gay and start working overtime for free. But now we’re cool.

Actually, let me just run this letter again, and insert within it my comments in lovely, soothing blue. (I’ll also then have to throw in paragraph breaks that aren’t in the above, so as not to create unreadably long chunks o’ text.)

Dear John,

I am part of a ministry that answers prayers via email and sends out encouragement, as well as answering biblical questions. [Whoa. Kind of a cool job. Kind of a scary job. Do people pay for that, for you to pray for them? If they do, your job bitheths. If not, that’s kind of a sweet service. But, so, you answer questions about the Bible? Like, if I called you, and went, “So, did Job have a sister?” you’d have to answer that? Yowzer. You must know a lot about the Bible. Boy. There sure are a lot of jobs in the world.] The ministry is rather conservative, and after speaking to my fellow members I know that I’m the only liberal Christian amongst fundamentalists. [Oh. That’s awful. I’m sorry you’re in that situation.]

I am starting to doubt whether or not our prayers actually achieve anything; as a lesbian I also feel castigated by their anti-homosexuality stance. [Wow. That’s a lot of bad. Not good.] (I haven’t mentioned this to them—and never mind my universalist beliefs.) [You sure you can’t mention this to them? Not the part about you being a universalist—no use giving them a reason to beat you up in the break room. But it seems more than reasonable for you to be able to express questions about to what if any degree the ministry is working. If you said, “Sometimes I feel like our prayers really aren’t working,” what would they do? Just fire you?] My time here started off well enough after the initial discussion about my testimony (I struggle with depression and self-harm; I’m a barrel of laughs, see). [Oh, gosh, I’m sorry to hear about this suffering of yours. Terrible. It’s nice to hear your job didn’t reject you because of that, though. That’s encouraging. For what it’s worth, everyone self-harms. Some do it with booze, some with food, some with drugs or whatever. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to cut yourself; if that’s what you do, you need to stop that. But just know that the core urge to self-negate is simply part of—and the worst part of, really—being human. Everyone’s life is attended by that pull downward; each responds to it as they may.]

But after over a year I feel more and more disillusioned with the ministry. I’m not doubting the existence of God (well, not as regularly as I once did, although I’m a great believer in what doubting can achieve), but I am doubting what my prayers are actually achieving. [That’s a fair doubt.] I just don’t see the results, and am rather sick of the expression, “God answers either yes, no, or not yet.” [Is that something they tell you to tell people who call and go, “Yeah, so, you said you’d pray for my dog. Well, my dog’s dead. What gives?”? And then you have to say, “Well, sir, here at Prayers, Inc. we have a saying: ‘God answers either yes, no, or not yet.’ Guess your dog got the ‘no.'” And then you have to give them a coupon redeemable for five free prayers. Sorry. I’m babbling. But that’s some intense job you have there. I can tell I’m going to obsess on it.]

I’m scared of being myself with them for the fear of being judged. [Gee, I wonder why  you’d feel that way? *snork.*] I know if I said I’m a lesbian who believes in side A theology, I would be ripped apart. [Ugh. Awful. See, this is why I’m self-employed and never leave my house.]

Thankfully I am not admonished for admitting to relapses in terms of depression and whatnot [“and whatnot.” I love it.], but my reluctance to be open about who I really am is getting to me. [Of course it is. Not being able to be at least most of who you are is a burden no one should have to carry.] This builds up on the fact that my parents deny my sexuality even though they are atheists; they also deny my Christian beliefs. [What the (bleeeeeeeeeeep)? What kind of a no-win situation is that? I hate your parents.] I feel that the only Christians I interact with (except the few on Tumblr that I talk to because I don’t attend church or a youth group anymore) will reject me. [Well, most of us here are Christians, and we love you. I love you, and I’m a Christian. I’m sure there are Christians in your real life that would also love you, exactly as you are. Which is kind of besides the point, I know. But they/we are everywhere out there. Come visit us over at Unfundamentalist Christians!] I don’t know whether I want to leave the ministry or not [I do: you do], and I don’t know how to talk to my parents. [Who would? They sound crazy. What kind of atheists refuse to accept that their own kid is gay? Worst. Atheists. Ever. They’re rejecting the two most fundamental qualities about you, each of which is perfect natural and honorable. Again: I loathe your parents. Have them write me. Tell them I’ll give them this blog space to explain to the world their personal philosophy and beliefs. I’m sure that would be edifying for all of us. Seriously: this space is theirs if they’d like to share their belief system.]

The only opportunity I see is that I’m off to university [oh, really? Awesome! That’s not just an “opportunity”; that’s a game changer. Whew. That means you’re saved—as long as you’re not going to Fundy U or anything. If you’re going to anything near a real college, your whole life will open up in ways you can’t even begin to imagine now. excellent. I’m really glad to hear that you’re going to college], but I don’t know how to utilize that. [Go. That’s how you utilize it: you go. Girl.] I really am floundering a little. [Who wouldn’t be, in your position? Just reading your letter has me flopping around on the ground like … well, a flounder in the bottom of a boat. You’re facing some serious challenges here, sweetheart. There’s no question but that you’re more than equal to your challenges, but dang: your plate is full just now.]

Any help would be greatly appreciated. [Hard to advise without really knowing more about your Actual Life. Sounds like you live at home with your cretinous parents? And that you’re going to university … when? Soon, I hope? Anyway, for now of course I have no idea what your actual options are: so much of those kinds of choices depend entirely finances. Generally speaking, though: lay low, don’t trip, smile and be nice to everybody so they’ll stay out of your face, plan, and get the heck out. That’s pretty much … always the way to go when you’re in a life that needs serious alteration. It’s all about time, patience, planning, and execution. (Same as a lot of what I say in my mini-book Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, below.)]

(And do I get better advice if I say your website is wonderful? Because your website is wonderful.) [Ahh. That’s kind of you. Thank you. Please let us know how it goes for you. Love you.]

image by the great David Hayward, a.k.a. The Naked Pastor.


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