I recently started reading an excellent book by the Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman, who is an Episcopal priest, political strategist, and super awesome lesbian. The book, titled “Queer Virtue,” goes beyond the question of whether or not homosexuality is Biblically permissible, and celebrates the inherent queerness of spirituality and Christian ethics. She argues that a queer identity is not only “ok,” but can enrich one’s understanding of the Divine and should be acknowledged as a unique expression of God’s love and creativity. Y’all. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’ve been snapping and amen-ing throughout the whole thing. Like, the other people in this coffee shop are starting to stare.
It’s so easy (and so understandable) to get caught up in the hardship of being an LGBT person of faith. There’s plenty to be angry about and plenty to mourn. The Church has a lot of work to do, the progress is slow, and none of it is easy. But WOW, GUYS, there is so much beauty! This book has been an awesome reminder of just how beautiful faith can be, and how being a member of the LGBT community can serve as an incredible lens though which one experiences God.
In an effort to process the ways that my own faith and queerness interact, I decided to ask a bunch of my #faithfullyLGBT friends what being queer has taught them about their walk with Christ. These are their responses, and they’ve got me feeling some type of way…
“Being queer has taught me that the image of God is in everything and everyone if you have eyes to see it. I’ve learned that God is beyond gender and yet still encompassing of gender, beyond race and yet encompassing all race… Basically that God is much more of a mystery than I ever thought.” –Kevin Garcia (@theKevinGarcia)
“Being out and Christian has taught me the beauty of love and grace. I have learned true and unconditional acceptance. Not works based, but love based.” –@IAmCindyT1
“One of the first things that coming out as gay has taught me is how I define my faith, and what I believe is the basis of our faith that Christ laid out for us. I run into so many people who don’t understand how you could be a practicing gay and a Christian, as they see it as contradictory. I’ve learned quite a bit about my view of God when trying to lay out for others and myself how I believe I can be both. I’ve basically had to remind myself that the basis of my faith is that God is love. I temporarily dismissed all my jumbled thoughts about Christianity and started over again at that foundation.” -Ilsabet Fouch
“The process of figuring out my queerness has required me to give myself a lot of grace, and I’m learning to do the same thing in regards to faith. Being patient with myself has been super important in my journey as a Christian queer person.” -Anonymous
“Being gay and coming out is an act of radical love. Love that is stronger than the demands of society or social stigma. Love that would rather be with its beloved than receive approval from family or culture or religion. Love that will literally turn its back on everyone and everything else. I like to think God loves me at least this much. That the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus was God’s coming out. An act of radical love that said he would rather be with us than anything else.” –Kyle Tyson
“[Being bisexual] has taught me that showing love truly is the most important aspect of living out my faith. Essentially redefined love to a more unconditional, honest, and accepting love. Learning to practice that love on others has been extremely difficult, but so so rewarding.” -Anonymous
“When it says we’re ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ it still applies to queerfolk. Took forever to finally accept that being queer wasn’t a mistake or punishment on God’s part, but it was intentional. My batch just got more glitter, hips, and sass. It also taught me a bit about the whole, ‘we have a great high priest who is able to empathize…’ I know the verse is about temptation and not sinning, but I think it also has something to say about empathy within the trinity. It taught me that the Holy Spirit gets us, she knows the feels we’re wrestling with and translates our groans and moans and sobs and cries into an ever beautiful narrative of hope and peace and strength. Finally, being queerfully and wonderfully made has taught me about welcoming the outsider, the stranger, and the alien among us. It wasn’t until I experienced rejection, condemnation, and hate that I was able to see how often and how easy it is to cast those judgments on others. But Jesus hung out with hookers and con artists and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a handful of LGBT+ hanging around him…and all the while he loved and accepted and ate with them! He said, ‘come and walk with me and let me hear your story.’ Jesus’ whole, ‘father forgive them for they know not what they do’ was so much stronger because he heard the stories of the guilty, the ostracized, the abused, and he took the time to walk alongside of them and then to walk in their shoes–became one of them. If Jesus took the time to walk along the outsider, what a challenge it is to me to take up that charge and walk with someone else.” -Hannah
“Being gay has taught me that there is beauty in suffering and persevering in the face of pain, but there is even more beauty in arriving to a place of peace and joy after the suffering.” -Anonymous
“Looking at my choice to embrace my sexuality from the viewpoint of younger ‘pray away the gay’ me, that choice represents embracing everything that I believed was sinful and perverse. It has not been easy to disengage with that habitual thinking. But it has brought me to a place of resting on the largeness of the grace of Jesus. It has brought me to a place of relying on believing that the grace of Jesus is large enough to encompass this turmoil that I feel and speak into it. When my mind is full of condemnation, the grace of Jesus is the voice that speaks stillness and assurance.” -Franklyn Harrison
“Being queer has taught me that human categories and concepts cannot do justice to the beautiful complexity and mystery of God’s creation.” –William Stell
“It’s taught me how easily even the most sweet and well-intentioned people can turn you into a divisive issue instead of a person. Adhering to a biblical statement that most people barely understand the context or significance of and using the adherence to that rule as a status indicator of their faith instead of their relationship with God and with marginalized people is horrifically common…But it also taught me some nuances of God’s love and character that I hadn’t felt or looked at before. I was scared He would be disappointed in me, but I learned to listen to His voice about it and got reassurance that He still wanted me to do His work. It made me challenge norms of Christianity and gender roles in general, and brought me a bunch of awesome people devoted to doing the same.” -Tessa Diaz
“Being a queer person of faith has moved me to listen to and learn from the voices of other people who are marginalized in ways that I am not. I cannot claim that Jesus is in solidarity with me in my oppression, while standing idly by as others are oppressed in ways that I am privileged. Being queer has awakened me to Jesus’ heartbeat of justice.” –Rachel C.
“Being queer has taught me that, God bless, the Gospel is good news for everyone. Growing up, I couldn’t understand why the Gospel was taught to be an exclusive form of grace that was only bestowed upon certain people. Realizing I was queer messed me up in terms of faith, but ultimately it has shown me that God’s love is big enough to include all of us. It has also taught me that Jesus has ultimate grace that allowed me to step away from my faith and sometimes still step away to breathe through the trauma of what I have had to unlearn. It’s taught me to let go of fear and fully embrace myself for who I am because I am able to embrace God as the creator who made me this way, and that’s enough to get me through the hard days.” -Anonymous
“I learned God isn’t the one shaming and rejecting those who don’t fit the mold. He’s the one loving and comforting those hurt by the Church.” –Matthew Parker
YAS. AMEN. GOD BLESS. GOOD NEWS, INDEED.
I can’t speak for every LGBT Christian, but for a lot of us, arriving at these truths has been a long and difficult process. There can be a lot of harmful teachings and internalized hatred to overcome before you can fully embrace God’s profound love and inclusion. And that’s ok. If you’re in the questioning or coming out process and these things are hard for you to believe right now…that’s ok. God’s love for you is not dependent on your level of faith or your ability to love yourself.
But please know, friends, that God does not love you despite your queerness. Rather, you are a beautiful expression of God’s endless creativity. You are made in God’s wonderfully queer image. You have a faith that you’ve had to fight for and a capacity to love that not everyone can comprehend. Your existence is bravery. Your love is radical. And until you can believe that for yourself, there is a community of folks who are more than happy to remind you of your worth, and there is a God who is proud to call you their child.
There is a seat for you at Christ’s table, my friend. And GUESS WHAT? We’re having brunch.