Category Archives: The Bible and LGBT Issues

In order to harmonize faith and sexuality, we must take a look at the Scriptures. Does the Bible really say what we’ve been taught?

The Myth of a Persecuted Christian America

“Persecuted” is a term I hear thrown around a lot these days. Ironically enough, it’s rarely ever used to describe 1st century Christians, who were literally made to hide their faith in order to evade death. Most of the time, it’s a word used by some of our modern Christian brothers and sisters to describe… (wait for it)… themselves. How is it that first class, privileged, Christian Americans feel persecuted in a country that boasts freedom on an individual and religious basis? Furthermore, how could someone feel victimized in a land where they are (quite literally) the majority? Your guess is as good as mine.

We’re all privy to the discrimination laws that have been all over the media in recent weeks, like this one in Arizona:

In short, SB1062 would amend the existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allowing business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers so long as proprietors were acting solely on their religious beliefs. (Eliott C. McLaughlin, cnn.com)

And let’s not pretend homophobia is the only form of discrimination in this country. Racism, classism, and sexism (just to name a few) are still rampant. Just the other day, I saw an extremely troubling post on Facebook which said,

“Why do I have to press 1 for English? Did America move?”

It’s this kind of idiocy and ignorance that makes me wonder if we’ve really come all that far in our fight for equality.

Here are three things I feel are too often forgotten:

1. American History 101: Separation of Church and state. May we be reminded this was (and is) a policy to protect religious institutions. It’s basically saying, “Hey… we know people won’t agree on everything. But we came to America to escape religious oppression, and we believe everybody ought to have the opportunity for their own quest for truth.” It’s a wonderful idea, actually; I wish more people saw the beauty in it. Think about the hundreds and hundreds of sects of Christianity alone: From Catholics to Mennonites, from Presbyterians to Appalachian snake handlers… we are all so very different. Therefore, you can imagine the innumerable advantages of keeping government and religion separate. What if we were all made to conform to the ideologies of a single sect of Christianity—one that didn’t necessarily agree with our convictions? Furthermore, what if the majority of religious Americans were Muslim? Well, I think many fellow Christians would feel quite differently about the separation of Church and state, then.

2. America is not a Christian nation. This statement always seems to raise some eyebrows, but the facts are there. All you have to do is delve in and study the faiths of the Founding Fathers. Many of them were Deists, who believed there probably is a Creator, but that he does not meddle in the concerns of people or intervene in the world’s affairs. Consider Thomas Jefferson. Many Christians today claim him as one of their own, when in fact, he mocked those who believed in the supernatural claims of Jesus. He even published his own version of the New Testament, in which he removed all supernatural events, including the virgin birth and the resurrection! In his day, he was called an atheist by some. How is it that he is now often called a founder of a Christian nation?

1071936_898866613. Freedom begets freedom. Or at least it should. Our Christian ancestors fought so hard to escape religious oppression. But are we honoring that legacy? Now that we have our freedom, are we paying it forward to other minorities, or do we use our power to discriminate against those who are different? I see the latter more often than the former, and I find it quite troubling. But what’s most troubling of all? Quite commonly, the people doing the discriminating are the same ones playing the persecution card, essentially saying: “My religious freedom gives me the entitlement to discriminate against other people. By exercising my right, I’m allowed to take your rights away.” I think we can all see the absurdity in that mentality.

Besides, what was it about that Jesus guy? Did he heal only his fellow Jews? Did he fellowship only with like-minded people? Did he instruct his disciples to be gatekeepers at his sermons, only allowing certain people through? I think any Christian can identify The Greatest Command: Love. It really doesn’t get more simple than that.

So why do we make it so complicated?

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UPDATE on “One Liberation Under God”: I’ve had an overwhelming response to the documentary project. Within 24 hours of posting about it, over a dozen people in five different states have expressed interest in being interviewed.  A project like this will take some time, but I’m very excited about getting things underway! Check my Twitter feed and Facebook page for updates about the film.

“One Liberation Under God: LGBT Life in the Bible Belt South”

Hello, everyone! I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you about a project I’m extremely excited about… a project I’d love for you to be a part of. As you know, everyone has a story. When you’re gay and Christian, you have a lot of insight to offer others who may be going through the same things. Many of your stories have been shared on this blog, and a lot of people have been encouraged by hearing them.  So, I’m taking things a step further, and making a documentary.

I will be contacting some of you personally within the next several days. But I’d like to get as many people involved as possible. Below, you will find the form letter I’m currently sending out to potential participants. Please contact me if you think you may be interested. For those of you who live long distances from me, don’t let that stop you. I plan to launch a fundraiser (via Kickstarter) in a few weeks to cover travel expenses. If the goal is reached, then I’ll have the means to travel anywhere within the continental US.

Read on and contact me if interested. And thank you in advance!

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Hello! I hope this finds you doing well. I’m contacting you because I believe you and I share a passion for building bridges between the Church and the LGBT community. I also believe you have a lot to offer in the way of conversation, theology, and unique perspective. That’s why I would like to personally invite you to be a part of my new project: “One Liberation Under God: LGBT Life in the Bible Belt South”. This project will be in the form of a documentary film. My vision is to open the lines of communication on both sides of the “Great Gay Debate”, and explore the things that inspire certain beliefs in people.

Specifically, I hope for the film to do the following:

•Outline the arguments held by both LGBT advocates and religious conservatives, and interview individuals on every point of the spectrum.

•Give a greater understanding of exactly what it means to be gay.

•Showcase testimonies from LGBT Christians, and from conservative Christians.

•Be a catalyst for conversation… because no matter what you believe about LGBT issues, we should all learn that it’s okay to talk about it.

•Give an overview of statistics for a number of things, including:

•Christians who are for or against LGBT rights

•LGBT youth suicide

•History of acceptance vs. disapproval of LGBT individuals in the South

•LGBT youth and homelessness

I understand and anticipate that you—as a potential participant in this project—may not have the same views I hold. However, I fully intend on showcasing all individuals, opinions, and thoughts in a positive manner. The goal of this film is to unite and build bridges. Therefore, I do not believe it to be fruitful or beneficial to negatively represent views that differ from my own. If you should choose to participate in this project, you may choose to disclose your full identity, or you may choose to remain completely anonymous.

If you’re up for the challenge, please respond via my email (wilson.mandy@gmail.com) by Monday, March 17th, 2014. This is to ensure that I have time to make travel plans and schedule interviews. This isn’t a large scale production; in fact, I’m planning to film with my iPhone, and edit with Final Cut Pro—things I already have available to me. However, I will launch a Kickstarter profile once things are geared up, in order to cover my travel expenses. And of course, if you participate, you will receive a digital copy of the project, absolutely free.

I’m really interested in telling our stories: gay, straight, liberal, and conservative. I want to do this project because I believe it’s important to have these conversations. By telling our stories and listening to the stories of others, we will gain a greater understanding of what it means to “love your neighbor”. We can achieve the impossible by rebuilding bridges that have previously been destroyed. Ultimately, I think we’ll find we don’t have to agree on everything in order to love one another. In my own life, I’ve experienced such immense joy in these conversations, and I’d like to take the world on a journey. Won’t you join me?

Warmest regards,

Mandy

My Christian life with AIS – An Intersex condition

We’ve discussed the issues faced by intersexed individuals before on this blog. A reader—and fellow blogger—shared her story in the comment section of a post entitled “The Intersexion of Christianity and Genitalia”. It was too touching to simply leave in the comment section, so I’m re-blogging it here, with her permission. -Mandy

What Paul Said

“Does it really matter what Paul said?”

The words hung in the air. “Is she saying what I think she’s saying?” I thought.

I was in a small bible study group—a group particularly designed to cultivate conversation about the LGBT community and the Church. Over the past several years, I had made my peace about what it meant for me personally to be gay and Christian. I had memorized the six clobber passages that are so often used against the LGBT community. (Haven’t we all?) I could name the books, chapters, and verses where they could be found. I had studied about the culture surrounding Paul’s letters, and the churches to which they were written. I had researched the histology of the word ἀρσενοκοίτης (arsenokoitēs). God and I were good. And even as a non-confrontational person, I still had that knowledge polished and tucked away, in case of emergency. We have to be prepared to share why we believe what we believe… especially when it hits so close to home.

My journey from “conservative” to “progressive” was gradual. I spent years with one foot in fundamentalism. But with these words—in this particular moment—I could virtually feel those remaining chains of fundamentalism crumble. Does it really matter what Paul said? Her words somehow gave me permission to face the questions I’d been quietly asking for years. I had always felt a certain degree of guilt when I found myself asking questions about God or faith. (It’s a lovely little trait that many of us pick up through the vast and varied means of indoctrination.) But when I began to evaluate my reasons for not asking questions, it came down to one worry: I was afraid of what I would find. This is simply not a good enough reason. There is virtually no other situation in life where one is encouraged to stop searching, stop studying, stop inquiring. And really, isn’t it that much more important to ask questions about something as deeply important as faith?

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles by Valentin de Boulogne

“Saint Paul Writing His Epistles” by Valentin de Boulogne

In regards to Paul’s letters, we must try to do more than place ourselves in his culture. We must also strive to understand his background. And most importantly, we must learn all we can about the manuscripts that compose what we now know as the New Testament (all of which are copies of copies of copies, etc.) The dates of Paul’s letters are approximated to be in the 50’s A.D., yet the earliest discovered manuscript dates to somewhere between 175-225 A.D. When you start to read the Pauline letters from a historical perspective, things change. You notice things you didn’t notice before. You consider things you hadn’t previously considered. We could debate indefinitely about the theology of Paul’s writings: What he may have meant, what he could have thought, what his writing style was. But let’s just assume for a moment that every word of Paul’s letters made it to our modern day translations without a scratch. Let’s imagine that nothing has been added, omitted, or changed in any way. What then? What would that mean for LGBT Christians? Well, we would have to accept that Paul was speaking out against same-sex relationships. We would have to acknowledge that he viewed LGBT relationships as sinful.

Does it matter?

We’ve addressed the historicity of Paul in a little more detail in a post entitled: Paving the Road to Damascus. In a nutshell, we discussed the fact that while Paul was a gifted and anointed trailblazer, he was still human. (Personally, I think that adds an element of redemption in Paul’s story that wouldn’t be there otherwise.) We must also remember that Paul was Jewish—a bona fide descendant of the tribe of Benjamin. The Holiness Code—which he no doubt lived by—prohibited same-sex relations with the purpose of preserving the Israeli lineage. It is my personal opinion that Paul could not have understood monogamous, same-sex relationships as we know them today. Paul’s opinions were a result of his time and culture.

This doesn’t mean I don’t respect Paul or his letters. Quite the opposite, actually; he has always been my favorite Biblical author. But I hold to the notion it’s best to read Scripture with a good dose of reason. Isn’t that, in fact, what Paul himself did when he paved the way for Christianity? He went against his family, against his previous beliefs, and against his very religion when he pronounced Jesus to be the King. Paul had previously rejected Jesus… even to the point of murdering those who believed him to be the Savior. But even after his conversion, he didn’t always see eye to eye with the disciples of Jesus. Even on his second visit to Jerusalem (Galatians 2), he condemned Peter for dining only with the Jews and not the Gentiles. And we certainly know that Paul and James took opposite views on the “works vs. grace” debate. Today, we accept the fact that Paul questioned the Church in his day. He challenged popular notions that were held. He went against the grain. Why are Christians often looked down upon for doing the very same things today? If the Word is living, then wouldn’t it make sense to re-evaluate what it means in our current time and culture?

What do you think? When it comes down to it, does it matter what Paul said?

LGBTQ Advocacy In the Bible Belt

It’s so good to be back in community with all of you; I’ve missed you. During my time away, I worked on a few projects: one of which was posted here on the Believe Out Loud blog this past Friday. It was a joy to write about one of my dearest friends and allies. Join the conversation: Is Christian LGBTQ advocacy awakening in your city?

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Irks and Perks of 2013

Hello, friends! I’m b-a-a-a-c-k… and I’m so ready to catch up with all of you. I’ve spent the better part of 2013 on a sabbatical from blogging—partially because I had a couple other projects to work on, and partially because it was a tough year for me, personally. I’ve taken some time off to reflect, heal, and re-center. And now, I feel the fire of advocacy burning once again. I’d like to thank each of you who reached out to me during the past several months—to pray for me, spend time with me, or simply check in with me. You know who you are, and words cannot express how deeply I appreciate it.

I have a handful of projects lined up that I’d like to try for the new year… one of which is a podcast. It will not be replacing this blog, but simply supplementing it. (After all, I’ve got a swell new mic that I’m dying to try out.) If all goes well, a podcast would have great potential to help build relationships between those of us in the religious LGBTQI community. Time will tell, but I’m excited about the prospect! Podcasts will be announced on the Facebook page, Twitter feed, and on this blog.

It’s been awhile since I’ve set foot in the blogosphere, I’ve got a (not-so) straight and to-the-point post for you today. I apologize if I come across as being a bit cantankerous, but I’ve got eight months’ worth of opinions to give. I’ve devised all of them into two lists: “irks” and “perks”. Shall we begin with the top three “irks”?

3) The Duck Dynasty Fiasco: That’s right. I shudder as I type it, but it has to be addressed. Why? Because a particular bearded ninny is apparently what every social network on the planet deemed most important this holiday season. My take? Of course Phil Robertson is homophobic and (more surprisingly, in my opinion) racist; Is this really news? Are we shocked that a conservative, fundamentalist Christian from the bayou has nothing but derogatory idiocies to spout regarding sexual and racial minorities? Yes, Phil Robertson irks me. But what irks me even more is the way that people discuss these issues on social networks. Don’t get me wrong; These unfortunate incidents provide ways for us—as queer folks and as Christians—to address the misfortune of ignorance and discrimination in our society. However, whenever these things inevitably arise, the worst seems to come out in everyone. Otherwise rational and intelligent people (on both sides of the debate) suddenly sprout horns and start foaming at the mouth.

2) Fundamentalist Christians With Double Standards: I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen this. Church leaders and congregants—who are vocally opposed to LGBT equality—don’t seem to mind if gay or lesbian brothers and sisters lead worship, preach, or give of their time and talents in ministries. That is—of course—as long as they simply shut up and stay quiet about who they really are. The gay musician can provide hours and hours of hard work and service—and the congregation raises hands and worships with them all the same. That is, until that same gay musician comes out; All bets are off, then. That God-given gift they have? It’s rubbish now. What about the lesbian who has quietly led the homeless ministry for a decade? Her brothers and sisters pat her on the back, give her thankful accolades… until she brings her partner to church. When the churchgoers find out they’re more than “just friends”, they are both dismissed from the congregation. Apparently her contributions no longer count for the Kingdom.

3) Gay Christians With Double Standards: I’m talking about those who are “homophobic homosexuals”. We’ve addressed this species of queer-dom a few times previously on this blog. Let me set the record straight. (No pun intended.) If someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, it is their choice—and their choice alone—when, and if, they ever come out publicly. We’ve all been there at one time or another, and some of us are still there. However, if you are “different”, “struggle” with SSA (same-sex attraction), could never consider being in love or marrying someone of the opposite sex—however you choose to see it through your own eyes—please do not slander your LGBTQI brothers and sisters who have chosen to be out in their community. Being in the closet is one thing; Slandering your own is quite another. Why not simply be silent… Or at least don’t pretend that you’ve never dealt with these issues. When Facebook or Twitter is “a flitter” with LGBT controversy, why do you feel the need to add homophobic rants to the comment section? *It was this side of a decade ago that you had your tongue down my throat. You may have convinced a few people, but you will never convince me. (*This is, of course, a hypothetical statement. I mean, I don’t know anyone who would actually do that… [cough, cough, wink, wink].)

Alright, that sums it up for the “irks”. But let’s end on a positive note, shall we? How about the “perks”?

3) 2013 was an incredible year for marriage equality. As of today, eighteen states in America have now legalized same-sex marriage. While fundamentalists may see that as a “sign of end times”, most of us can understand Americans are finally realizing that, no matter what you believe or who you love, all of us deserve the same rights. A decade ago, I never would have imagined that we would see full marriage equality in my lifetime. Now, we are well on our way. And that is great news!

2) LGBT issues are being talked about more openly in religious institutions. Finally! As we all know, education is the cure for ignorance. When a topic is ignored, it is seen as taboo. More and more churches across the nation are taking the first step: communication and discussion. When conservative Christians begin to realize that LGBT issues hit closer to home than they thought—when they discover they have a lesbian niece, a gay uncle, or a transgender neighbor—there’s a heart-change. People are finally starting to realize that we don’t all have to agree on this topic to love one another. We simply have to respect one another, and understand that there are multiple valid ways to interpret scripture.

1) Sometimes people surprise you (in a good way). We’ve all experienced it: You come out to someone who you think will be completely accepting, and to your surprise, they aren’t. However, I’ve also been fortunate enough to experience the exact opposite over the past year. As we know, coming out is a process. I’ve encountered conversations with loved ones that turned out even better than I could have ever hoped. For example, my dad told me that he loves me more now than he ever has—that he can’t imagine me any other way. One of my favorite school teachers—just about the most amazing (and conservative) woman I’ve ever met—told me that she believes people are born gay. She may have different opinions about what my life should look like as a lesbian, but she loves me just the same. More importantly, she listens to me, and truly hears me. Thank goodness for people like that—who love us because of who we are, regardless of differences.

May the new year bring about hope, love, and healing for us all.

What are some of your “irks and perks” of 2013?

Telling My Story On My Own Terms

When you’re a Christian (gay or straight) who advocates for LGBT inclusion, you’re going to gain some critics. And I have a few! (I’ll consider it a compliment.) Since my advocacy involves my own sexuality, people are going to form their own various opinions. A lot of things get back to me through the grapevine, although it’s difficult to say what is fact and what has become exaggerated like something from a giant game of “Telephone”. But one thing that some people apparently wonder, is why I choose to keep my personal blog and this blog separate. They wonder why I’m brave enough to post things here with my first name only, but hesitant to say too much on my personal Facebook page, etc., where my full identity is front and center. I would be lying if I said part of that didn’t come from fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of hate. Fear of losing friends (who wouldn’t have been friends in the first place). You know, all of that normal stuff. However, there is one primary aspect that keeps me from being as vocal as I’d like to be… and that is protecting those that are a part of my past. There are a couple of folks with whom I experimented, had flings, had feelings, had relationships—who are still deep inside the closet. At least one of these individuals told me she’s been healed from her same-sex attraction. (And that is her experience, so I will not patronize that… even though I have my doubts.) These people are also the ones who are generally responsible for outing me to others. (I get it… they think if they out me, then no one will question their sexuality.) But this brings up a question that I often ponder: Can I come out fully, and still protect those individuals?

656339_83604184Lately, I’m finding that I just don’t care as much anymore about who “knows” (as if it’s something to be ashamed of). It feels so good to know who I am, and to know that who I am is a-ok! And the longer I go on with this knowledge, the fire of justice, advocacy, and love inside me grows. Part of carrying out that advocacy is sharing my story. I cannot share my whole story if I leave out certain parts—things that help to explain why I did what I did, felt what I felt, and thought what I thought. While I would never ever reveal someone else’s name or identity, I do sometimes feel the need to share certain things that have happened along the way. First of all, I need to be free to share my story because it may help someone else. Secondly, I need to share my story because it is cathartic. I am learning to do that in ways that are both healing for me, and respectful to others involved.

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about what I would say if ever made a Facebook announcement concerning my sexual orientation. I still don’t know if I feel the need to post it. Perhaps a better approach is to stop hiding things on my profile. Maybe I should consider listing the url to this blog as my website, making my relationship status public, etc. I need to work toward having an unedited online presence. This is becoming increasingly important to me. And maybe one day in the near future, I will take that final step of totally and completely outing myself. It’s to the point now where people are either going to hear about my sexuality from someone else, or from me.

I’d rather it be from me.

Do any of you edit your lives to protect other people from your past? How did you find a solution that was right for you? 

Film Fun: Favorite Queer Movies

Hello, everyone! I hope this finds you doing well. I’m sure you’ve enjoyed reading Josha’s posts over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been taking some time away from the blogosphere to write another article for Curve magazine. This time, I did a profile piece on a local organization (and the founder) who is helping LGBTQI youth meet their various needs. (The publish date is still a few months away, so I’ll keep you posted.)

The Truth About JaneYesterday, after I polished up the semi-final draft, I decided it was time for a much-needed movie break! To my excitement, I re-discovered a coming-of-age lesbian movie I hadn’t seen in over a decade: The Truth About Jane. I vaguely recall seeing it on Lifetime years ago. This was—of course—a couple of years before I would finally admit to myself that I was gay (yes, even in the midst of a college lesbian fling). I deeply related to the story, and somehow felt repulsed by it at the same time. It was a case of good old-fashioned denial. (Heck, I was probably wearing my Indigo Girls t-shirt with my flannel button-up and Birkenstocks at that very instant! Ok… I know. Those are just stereotypes. But they became cliché for a reason. Am I right? It wouldn’t be until 5 or 6 years later when my fashion taste made perfect sense.)

I digress.

cinemaSo the point of this post? I’m going to list all of the queer-themed movies and documentaries that I’ve come to know and love. There will probably be quite a few that you guys have seen. But you know as well as I do that good gay and lesbian film is hard to find. So, if there are you’d like to add, post them in the comment section with a link. Maybe I will be able to expand the resource page on the blog so others can find encouragement and support through these films.

For your convenience, I’ve marked all of titles currently playing on Netflix with an (*).

Documentaries:

For The Bible Tells Me So*: a poignant look at several different Christian families who have gay children. This documentary explores the intersection of faith and sexuality, taking a look at the so-called “clobber passages” in the Bible.

One Nation Under God*: this documentary takes a look at “reparative therapy”, said by some fundamentalists to be the cure for homosexuality. Former “ex-gay” leaders make an appearance as they recount their journeys.

Fish Out Of Water*: this film takes an in-depth look at the handful of Bible verses misused to condemn LGBT individuals. It includes countless interviews with numerous ministers, pastors, professors, and theologians.

Mississippi Queen: a lesbian woman returns to her hometown to research faith and sexuality, where she interviews people on both sides of the issue.

This Is What Love In Action Looks Like*: a Memphis teen is forced into reparative therapy by his fundamentalist Christian parents.

Chely Wright: Wish Me Away*: One of my personal favorites, this documentary follows Chely Wright (recording artist) in the days leading up to her public “coming out”. A must-see in my book!

Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement*: this film follows a lesbian couple throughout the history of their relationship, all the way back to the early 1960′s. Together for over 40 years, they are finally able to marry.

Fagbug*: When Erin Davies’ car was vandalized for sporting a rainbow sticker, she became the victim of a hate crime. She decided to take her car on a tour across the U.S. and Canada to talk with other victims of more serious hate crimes. This documentary tells the tale of that cross-country trek.

Prodigal Sons*: Kimberly Reed, a trans woman, decides to visit her hometown and re-introduce herself as the person she always knew herself to be.

Red Without Blue*: One identical twin brother decides to transition from male to female. This documentary follows her story, and the challenges she and her brother face during this time.

For My Wife*: after the tragic loss of her partner, one woman becomes passionate about her activism for the equal rights of same-sex couples.

Drama:

The Truth About Jane: a teenage girl discovers her sexuality when a new friendship turns into something more. Her family, especially her mother (Stockard Channing), struggles to understand and embrace this reality.

Prayers for Bobby: This is a true story. Sigourney Weaver plays the role of Mary Griffith, the  fundamentalist-turned-gay rights’ activist whose son committed suicide due to her intolerance. (Have the Kleenex handy for this one.)

Boys Don’t Cry: the well-known, true story of Brandon Teena, a transgendered teenager who lives as a male until his biological gender is discovered. This is a true story. (Again, grab the tissues.)

The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls In Love: two young girls from different social and economic backgrounds fall in love. This movie stars Laurel Holloman (a definite perk for me!) in one of her first films.

Comedy:

But I’m a Cheerleader: a high school cheerleader is sent to “gay rehab” camp when her peers and family suspect her of being a lesbian. Hands down, this is the funniest LGBT-themed movie I’ve seen to date. If all of the aforementioned dramas and docs put you in a depressing mood, then follow it up with this gem. It doesn’t disappoint.

So, let’s hear it. What are some of your favorite LGBT-themed movies or documentaries?

Can We Have Our Cake and Eat It, Too?: How One Oregon Baker’s Decision Affects the Community

Many of you have heard about the Oregon bakery that recently refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. One of our guest bloggers, Josha, lives in the same town as that bakery. She, like the owner of the bakery, is a Christian… but Josha is also gay. How does a situation like this affect a community? How does it affect LGBT people who live within that community? Here’s Josha’s take on it. -Mandy

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I’d like to share about a moment in which I was disheartened.

lesbian wedding cakeThe background is that there is a local bakery, about a mile from my house and about a mile from the church I attend. Recently, the bakery denied a lesbian couple a wedding cake in support of their stance on what they believe is right vs. wrong.

The church I attend has a wonderful tradition in taking the time at the end of each Sunday morning service to collect prayer requests. The elder of the month reads them and immediately leads the congregation in a prayer for the requests. Today, someone presented a request for this local bakery and called for more support from Christians to help this bakery make a stand against “gay marriage.” The elder stated, “We need to support those who support the Lord’s way.” This is the moment in which my heart sank, while many in the congregation said “Amen.” My heart sank, not because I am “homosexual,” but because I’m a Christian who seeks the Lord. And as a Christian, I do not believe that denying a couple a wedding cake is the “Lord’s way.” Whether you agree with gay marriage or don’t agree with gay marriage, the “Lord’s way” is not to deny a service due to that person’s ethnicity, race, color, gender, or sexual preference. Discriminating, that is “the human’s way.”

As a health care provider, I serve the physical needs of people. I have recognized within 6 years of serving, there are ALL KINDS of people. And some of the people I have served have been “gay.” I did NOT say to them, “As a Christian, I am going to take a stand on what I believe to be the ‘Lord’s way’ and not give you physical therapy.” I serve everyone who comes into my path where I work. In the health care system it is called “unconditional positive regard.” In the Kingdom of God, it is called “God’s unconditional love.”

(And as an acknowledgement to my humanity I have struggled in serving people who are arrogant and self entitled, raging alcoholics, “male dominate” mindset, and racist, to name a few. At these moments I don’t only remind myself of “unconditional positive regard,” but I remind myself of who I am in relationship to God and am called to love with “unconditional love.”)

I realize it is important to stand up for what one believes to be right. My concern in the case of the bakery is that the stance is out of ignorance. I wonder if any of these people who are protesting for support of the bakery’s stance thought about the souls of the couple who wish to celebrate their love? Do they know people who are gay? Do they talk with and learn about the pain that people who are gay endure?

Furthermore, I’d like to know if there is some kind of survey each couple has to fill out at the bakery, prior to ordering a cake. Would this bakery deny a divorced individual who is getting remarried? Would they deny a couple that had sex before marriage? Would they deny someone who is not a “Christian?” If that person were a “Christian” would they deny that person a cake if they were not from a certain religious sect of Christians? What truly is their standard on whether they will provide for a couple or not?

Assuming there is no questionnaire or issue with other religious right/wrong with marriage, my question is, why do they stop their service when the couple is same-sex?

As one who is “homosexual” and as one who is Christian, I would like to say to the baker of this bakery, “I will not hate you. I will not speak in ways that curse your name. I will not threaten your life. In fact, if you were harmed, I would want to help you. But I also want you to know that people who are homosexual have the same desire for pure and genuine love as people who are heterosexual. And it sure does hurt when people put up barriers to celebrate that love.” I’m guessing he does not know this because so many people who are “gay” seem to be retaliating in hateful ways toward him.

While there are going to be “bakers” out there who don’t invite certain people to their bakery, the Lord’s Table is different. At the Lord’s Table, all are welcomed and are served with no conditions. I pray that I can continue to learn how to serve all people, as does the Lord.

And finally, if I were so blessed to have someone in my life that produced a love worth celebrating I would choose “The Lord’s Bakery,” to order my “cake.” Knowing that the Lord, being The Baker, would willingly provide me a “cake” to celebrate such a special love and commitment. And as a Lover, I would appreciate the Lord’s service. And because of the Lord’s service, my Love and I would celebrate our love with a Community of People who would share in the “cake” and in The Love and all would be well within a world filled with greed and hate.

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends

FacebookEvery week, I spend a ridiculous amount of time editing my Facebook wall. Why? Because I’m not 100% out on Facebook. And so, when someone who knows I’m gay posts something revealing to my wall that others who don’t know I’m gay might see, then I have to either edit the audience for that post, or delete it entirely. See how cumbersome that can become? (I’m sure there are plenty of you who know what that’s like.) There are lots of my Facebook friends who know; I’ve come out to several people. I’m sure there are more than I would like to realize who have “heard it through the grapevine”. But then, there are many who simply don’t know. And it is because of them that I edit my online life. I even have a custom-made “gay-safe” list that comes in handy quite often. But this way of separating my life into little virtual compartments is becoming too complex and certainly too time-consuming. Why do I care so much? Why does it matter what these people—most of whom I never even see on a daily basis—think of me? And so, today I present an open letter to my Facebook friends. If I had the guts, the courage, the boldness to really do it, this is what I would say:

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To All of my Facebook Friends:

I love you. Please don’t stop reading this now. There’s something I need to say. This is perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’m writing to tell you that I am a lesbian. Over the past several years, I’ve edited my life for those of you who may not accept me. But then, I realized… by keeping up this charade, I’m not giving you the chance to make your own decision about me. That’s unfair. Many of you already know this news. Many of you don’t. Many of you have heard from a friend of a friend of a friend… and many of you have sensed it for years. To those of you who already knew: thank you for being my emotional support—for being my backbone when I didn’t have one of my own. Thank you for showing me unconditional love and acceptance throughout the duration of my journey. To those of you who didn’t know this before now: I’m sorry that I couldn’t bring myself to tell you. We had such good times and amazing memories. I was scared that this news would negate all of that. I was afraid that “gay” was the only thing you would see when you looked at me… and I want you to see that I am so much more than that. Being gay is a part of me, but it is not my identity. I am the person you’ve always known.

I realize that many of you probably have lots of questions for me. I will attempt to answer some for you:

•Yes, I’ve always known something was different. No, I didn’t always know exactly what to call it. Once I put the pieces together, my entire life made perfect sense… no joke.

•Yes, I believe I was born this way.

•No, I was never sexually abused.

•Yes, I had amazing relationships with both of my parents when I was a child. Yes, Dad knows. And yes… he has been amazingly supportive. No, I never got the chance to tell my mom before she passed away… but part of me thinks she knew.

•Yes, I went to counseling. Yes, I tried to “pray away the gay”. I also tried to fast it away, bargain it away, and plead it away… all of this for nearly a decade, and all to no avail.

•Yes, I know what the Bible says (I know those six passages well)… and no, I do not believe that those texts are as black and white as I was taught. Yes, I believe with my entire being that God loves me… and I even believe that He created me this way. Yes, I am still hopelessly in love with God—even more so now than before.

•Yes, I share my life with someone (going on 6 years now). Yes, I am happier than I could have ever imagined. No, society doesn’t always make it easy for us… but I believe in the hope of a better day.

•Yes, I believe that the Church (as a whole) should address this topic more readily. Yes, I know plenty of gays and lesbians who have turned away from God because of religion. That’s not God’s fault… it’s the product of fear and ill-education.

•Yes, there is such a thing as a gay-affirming church. Yes, I have been to a few. No, lighting does not strike when all the gays start singing. Turns out God likes to hear their voices, too.

•No, my journey has not been one of justifying my feelings. It has been one of deep refining, of profound pain, and finally, of unconditional love and acceptance.

•Yes, I do feel an unmistakable call to advocate for justice, acceptance, and love for the LGBT community. And no, I will not stop doing everything I can to promote that love, understanding and compassion for all of God’s children.

•No, I do not expect all of you to agree with me or even like me after this. But I want you to know that we can still be in relationship, even if we don’t see eye to eye.

•Yes, I would love to talk to each and every one of you about this. I would be happy to answer any other questions you may have; My preference would be to do so over a cup of coffee and a stroll—although email will suffice if distance works against us.

•Yes, I am scared. And yes, I’m sure there will be days when I wonder if this was the right thing to do at all. But honesty is always right; the truth sets us free. God has given me so much on this journey. Yes, there was a time when I would have given anything to be straight. But now? Heck no… I wouldn’t change a thing.

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Have any of you come out on Facebook? How did you do it?