Dear Non-Affirming Christian,
I have reviewed your offer and the attached job description, and after careful consideration I regret to inform you that I will not be accepting the position of “Gay Friend.”
It was tempting at first, mostly because the alternatives seemed so lonely. And I’ll be honest, you almost won me over with the promise of paying for coffee when we sit down so you can “hear my story.” However, I have some concerns.
First of all, the job description states that you will be name-dropping me in all conversations pertaining to “the issue of homosexuality” from this point forward. I assume you’re referring to the conversations you have with your real friends, when you muse about the world and your faith and the ways the two interact. I’m sure these conversations sometimes turn into debates, especially since your non-affirming position is so quickly losing popularity. That’s where I come in, right? If you mention that you have a “gay friend,” then no one could possibly consider you a bigot. I’m the living proof that we can disagree on divisive issues and still get along, correct? As if the coffee we share could be listed among your credentials and our perceived friendship somehow makes you more qualified to condemn…
But here’s the problem, Non-Affirming Christian: you’re still thinking of me as a divisive issue. Can you understand why that hurts me? Can you understand that I do not want to be used as a mascot for your theology? Your theology puts kids on the street. Your theology tears families apart. Your theology killed Zack Harrington. It killed Leelah Alcorn. Your theology is a murderer, even when it’s wearing a smiling face and skinny jeans. You can try to justify it next time you and your friends get into one of these debates, but please…I beg of you, not in my name.
Forgive me for my bitterness. If I’m being honest, I’m actually a bit jealous that you can have such inconsequential debates. You can argue about homosexuality and then forget about the conversation 10 minutes later. You can arrive at any conclusion you’d like and it will have no effect on your life. I can’t do that. Every time I’m asked to speak on the subject I am making an appeal on behalf of my existence. When I share my opinion, I am sharing a sacred part of my identity that I know could be rejected. We are not having the same conversation. That’s not your fault, but I think you forget about it sometimes.
This job description you wrote also insists that we both “agree to love each other despite our disagreements.” God, that sounds great. It really does. And I am trying so hard to figure out how we might make it work. Non-Affirming Christian, I believe that you think you love me. And I know that I try to love you. But the problem is that one of us has a lot more to lose than the other.
And I’m so scared that you think it’s you.
I’m afraid that after we finish our coffee, you’re going to go home and pat yourself on the back for adequately loving the “least of these.” After all, Jesus also spent time with prostitutes and tax-collectors! Isn’t it somewhere in the Bible that we should love the sinner and hate the sin? And we all know that it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
So, doctor, am I your friend? Or am I fulfilling your monthly leper quota?
If we’re going to make this friendship happen, Non-Affirming Christian, I have some work to do first. I’m going to have to pray for the grace to love someone who will never fully accept all of who I am. I am going to have to learn how to love unconditionally and without any expectation of support in return. I am going to have to forgive you for your unrepentant wielding of a belief system that has systematically oppressed my community for centuries. That is excruciating love. That is tremendous grace. For a gay person to love a non-affirming friend is astonishingly Christ-like.
I don’t know if I’m qualified for this position. I’m getting there. I feel closer to Jesus than I ever have before, and he’s teaching me a whole lot about grace and love. But listen, I am just so exhausted. And until I can learn how to give you grace, I need to be gentle with myself. I need to learn to love the person I was created to be before I can fully love a person who tells me otherwise.
Non-Affirming Christian, I don’t think you realize what you’re asking of me when you ask me to be your “Gay Friend.” But I’m trying to forgive you for that. In the meantime, I will walk alongside you and I will pray for you and I will ask God for the will to search for some kind of unity. And perhaps one day we can meet for coffee. I’ll pay this time. And maybe then we can renegotiate the offer.