This piece is cross-posted from my old blog from last year, but in posting my previous blog, I think it wise to post my personal journey away from and back to God.  Forgive me if you're a member to both places.

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When I first realized I was gay and had my first crush, Adrienne, I was a little southern Baptist girl living in a small town insulated by the ideas of the church, handed down to me by the imposing hands of my foremothers and forefathers.  Adrienne came to hand me a revision, something that I had to cope with, something that changed my life forever, and something that I’ve forever grappled with.

I’d grown up between the four worlds of my mother and my grandparents, each of whom had starkly different value spectrums.  My mother attended church off and on when it fit the bill, but after falling in love with a woman when I was six never reconciled her faith and her beliefs.  My grandma, the pianist for the First Baptist Church where she lives, is fiercely religious.  My grandpa however was a sci-fi loving, discourse-engaging skeptic.  It’s like living with Cynthia Nixon, Tammy Faye Bakker, and Bill Maher.  My mom was conflicted on being gay and conflicted on religion.  My grandma was convicted—staunchly anti-gay, pro-religion.  My grandpa was anti-religion, anti-government, and anti-labeling.  Rightly I’d be a little confused by the time I’d hit puberty.  And when one party, likely the one with the most sense, my grandpa, passed away when I was 13 I was left with little to no comprehension of how to navigate between the four worlds I was floating in.

My first problem was when I heard a repeated message from both sides: gay kids don’t come from gay mothers.  Assuredly, I was straight and I didn’t have to worry about grappling with my sexuality.  I took on my religion as my main focus, hosting a bible study at school and going to church every Sunday.  It was after a night of reading my bible that Adrienne came to visit.

I spent hours reading my bible and praying after Adrienne left.  I knew every church I’d ever been to had condemned lesbians to hell.  I knew that’s why my mother hadn’t gone to church for years.  I knew Jesus didn’t love gay people.  I knew in my mind that if I chose to listen to my body, I’d be sent to eternal damnation, away from my Father in Heaven, away from my grandpa who’d just passed away.  I quit the bible study.  I read my bible daily, I searched for clues to why I could be a lesbian or how I could be a lesbian and ignore it, or how I could just get rid of it.  I searched for ways to make it go away.  I searched for a religion that could promise I wouldn’t be gay anymore if only I’d follow it to the letter of the law.  I learned a lot about religions.  I went to so many churches that I couldn’t count them on ten hands.  I’ve had hands laid on me, prayed for, anointed, baptized, and condemned.  Nothing made me any less a lesbian.  It wasn’t from a lack of trying.

After accepting that there was nothing I could do and entering a relationship with a girl my senior year of high school, the personal insults began.  Those who had previously loved me to death started threatening me.  I received hateful looks, dirty comments, and condoms on my tailpipe of my car, broken CDs scrawled with nasty words in my driveway at home, and multiple voicemails with condemnation on my box at home.  It was insanity.  These were Christians who professed love.  Were they so “afraid” for my soul or so afraid to be “wrong” that they would resort to threatening me to save me?  Did that ever work?

I grew up and fell in love with the idea that Christianity was a four-letter word. I had become so fed up with the way I had been treated in the past that the future without Christ was a better option.  I attended a reform synagogue for several years, and what I learned there was invaluable.  Tradition, love, and good works are the ties that bind us to each other.  I saw myself not as a Jew, but as a faith seeker.  I found myself furthering my progress toward rectification and healing.

It was Christmas of 2010 that I entered a church of my own volition upon invitation of friends for a candlelight service.  The calm and peace of the familiar hymns and carols echoed back to my soul somewhere down deep to the Tammy Faye Bakker side while the Cynthia Nixon side sat holding the candle still, keeping face.  It wasn’t long before the smudged eyeliner of Tammy Faye could be seen on the outside, running down my face.  Finally, I could feel peace in a church.  Finally, I felt home.

Christ never spoke about hellfire and brimstone for lesbians.  He spoke about acts of loving-kindness and radical love for neighbor and enemy.  He spoke about the evils of being rich and judgmental and the blessings of being merciful and meek.  My God is a loving God, who wouldn’t send His creation away because of the way she was made in His image.  My church is one that understands my need to question faith in order to have faith.  My four-year relationship with my partner is based upon the biblical principles of respect and mutual care.  It enhances my life tremendously.  When I have enough money for a wedding I hope to have a traditional church wedding.

Still, the opposition is out there.  My partner’s brother and his wife are adamantly anti-gay and we worry about every holiday and what her nieces and nephews will call me.  It breaks my heart.  Churches preaching that we are evil, sinful creatures who deserve to rot in hell, that we’re demons, that we’re going to take down America every Sunday across this country when I couldn’t even finish my dinner much less ruin the nation.  We’re all afraid of what we don’t know and what we don’t understand; we’re all also afraid to be wrong.  America is such a culture of being right.  But can we really afford to be right all of the time?

I’ve only met a few Christian lesbians, but we’re out there.  Don’t assume lesbians are all godless heathens.  We all have a lot to learn from each other if we dialog and get over those assumptions.  And if there was nothing else I learned from spending years as a non-Christian, I learned a few things from Rabbi Hillel, standing on one foot, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do unto your fellow man.  That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary.  Go and study it.”  And if you’re not ready yet to accept the words of others, listen to Jesus, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  All of your neighbors—gay neighbors count!

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Comment by Constant Calliope on January 10, 2013 at 7:34pm

Jonathan Wolfman:  We never stop looking for social justice.  No one is so lucky that we can pass over the chance to connect with another human being and work towards something good, be it great or small.  I once read about a radical man who did just that.  Somehow in translation that message was lost and lots of people were hurt by the ancillary messages people got from the book that was published about him.  We're always learning and growing, and even if for thousands of years people did the wrong things... maybe now they know that's not right.  Let me be the first to say I'm sorry.  We'll move on, get it right, and take the message for what it really is... radical love, social justice, and transformation.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on January 10, 2013 at 7:40pm

uhmhmm   that man knew his jeremiah  :)

Comment by Constant Calliope on January 10, 2013 at 7:45pm

alsoknownas:  Your comments always have the most poignant tone to them.  I carry them with me during the down times.  Even if you believe I already know what you say, the way you reiterate them pulls me back into myself.  I thank you for that.  Very much.

Comment by Unbreakable on January 10, 2013 at 8:16pm
Calliope, I missed this on Open Salon. I am so glad to have read it here. Beautifully expressed and with such a wise and gentle voice. Of course being lesbian and Christian are not mutually exclusive. That's one of the biggest lies perpetuated in the church today. Please allow me to congratulate you on your brave voice - so many need to hear this.
Comment by Jeanne Sathre on January 10, 2013 at 8:26pm

I don't see why these have to be exclusive. Good for for. Hopefully you'll be in the forefront of changes we're starting to see in churches.

Comment by Harp on January 10, 2013 at 8:45pm

America is a culture of wanting to be right... regardless of how hopelessly wrong you might be.

This is an extraordinarily beautiful post.    I never read it before.  Thanks for bringing it here.

Comment by Constant Calliope on January 10, 2013 at 9:01pm

Unbreakable and Jeanne Sathre:  Lots of people beg to differ with your opinions.  I'm glad to see more people that see it as you two do and as I do, that no matter the way you're created, you are loved.  Change comes from within.  :D

Harp23:  The possibility of admitting uncertainty or wrong to a culture of "right" is too scary, so many choose to stick to their habits or avoid it altogether.  Hopeless to achieve a cultural shift?  I don't know.  Is change from the culture of "right" possible?  And how?  You've got me thinking... and that's a scary thing!  haha

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on January 11, 2013 at 5:32am

The issue here, too, is how we choose to disagree w one another. I try very hard, even when goaded, to address issues and not make claims about people's character. I don't say I succeed 100% but it's a goal.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on January 11, 2013 at 8:44am

keith is right, of course and it shouldn't even be a question, let alone a debate   

 

it's akin to xtupidity of trying to hold a serious discussion abt whether or not Jews are greedy/stingy or if Frenchmen are all romanticists  

 

Comment by koshersalaami on January 11, 2013 at 8:47am

Jonathan told me about this post, so I thought I'd drop by and have a look. Really good.

There's a big difference between religion and the people who screw it up. As my grandfather used to say about people who blamed their tools: "It's not the tool, it's the nut on the handle." There's a lot of that going around. What Jesus preached and what Christianity practices sometimes overlap in some movements and, more accurately, in some congregations or organizations within those movements. There's a diverse population and they approach things differently, but they mainly represent themselves, not their religions per se. If I were to blame religions for what people did in the name of those religions, no religion would be worth keeping, because what's done in the name of those religions is often either actually or arguably a gross violation of that religion.  One could conclude based on this logic that Judaism supports murder based on the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, or that Jesus' message wasn't worth considering based on the Crusades followed by the Spanish Inquisition, or that Mohammed's messages weren't worth following based on honor killings and 9/11 (though it's utterly amazing how many Americans actually believe the third of these has validity, unlke the other two....).

When you get lucky enough to find a religious community whose take on your religion matches your own, membership in that community will make sense to you because it is supportive and reinforces that which you value. Those takes also evolve, unfortunately in both directions. In terms of homosexuality, for example, in terms of both movements and congregations, how many people's takes are accepting is radically different now than it was, say, thirty years ago. Thirty years ago I lived in the Washington, DC area, and there was a gay Jewish congregation in the District called Bet Mishpocha (house of family). I don't know if it still exists but I know it isn't necessary like it used to be because at least one, probably two or three now, of the major Jewish movements ordains gays as rabbis. As Jonathan pointed out (and which I didn't know), the Episcopal branch that includes National Cathedral has decided to perform gay weddings there. Sometimes life gets easier. Sometimes people in religions wake up to what their religion actually adds up to.

Sometimes they don't. Ultra Orthodoxy in Judaism has been moving in the opposite direction as of late. I would argue that their approach involves corrupting Judaism in the name of adhering to it more closely, but that's my take and, because they aren't my movement, my effect on them is nonexistent and their effect on me isn't exactly major either. We've certainly seen the same things happen in Islam, again at both ends, where their ultra orthodoxy (lower case O because their movement isn't named Orthodox) is corrupting Islam's humanism while in some circles there are Muslims saying "This is not Islam."

May your search be a fruitful one.

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