“When you’re raised with the belief that perfection is possible, it’s hard to let go of that.”
I just recently watched the coming out videos of Hannah Hart, better known as the host of My Drunk Kitchen, one of my favorite YouTube Vlogs (found on YouTube as MyHarto and YourHarto). She usually makes me laugh until I cry. This time, she just made me cry. She made such a poignant statement I had to replay the statement three times before I could digest the sentence and what she felt. Her face, red with feeling and what I could almost sense as tears, poured out the sentence about being between two distinct worlds—one of Christianity and her sexuality.
I, too, can relate whole-heartedly to the situation. Growing up, my grandma was a southern Baptist who gave me every tool to reject my mother’s “lifestyle choice.” As a ten year old, I can recall listening to the preacher get fired up about the “gay agenda,” the “homosexual lifestyle,” and the “sinful nature of those perverts.” I was saved and baptized at thirteen years old, lived a very Christian life, and my early high school years were devoted to bible studies at school and saving the unfaithful. When I realized I was gay, much like Hannah Hart it was like realizing I was broken and unworthy, just like my Mom. I was loved by my family and accepted with a contingency—as long as I played along with the current voice of mainstream Christianity. What’s worse, God seemed to be a part of that family.
I searched for a different Christian voice of God for many years before realizing that I’d need a different family to have a “different voice” of acceptance from a Christian God. For four years, I attended the one synagogue in southwest Missouri headed by a female Rabbi with maybe 75 members, 25 of which faithfully attend Friday night Shabbat services. I learned something at the reform synagogue that I didn’t from any other church, and that’s how to question “the book.”
The bible had always been taught to me as an infallible piece of divinely inspired non-fiction. When I began to question faith, God, religion, and humanity itself, I never thought to question the authoritative book. When I began to study Hebrew, the learning of a new language slowed me down and the words on the page began to make me question their long-term interpretations. Suddenly, even the word God had multiple meanings.
In reading several passages so slowly I wanted to faint, I found that some rulings and applications no longer applied, but some individual churches and peoples still adhere staunchly to scriptures three lines away. I found evidence to support slave ownership, the subjugation of women, and inequality of races and nations. Contrarily, I found evidence to discourage slavery, the patriarchy, and discrimination. How can all of this be found in one book, and how can we know which scriptures to follow? What is the true voice of God?
If God expects perfection, as quoted in Matthew 5:48 (You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.), how can we be expected to know what the path to perfect is in all of this mess? This whole fiasco is like saying murder is okay but murder is really not okay, which yes, the bible does and our culture does as well (e.g. murder is okay for going too close to the tabernacle and mocking people, and in current culture, the death penalty). It is like saying adultery is not okay but adultery is really not okay (e.g. a commandment not to be an adulterer versus many lovely stories about having wives and concubines and taking the handmaid to “go into” to bear a child). It is like saying lying is fine but it’s never fine (e.g. Rahab the lying prostitute versus the commandment against lying). I’m having a hard time finding the “one true voice of God” in this that mainstream Christianity speaks of, and if you’re hearing it up to now, please fill me in.
I think one of the best gifts I have ever been given has been not the Bible but my mind. In being able to critically think about each passage, to think about the context in which it was written, the progressively changing world, the environment in which its authors understood their culture, and the science we have access to, I am able to come to a consensus about my own beliefs using the bible as not the infallible book I once believed it was. Using the book as I would any historical book of ethics and philosophy, I was able to find my way back to Christ on my terms, with my mind and my wits intact.
Obviously, when I came out I believed I had to be straight to be accepted by my family and by my God. And mainstream Christianity still vehemently preaches such due to their fears of “what if.” I still catch a lot of hot air from Christians and non-Christians alike that wonder how I can call myself a Christian when I don’t speak with the same voice as evangelical Christianity. Many people wonder what I believe if I don’t adhere to some proscriptive doctrine or creed. I understand that and I can’t speak to it because each day my worldview progresses with my understanding of the world. I think the bible was meant to live like that too, and to progress with our worldview as it changes and evolves with our understanding of humanity.
So if the bible itself is not perfect, and God speaks not in one voice but in many, and we’re all trying to live to attain perfection but never really will (Ecclesiastes 7:20 – Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins), what are we to do? I think we turn to the voice inside, love our neighbors, and hear the overarching messages that come universally at us over and over again. No matter what you’re raised to believe, what you end up believing is your own matter of discovery and revelation.
The problems come when the bible is used to harm: to psychologically damage, to kill, to enrage, to enslave, and to be divisive. Because the book speaks in multiple voices, those voices can be used in whatever means one finds of convenience in the moment. Recovery from these harmful long-term events is hard, and seeking out God in the aftermath is not on the forefront of the mind. However, harm has an antonym just as well as most other nouns in the dictionary. Nothing is too hard for will of the human mind.
When I saw Hannah Hart to the point of tears talking about being between two worlds of feeling like Christianity was off limits because she was a lesbian, I wanted to cry. I know what that’s like. And I know the feeling of being led to believe the only way to God is through perfection and that being a lesbian is an imperfection in the eyes of God that will surely lead to utter damnation. The truth of the matter is that we are all created with a brain to read the messages and in between the lines. God doesn’t speak with one message but with many. And when we come down to it, loving each other leads to many more blessings and gifts than isolating each other due to their differences. Because so many people follow blindly and use the “word” to harm and create division because of the fears they have or the fears others have that are generationally passed down, we have so many people ending up hurt and tired of God and the word Christian gets branded with disdain. I don’t know if this can end. I don’t know how to end it. But we can try to end it with the word.
1 John 4:12 – No one has ever seen God: If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.