My First Hate Mail: LGBTQ+ and Christianity Part 2

I wasn’t intending to write a follow up entry to the lovely post about my mom, but less than twenty four hours after I praise her for being unconditionally loving and supportive of me–someone professing to be a follower of Christ said some very rude, hurtful and shameful things. Rather than repeat those things, I would like to take this moment to turn it around for praise.

Thank you for being concerned enough about my salvation to publicly humiliate me. I forgive you. This is not sarcastic or tongue and cheek–I mean it. Rather than turn me away from the Christian faith, those hurtful words highlighted the importance of love and grace when delivering truths to one another.

Paul said, 

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (NIV, Biblegateway.org )

If I or my brothers and sisters in Christ cut one another down in effort to stand for truth or righteousness–we are missing the point. Jesus said :

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High,because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:27-36. (NIV Biblegateway.org)
In my understanding, regardless of which side of the great debate you find yourself on, you’d do well in the sight of the Lord to be merciful, to love those who mistreat you and treat others the way you want to be treated. If you can say with all integrity you wish believers to slander you publicly and treat you with wrathful disdain if they believe you to be sinning–I will certainly pray for your view of God and of justice. 
Jesus was moved by compassion, the only harsh words he spoke were to legalistic religious leaders. Look at the woman caught in adultery, the conversation with Pilate, the tax collector, the leper who told everyone Jesus healed him when instructed not to, look how he treated Peter after his denial of Christ…compassion is the rule of the day. 
 
They will know we are his disciples by our love for one another–not by how loudly we oppose one another.
~Cheryl
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Radical 2.0

This is a post I wrote when I felt like I was at the bottom of a dark pit and the only way out was honesty. With LGBT issues taking centre stage in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, now more than ever, it’s important to share our coming out stories. It’s important to offer hope, to offer solidarity and to hold one another up with love and respect. If you’d like to share your story, visit the Contact link in the main menu.

517bf-img_0884Just over a year ago, I came out as Bisexual to those who know and love me and then on social media. For the sake of Christian connection, I put myself back in the closet so to speak in order to avoid hard conversations, criticism, isolation and potential loss of relationship. In doing so, I became judgemental, defensive, angry and isolated. I ended up perpetrating all of the things I was afraid of happening to me to others.

Friends and family tried to reach out and be close with me. They called, texted and emailed regularly. I shut them out. I kept telling myself “they won’t understand” which really meant “they won’t accept me”. What I was forgetting is that many of these people already love and accept me…what’s more, is many of them suspected I was struggling with something that was bigger than my anxiety.

I’ve been a part of The Gay Christian Network for almost three years now, to learn more about them click here. At GCN, I’ve found people on all sides of “The Great Debate” as they call it. There’s a spectrum from allies and parents of LGBTQ+ believers to married and committed same gender couples. There’s opposite gender couples in mixed orientation marriages trying to make it work. There’s celibate Christians who take a literal approach to scripture. And there’s dating LGBTQ+ Christians who take a more liberal approach to scripture.

Here’s what isn’t there….judgement. There’s no inquisition. No need to defend one’s existence or choices.

There’s room to ask questions, find answers from all sides and chew on the heady stuff with Jesus. There’s many resources for scriptural analysis for both Side A (Same Gender Marriage) and Side B (Celibacy). There’s resources on how to have the conversations that are hard. Theres a community full of love and support.

What does that leave me with? Hope. Hope for reconciliation between the marginalized and the church at large. Hope for me, that I have a place to fit without feeling like a leper or having to have it all figured out. Hope for the kids that are holding back from relationship with Jesus because “Christians hate gays”.

I would love to have a discussion about how to support people who are marginalized rather than how to support that my existence (as someone who is Bisexual and a Christian) is okay with God.

I’ve chosen to remain silent for the last year because I’ve not wanted to argue. I don’t want to defend myself when people say “it’s not who you are”, “God didn’t create you this way” and so many things that are meant to be encouraging but really aren’t.

If you’d like to know more, I can hook you up with some resources:

The Great Debate-Side A and Side B
Kevin Garcia, LBGTQ Speaker and Writer, Lover of Jesus
My Personal Hero, Vicky Beeching +Vicky Beeching
Believe Out Loud, and movement removing the stigma for LGBTQ+ Believers +Believe Out Loud
Matthew Vines and I are not on the same page, but here it is anyway. I take more of a Side B approach. +Matthew Vines

Feel free to share and comment. If comments are hateful, they will be deleted. Let’s move forward in love and respect.

Since the original publishing of this article, many hurtful and vehement comments have been made regarding LGBT hate crimes. Hate crimes are never okay. They are never God’s judgement on people. Reading the Bible, we see that Jesus took the full wrath of God against sin on himself when he was nailed to the cross. To say that God is doling out punishment on people for simply existing as an LGBT person (even though I personally don’t believe it’s a sin), is to limit the power of Christ’s atonement. There’s nothing we can add to make that payment more complete.

“Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, my sin was but a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.”

~Cheryl

I’m Still Here

I’ve been MIA for over a week from my blog. I would like to provide you with some grand explanation as to why. Perhaps I was on an adventure and did not have access to wi-fi–is that even a thing anymore? Perhaps I was so engrossed in PokemonGo that I failed to engage with reality beyond work, eating and sleeping. Perhaps I was writing my next big masterpiece.

Reality is I am sick. I have always been sick, and unless God sees fit to heal me completely, I will always be some measure of sick. Like so many other great people, I suffer from mental illness. This past week my victories have been getting out of bed, having a bath and eating healthy food. Getting out of bed before 1pm is a triumph. Calling in sick to work, because I am physically sick as a result of my mental health issues, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am sitting at home feeling like my life is a huge struggle.

I know I have it better than others. The sickness in my brain tells me that I’m a failure, it tells me that I am a quitter, that I am letting people down, that I should just be able to be happy–because I can’t there’s something fatally wrong with me. IMG_1098
What set it off this time? You think it would be a tragedy. The world’s events certainly do impact my mood. Day after day there is a headline of needless violence and hatred. People are killing one another, they are supporting hateful politicians and care more about where people pee than the poor and the dying. That’s not what did it.

What did it was good news. You see, I received a letter that I made the Dean’s List this past year at University. I had no one to celebrate with because I either pushed people out literally or they ghosted me when I came out publicly as bisexual. I’ve been feeling and grieving the loss of close  relationships for the past four months, but I’ve been keeping busy. It was easier when I was busy.

I do not really have a point with this post. I want to let people into the struggle. If you feel gloomy and dark and all alone, reach out. There is always someone to listen. Getting the thoughts out there prevents them from consuming us and spiralling out of control.

You are loved. You are needed. You will overcome.

~Cheryl

Anxiety, My Old Friend

Recently, though I thought it was relatively conquered, my anxiety has been rather high. As per usual, I have been giving myself a terrible time about it. Thoughts of self-condemnation and ceaseless internal berating only fuel the embers of fear and depression.

Last night, I was awaken with shock like symptoms: cool clammy skin, dizziness, rapid breathing and intense nausea. I do not and did not have the flu or food poisoning. This physical reaction is a direct effect of my anxiety.

When one lives with generalized anxiety disorder day-to-day activities are clouded with worries and agitation. In light of the local and international violence, my anxiety has been on high alert for the last while and it is taking a toll on my sleeping and emotional well-being.

Orlando–this was a huge trigger for me. I recently came out publicly and had been receiving mixed reactions, some compassionate, some hurtful and some hateful. Orlando hit me hard.

Within a week of that shooting, there was a shooting near my home. Shootings in Canada are substantially less common and more remote in small cities like mine. This compounded my fear, and I started to hide away in my home.

Once I had recovered some from those traumas, a body was found in a culvert near where I used to live. I saw the area, next to a church, taped off while riding the bus home from work. My fear of the unknown, it’s still not been released as to what happened with that incident, caused me to further isolate myself. I began to be afraid to walk down the street in the middle of the day. I closed my blinds so strangers couldn’t see if I was home or not if they knocked on the door. All while painting a smile on my face and working everyday at a local daycare.

The daycare I work for is connected with a local church. The people are lovely, this kids are energetic and rambunctious, and it was only a matter of time before local church staff tried to recruit me for their kids program. Unfortunately, I am not out at work. They don’t know that I am not heterosexual. I am not sure I would lose my job, but I am not sure that I would keep it either. When the Pastor asked me if I would be interested in kids or youth ministry, I had to fumble around for reasons (that are true, but flimsy) for not joining. I am terrified as I make new Christian friends in the community that they will find out I am queer.

I am afraid I will lose my job, I am afraid of gossip, I am afraid of losing my credibility as a theologian, I am afraid.

This constant state of fear has worked its way into my other activities. I am afraid to go places alone in the event that I might run into someone who I know disapproves of my sexuality. I am afraid to tell people I am getting to know someone because they will invalidate and pervert that relationship. I am afraid that I will not be able to do what I love–working with God’s people–because I am queer. I am afraid.

Fear is quickly taking over my life, with each tragedy, each conversation between peers condemning LGBTQ people I avoid commenting on, each church event that will actively preach against people like me, each letter from concerned former friends–each of these magnifies the fear.

What’s a person to do? It’s easy to offer glib responses like “who cares what other people think?”, truth is, we all care. We get lonely when we don’t have like-minded people in our corner. We become afraid to try new things because of how events went in the past.

I will strive to be a safe place for LGBTQ people of faith (and people in general). I never want someone to become physically ill because of the fear they have in being themselves.

You are loved. You are precious. Fear not.

Writer Wednesday: Greg White

This week’s post comes from a man named Greg White. I met Greg on social media. Social media, especially Facebook groups and Google Hangouts, have become a safe haven for marginalized people groups of all walks of life to gain support away from those who would cause injury. Greg’s recent Facebook post resonated with me and many others. It’s a reflection on the events in Orlando after the media has moved on to other things. It’s a reminder of how people are hurting, not helping. Most importantly, it’s an honest account from someone like me. 

It’s been over a week since the events of Orlando, and it seems everyone has had their say. Forgive me if I’m late to the conversation, but I’m still trying to piece together my feelings about it. I find myself utterly heartbroken. While I floated through Sunday in a sense of shock, and even went to a candle light vigil in a strange disconnect, reality set in on Monday night.

I’d come home from work having spent the day in a numb haze, and decided to decompress by making soap. It’s a simple hobby, one that requires little concentration and lets my mind wander through the day’s events and prepare for the stressors to come. As the bars of soap began to congeal in their molds, I began to sob uncontrollably. I cried first for the victims, every precious soul gunned down in the Pulse nightclub. I cried for their families, for their friends.

Suddenly the face of every LGBT person I know flashed through my brain and all I could think was, “It could have been him. It could have been her,” and finally, “It could have been me.”

In the days that followed, I found myself torn by grief while tending wounds that I thought had healed shut. Theological debates about the six “clobber passages” regarding homosexuality came roaring back into focus. My sense of public safety was suddenly shaken. The true face of bald, unbridled homophobia was unleashed in that hail of gunfire, and in its wake, those sympathetic to the gunman’s hatred were emboldened to speak. Fringe public religious figures like Pat Robertson pointed their fingers back at the LGBT community, and some even praised the killings.

But most painful of all, my beloved denomination put out a well-meaning but tepid response. They were sorry and saddened by the events. They were praying for the victims and their families. But where were these words when LGBT kids were killing themselves? Where were those prayers as queer people were denied their rights, kicked out of their homes, suffering depression and religious trauma, bullied, or ostracized?

We have told our stories over and over, and it seems they’ve fallen on deaf ears. Does it really take the worst mass shooting of the century to elicit a response? Decrying the violence, the Church never even condemned the cause. They never said the words “homophobia,” “LGBT,” “gay,” “lesbian,”“bisexual,” “transgender.” And so, the only word that really mattered to me was the word they’ve used to describe homosexuality in the manual; “perversion.”

It simply isn’t enough to stand up against mass murder without condemning the more subtle, institutional forms of bigotry that enforced it. I’m not a pervert, I’m a human being. I’m not an issue, I’m a child of God. I’m not a problem to be solved, a policy to be debated, a statement in a manual or even an out-of-context Bible verse.

How could the denomination that I love so dearly be so tone-deaf? Maybe it’s politics. Maybe it’s blind conviction. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s a love too bewildered by a changing world to know how to express itself. All I know is that it doesn’t seem to be listening.

And yet, in the midst of all this heartbreak, I’m reminded of the text messages and phone calls from my sisters, brother, parents, friends, asking if I was okay. I’m reminded of the extra long hugs I received at church before I even realized I was going to need them for the week ahead. I’m reminded of my church friends marching alongside me in the candle light vigil, crying for justice. I’m reminded of my pastor, who preached repentance from bullying and lamented with me. His precious wife told me that she recognized my hurt, opened her home and let me know I wasn’t alone. Two friends had me over for dinner, let me pour out my anger and frustration, and made me feel understood. During communion, a friend looked me square in the eye, reached out, and clasped my hand in support. Countless conversations, notes of solidarity, and messages of comfort began to put me back together.

Is this what Jesus looks like? Is this what he meant when he said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”?

I want more than anything for my denomination to understand, to listen, to learn to love more fully. I want them to recognize the depths of pain their policies cause, to recognize that homophobia doesn’t only manifest itself in bullets. Sometimes it looks like smug superiority. Sometimes it looks patronizing. Sometimes it’s disgust disguised as moral righteousness. And sometimes it’s a child learning to hate herself.

But then, I guess policies and manual statements were never really Jesus’ M.O. The Holy Spirit transcends issues of doctrinal and theological debate. And God, it seems, is reluctant to work through imperious power or righteous fiat, but rather through individual acts of love. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and my congregation, family, and friends have been that to me. I only hope the broader Church can one day do the same. I long for the day the Church can be that for each member of the LGBT community, and not only in times of crisis.

You can view the original post here. 

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~Cheryl