Self-inflicted Battle Scars

Every week I try to write about a different Christian buzzword and today’s buzzword is same sex attracted/love the sinner, hate the sin. I have been struggling to come up with something to write all week as the reasons to ascribing to this philosophy are as varied as the people that Christians are bred to oppress.

People love to hate LGBT people because they assume that we’re all non-monogamous. It is true that a lot of LGBT people will hook up and have more than one partner in their lifetimes. A lot of them will have illegitimate children, as well. A lot of LGBT people, though, know the sting of being rejected by a parent, and because of that they will work to love the children gifted to them, either themselves or by giving them to a set of parents ready for the responsibility of child-rearing and ready to unconditionally love that child.

People love to hate LGBT people because they’ve been told that LGBT people are at war with Christianity. They’re right, there is a war being waged. The Christians attacked first when Homosexual acts were outlawed because of what the bible says. It became, after that, that LGBT people began fighting not to make the bible obsolete, but to understand how it should be applied in a world where people of many faiths and backgrounds coexisted. LGBT people were not trying to remove Christian rights at all, but rather even the playing table. I have heard hateful things spewed by both sides – two wounded animals fighting to protect themselves. I am not saying that one side is right and one side is wrong – both view the same world but only see what they have been conditioned to see.

People love to hate LGBT people because they’re different. People love to hate Christians because they’re peculiar. Both have a very rich history, though, full of events that shaped how we view the world today and full of people who changed the realm of human thought. For a long time I thought that if I were a Queer person I could not be Christian, but they’re fighting for the same thing, though. Both sides are fighting to express the love that they have been taught to show. Both the LGBT person and the Christian belong to these vibrant communities full of God’s creatures of all shapes, sizes and colours. Both will fight for those that they love, but more than that, they will fight for those in their communities.

It’s time to stop trying to find our differences and instead look at where we are the same. Instead of trying to vilify each other, why don’t we try to build each other up? We were all created unique, but we were all also created in the image of God, with an incredible capacity for love. It’s even been scientifically proven that when we try to love each other, even those people that we disagree with, we become happier. We were wired to love. It hurts to see this war that is being waged – because in the end, I know that we’re doing more damage to ourselves rather than each other.

In this war, can I be Queer and Christian? It’s hard to be Switzerland sometimes. It’s the disappointment when my LGBT friends won’t come to church with me even when I’ve shown up at their apartments because they’ve said they’re coming. It’s the awkward silences at church when I mention disasters like Pulse, and things like Trans* day of remembrance. It’s bible studies with the Pastor because apparently I’m deconstructing my faith.

It is so much more than that, though. It’s quiet moments where I pray with my LGBT friends and watch the Holy Spirit touch them. It’s in the questions that come from Christians who genuinely want to understand how they can love me and my communities. It’s in joking with drag queens when they catch on that you’re kinda straight-laced and being the only Uncle in church who hand makes birthday presents.

Navigating the Queer Christian world is less about what you ascribe to, and more about what you stand for. It’s less about what other people think about you, and more about what you think about yourself. Being a Queer Christian is about knowing yourself, and loving yourself, and letting the love of God shine through you on to anyone that wanders across your path, regardless of age, gender, race, beliefs or sexuality. In some ways, I think Queer Christians are the ones that get it right. They are the rebels – but wasn’t Jesus a rebel? They are the outcasts, belonging to two worlds but never resting in either – and wasn’t Jesus both man and God, the bridge between man and God, fully God and fully man?

In the end, Christians and LGBT people are fighting for an ideology that they can hold on to. Jesus said I came not to abolish the law, but fulfil it. Jesus contains everything needed to make us whole again, and I think we forget that in our scramble to be right. Following Jesus is not about being the most literally right – you’re not going to get to heaven based on how many scriptures you know and how many rules you follow. You’re going to be asked, “Did you love the least of these?”

Did you?

When Thursday is a Monday

We’ve all been there before. Doing something that makes us sigh at our humanity. It keeps us humble and reminds us that sometimes we just don’t have it all together.

The holidays are a hard time for me. It’s dark out almost the whole say, thanks Canada. I am far away from my family that I haven’t seen in going on three years, even more than that for my brother–whom I’d like to say was my childhood best friend and I do not take that for granted. I don’t have the ability to be as generous as I would like to. My brain is exhausted from school and all the work I put in to be my best.

Needless to say when I pour the unground beans into the coffee filter making coffee this morning, I let out a sigh and almost cried. My exasperation was heard by my roommate on the other side of our modest apartment–and I poured the beans from the filter to the grinder and mumbled “I obviously need coffee more than I thought”.

I’ve lost the ambition to clean my house, because I don’t have the finances to host anyone. Showering and putting on pants today was my victory.

During this time of year, it’s easy to forget in all the fun and events those among us who have aching hearts. I miss my son whom was taken from me before his life got to start. I miss the mountains of my childhood, the children that call me auntie, and the familiarness of a place called home.

To cheer myself up, I started to think of all the things I am thankful for. I urge you to give it a try. Here’s my list:

  1. A Warm House– This might seem trivial. Lately, it’s been colder than normal on Canada’s West Coast. I have a warm house, with a warm bed, and a cupboard full of tea. There are many in Nanaimo who are trying to get by this winter on the street. They are literally freezing. I am thankful for enough support to remain housed and I’m thankful.
  2. My Roommate– Our friendship is deeper than that of most roommates. Part of it is that we are both followers of Jesus, but there’s more. We take care of one another. We allow space for brokenness as we both struggle through life with mental illness and trying to function in a world that isn’t kind to those who cannot work full-time and go to school. She blesses me more than anyone I’ve ever lived with, and in less than a year we’ve become family and I’m thankful.
  3. The LGBTQ+ Community– They accept my contradictory nature. I love Jesus; many of my rainbow friends have been deeply hurt in the name of Christ and I am no exception. Yet, they do not fault me for my faith. There is a deep respect in this family of misfits and I do not take it for granted. The group here in Nanaimo holds some of my greatest champions. They help me to get out of bed some days and give me an outlet for my creative side and I’m thankful.
  4. Young Adult’s Group– I attend a very open, accepting and loving Young Adult’s Group that is groundbreaking in their inclusion of myself as a LGBTQ+ person of faith. I’ve never been judged or limited in my ministry by them. The leaders of the group have endeavoured to create a safe place for me, including a no-tolerance of abuse mandate. I will never take for granted the bravery to stand with me when many church leaders do not and I’m thankful.
  5. Outreach– There are pastors and friends in the community whom build me up emotionally, spiritually and even financially. They’ve helped me through a very dark period of my faith journey. It would’ve been easy for me to give up on the church after some of the abusive actions toward me. These folks have reminded me that we are all human, we all fail at loving one another, but grace allows for a better way and I’m thankful.
  6. My Family– Though we are a total mess, though there are not many of us that are even speaking to one another, my mom and brother have helped me in this past year. It speaks to the healing that comes with maturing over time. We are there for one another as best as we can be and I’m thankful.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it sure takes the blow out of the silly humbling things I do each day. It reminds me to look forward and not dwell on the little tedious circumstances that threaten to steal my joy. What about you? What are you thankful for?

~Cheryl

My First Queer Church

Do you know what it’s like to be in a church where there’s only one heterosexual couple? If you’re like most of us, you don’t.

What you probably can relate to is being excluded by the church. Like me, you’ve been refused communion, been refused the opportunity to use your gifts, and just generally not invited to church functions that are not outreach oriented.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend The Lighthouse of Hope Christian Fellowship. I was insecure, skeptical as to what everyone being welcome meant, and was so hurt and broken by the Body of Christ that it seemed easier to avoid new things than take a chance. My friend Tori, a trans woman not that it matters….but let’s face it, it does, invited me for the weekend.img_1434

I was housed by her friend Jack, a trans man who has hand written scripture verses as artwork hanging all over the house. I was able to decompress from the past decade of suppressing my sexuality, be validated and be cared for.

On Sunday, we went for brunch like a bunch of cliche LGBTQ friends….but no, I did not have mimosas.  Then we went to help set up for church. Church happens in an old banquet hall at 4pm every Sunday. It’s a place where the motto is “Everyone is Welcome, and we mean it!”. This phrase is displayed on the overhead projector for all to see, and they really do mean it! There’s people from all walks of life, pets and an online church following. No one singles you out but everyone makes you feel welcome. There’s hugging, worship, prayer and communion.img_1439

Two things from my time at this church brought me to tears and healed my wounded heart for the first time in a very long time.

First, I was invited to play the piano after soundcheck was completed. See, my friend Tori that I mentioned before knew that I used to be a worship leader. She knew that I had been missing that part of my life within the church, and we got there early specifically so that I’d have that opportunity. At first, I felt awkward, and then something beautiful happened. I let my guard down. I played like I hadn’t had a two year break from the piano. I sang from the depth of my soul–from my pain, from my joy of belonging, from my burden of being one of the marginalized at the edge of the church. In those moments, I felt close to God again, I felt his love, I felt that my calling had not changed, and I felt at home.

Second, after listening to Sarah (a trans woman) bring a glorious truth filled word about God’s generosity and obedience in giving–we had communion. As the helpers passed out the wafer and the juice, I watched in awe as there was zero trace of pretence and awkwardness–as we sometimes notice in Contemporary Church. Each member of the congregation was keenly aware of the preciousness of those around them. I began to tear up. Each one of these folks believes that I am perfect as made and perfect in Christ. At no time were we asked to examine our hearts before taking communion. At no time were pet sins mentioned requiring repentance before God as a preemptive deed leading up to the Eucharist.

We were covered by grace, created in the image of God and therefore invited to remember how that good news happened. It was the first time I was invited to participate in communion since April. I didn’t realize how important those rituals, of remembering Jesus together with other believers, were. I didn’t realize how much I was in survival mode. Mostly, I just didn’t realize.

I’m going to go back.

More importantly, I am going to help the same thing to happen here.img_1430

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

A Mother’s Love: LGBTQ and Christianity

Well, it’s been a bit of a sandstorm lately in my life. For the past few weeks, regardless of the direction I was walking in, I could only see six inches in any direction. Taking each second, each moment at a time and thank God for the love in my life.

I’ve been contemplating on unconditional love and if humans are even truly capable of it. I mean, if I am being honest, I withhold my love from others all the time because I don’t agree with them, because they made me upset, or even just because I don’t know how to relate –so I retreat. As I’ve been confessing this messy style of relating to Abba Father, I’ve noticed that these behaviours are the exact ones I am most hurt by from others.

This week, in the middle of a depressive episode directly related to sexuality, identity, theology and acceptance–my mom was rushed to the emergency room for surgery (spoiler alert, she’s fine). In the middle of the chaos, I was afraid to reach out to others. I did reach out to a few close people, and to my prayer chain in my church, but I paused because I didn’t want to invite people into only one portion of my life. I feel like to know me, one must know all of me and to accept me–the same is true. Perhaps I’m wrong?

Acceptance isn’t support. In order to accept someone who has a different theology than you, you don’t need to endorse their belief system…nor do you need to try and convert them to yours. I believe that the same Holy Spirit that is alive and active in me convincing me of the truth of God’s word, the person of Jesus and His love for mankind is capable and willing to do that in the lives of all His children. I do not believe that it is my job to change people’s theology–before you ask “Well, what about iron sharpening iron and all that?” hear me out with a less contentious illustration,

Many Christians believe that Abortion is not God’s plan right? (They have varying levels of passion on this belief but many would say they are against it in most circumstances.) Yet, many Christians…many many Christians take oral contraceptives (birth control) which in it’s nature is abortive. It prevents the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. (If you know of one that prevents the egg from being fertilized please post it in the comments below.) I am personally against oral/chemical contraceptives for this reason—do I inform each believer whom practices different than me that they are murdering unborn children? No I do not because that is not where their heart is. We have a different understanding of the issue and grace and love cover the differences.

I believe that the LGBTQ Christians fall into a similar group. There’s a difference between sexuality and sexual behaviour. For example as a bisexual person, I do not go out and have promiscuous encounters with people of the same gender…heavens, I don’t even hold hands with people. I still believe that sex before marriage is sin, I still believe that lusting after another is sin, I still believe in the Side B stance of celibacy or traditional marriage–but I refuse to ostracize those people of faith who believe differently than I do.

In this journey, my mother has been my biggest supporter. She’s asked me questions that got me thinking like: “Why does it matter to other people so much who you love?” and “Why does it matter to you so much to stay in an environment like that?” I think it’s love for one another that causes us to sometimes do and say some very hurtful things. Out of love and concern for each other’s spiritual wellbeing we exhort, admonish and preach one another right out of fellowship. At some point, there needs to be an “agree to disagree” moment. Yes, I realize this means that some places of faith will not allow leadership roles to LGBTQ believers, that is their right. They are standing by their principles and I applaud that. How can we extend love to the out and closeted LGBTQ people in our churches? Whom by the preaching and teaching of the church feel like their existence itself is sin (even when they are not practising sexual behaviour) feel unable to be connected to a faith community.

There’s a great exodus taking place as 49% of young people (read on a BuzzFeed survey recently) identify as LGBTQ+ do not find a place for themselves within contemporary church. When is enough enough? When is love more important that religious rules? When can we accept God’s role in changing people and love them where they are at? My mom does a great job of it.