Coffee with a Christian

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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?”

Pause.

“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.

Reset.

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?

Seeking closure,

Michael

* 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!): 

“New ‘Christian Conversation GuideReleased,” via HRC

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

9 thoughts on “Coffee with a Christian

  1. I relate to your post. I was close to my grandmother who was a Jehovah’s witness, and taught me a lot about the Bible. I used to love the stories from the Bible, and she bought me this book called My Book of Bible Stories, that came with audio cassettes to follow along, and I liked listening to them before bed. My mom was also Jehovah’s witness for quite a few years, but got out of it when I was around two years old, I think. I grew up Christian, though church-going was at times sporadic in my family. We’d faithfully go every week for a few months and then just stop going or would try other churches and then stop going again. I used to go to church with my friends sometimes too just to see if I liked it. When I was in high school I would go to church sometimes with a friend of mine who was Catholic, which was an entirely different experience and completely different from what I had learned and was accustomed to. When I reached the age of 20, I started going to a nondenominational church and kind of got swept away by it for a while. I realized though that instead of feeling good after church, I felt guilty and depressed and judged. I didn’t like that feeling. It just seemed like so many things that I believed in, they were against. I stopped going.

    A couple years later, I started to explore other things, namely Paganism, and became more what I refer to as spiritual. I opened up my mind to that stuff which in turn really made me question EVERYTHING. I did have several spiritual “experiences” that still to this day I cannot explain. I ended up getting in over my head with it all though, and decided to close myself off to that stuff, going on a “spiritual holiday”.

    I don’t know how to really label myself. I’m open, and I guess that’s all I can say. I’m open to the possibility that there is a higher power, and I’m open to the possibility that there is not. There’s a part of me that believes that whatever it is that you believe in is the fate that you face in death. In other words, if you believe in Hell, and think you’re a bad person, then maybe you’ll go there. If you believe in angels, maybe you’ll be one. If you think you’ll be dust in the ground, maybe you will be. I still don’t know, and am interested in continuing to learn. I don’t like how religion tends to be so hypocritical — especially within the Bible, and I don’t think it’s fair that Christians pick and choose which things in the Bible that they think they should live by and which ones no longer apply. The only “religion” that I can say that I think is 100 percent bullshit, is Scientology.

    I don’t believe that being gay is a choice, just as being straight isn’t a choice. You are who you are, and you don’t choose it. No one should have a problem with anyone being gay. My sexual orientation doesn’t affect anyone else, why should anyone’s sexual orientation affect me in any way?

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  2. Thank you. You’re brave and full of light. Keep brightening our path.

    This is such a good charge to the Church. We often think evangelism is something done in a vacuum but so many people are reaching out and seeking God, how the Church responds to that is huge. Words are one thing but the Good News comes with action and I pray we’ll act more dilligently to uphold human dignity in the years ahead. A somewhat dense/scholarly but worthwhile read I’d add: http://covnetpres.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/charles-myers-homosexuality-and-bible.pdf

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  3. Gracie, thank you. And, thank yo ufo much for more than just the comment. You have been someone who has pushed and encouraged and validated me, and this conversation. Thank you. Keep shining brightly – your light to the world is a powerful one. Sending love today…

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  4. Michael, your writing almost made me cry. I always loved your zest for life and your honesty. This is the most beautiful honest post I have seen in along time. Ashley and I are Jehovah’s witnesses and have strong beliefs, which includes examining ourselves on a daily basis. Being imperfect we can tend to be judgemental when we know that the truth is only our-creator can read the heart and discern ones search for truth and true purpose, (thank goodness for that)You have an open mind and that is what in my opinion is the key to building faith. We were just talking about how we miss those days when you were both young. You have a beautiful spirit and we will ways love you.

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