In the interest of establishing a mutually beneficial dialogue between our two planes of existence, I am gonna set this up for us as gently as I can: Christians (hello, yes, you), you really need to shut up.
Wait. Let me try again.
In 2005, the Catholic church released a statement that refused to admit priests “to the seminary or to holy orders” if they “support the so-called ‘gay culture’” because––now buckle up––“such persons find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.” Correctly?
The American Baptist Churches USA considers homosexuality “incompatible with Biblical teaching”; Canadian and American Reformed Churches call the whole thing “detestable” (excommunicating LGBTQ+ individuals from their community); Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses seem to think gayness is a super unfortunate thing to try to pray away; the Methodists are about split in half on whether or not it’s a-OK to be a big ol’ gay.
So. Maybe you don’t prescribe to any of these subsections of Christianity, in which case: I take all of my venom back. Maybe you are like my one good Christian friend who is an ally, who supported me through my own, formative experience of Christian discrimination.
I’d like to share that formative experience with you, now. I will use ambiguity here because I am feeling generous. The particular church I’m focusing on will remain unnamed.
I attended this on-campus church during the fall of 2017. In that time, I felt myself connecting significantly, spiritually, through the guidance of the pastors, my friends and the church’s community.
Perhaps like some of you, I was also in the thick of some intense personal transformations. Yours truly realized that she was about as straight as a rainbow, and I was trying to negotiate what that would/should/could mean in relation to my Catholic upbringing.
As this on-campus church was (and is) non-denominational, and as their target audience involves young college students, I more or less assumed that their perspective on this issue would be somewhat progressive.
But I wasn’t sure. And, as any closeted folks know, the question “Am I welcome?” nibbles away at you until the teeth beneath the question are the only thing you can think about.
I couldn’t help it. I contacted the church’s pastor, and he responded to my emails and agreed to meet with me. That’s when the pastor very gently told me that the LGBTQ+ community was “welcome” at his church.
I need to say that first. I also need to say that the pastor was kind during our conversation.
But the pastor proceeded, then, to tell me that his church encourages a biblical interpretation in which homosexual relationships are discouraged. That the God-order of the natural world was men and women. Men to be with women.
But: the LGBTQ+ community was “welcome.”
When I asked how, then, queer Christians could live in harmony with God’s plan (perhaps a life of celibacy? conversion “therapy”? some intensive prayers directed towards phallic-shaped objects?), no answer was provided.
First, I want you to imagine the frustration of this non-response. Assuming you’re straight, I want you to imagine the center of yourself vibrating to the beauty of genuine, white-burning love––and being told that that center is not divine. Being told that you cannot be made divine. That there is no way to be divine.
Second, I want to say: “Welcome” doesn’t work when you advocate for one, and only one, interpretation of a library of translated/retranslated, lost/found/edited poetry, prose and letters written over a period of roughly 1,500 years.
“Welcome” doesn’t work when you use that one interpretation to establish a religious dogma and claim heteronormative supremacy over the queer community.
To queer Christians, I remind you: They don’t own Christianity. It’s not theirs. It’s yours, if you’d like it to be.
To those of you, like my friend, who read this and wish to be a Christian ally, I say: Break the taboo. Demand to know if your church welcomes everyone. If they don’t, I challenge you to leave. You can do better.
To all the rest, I say: shut up. We’re not interested in hearing your perspectives anymore, and there isn’t going to be room for your discrimination, so poorly veiled in religion, when the rest of us unify in our mission of celebrating diversity, of real welcoming.
Teresa Northcraft is a fourth-year English major.