Thursday, November 14, 2013

Coming out, part 2: Getting off the fence

This piece is a continuation of a post I wrote earlier this week. It will probably help to read part 1 first. Both posts are dedicated to the brave and wonderful people who allowed me to include their stories as a part of mine. I write this in hopes that this piece of my journey will help to break down walls rather than create them.

After the summer of 2008, I was changed. I returned home with new stories in my heart and mind. Three women had been vulnerable with me. They had been honest about their struggle to reconcile their sexuality with their lives, faiths, relationships, identities.

I needed to think more on this. I followed the news and articles closely when my favorite Christian rock singer, Jennifer Knapp, came out as a lesbian. I sought more commentary and read Andrew Marin’s beautiful book Love is an Orientation. I settled comfortably and honestly onto a fence between rejecting and accepting gay marriage. It seemed more important than ever to accept gay people, love them, and believe that God could speak to them, too. But it seemed good to resist labels, to avoid taking sides. After all, Jesus often hung around with the questionable folk, and he often resisted questions that created barriers, questions that tested which side you were on (Should we pay taxes to Caesar? Is John the Baptist legit? How can we get on God’s good side? What is your stance on homosexuality?). So I determined that I didn’t really need to define my “stance.” My orientation could be love.

Meanwhile I got to know a few more folks.

When I first met Martin at church, I had no idea he was gay. I did think he was a brilliant writer, a talented musician, and way smart. I remember feeling like he didn’t fit a label—he read the Bible critically, read the news critically. When someone got off on a liberal rant he could bring us back to see the other side. He never wanted to ignore the hard things about faith, like God’s wrath or the devil.

I also wondered why he was so reserved. In our writing group he always brought fiction and never seemed to want to share about his personal experiences. Then one day he brought nonfiction memoir to writing group, a heartrending story about being gay at his Christian senior prom. Growing up evangelical, he had prayed for God to take away his attraction to men. When he realized he could never fall in love with a woman, he resigned himself to celibacy. Later, after much thought, he came to reconcile his sexuality and faith. He hopes to marry one day. Whenever I have asked Martin questions about his sexuality and faith and journey, he is patient and gracious and takes the time to explain.

A couple months after Martin opened up with us, I started working at a new church, where I met a married couple named Sarah and Lara. They were one of the happiest, most in-love couples I had ever met. They seemed so affectionate and servant-hearted with each other. They had been married in a church ceremony though not “legally” because their state did not allow it. Again, they did not fit any stereotypes. Sarah was a teacher of special ed, and Lara worked for the school system in adaptive services for students with disabilities, and they liked a good concert and a date night and a long vacation like anyone else. Sarah once worked for a local Republican campaign. Sarah and Lara wished the state would recognize their marriage, and they wished they could be allowed to adopt. They would be loving, wonderful parents.

When I attended Sarah and Lara’s more progressive church, everyone probably assumed I was a supporter of gay rights. As I found excitement in my heart when DOMA was struck down and when Maryland voted to allow same-sex marriage…maybe I even started to assume it myself.

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Last spring, I was accepted to divinity school to become a pastor, and I realized that within a few years I would have to take a public stance on the one question that really remained: Is there a place in the church for Christian same-sex marriage? and can this be supported by someone who takes the Bible seriously? So I began to read some books and articles and look closer at the Bible on this issue.

I write about stories, and memories. Not theology or politics or ideology. So this is the part where my story becomes halting. I’m not sure how to share the rest, the little pieces of different videos and articles and books and prayer and Bible study that have shaped my interpretation. Do I keep writing and try to explain it? Or do I just let the stories above speak for themselves?

By this point you realize what I’m going to say. You realize that I am “Coming Out” as a supporter of gay marriage, both politically and religiously, but more importantly, personally. And, if you’ve had the kindness to read this far, you are either shaking your head—why did it take her so long—or you are slightly frowning—this isn’t what the Bible says. Or maybe, just maybe, you are thinking, I understand. I understand the journey of slowly and honestly changing your mind on something you never really chose to think in the first place, something that was gently given to you by your culture.

So I think I want to stop there. To keep it simply what it is: a story of my journey in learning to love better.

And yes, you’re right, it took me too long, and I am sorry.

And yes, you’re right, the Bible is complex and deep and contextual and we have to read it so carefully and seriously, because it is living and holy and true. I know that you read it carefully and seriously and I understand that change is hard and I respect that. Please know that I read it carefully too. It is actually because of this Bible and this faith that I have come to this place. (If you’re interested in how I believe my position is supported, read this post with some additional thoughts and resources.)

The fence of ambiguous silence is no longer a good place for me. Today, I am Coming Out as an ally because I want to stand up for what have come to I believe is right. Because some people don’t have the choice to remain neutral and blend in everywhere. Because every day, someone on the fault lines of Christianity and the gay community is hurt. Because every day, we have the chance to take a step towards healing.
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I would love to hear your thoughts on today’s post as well as Monday’s. Please keep comments charitable.

6 comments:

  1. I love you Katie - I'm so proud you took the time to sit back, pick at something, question yourself and come out more accepting and loving because of it. This has got to be one of the greatest journey's I've ever read.

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    1. thanks Emily, that means a lot! you are awesome

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  2. This guy is not quite as poetic as you, Katie, but it reminded me of your blog post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/micah-j-murray/why-i-cant-say-love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin-anymore_b_4521519.html

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  3. This is so fantastic...I think there are so many stories just like yours that exist among young evangelicals. I know my story has been strikingly similar to yours. And you're right - sitting on the fence is okay while you need to...but at some point it just becomes a shield against the courage of coming "out" with the view that resonates most deeply with your heart and your religion.

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  4. Kirsten OliphantApril 2, 2014 at 3:48 PM

    I appreciate seeing your journey here! I hate seeing the divisions in churches and people over this issue. Any issue, really, but this one is so personal and the speech so vitriolic and there is so much about all the conversations that are not reflections of Jesus. I still can't read away some of the Bible passages (and I've read deeply from all angles), so I am maybe in a different "stance." But there is no stance on love and the acceptance of Jesus but the one--he died to reconcile us. I think for me, the journey at the moment is about listening and knowing how to share the love and acceptance, what that looks like, and how I can best be loving and understanding, even if I'm on the other side of some fence. I've had some great conversations with people, and also held back at times because I fear being one of those people who causes hurt or harm, supposedly in the name of Jesus, as so often happens. So in that vein, I loved reading this and your journey and people's stories. I'm listening and learning as well, and I'm glad for all the voices. Especially yours. :)

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  5. thanks Kiki, i completely know where you are coming from and I so agree that the most important stance is one of love, listening, and humility (both to others and to the text). i've found Justin Lee's organization really helpful for people on both "sides" who want to learn how to discuss and listen with love (https://www.gaychristian.net/)

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