The thing that I want to start with is to make very clear that I am still searching for my faith. I am still seeking and putting together all of these really big pieces. I have been on this journey for a while now, probably since I was 13 or 14 and I really started considering God, but it’s something that I’m still doing. I’m still pretty young. I’m only in my early 20’s now, and there’s still a long way to go. So what I say today is me at the beginning of this journey, really. It’s not any definitive posturing of ‘I know the answers and I know what is right.’ But I know what I have lived, and I know what I feel in my heart. That’s what I’m here to express today.
The important thing is that God’s love is so much greater than our bigotry, or our ideas of what we think we’re doing on this little rock that we call home. I know that. [In] my home church where I grew up, where I got my Christian education, and where I was confirmed as a member of the church, there was never any doubt about that there. My whole Christian education has been very positive and very accepting, albeit very tacitly so. There was never a moment where people came out and said, “Yes, if you’re queer that’s fine and you’re welcome.” But there was also never any hatred or any unkind things said about the queer community at my church.
Even so, when I figured out my sexuality, when I realized ‘Oh, wait, nope. Girls are great. I’m bi. What does this mean?’ I still spent a lot of time falling away from my faith and falling away from that faith community that had been so, so important to me. There was a lot of stuff going on that time, but the sexuality part was a big section of that.
For me, what I’ve realized is that even if your immediate community of faith is accepting and warm, it is impossible to escape all of the negative hurtful rhetoric that’s out there. Faith is this hugely powerful thing, and especially the Christian Church in America is this crazy, crazy powerful thing. Even though I have encountered so many faithful people in my life, so many Christians in my life, who have said, “You’re fine. God loves you. In Christ you are saved. Calm down kid, you’re alright.” To this day I still have moments where I’m like, “Oh God. What if they’re right? What if the mean people are right, and there is no hope for me and I’m doing something wrong?” That’s terrifying. Because I know that I don’t know what God has planned for this world. I know that I don’t know what God even has planned for me. And I’m just one person. And there are billions of people on this planet, and I can’t even figure out what I’m supposed to be doing.
The idea that all of this hateful invective might have some weight to it, that God’s wrath is greater than God’s love, and ultimately that is all we get… Ah, that’ll destroy you. And it’s come close to destroying me a couple times. I’ve done the whole praying at night, weeping into my pillow, “Please, please God just make me straight. Just make me straight.”
It’s terrible that I even had to come to that place.
But I also know that I am still Christian, and even though I’m still piecing together a lot of what makes my spirituality work within myself, and within my life, how I want to practice my faith in the world, I have to believe that God’s love is the greater force, that it’s the bigger thing.
I have to believe that Christ was here ultimately to express love, not shutting people out, not closing doors, but opening them. I have to believe that. It’s the only thing that keeps me from just despairing utterly at the state of Christianity in this world and especially in America.
It’s weird. I know that God has worked awesome things in my own life. I’m convinced that I got through college, that I got my degree, because I prayed really hard at the worst moments, and God went, “Here is the person you need right now. Here is the event that you need right now. Here is the thing you need right now.”
I have felt that love so utterly honestly, I know it’s there, I know it’s working in my life. But even with that [background], you can’t have a single public discussion about anything related to the queer community without some person of faith, frequently a Christian, coming up and saying, “You’re going to Hell. You’re wrong. You’re sinful. Here’s all the stuff from the Bible.” That hurts so much. That’s so terrible.
And I can’t help but feel that, if you’re using Christ’s life and Christ’s message as a weapon, that’s got to be wrong. That does not square with “Love thy neighbor.” There’s a way to disagree with your neighbor and not hurt them. There’s got to be a way to do that. As a Christian church in the world—I can’t speak for any other faiths on this. I was very lucky that I learned about a lot of other faiths during my Christian education, but I only know my own in my heart—we have the power as a Church to change this world and make it better in an absolutely awesome way right now. We can tell everyone in the queer community, and in fact all marginalized communities, “The point of Jesus was that you are welcome. The point of Jesus was that there is a place for you at God’s table. End of story. End of discussion.”
There is no equivocation with the uncompromising love of God. You cannot say, “You earned this, you have this, and you don’t.” Or, “God’s love for me is kind and gentle and good, and sometimes kind of challenging, but mostly OK, but for you God’s love requires you to wrench out a piece of your soul and abandon it.” That’s not acceptable.
So I think as a church in the world and as Christians especially, we have a duty right now to stand up for that most radical of propositions that Jesus put forth, which was Love. Uncompromising, unqualified love. That is the way that Jesus challenges us to change our lives. Jesus’ challenge to Christians is not, “Don’t say that gay is OK.” Jesus’ challenge isn’t to make gays not-gay, to make trans people not-trans, make queer people not-queer. That is not the life change that God requires of us.
The challenge that God requires of us is to open our hearts and our minds and to sit with those uncomfortable feelings until we understand where they come from and how we can turn them into love. That’s the only thing that matters. That’s the only thing that we’re here to do, is to learn and to love.
That’s what keeps me going. That’s what makes me keep seeking this faith, even though right now so much of it is so broken. But at the heart of it is that. And that is good.
This text is condensed and edited from a Queerituality story Haley recorded on August 2, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the Religion & Faith group at the Human Rights Campaign for allowing us to use their space.