Below you will find the reflection piece that a student in my Introduction to Ethics course wrote. She wanted to share with readers of this blog her belief that Christian and LGBTQ values are compatible. If you elect to read comments, I ask that you practice the same ethics skills that I challenged my students to learn: compassion, moral imagination, and ethics spotting.
By: J.A. Marie
This project started with a question, a question of what ethical values are important to me and why. The question seems so simple, I know what is important to me, but this question went beyond that superficial self, the one that everyone sees, but to the core of who I am, and my ability to be ethically true to self. When first posed with this question of ethical values I knew that I wanted my project to incorporate my Christian values in one way or another. With the elections closely approaching, homosexuality and the equal right to marry seemed to be in the media everywhere and, being Christian with a lot of friends who identified with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, I wanted to explore the topic and find ways to break down the walls that Christians use to oppress the LGBTQ community. I initially knew this topic would be hard; my approach to this would be influenced by my beliefs and personal experiences and the probability that I might, or would, offend someone was significant. This topic is big and my short time of trying to analyze it doesn’t come close to the countless hours, months and years many people put into it. But this project quickly became more about me and how I identify with Christianity and the LGBTQ community. I ask that you read this with an open mind, realizing that I do not speak for all of Christianity or of the LGBTQ community, but that this is my experience in becoming a better me.
The week after the “Becoming who you are: Identifying ethical values” project was assigned, I sat in a group of 5 other peers; we were to go around and talk about what we were going to do for our project. As each person went I felt very uncomfortable about my subject matter, other students chose topics like becoming a better runner, cooker, friend, all very good topics but a lot less controversial and provoking of an intense response. It was finally my turn. Quietly I said, “I am a Christian who supports gay marriage, Um, I want to explore why Christians are so opposed to homosexual marriage.” And as I saw the looks on people’s faces trying to process what I was saying I added, “And just so everyone knows I am not gay, I was married to a man, but now divorced and we have three kids.” Everyone smiled and admired me on picking such a controversial topic and gave me words of encouragement. After class I felt horrible, if what I was doing was trying to break barriers of oppression on the LGBTQ community why did I find it so imperative to disclose that I, in all my glory, was not gay.
When I went home I thought about whether or not this project was really something I wanted to do, for the first time I was speaking out on behalf of the LGBTQ community by myself. I did not have one of my out and proud friends standing by my side, allowing me to clearly identify as an ally, here to give support, but not to be supported. As I laid in bed that night I began to cry, the feeling of what they were probably thinking about me before I disclosed that I was not gay wouldn’t leave me, over and over in my mind I could see it in their eyes. They were probably thinking, “look at that unworthy sinner, yup she is another one of those sexually promiscuous people using love to excuse her promiscuity. Gross. Disgusting. Sickening. Immoral. Wicked. Sinner. Unworthy!” Despite the fact that no one actually said any of these things to me, and I said loud and clear that I was not gay, I lay there feeling completely overwhelmed, ashamed, and alone. I crawled down to the floor and, like many other times of sorrow, I prayed. Sobbing at the feet of the Lord, praying that these feelings would leave me, and asking whether or not I am prepared to take on such a topic, I asked for guidance. After what seemed like an hour of pouring my heart out to God, I crawled back in bed. I think about what my professor has said in class about what shapes our ethical beliefs: Why did I feel this way if no one said any of these things? What was it about my social structure and experiences that made these opinions so real to me?
As I think about my experiences and how they have shaped the way I think today, I recall my preteen years. I was a middle child between two boys. Maybe it was my family or the need to be comfortable in what I wore, but I was a tomboy. I recall on several occasions when my family would buy me girly clothes as gifts (nothing about the way I dressed said that I would want that,) but already I was learning that I didn’t fit into what a “girl” should be. In middle school I learned that being a tomboy was not okay, I was called a lot of names: gay, lesbian, and nasty. I was accused of liking girls that were simply my friends, which in turn made them stay away from me. I quickly wanted to change how people viewed me, and without much thought at the time, I conformed into what a girl should be. Although a significant time in my life, I barely thought about it until now: how those words of rejection encouraged me to change who I was in order to be accepted and accept society’s views about the LGBTQ community.
The next day I made the decision that the discrimination that the LGBTQ community goes through was what I wanted to do my project on. I still wasn’t sure how I was going to ethically analyze such a huge topic, but I felt it was for my better good to try. Maybe it was fate or the coming election, but I was constantly faced with what people thought of the LGBTQ community. On Facebook one of my friends posted:
“How can you say you love God and His ways and vote for a man who thinks that abortion is ok? Or that a marriage between any other than a man and a woman, which by the way was designed by God, is ok? When I stand before the Lord I will be able to say I didn’t condone someone who is misleading people and going against God’s Word.”
As an active Christian for over 7 years, this kind of display of homophobia wasn’t unfamiliar to me,. However, this time it cut me to the core. I wanted to understand how someone who was a Christian, living life knowing they are an active sinner saved by grace(1 John 1:8-10), could hold such a strong view on only a few issues. The Bible describes so many different sinful behaviors that Christians actively struggle with, so why is this particular sin treated in such a hateful, oppressive way? Jesus said, “him without sin throw the first stone” (Matt 8:7) knowing that no person was worthy, so why were stones being thrown? I quickly posted a response of my support of the LGBTQ community. The responses put my Christian faith into question. The fact that I supported gay marriage made my Christian friends doubt my Christianity. They told me to repent and questioned where I would go if I died. I was being bullied into accepting their truth, as if my stance of love and acceptance somehow meant my Christianity was void. After a few posts of going back and forth, I gave up. I sat back and analyzed what had just happened. I felt angry and sad all at the same time. However, the most important emotion was that I wasn’t surprised by the homophobic response from my Christian friends; I knew that they felt this way, which is why I have never been so open with my beliefs. The problem is that I couldn’t understand why they felt this way. Why I had never spoke up before?
Reflecting on all the things that had happened in such a short period of time, I prayed. I asked God to make these feelings of isolation and rejection go away. Not really sure why I continued with a project and topic that makes me feel so unaccepted, I prayed for guidance. Putting man and God in the same category, I told God that I am not gay; in fact, I screamed at God that I am not gay, as if I could say it so persuasively that I could convince myself and God that I am was not gay. Sobbing to God that I am not gay, I say it again, but this time leaving out the not gay, “I am Lord, I am so sorry, but I am.” Not being able to say the whole phrase I sit and wait. I’m not really sure what I was waiting for, maybe for the judgment and condemnation that was promised by Christians from God if I ever admitted that I was. But for the first time I felt 100% accepted; I had finally accepted and admitted to myself what God already knew.
Relieved at the unexpected turn that my “Becoming Who You Are” project had gone, I tried to figure out how I was going to work on breaking barriers of oppression for the LGBTQ community without having to come out. I did not want to admit that I am LGBTQ, especially because I had so boldly stated that I was not. And honestly, I knew God accepted me, but I wasn’t sure that the rest of the world would.
Almost on queue,I was given the opportunity to find out how it would feel if people knew I was gay. In ethics class we had to present what our projects were on and allow the whole class to give ethical advice on how to make it better. Again, as it got closer and closer to my turn I felt like changing my project on the spot. I had no clue what to say. I didn’t want come out to my whole class, so I decided to be very conservative on how I presented my project. When it was my turn I said very carefully, “I am a Christian who cares for serving the healthcare needs of the underserved, specifically the LGBTQ community. As a Christian I see a lot of discrimination towards the LGBTQ and I would like to explore how to break down the barriers and misconceptions that cause this.” I thought to myself, “good job”. I was completely conservative with my response, but almost immediately the students’ responses all focused on my “gayness”. I in no way said I was gay, but everyone just assumed. And honestly it wasn’t that bad. I walked out of class feeling that, even if the world didn’t, a few peers did accept me.
Contemplating my project, I realized that this wasn’t a start to finish one for me. By discovering how I could ethically become a better person, I started a lifetime journey of acceptance and working to stop homophobia. If I wanted to break down the barriers that allow Christians to oppress the LGBTQ community, I would have to start by telling the world that I am a Christian woman who is queer.
Thank you for taking the time to read. This is me, raw and real. I honestly have never been so open before, out of fear that I would in some way expose who I was. I also feel the need to add that I have been living a sexually chaste life style for over a year. Nothing about that is going to change. I know I am here for one reason and that is Jesus. I am a Christian and the Christian life is about Jesus for us, Jesus in us, Jesus through us, and Jesus in spite of us. I bring this up because it is assumed that you can’t be LGBTQ and a Christian or that the LGBTQ community is just a bunch of lustful people using “love” as an excuse for promiscuity. It’s not. For some reason society has put who goes to heaven in their own hands and not in the hands of God. When you look at the life of Jesus, he spent his adult life with the people who the overly religious looked down on as sinners. Those were the people Jesus walked with, the ones He told their sins are forgiven and the ones He loved. The Bible tells us that above all else we are to love one another (John 15:17). For a lot of Christians, that has been overlooked. They have thought the best way to show their Christian faith is supporting Chick-fil-a. However, that does not make you a Christian. A lot of Christians use God to spread hate, to condemn, to make others feel unworthy, and to put themselves on a pedestal. It just shouldn’t be this way.
The topic of Christianity and homophobia is one that I will continue to explore and speak out on. Also, although this project led me to come out and gain self-acceptance, this post is a small glimpse of the actual process. I always knew from a very young age that I was queer, I was born this way and will die this way, regardless if I “came out” or not. I just realized that living a life trying to make people like me, when I didn’t even like myself, was worthless. I can no longer hide who I am and now I can proudly admit it.
New King James Version Woman’s Study Bible. Full ref. ed. Nelson Thomas Inc. Second ed. Nashville, TN. 2008. Print.