Being that it’s Pride month, I can think of no better time to come out of the blogging closet to share how I became an ally with my LGBTQ friends and family.
First, I feel that it is necessary to explain why I had to grow into becoming an ally, and why I was not supportive in the first place. Here is the context.
I grew up in Tupelo, MS, headquarters of American Family Association. As a child, my family attended church with the founders of that organization. The current president’s wife was my first-grade teacher at a private Christian school. I was surrounded by only one way of thinking. All hours of the day my family was tuned to American Family Radio. (Except, of course, those hours when my Dad was engrossed in the Rush Limbaugh show on AM radio.)
We had regular conversations as a family about what it meant to be Christian. A hyper conservative evangelical worldview was ingrained. Questions were condemned as evil, and I was a good girl. I was obedient. I didn’t ask questions…Until I did.
I took my faith seriously at a very young age. When my friends were reading Seventeen magazine, driving the backroads, IMing on AOL, or sneaking off to have sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends, I was practicing Kay Arthur’s inductive bible study methods or teaching myself to play guitar so I could lead others in worship. In High School, I founded a Christian club called “Alethia,” a Greek word meaning Truth. I was a proud member of FCA and was a front row “A” student in bible class, an elective offered by my public high school. I was among the organizers of my school’s very first See You At The Pole events, and I spent my summers either attending Christian camps or working as a camp counselor. I was fully consumed.
I am deeply grateful for my childhood, my first family and community. I learned a LOT about Jesus! I still have the highest view of scripture one can have. It is the light unto my path. God speaks to me through each of the books in the Bible. Whatever strength, courage, peace and/or compassion living in me comes from a relationship with God.
To the chagrin of my first community, it was the study of scripture and unwavering participation in the local church that led me to become an LGBTQ ally.
I studied scripture deeply. I wasn’t the youth group kid that learned a few verses to doodle on their notebooks or sign yearbooks with. I didn’t memorize only the verses that brought me comfort, elevated my self-esteem, or modified my behavior. I dove in for understanding of the whole thing! When my youth group friends were spending their breaks playing four-square, I was meeting with my bible teacher to debate the theories of predestination and free-will.
I was intense. My questions grew exponentially. The more I studied the more I discovered the interpretations I was taught as a child were just that, interpretations. They were not objective truth. I realized that there is more than one view of hell, women are equal, children have voices, war may not be God’s idea, the poor must be a priority, and God loved us so much that He showed up on earth in the form of Jesus to change our minds about just about everything the religious people interpreted as “Truth.”
Which leads me to my LGBTQ framily. It is the study of scripture that led me to this alliance. I could jump into that here, detailing the verses and interpretations from all sides, but there has been much written on this already. Anyone can dig in as I did. I’m happy to share some resources at the end. Instead, there was a second area of influence that I’d rather share.
Christians changed my mind about the LGBTQ community.
Let me start again with my adolescent world view. My religious training programmed me to think of Gay folks as promiscuous, predatorial, impulsive, weak, selfish, sick and confused.
However, when I became a hairdresser in my early 20’s, I worked with a few gay men, a lesbian, and a few queer folks. I prayed for them. I observed them, and ultimately, I learned from them. I realized quickly that NONE of my co-workers fit the caricature I had been given as a child.
The person of greatest influence was a man who had been in a committed, monogamous gay relationship for over 20 years. The second influence was a lesbian who had been in a committed, monogamous relationship for 10 years. They were both model couples full of love and respect for one another in addition to being leaders in our profession. Their character was impeccable. At this same time in my life, my parents were going through a less than peaceful divorce. I realized not everything was as I had been told.
Though I had not fully made the switch intellectually or spiritually yet, I held those precious co-workers in my mind as I moved through life.
Ten years later, I began attending a new church and chose an all-female small group to join. One month into our Beth Moore study on Esther, three of the women were forcefully confronted about their sexuality and our group split. I was astonished to see that the women who left the group were not ones outed. It was the straight women. The straight women refused to study the bible with anyone who was other than straight. That seemed very unlike Jesus to me!!! Because I had studied the Gospels for two decades, I knew without a doubt that everyone was welcome at Jesus’s table.
So, I hosted the next study at my own kitchen table. I invited all, but only the three lesbians and a recovering addict showed. The “good” Christians couldn’t be bothered. For the remainder of 10 weeks, we continued to study a very fitting story about a woman who wisely took on the establishment in effort to protect the oppressed.
These women at my table impressed me. They studied deeply and faithfully. Over time I observed the fruits of the spirit in them. They were peaceful, patient, and kind. Their joy was so very infectious!!!
I still had questions about the sexuality of these women. Only my questions were more theological. I would slip an inquiry into our study every now and then. They would patiently redirect me to the current study and reassure me that their only agenda was to study scripture and meet with fellow Christians to encourage one another to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus was something they were serious about. They served the church and the community. They spent many of their weekends downtown volunteering at a homeless shelter. They loved their families and their neighbors. The two who were waiting for their right to marry to be recognized, loved each other well.
This experience sparked a fire in me. I began to read everything I could get my hands on from all perspectives. I began to pray harder than ever for a revelation on this matter. How could these women not belong? They were as great an example of Jesus as any others I had studied or served with. In fact, they were greater than most! They should be leaders!
I began talking to more straight Christians about this situation. I opened that can as often as I could. I needed to understand why there were such significant barriers for my LGBTQ friends when scripture is actually quite vague on the matter.
Conversation after conversation almost unanimously revealed the same thing. These Christians didn’t know their own scripture! Sure, they could pick out a few verses to support their points, but they were not being intellectually honest. In almost all my exchanges, those who condemned the “homosexual lifestyle” did not hold to other literal interpretations of scripture. Every single person I’ve mulled this over with either loved bacon(Lev. 11:7,8), proudly showed off their tattoos(Lev. 19:28), gossiped…sometimes under the guise of a prayer request(Romans 1:29), drank alcohol(Isaiah 5:11), worked on the Sabbath(Exodus 20:8-11), attended church without their heads covered(1 Cor. 11:2-16), wore braids and gold jewelry(1 Peter 3:3 & 1 Tim. 2:9), were indifferent and even hostile toward the poor(there are more than 2,000 verses on poverty and justice)…I could go on…
A pattern was revealed. The LGBTQ community was being singled out by my straight Christian friends and family. This had nothing to do with an unwavering commitment to a literal interpretation of scripture.
It had everything to do with something else, something inside of them. Maybe it was hatred. Maybe it was fear. Maybe it was loyalty to a community that raised them. I don’t know, but it had nothing to do with what the Bible says.
So, I could no longer stand on the side of history that denied dignity and prosperity to my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Bullying, assault, murder, and suicide are very real and common issues facing queer individuals. After a greater understanding of the devastation reparative therapy brings and the limited rights of partners in a civil union, I had to change if I were truly going to show love to my truly loveable friends.
Now, I am a flag waiving ally, I am unashamed to walk as I believe Jesus would. I welcome all to my table and into my home. I will dance and sing at their weddings, buy baby clothes for their new little ones, and try to be the best friend imaginable!
They are not ones to pray for. They are ones to pray with. They are our equals. They are our leaders. They are loved by God, and they are loved by me.
My husband and US Army Chaplain, prayed this opening prayer for a recent Pride celebration held on his current military post and it is my whole heart on this matter:
Almighty God, As we begin our celebration of diversity we pause and acknowledge your presence among us. I thank you, Lord, that each person here is uniquely and wonderfully made in your image. As we hear testimony of courageous service from our fellow soldiers and airmen, may we each leave this place with a better understanding of the struggles, persecution and personal challenges that our ignorance creates for others. I ask that you, Oh Lord, embolden each of us here to stand with increasing resolve that no one shall face prejudice or unfair treatment under our watch. Bless all who work hard to enlighten us to the dignity, worth, and beauty of every person. And Lord, we thank you most of all this afternoon for each of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons who have answered the call to serve our country. It is by your grace and love we honor and celebrate each of them this afternoon.
And all of Gods people say, Amen.
(If you would like to make comments or discuss, you are welcome to, respectfully, send me a private message. I will delete any hateful comments.)
Here is a short list of resources:
20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid To Touch by Tony Campolo
Love Is An Orientation by Andrew Marin
Torn by Justin Lee
God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines