Monday, May 14, 2012

Confessions of a Former Homophobe (kinda)

I wish I couldn't apply the word, "homophobe" to myself. I wish I could give myself the grace of a blogger I will discuss today and say I wasn't really afraid of homosexuals but that wouldn't be entirely honest. I was afraid of them. And confused by them. I can say the homophobia was short lived and the majority of my life I was not afraid of gay people, but I felt like they were deceived by Satan and kinda icky. That last bit is something I'm especially not proud of. I'm so sorry.

I was remembering the other day that the first time I was aware gay people existed in the world was when I saw the movie Philadelphia. It was a hugely confusing moment for me because it was explained to me that Tom Hank's being gay was wrong but anyone who has seen that movie knows that Hank's performance rips your heart out. I was so upset by his treatment in that movie, it bothered me for a long time afterwards. However, it didn't really hit home or challenge my thoughts and feelings about gay people. I made it all about AIDs discrimination and left it at that.

The first real confusion I felt about gay people came when I saw The Laramie Project. That play is extremely powerful and for the first time gay people were not sinful and sexually depraved. I saw them, as a character in the play says, as just God's kids. Just like me. And I didn't know what to do with that thought. I was 19 at this time and I was so used to thinking of gay people as strange, unnatural people that I didn't even know where to begin changing that opinion. To my knowledge I had never known a gay person and I was honestly afraid to discuss any of these thoughts with my friends or family. So I just buried them.

Then I made my first openly gay friend and my foundations started to get rocked. Then I made another and I started thinking, this doesn't seem fair. These are good people. Then a guy I had led a Bible study with and greatly admired during my years in college (I still admire you Matt!) revealed that he was gay. That's when everything started falling down around me and I finally got the courage to admit to a friend that I was starting to think maybe being gay was not a sin after all.

However, even though I love these aforementioned people, at this time they were not parts of my everyday life.   Thoughts of them preyed on my mind but the rhetoric of "being gay is a sin, just like every other, but a sin and they chose it" was just too deeply ingrained. After all, man + woman = baby and that was a logic I couldn't dispute. It was all still a somewhat hazy, confusing subject for me. Until I met my friend Scott, one of my most beloved friends in Syracuse who has been a wonderful addition to the Blum's lives. Scott and I share a brain too often and for me that is a rare find, one that I treasure. When I found out this fantastic human was gay I realized my days of sitting on the fence were over, I was going to have to figure this thing out.

I have reached a place in my life where I believe completely that being gay is not a choice, nor a sin. I believe God will bless a committed, loving gay relationship equally. I believe his arms are open to his gay children and I think it's time the rest of his kids caught up. It's not been an easy journey and I don't expect it to be. My family and many of my friends do not agree with me and have made it clear, some more lovingly than others, that they believe I am wrong. But I have to go with my heart. If you're curious how I feel about the scriptures addressing homosexuality I would like to refer you to my friend Matt Roger's blog where he, in "The Gay Posts", very thoughtfully and thoroughly addresses all the scriptures and other issues. I agree with him.

Now, as an "ally" (for some reason I feel funny using that word, maybe because it's so politicized) I want to share a couple things that have surfaced that last couple days in light of that abysmal amendment passing in North Caroline (to me that amendment essentially said, "Hey! It's already illegal for gays to be equal citizens but let's just make sure they understand that we REALLY mean it. No equality for you!") I was pleased President Obama had the guts to support marriage equality publicly. I'm sure it was not an easy decision with the election coming up around the corner. I loved this statement he made:

“The thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the golden rule — you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that’s what motivates me as president.”
Thank you, President Obama for this grace-filled statement. Because he is very right, as Christians, even if you believe being gay is a sin, you are still called to love your neighbor as yourself. How would you feel if your neighbor was going out of their way to cripple your family's legal rights?

A great blogger, Justin Lee made this statement that, as someone who formerly did all manner of damage to people in the name of Christ, I sincerely believe:
"I find that most Christians are totally unaware of how mean the church can be to gay people, and so they don't know that they need to do anything to fix it. As long as it's not fixed, it's going to be hard to give gay people a reason to come back to the church."
 I'm pretty sure he doesn't just mean the church building, he means the body of Christ. And, from my point of view, it can be hard both for gay Christians and gay-affirming Christians to be a part of the family these days. This issue is becoming so polarizing, there's so much anger, hurt, slander and fear that I am afraid the followers of Christ have forgotten the love part of their mission. I'm not trying to say that people on the pro-gay side are always right and always accepting. They aren't. I'm not. But I'm striving to be. We must all extend grace. Justin made this other great statement:

"I owe an apology to all the people I've hurt, and I of course offer my unconditional forgiveness to anyone who may have hurt me. We all make mistakes, and we're all trying to stand for what's right. It's just that sometimes we don't have all the facts even when we think we do." 
 It's like he reached into my brain and plucked out this thought. I owe apologies to many people I'm sure. I have been awful sometimes, whether aloud or in my mind. I know from my past that people that don't agree with me, the people who voted for Amendment 1 in North Carolina or who keep overturning marriage equality in California are not bad, evil, heartless people. They are doing what they think is right. Not too long ago I would have agreed with them. Not because I hated gay people or thought they deserved less than me, but because I believed that they were deceived and that by stopping them from marrying I was somehow protecting them and myself. That somehow it would make America a better place and more people would come to know Jesus.

Clearly, I no longer believe this but that's because I had a chance to meet people who changed my mind. Because I have a family that encourages me to question beliefs even if the answers I come up with don't match up with theirs. I have a spouse that loves me through my changes, doubts and fear. I have friends, like the Sara I write this blog with, who have helped me through this journey. These people have given me the courage to doubt, to wholly give myself up to my questions and finally find some closure. If you've never been in the position to doubt your foundational beliefs, I think it's difficult to appreciate just how terrifying it truly is. That's what we're asking people to do when we ask them to vote for and support marriage equality. Keep that in mind when someone on the opposite side of a great divide makes you want to scream. Extend them grace in their journey. I will try to take my own advice.

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