God vs. Gay

By Lisa Larges

Originally published on Advocate.com March 24 2009 11:00 PM ET

Like a colonoscopy or
head lice, the word
Christian

is a conversation killer among LGBTs. So I will admit up front
that whatever it is you're thinking right now about Christians
-- hypocritical, antigay, anti-sex, anti-women, anti-choice --
you've got plenty of evidence to back you up. Let's also say,
while we're still here in the first paragraph, that whatever
the church or its representatives did to you -- whatever abuse,
whatever violation of trust, whatever was said to make you
believe that you were not a child of God in your whole
beautiful queer self, whatever the silence in which you did not
hear how infinitely and immeasurably God loves you -- whatever
drove you out of the church is simply inexcusable. But unless
our community changes the "God vs. Gays" paradigm, we will
never achieve full equality. Nor will it be possible for so
many of us to live out our truths. My truth, strange as it may
be, is a calling to ministry. It's also the truth of a lot of
fierce and beautiful gay people I know, whose stories
aren't told often enough.

The big question is
this: How can we engage the larger LGBT community in this
struggle, especially with all the pain and rejection caused by
the church? That rejection is exactly what makes it so hard for
me, and most LGBT people who call themselves Christian, to
explain to others why we stay. Why should we stay where we are
either simply not "wanted," or openly denounced. Most
varieties of Christianity still practice religion-based
discrimination against same-gender loving and
gender-nonconforming people in one way, shape, or form. So why
bother?

We do not stay because
we're naive about the poor track record of the church on queer
issues. The colossal cluelessness of the church is something
that LGBTs in the church have to laugh about -- in that ironic,
rueful, shake-your-head-in-disbelief kind of way. We have also
cried about, drank over, and raged against the bias for the
last several eons. That bumper sticker that says "Jesus, save
me from your followers" is something we relate to all too
well. But we don't leave our home. We stay to make needed
repairs.

Lisa Larges x100 (courtesy) | Advocate.com

There are plenty of
reasons why we stay, many of which are hard to describe in
words. It can be a spiritual awakening that finds resonance in
the Christian story, or an unyielding belief in what the church
can, should, and perhaps will be. It can be that our hearts are
so deeply connected to the people we share our faith with and
we cannot leave that home. We all have our personal reasons and
they are all valid.

But more important, I
can tell you why it matters for the broader LGBTQ community --
the churched, the un-churched, and anti-church, as well as
believers in other religious traditions -- to care about
fighting faith-based discrimination in mainline Christian
churches. As someone who has been a part of the grassroots
struggle to fight discrimination for over 20 years in the
Presbyterian Church, I have a few opinions in this regard.

First, there's the
obvious. The Christian extremist right, which has increased its
influence in mainline churches, must be countered. Many of the
Christian denominations have a history of being moderate on
many things and progressive on others. In the last three
decades that moderate Christian voice has been drowned out,
silenced, or taken over. The influence of the Christian right
must be countered directly and from the inside. While the
Christian right is regrouping, reviewing the payout of its last
homophobic spending binge, and wearing that
deer-in-the-headlights look, now is the time.

Last week, I sat all
day observing the proceedings in a Presbyterian Church trial on
whether I could be moved forward in the ordination process as
an out lesbian. The decision that came down yesterday was a
mixed bag (read the details at

www.tamfs.org

), but the reality is that I am looking at a longer struggle
that includes advocating for a change in church policy to
include LGBT people, not just ongoing individual fights where
candidates for ordination struggle in a system that blocks them
at every turn.

Once again I saw little
of the Jesus or church I know in the proceedings. No out queer
voices were heard at that trial, including mine. Opponents of
LGBT equality in the church are rightfully wary of the personal
testimonies of queer people of faith, and likewise wary of
conversation, dialogue, and any live-and-let-live
compromise.

But here's the thing.
God still shows up at these things. (You might be thinking that
it was just caffeine, some other hormonal imbalance, or a
perverse quirk, but let's just call it God for the moment.) It
was a God that was patient but frustrated, loving but forceful,
and alternately laughing and crying over what some followers do
in God's name. There was a magnificent gaggle of young queers
who turned out to observe the trial. Some of them were asked to
leave on account of illegal twittering. So there they were,
full of love, vibrancy, strength, and faith. I say that's the
church. So sue me.

Lisa Larges x100 (courtesy) | Advocate.com

But back to this "God
vs. Gays" thing. I know just yesterday you told someone you
were "spiritual, not religious." But there are plenty of us
in the queer community who identify as both spiritual and
religious. It's going to take all of us to counteract the
heterosexist agenda of those who appear to be religious and not
the least bit spiritual.

Our primarily secular
LGBT organizations are doing a much better job of including
LGBT people of faith in their work these days. The Gay and
Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, The National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force, The Human Rights Campaign, and others are
making faith issues part of their program initiatives. There
are several prominent LGBT people of faith who write and blog
about their beliefs. They all understand that it is simply not
enough to meet religious-based bigotry with secular argument.
Not only is doing so ineffective, it contributes to the lie
that LGBT people are not people of faith and that all religions
and religious leaders view LGBT people from the same
perspective.

As the Prop. 8 loss in
California and President Obama's selection of Rick Warren to
deliver the inaugural invocation have recently shown
us, it is still critical to our community to take seriously the
intersection of LGBT rights and issues of faith and
religion.

But it will take all of
us. Taking a page from Sarah Silverman, if you grew up in a
faith tradition, go back to your family, your church,
synagogue, or mosque and talk about these issues. Challenge
them on what they are doing to make the church more inclusive.
Let them know, and know for yourself, that Scripture and
theology do not teach homophobia, transphobia, intolerance, or
bigotry. Remember the young people who are sitting there
hearing the messages of exclusion and judgment that drove you
out the door. Our movement needs political, economic, and
spiritual strength.

My wish -- OK, since
I've come out this far, I'll say "my prayer" -- is that all
who seek spiritual strength in the Christian church will find
it, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. That
all may freely worship. That all may freely serve. That is my
prayer.

So, amen
anyway.