The Big Queer Deal: An Apology
The Big Queer Deal: An apology
I’m going to cut to the chase: To my friends in the queer community, and their loving supporters-I’m sorry. I failed you, and I failed myself, and it’s time I make an amends.
I’ve made no secret about the fact that, in December, my family left the church we’d been a part of for nearly three years. It was a decision Charles and I did not take lightly and, in fact, took over three months of thoughtful consideration to make. I intend to go into greater detail for the personal reasons behind the split, I do, I just haven’t yet found the best way to handle the topic with respect and consideration absent from resentment.
However, this was a decision Charles and I made in two parts: The very personal reasons, and the very political/corporate reasons, of which I intend to address a big part of with this post.
You see, the church we were a part of is a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. It’s a non-denominational church spread across the US and Canada mostly, that does incredible missionary work domestically and worldwide. I first attended a CMA church up in Saranac Lake, NY—another church family I adored deeply—and transitioned to the CMA church closest to where I live now when I moved. The best way I can describe the church is evangelical. For a liberal Episcopalian-raised girl, it’s the most evangelical thing I’ve seen north of the Mason-Dixon line. Contemporary worship music takes up the first twenty minutes of the service, followed by brief prayer and a lengthy sermon by the pastor.
Both CMA pastors I had stayed away from preaching on political topics. I was fortunate—or was I?
I think, in fact, I was not. You see, the artful way in which both churches I’d been a part of danced around and away from political issues allowed me to bury my head in the sand about one major thing that’s eaten at me to this day—the CMA’s understanding and treatment of the queer population.
Make no mistake, modern Christianity doesn’t have the best human rights record in this department—this is not a CMA problem alone. The Roman Catholic Church had horrific skeletons in their closet that went above and beyond their blatant discrimination of the homosexual population. Side note: can you even imagine Jesus turning someone away from his table because of who they sleep in bed with at night? I can’t, but many churches can—and it’s a shame.
Anyway, I digress. So, modern Christianity doesn’t have the greatest history with treating people well if they are different. But Jesus did, and that’s why I follow him. He hung out with hookers, prisoners, and general scum. And whatever we do to the least of these people, Jesus promises, we do to him.
Coming from an Episcopalian background, I was free to participate in Gay Rights activities, often with the church itself. I was aware most other churches did not operate this way and, in fact, the Anglican Church itself split over the issue of homosexuality—but I never did. I have always been a supporter of the rights of all people, those in the queer community included. I was in the Diversity Club in middle school, was a member of S.O.U.L at SUNY Plattsburgh (Sexual Orientation Ubiquity League), and volunteered for the Women’s Resource Center at Cornell University. The plight and advancement of women and those otherwise marginalized by our society has never been far from my mind.
Until I pushed it there.
It’s with profound embarrassment and regret that I sit here, virtually before you, and admit that I largely ignored your cries for years. You see, I loved my CMA church family, and some of them loved you, too. I loved the connective tissue I felt with other believers and the desire to put the feet of Jesus on the ground and rescue those from deplorable conditions of all kinds and nightmares.
But in order to do that, in order to be a part of that community, I had to live with the cognitive dissonance that the church was part of a larger body that likes to pull all kinds of quotes from the Old Testament, especially Leviticus, to include in their official statement on Human Sexuality: “Homosexual conduct is declared to be detestable because it is out of harmony with the purpose for which God created human beings.” (Full statement here)
What a word.
I’m an author, folks, and I know the sheer wielding power and available oppression held by each word of each language, and detestable is not exempt from that.
Further, the CMA offered a disappointing statement regarding the Supreme Court’s decision that marriage is open to all people. Part of it reads: “I’m disheartened but not surprised by today’s Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality” notes U.S. Alliance President John Stumbo. “The current trajectory of our nation is a steady walk away from historic Christianity and biblical teaching. Today’s ruling is yet one more marker on that dangerous trail. However, as the Alliance family, we hold the scripture higher than human reasoning or courts.” (Full statement here)
Dangerous. Steady walk away from historic Christianity.
You know what? Historic Christianity has a lot to be ashamed of, and a lot it ought to walk away from.
I was about to type, “I’m no theologian,” but I’m not going to. Because I am one. Anyone who reads the Bible, then talks about it, is in fact a theologian. But what I am going to do is tell you that I’m not getting into theology for the purposes of this post.
What I want to do is to apologize for the ignorance I practiced for too long. Yes, in some ways we are all part of organizations with which we don’t believe every tenant of their being. The United States is the perfect example—I don’t agree with a lot of what goes on, but I love this country and I love being a part of it. The difference is, as far as the US is concerned, I typically keep fighting for what’s right and good and true—and I didn’t do that with the church and their treatment and understanding of the queer community.
I literally said to Charles, who also struggled gravely with this issue, “I don’t think any of our kids are gay, but what if one of them is? How will we explain our allegiance to this church when it teaches them that something is inherently wrong with that lifestyle?”
We sat on that question for far too long, ignoring it and, by association, ignoring you. And, the most horrifying thing about my statement is I essentially took the stance, “Well it doesn’t affect me, so I can ignore it.”
Every civil rights activist that ever lived just rolled over in their graves. And for that, I’m ashamed and, again, deeply sorry.
I left you alone.
What I can offer you is this: communion. Fellowship with another human being who stands before you flawed and ashamed. I promise from this day forward to fight the good fight, like I used to, and support where I need to, and to stand up for you every chance I get. I’ll hold your hand and walk with you to Jesus if you want, though I understand what a dandy job humans have done mucking up his theology of Love.
We are part of a church now that supports you. One that, in my opinion, gets it as right as humans are likely to ever get it.
Because whatever we do to the most marginalized in our society we also do to Jesus.
And I choose love.