A few years ago, I “dated” someone who hated Christians. Yes, “hated.” I know, heavy stuff. Thankfully, this was a short-lived endeavor, however, it was enough to show me that having Christian friends and dating someone who loathes Christianity is a recipe for disaster. Alas, this is not uncommon.
What’s the old saying, “Religion, Politics, Money, and Sex are the root to all issues in a relationship?” Maybe I made or messed that up, or one or two of those can be substituted. Either way, you get the point. Religion (or the lack of) is an important value to have congruent with your potential partner. As is faith. Faith is important, too. And, I do believe, these two experiences can be different – time and time again, I have friends validate me through their faith rather than their religion. And, of course, I’m thankful.
Though, I am still left with questions.
Moving forward, and as I continue to travel and meet other people like me (in all contexts), I am learning that the dissonance between the gay community and the Christian community is actually quite raw and more real than the aforementioned hostility. And, of course, this same dissonance is not solely reserved for the dating pool – on a daily basis, I even experience the struggle with some of my closest friends.
Several years ago, I visited a really good friend on the west coast. We had a phenomenal week together, and on my last night in town, we decided to hit up a really nice sushi place to let the goodbye commence. Midway through the conversation, we started talking about religion, and the dissonance between Christians and the gay community. It was great. This particular time in my life, I lived as sponge-like as possible, and I soaked up every bit of knowledge and (#)perspective from those around me. It was important, and still is today.
Seeing a natural opportunity for the inevitable, I posed the following question:
“Do you think being gay is a choice?”
“Honestly…yes. I do,” she asserted.
Now, inside I was ready to burst into tears, however on the outside, I kept it cool and appreciated her for her honesty. “How do you resolve that feeling, having so many close, gay friends?”
She thought for a moment. I did too.
Eventually, my friend stood by her initial assertion, and I quickly finished my sushi to, “give me enough time to pack and rest before heading out in the morning.” I was hurt. I wanted my friend to say, “Fuck what I’ve been told, read about, experienced,” and, “You are worthy and beautiful, and did not choose to be gay.” Instead, she validated her faith, and reminded me that I am loved (despite the small caveat living with the confines of her religion). And, truthfully, I don’t fault my friend. At all. In fact, I appreciate her honesty, and the direct approach to our conversation.
But I was still hurt, and I did leave with a huge cloud of Christian guilt over my head (and, my heart). This was when I revisited the religion vs orientation debate going on in my head. For several years leading up to that trip, I had mostly just paused on religion. “Agnostic,” was my response when asked how I identified, and, “Questioning,” shortly after. I’m still questioning. Hell, we should all be questioning. Between the messy potential significant other and coupled with my good friend on the west coast, needless to say, the dissonance in my lfe is real. And outside of these two moments, my own personal journey has created quite the contention.
I grew up in the church. Real talk, I was the best church-goer there was (please, save the, “But going to church doesn’t make you a great Christian, blah blah blah,” I know, and I agree). But I believed, and I cared, and I worshiped. Yet, in addition to all the positive moments around my church-going experience, I also always knew there were some inconsistencies. Something wasn’t right for me.
Let’s pause here for a moment. I should also add that I went to a pretty conservative church. Furthermore, I acknowledge that there are Christian churches out there who are fully accepting and open to LGBTQ+ members (some still with the caveat, and many without). And again, this was not my own experience.
As I entered 2015, one of my goals was to explore this past/present struggle more, and come to some sense of resolve (while knowing a resolve may not be entirely realistic – the least I can do is get on the path to resolve, whatever that looks like).
So, where do I go from here? Of course, I am still questioning and challenging and inquiring (both, systems and my self), and I recently reached out to a friend’s husband who works at a church here in the Oklahoma City metro area. Outside of my friend being his wife, I have no real ties or social obligations to this guy. And this is ultimately why I asked him to meet with me instead of the few dear friends I have who are working in the same industry. He does not owe me a thing, and I can be as real and raw and critical as I like (need). I want to talk about religion. I want to talk about faith. I want to just talk about it, and without muted perspectives or fear of interrupting one’s true self/belief-system/outlook/heart. I need an unfiltered moment.
A starting point.
I have no clue what this conversation will bring – maybe more frustration, more anger, more Christian guilt. Either way, it’s my responsibility to keep inquiring, keep digging, and keep learning and growing.
And yours, too.
Many of you who are reading are also carrying baggage about something – that, “something,” being related to today’s post or entirely different. I challenge you to reach out to someone and engage that conversation you’ve been dreading or questioning. Seek answers. Discover resolve. Flirt with dissonance (or dance with it, as a friend argues).
Are you dancing yet?
* Below are some ways to flirt with dissonance, as you process today’s post, with highlights from varying perspectives on this specific topic (if you have more, please post them in the comment section!):
“Ten convictions I have about the church!” via Perry Noble
“Homosexuality and Obesity,” via Perry Noble
“10 Things Christian Parents Can Do When Their Kids Come Out,” via John Pavlovitz: Stuff That Needs To Be Said
* photo taken from Bianca Del Rio’s Insta or twitter