Lately I’ve been focusing on a specific topic: conflict between conservative churches and homosexuality. In those posts I’ve mentioned my church background and my thoughts on their approach to handling human sexuality. Today I’m questioning the line between advocating and venting over a lost cause or a cause not mine to undertake. Since leaving the denomination over ten years ago, I’ve no platform to advocate. As an outsider expressing my concerns on the Internet without having direct interaction among any denominational leadership, I sound like a clanging cymbal instead of loving member of the Body of Christ.
Christians are called to seek reconciliation first before offering gifts to God. There’s a biblical protocol outlining steps to reconciliation and actions to take if those steps aren’t successful. In the case of human sexuality and opposing viewpoints, who’s to say which denomination stands for Truth while the other stands under false doctrine? According to the protocol of reconciliation, if agreement doesn’t take place, then one side may eventually treat the opposition as a pagan or tax collector. If both sides believe they’re on the side of Truth, does this mean the Body of Christ may turn against itself?
Agreeing to disagree works in some cases, but in regards to human sexuality those disagreements have a direct impact on those who do not fit heteronormativity. While individuals are free to find refuge in open and affirming congregations, there’s a process involving grief, fear, and sorrow before someone decides to leave a familiar spiritual home. Conversely, if someone not fitting heteronormativity decides to remain in the non-affirming congregation, then there’s a process one undertakes to change orientation and behavior which also involves grief, fear, and sorrow. In many ways both choices offer a no-win situation.
For more than 10 years, I tried to conform to the orientation and gender role norms within my spiritual home. While my peers were dating the opposite sex and forming long-term relationships, I tagged along with the young adult group feeling completely out of place. Several times I made a fool out of myself in order to project a heterosexual, feminine persona in search of a godly man. Not only did I feel fake in the process, I experienced embarrassment and rejection which led to a sense of inadequacy. It was a very painful process. The longer I followed this path, the more I felt like I was building a façade and burying my true self. Remaining in my spiritual home meant more than dying to the flesh. Essentially, I was destroying everything unique about my personality, interests, and life-long dreams.
After I graduated from Bible college, the process of reconciling my life, faith, and sexuality became more intense. Approximately five years of living in and out of the closet since graduation led to self-acceptance of my sexual orientation. Self-acceptance opened the door to countless challenges. For example, leaving my spiritual home involved more than church shopping. I had to stand firm while my parents worked incredibly hard to win me back from, according to their beliefs, the path to hell. Also, I had to re-evaluate my religious beliefs and understanding of being a lesbian who follows Christ.
Although the journey has been extremely difficult at times, in regards to relationship with my parents, there’s a mutual sense of respect between us. They never disowned me, treated me like a pagan or tax collector. Their love for me was evident even while their words were painful to hear. We have worked through many points of disagreement, and have developed a healthy set of boundaries enabling us to continue regular interaction with one another. Reconciliation was possible only because of direct one-on-one relationship, unconditional love, and a mutual desire to follow Christ.
Having this experience with my parents stirs in me a desire to advocate for those outside of the heterosexual norm who continue to associate with conservative congregations. Personally, I chose not to remain in the denomination of my upbringing because I knew reconciliation would never be possible. In other denominations, such as Methodist and Lutheran, there are straight allies and LGBTQ individuals who remain involved in order to advocate for reconciliation. Leaving to find refuge or staying to fight for acceptance are equally valid choices. However, one cannot leave and advocate from a distance. Reconciliation requires face-to-face interaction.
By coming to this personal conclusion, I am choosing to back off all attempts to pursue reconciliation with my home denomination. Also, I am choosing to discontinue negative criticism unless I have a reality-based relationship with those opposing homosexuality. Even so, I would need to follow the biblical protocol as mentioned earlier. Blogging and using social media does not equate reality-based, one-on-one relationship. So, I’m left to deal with the choices I’ve made and move in the direction of the path before me.
Meanwhile, I want this site among other useful websites to be a resource for those who choose to associate with conservative denominations that oppose homosexuality. Whether you’re a straight ally or someone personally dealing with sexual orientation / gender identification while remaining involved with a conservative denomination, you have the opportunity to advocate for reconciliation simply because there’s a context of relationship. In cases of no possible room for reconciliation, ending relationships has a biblical precedence as well (see this brief article on Conflict Resolution according to the Old Testament and this extensive article on God’s Guidance for Christians in Conflict). In the words of “The Gambler,”
You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.
Now Ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”