Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Confession

I recently became involved in a lengthy “discussion” about homosexuality with one of my Christian friends. She is Orthodox and I am Episcopal and we were discussing the similarities and differences between our religions. She said when she converted to Orthodoxy it was necessary to confess to a priest ALL previous sins, including having kissed a girl many, many years ago as a teenager – not out of passion, but just to shock the onlookers. I said, “REALLY?” She said, “Yes, I did, unfortunately.” I said, “No, I mean, are you saying that merely kissing a girl is a SIN?!” In her church, yes it is. I replied, “Well I’ve kissed a few girls – ‘and I liked it,’ LOL!” She did not think it was funny. This led to our lengthy discussion which ultimately went nowhere. As soon as she told me her church believes that being gay is a sin, a bad choice, and/or a sickness, I knew the conversation was doomed, but I persisted in it for a while because of my conscience. I felt that I should stick up for my gay brothers and sisters. You see, I have a confession to make: I sinned terribly against a dear gay brother.

Many years ago when I had first converted to Christianity, I belonged to a fundamentalist Church in California called Calvary Chapel. They were relatively “liberal” in that they had excellent rock music at their worship services and they allowed men to wear long hair and earrings – which of course means they are headed straight to hell, according to all the other fundie churches! But, Calvary Chapel, despite having been co-founded by a gay man (Lonnie Frisbee), toed the party line with regard to homosexuality. I was told that in order to be a Christian, you absolutely had to believe (among other things, like yoga is satanic) that being gay is a sin, or at the very least, a terrible sickness, but Jesus could save a person from it. In my heart I seriously doubted it, and here too, I sinned by listening to men instead of my own conscience, but I wanted so very badly to fit in, to be accepted by the church, to obey God, that I went along with their questionable doctrines.

I had a very dear friend in high school who was gay. He figured out that he was gay shortly after we tried dating without success. There was simply no “spark” of mutual attraction although we loved each other very much and were best of friends. It hurt my fragile teenage self-esteem at the time because I thought he found me repulsive, as did all the other guys. Being a Dungeons and Dragons nerd, I was quite unpopular to begin with and never went on any dates except with him, and group outings with our fellow nerds. When he came out as gay later that year I was sad for him, because he was in a very awkward situation trying to find love, while being persecuted and harassed for being gay. He struggled with it for many years, wishing he could be different, wishing he could love a woman, hating himself and being angry at God for creating him “flawed.” We both went away to college and were out of touch for some years.

Shortly after I had converted to Christianity and joined the fundie church, my dear old friend called. I told him about my conversion and said, in my well-intentioned ignorance, “Jesus can fix your situation. He can HEAL you from being gay!” There was a dead silence on the other end of the phone, then my friend said, his voice shaking with tears, “How can you say that? Do you have any idea how I struggled all those years, hating myself and hating God?! Only very recently I have managed to accept myself for who I am and know that God loves me! God does not need to ‘fix’ me or ‘heal’ me from being gay because that’s how He made me and God does not make mistakes. If that is what your Christianity teaches then I want nothing to do with it, ever!” So I managed to hurt my friend's feelings and turn him off to Christ, and I have since lost touch with him and there is no way I can make it up to him. But at least I can support other gay people.

I subsequently joined the Episcopal Church where I learned, to my great surprise and relief, that yoga is not satanic, and that God created gay people as well as straight people, and the world was not in fact created in 6 days 6000 years ago, etc. In the E.C. we don’t view the Bible as a science text and we defer to science in matters of physics and biology and such things. We also don’t base our sexual morality on an ancient culture where women had the same status as livestock. We believe that gay people should have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. For that reason we just recently began officially blessing same-sex unions, which according to my Orthodox friend, and my Calvary Chapel friends, and all other fundies, makes the Episcopal Church apostate and in league with the devil.

I ran into another hate-filled discussion late last night on Facebook where several “Christians” were talking trash about gays, making the rest of us look bad. Like I should talk – I believed those same things at one time. But, I have since repented of my ignorance, and I must point out that NOT all Christians support the anti-gay agenda! Those who do, base their extreme prejudice against gays on a bare handful of Bible verses that do not actually say what people think they say and, moreover, these verses which allegedly prohibit being gay are mixed in with others that prohibit bacon, shellfish, wearing clothes of 2 types of cloth, sleeping with your wife during her period, and numerous other regulations which we do not follow today, such as putting to death a girl who is raped in the city and forcing a girl who is raped in the country to marry her rapist. I am not going to go into the full scriptural analysis here – others have done so already, and very thoroughly (see footnotes). *

Rather, I would like to discuss a big misconception about what is involved in being gay. “It’s a choice.” No, it is NOT. The best way I can explain this is to ask you, as a straight man: When did you choose to become straight? You didn’t. You were born that way. But, don’t you ever feel tempted by the sin of homosexuality? Don’t you ever lust after other men, but you restrain yourself from acting on it because you are a good Christian man? No, you do not. You are NEVER tempted because being with another man would be completely unnatural for you, even downright repulsive! Ok. Well that is exactly how it is for a gay man. He didn’t “choose” to become gay; he was attracted to males, and only males, from the time he was a child. The thought of having sex with a woman is completely unappealing and unnatural for him. Likewise a gay woman is naturally attracted to females only. It’s not as if she was born straight and then woke up one day and suddenly said, “Gee, I think I’ll become a lesbian.” And obviously it’s not just about sex, it’s about LOVE. People fall in love with someone, and for gays, the object of their love is a person of the same gender.

Now, to be perfectly honest, I myself find this a little bit difficult to relate to. How could a man ONLY be attracted to other men? How could a woman ONLY desire other women? For that matter, why would someone ONLY feel attraction for a person of the opposite sex?

Because I have another confession to make. I hesitate to say it, knowing that I will receive all manner of condemnation and be told what a pervert I am, etc., etc. But if my gay brothers and sisters have to put up with it, then I guess I can, too. I am bi. Yes, that’s right, I feel attraction to both men and women. Always have, since I was a little girl. Long before I had any idea what “sex” was or even where babies came from, I had crushes on both boys and girls. I remember a little girl in my Sunday school class when I was 5, of whom I was extremely fond, and a boy in my first-grade class. But my greatest love at age 7 was Kimberly, my best friend. My mother was telling me about marriage, “When you grow up you will marry someone you love and trust, someone who makes you happy and is your best friend; whoever you love, even if he is black or another race, we will accept him.” (Although it sounds racist now, it was a BIG DEAL back in 1969! The Bible forbade it back then. How times have changed.) I told her I was going to marry Kimberly when I grew up. My poor mother nearly had a heart attack and after catching her breath, her hand over her heart, she explained, “No, dear, it has to be a BOY! You can’t marry a girl!” I did not understand why. It seemed to me back then, as it still does today, if you LOVE someone, what difference does it make what gender they are?!

After years of experimentation followed by an equal number of years of celibacy, I finally ended up with a man whom I love very much. And I’m glad I did, simply because I am spared all the abuse that I would have received from the fundies, had I fallen in love with a woman. In my case I actually did have a “choice” – I could have been happy with a man or woman. But my gay and straight friends are not so fortunate; they were both born with only one type of attraction. Gay people are simply asking for the same thing everybody else wants: To marry the person they love. And we in the Episcopal Church, after much debate and discussion and prayer, have been moved by the Spirit to decide Christian charity requires that we honor their request. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

* Scriptural analyses, thanks to my friend Roger Wolsey, a Methodist minister:

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