The following is an anonymous guest post from a fellow student at Spring Arbor University. Recently, a group of LGBT students and allies were the target of anti-queer harassment. This is one student’s response.
I remember vividly the day my faith shifted focus. It was my first youth group event, and I was deliriously excited. We all filed in to the conference center and worship music engulfed us. I was in love with the mega church feel of it all. At the beck and call of any given inspirational speaker, my spiritual emotions would rise and fall. They knew how to play the room like a harp, and my soul became the crescendos. Riveted by the first few guilt-inducing songs, I wasn’t really prepared for the wave that would take over me when they put on a skit depicting the crucifixion of Christ.
The room fell dark, and nearly silent. With shadow, light, and softly growing music, the silhouette of Christ was dragged to the stage by the Roman soldiers. Their shadowed figures beat his as the music grew in intensity. Their message held me captive, and my eyes began to well with tears. With violent flashes of light, “Jesus” was put to death on a cross right there in front of me, and I just wasn’t prepared for what would come next. As the music faded away with the dying breath of “Christ,” the room fell silent, and the speaker came forth again.
“Your sins held him here,” he declared. “Yet you deny him still.”
I began to weep.
“Will you continue to deny him, reject that you belong to him, just so you can feel safe in this secular world? Or will you die to this world, and be persecuted for Christ?”
The speaker continued, telling us that a Christian life wouldn’t always be easy, but it would be worth it. It would be worth it because of the promises God made to us, but only if we never gave in to the ways of the world. The message was clear: the Christian church will be increasingly persecuted in a constantly secularizing world. The question was, could we with stand the persecution for Christ, or would we fall to the ways of the world?
My faith was changed. I would spend the next six years devoting myself to being a part of the persecuted church, no matter what it would mean. I would not give in to the ways of the world. I would hold fast to my God.
Recently, I was reminded of this rhetoric. I remembered being incorrectly taught that I, identifying as a white, straight, cisgender Christian, was being targeted and persecuted. I was taught that as a member of conservative evangelicalism, my beliefs were holy and righteous, and I must stand for those views at all costs. I was taught, as many still believe, that I needed to stand against people who lived lives contrary to a “biblical lifestyle.”
Specifically, I was taught that LGBT people were not only not welcome in my Christianity, but that they were a threat to it. This rhetoric was used to victimize white, straight, cisgender Christians and demonize LGBT people. Regardless of what kind of “truth in love” speech is claimed, this doctrinal belief inherently dehumanizes LGBT people, especially if they also identify as Christian.
In this rhetoric, I stood firmly against LGBT people, especially within Christianity.
And then I came out. It was traumatic. Honestly, it still is. My faith broke all over again, and tediously I had to rebuild it. I am a Christian. I am a lesbian. I am faithfully myself and no one can take that from me.
A few days ago, I sat on the steps of my non-affirming school’s library with my family of queer Christians and a rainbow flag, trying our best to stand for our right to have faith.
That same day, my friends were berated on those very steps by a homophobic Christian woman who screamed about their supposed sexual sins against God.
That same day, administration did not defend us immediately. They had to think about it before releasing a statement.
Two days later, the school refused to claim the existence of LGBT students on campus, and when they finally did, it came with a notice that no LGBT person could also be Christian.
Three days later, an email was released, claiming LGBT people exist, but are never to be viewed as Christian.
In the wake of these events, I am left feeling violently aware of the fact that I had for so long contributed to the tyrannical beliefs that are now dehumanizing myself and my friends. I had been a part of persecuting queer people by denying their existence and their right to enter into a relationship with God. I had, for so long, felt like a persecuted Christian because of the very existence of real persecuted Christians. I feel compelled now to make the difference between the two abundantly clear.
A persecuted Christian is not the person who has to wrestle with a different opinion. A persecuted Christian is not the person who “defends their faith” against the existence of diversity. A persecuted Christian is not someone who feels the only way to maintain their own faith is by disowning their gay child. A persecuted Christian is the Christian who hangs on to faith despite being told they don’t belong. More than that, a persecuted Christian is someone who dares to continue to believe in a God who has never answered their prayers for acceptance in their church, home, or school.
Dear Spring Arbor University, you are not the persecuted Church.
My church taught me to stand for my faith against those who persecute Christians. So, dear Church, dear Spring Arbor, have you considered that you persecute me? That you persecute us, the hurting queer community among you? Dear Church, dear Spring Arbor, stop telling me I must deny my truth, my faith, my story to fit your Christianity. Dear Church, dear Spring Arbor, dear families, might you be our persecutors? Your “truth in love” is stifling our prayers. Dear Church, we do not threaten your faith, but you daily threaten ours. Dear Church, how am I to believe in a God who allows you to treat us as less than the beloved? Dear Church, hear our cries as Jesus does.
We pray for you, who persecute us. We pray for your enlightening and your apologies. We pray for reformation and reconciliation. We pray for peace, for you and for us. We pray for unity. But now, dear Church, it is up to you. You have to come to see the Jesus in us. You hold your Bible as a poison rather than a remedy. Dear Church, dear Spring Arbor, you’re making it hard for us to breathe.
Let us breathe.
Sincerely Ours (because we’re super not yours),
The Persecuted Church (aka The Gay Kids Club)