Blessed are the… queers?

Geez Magazine; December 2006

I have a rainbow-coloured pin in the shape of a cross. Most of the time I’m too embarrassed to wear it. Funny thing is, I’m more embarrassed about being Christian than I am about being queer.

Until I met my partner, I was stubborn and righteous. Ever hear someone say, “hate the sin and love the sinner”? That was me. But since then, (many of) the layers of blind faith have been peeled from my eyes, and not without considerable discomfort. I now hesitate to use the word “Christian,” not because I lost my faith but because I lost my faith in what that word represents.

How can the Church speak about human dignity, love, and healing – the evangelical “good news” – when it isn’t good news for everyone? There are no seats in the pews for me, my beautiful partner, or others like us. Not as we are.

In a nutshell, it all boils down to fundamental differences of perspective: to us, life-affirming self-acceptance; to them, a lifestyle or pattern of recidivistic sin. They want to help us; we want to help them. They think they’re right; we think we’re right. We’re begging to be let in but we’re also running like hell; they want to love us and welcome us but they also want to sweep us under the rug. Let’s face it: we’re one dysfunctional family.

But families fight. That’s normal (at least in my experience). This is a healthy and natural progression when one deeply held belief meets another. So why, if all of this is to be expected, am I still so damn angry at the Church?

Because they aren’t fighting fair. The Church has stripped its members of their voices, breeding an army of powerless people flexing institutional muscles. These are people I know personally, people I love and who love me. But when it comes to the subject of homosexuality or gender identity, it’s as if lightening strikes and suddenly they’re deaf, dumb, numb, and goodness knows otherwise challenged. They know their words would be hurtful and they somehow see silence as the solution to that problem, trampling on their conscience rather than stumbling over it.

We’ve all been told: “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” I used to think that was wise until I saw it in action. Silence can be a breeding ground for ignorance since speech brings accountability. Sometimes I don’t realize how foolish something is until I say it out loud and realize that someone heard me. Or until I hear it myself.

What is the good news for queers? And spare me theological acrobatics. Let’s keep it down to earth - down to the Church’s gutter. Self-mutilation and suicide (these are the children), hardened hearts and bitterness (these are the women), frailty and fear (these are the men), scarred faces and outdated dresses (these are the in-betweens), damaged people seeking healing from the ones who have hurt us most. We’re sitting in an emergency room pounding on the doors for entrance, Christian muzak playing in the background, cheery and distant, with no concept of what our pain is like or who has caused it.

We need healing, yes, some of us desperately. But our illness is not our sexuality; it is our suffering, our loneliness, our shame, our bitterness, our rage.

I asked my Church for healing. Behind door number one was the tidy “foolproof” option of lifelong celibacy. After all, nuns do it - and doing nothing at all is guaranteed against doing anything wrong, right? Behind door number two was… well… that is to say… what was the question again?

We queers are not the only ones in need of healing.

It’s terrifying, no doubt, to see a perfectly packaged theology shattered. Life is messy, faith is messy - embrace it and get dirty. No more scapegoats and sidestepping, no more compromised integrity for the sake of denominational obedience. No more silence, no more apathy in the face of suffering, no more bowing to the idol of neat and tidy faith.

These are wonderful people. It is because I love and respect them that I’m so profoundly disappointed to see their goodness and the message of Christ perverted over a matter as morally neutral as sexual orientation.

The Church is sitting on a Rosetta Stone of lepers, Gentiles, blacks, women, and queers, and still they’re unable to decipher the message. I refuse to believe that the tearing of the HOLY curtain does not extend to us; that we, falling short of the heterosexual ideal, are the only ones who won’t see the liberation of that furious act of God.

My partner and I have enjoyed and endured the best and the worst of one of the most loving, ignorant, tolerant, and obstinate evangelical churches I’ve ever known. Perched between hope and disillusionment, we’ve had to ask ourselves: how hard will we fight to resurrect what is left of the good in the church?

I’d like to wear my pin proudly. But for some reason, when I wear it out, it makes people uneasy. Maybe it’s because it’s rainbow-coloured. Or maybe it’s because it’s a cross.