Thursday, 15 October 2015

Antitheism is not the answer

As a gay Christian, you can often feel that you have your feet in two different camps that are often at war with each other.  For many gay Christians, the Christians in our past don't accept us after we share about who we truly are. Their thinking is often that this is a lifestyle "choice" that we have made, and have turned away from godly living (if that is their theology, they don't recognise that that is the human condition, and so we're all in the same boat).  So we may find ourselves without a faith community behind us, as we struggle to find a way forward in our faith.

On the other side of the fence is the LGBT community that welcomes us, but often struggles to accept our faith, because they have been exposed to cruel judgement and ostracism by many in the Church or - worse yet - subjected to attempts to "pray the gay away" or been coerced into "gay conversion therapy" or even being convinced to enter into a relationship with someone from the opposite sex in an attempt to "bring out the straight in you."  In my case, it was all three, which made for a rather dismal chapter of my life, where death became the only hope of release, and fear of hell became the only reason I chose not to end life at my own hands.  If they don't encounter such malevolent behaviour, they're often only too aware of the very negative messages in the press by outspoken anti-gay Christian lobbying groups or church groups.  It's easy to understand why many members of the LGBT community don't have a faith, and don't want one.  But that is often not the gay Christian's understanding of faith for them.  For many, despite the judgements, it will be what has kept them going.

So, you can see that if you happen to both be gay and have a faith, it's not a particularly easy place to be in. However, for many, as much as being gay is part of our identity, so is having a faith, and we're often presented with having to choose one of two options ... either we abandon our faith, or we try and find a way to exist with one foot in each camp.  Some may choose to leave their faith communities (sadly, sometimes they're forced out).  Some will join new faith communities that are inclusive, but many retain some connection with faith and struggle to find a way forward. (How good it would be if churches were able to look past the fear and the judging and the dogma, to see this need for nurturing.  Welcome these people back as they are, and - IF there is changing to be done - let God do it.  You may not be comfortable with them, or their partner, or their social lives, but they're God's children, as much as anyone else, and they often have no spiritual home to turn to.)

I have many friends who are not Christian, but respect my choice to be a Christian (for - at the end of the day - that is the choice ... my sexual identity is not). I also have some friends that don't respect my faith, and that can sometimes be difficult. I respect someone else's choice to not follow a faith, and I respect that they have every right to be atheist, but it can hurt to hear friends speaking against all people of faith, and blaming all believers for the Church's attitude to the LGBT community.

Some people portray all religion as irrelevant, harmful, and don't think it has anything good to say.  In many cases that may be true.  But, there are as many different ways of believing as there are people ... each person has a different experience of faith and a different way of expressing that.  Many people of faith are working hard to bring change from within, and make our communities of faith more inclusive places.

The danger of painting all people of faith with the same brush, and by declaring faith irrelevant is that by doing so, you silence the voices of those within that institution or faith who are fighting for equality and inclusion.  The only way to effectively bring change is to continue engaging with people, affirm positive change where you see it, inform viewpoints where you can, and support those members of the LGBT community who are struggling to maintain relationships on both sides of the fence.