15 October 2013

Why I am not a Gay Christian

One of the “breaks” in my life, as might be seen by anyone “outside” me, is my sexuality as paired with my usually conservative religious bent. I’m Eastern Orthodox – and yet I identify as gay. I don’t use “homosexual” or even “same sex attracted” for I’m quite willing to be “in the midst of” my gay brothers and sisters. I like the rainbow flag. I’m here. I’m queer. Get used to it.

But I’m not a Gay Christian. I’d use the lingua franca and say, “I’m a Christian who happens to be gay.” Yet that’s not 100% right either. Truth is I identify more with my Christian fellow travelers – even the ones who reject me – than I do with much of the Gay Community. I think I’m obligated to do so by my religion: if I am a faithful Christian, my refusal to scandalize my brothers and sisters in the faith is far more important than my freedom (sexual or otherwise). And in the end a preacher who slams all gays, qua gays, is just, in my book, as ignorant as a gay or lesbian person who slams all Christians, qua Christians. Both come in so many shades and fetishes that any attempt to label “all” is stupid.

I reject “Gay Christian” because I’m willing to admit I’m wrong. I’m not pitting my 45 years of experience in my skin against 4000 years of Judeo-Christian moral tradition. I don’t expect my halting theological steps to be yours: but even so, I might be wrong.

The Church does not need to change: by God’s grace I’m man enough, adult enough, to be challenged by a preacher, thanks. And I’ve heard it all my life. I’m still here.

I know there are people who are not strong enough to be criticized. We hear from them all the time: Jews who don’t want to be told that we believe they rejected their Messiah; divorcees who don’t want to be reminded that we believe they should not have gotten divorced; mothers whom we believe have murdered their children in utero. These people demand not only that the church change – but that she stop saying what she believes. Why? I know what some Jews say about my Jesus – there are entire sections of Yiddish dictionaries devote to slamming the man I believe to be God-in-the-flesh. So what? They say what they want. I say what I want. That’s ok – and life’s more colourful that way!

Likewise my sex life. Sin is – anyone who has been honest with herself knows that sin is. Yet it’s not that we “are” sin: rather we are sinners as surely as we are breathers. All of us. And I can trust God’s grace to supply his riches in my weakness. But I don’t mind being told I might be – or even am – wrong. It forces me to question, to challenge my desires, to deal with the realities of my sin.

The real fault here is in imagining this is “Who I *am*.” We’ve seen all kinds of mistakes in ontology – beingness – in our history. We constantly imagine “the other” to be evil, hyper-sexual, and sin-filled. All black men have huge penises and want to rape white women (or white boys in prison). I’ve been hearing a version of that all my life. It’s one reason I’m less afraid and more titillated when I’m surrounded by persons of colour. The Yiddish terms for gentile boys and girls (not “Goyim” for gentiles in general) convey the same ideas of hyper sexuality and loose morals and titillating temptation for “good Jews”. Likewise Grecian, Roman and Russian attitudes to “barbarians”. But then we discover they are just people, just a different sort of being. All these things St Paul implies are not who we are in Christ, "neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male and female".

What we know about human sexuality today will change tomorrow. And what we know tomorrow will change next year. Today it’s a genetic thing and yesterday it’s hormones in the mother’s womb and who knows what tomorrow will bring? But we keep telling ourselves “Now we finally know, really” when what we usually mean is “We’re hearing something that confirms our suspicions.” The blame is on us, really: for telling ourselves “this is *who* you *are*”.  As created in God's image, we are neither gay nor straight.

Who I am has changed at least once a decade for the last 45 years. I’m dying to know who I will be tomorrow. And I mean that. Gay is not who I am: it’s what I do in bed. It doesn’t get better if you imagine “this is who I am”. Cuz I know it’s not who I am that matters at all: It’s who I’m struggling to be.

I’m a failure most of my time in the Christian half of the equation as well: I fail to love, to forgive, to turn the other cheek. I fail in the easiest of commands: we are told “resist not evil”. I’d much rather fight, thanks. I fail in charity and I fail in greed. In these failures I know I am wrong. What’s to prevent me from being wrong in my assumptions about human sexuality?

My goal, however, as a Christian (and if you’re not a Christian, this is not your goal)… my goal is to become so open to God, burning and flowing through me that I become divine. This is salvation as taught by the Church: not some twopenny morality, not some platitude about “being nice”, neither some irritating piety that grates on the teeth. Nothing short of divinity will satisfy me. To this end I wake and sleep, eat and drink and yes, make love and pray.

I might be wrong.

The problem is that we don’t like that one sentence. We don’t like the challenge of that possibility; the assurance that in our humanity we are not infallible God. I might be wrong about the very things that I think I know the best: my insides, my wiring. I might be broken, somehow, through no fault of my own. The very thing some folks want me to say “is me” might be the very thing that’s broken.  The very thing that the world insists - even demands - is my identity... this might be the very thing that is the weakest link, the thing that isn't me at all.

I know that’s not my experience: and I know that’s not what I feel. But it's possible.  When millenia of human experience and moral teaching say otherwise, I might, you know... we few moderns living in the latter half of one century and the first half of another, in one "language sphere" out of all of history... we might be wrong.

More importantly, I know what the fathers and mothers, the Saints, say about it: in all things Eucharist. Man is the priest of the universe commanded to make thanksgiving (eucharist) in and for all things. I am commanded to bring me – myself, my life, my all – to the altar and to raise it up. By God’s grace it comes back to me not as “me” but as God. What will that be like? I don’t know.  I know I can bring my sex life (or lack of one) to God.  It won't be the same when it comes back though.

Maybe it’s gay. Maybe it’s not. Maybe I won’t know for a long time yet. But until I do know, I’m happy in my agnosticism. I will yield it to God.

When I manage to be a Christian at all, of course, I am still gay. I get the jokes, I speak the language, I understand the culture. I’m still an American as well. Maybe some part of me breaks free from sex and birthright. Maybe not.

But I feel no need to label myself as a “White Christian”, “American Christian” or even a “Male Christian” and, indeed, all those things are supposed to go away in Jesus. Maybe gay does too? Not in a “cure” sense but in a “doesn’t figure” sense. I am gay. I am Christian. I am not a gay Christian.

Happy (belated) National Coming Out Day.