A few weeks ago, I was in a discussion, although I was mostly listening to a former Universalist turned Roman Catholic, and a gay Episocpalian. We were comparing religious notes and it was a wonderful conversation. I mentioned that I was raised in Pentecostal churches. He smiled and asked, “Are you still in recovery?” I thought about it for awhile and agreed, I am a recovering Evangelical.
I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home, so I understand the religion very well. Many, many years ago, I walked away from being a Christian, because I was disgusted by the way Christians treated others, not to mention how they treated each other. I grew tired of going to church and feeling that my spirit was constantly being torn down. The bible was used as a weapon against me and others, not as a comfort. I walked away because I began to see how bankrupt it was when it came to love. For many years, I tried visiting different churches, sometimes I would walk out in the middle of the sermon because it did not emulate the love of God, but was about pointing fingers at this group or that. There was no comfort from the Bible; the church was not a place to find peace and refuge in God. For me the church was about turmoil. I finally understood that many were not following Jesus words, but cherry picking the bible to hide their brokenness.
I watched the trickery of offering help with lots of strings attached. I watched the preying on the weak. I watched scandal after scandal, even in my own family. Christians did the worst behavior that I witnessed personally in my lifetime. I prayed a lot and eventually I came to an understanding that I was looking for fellowship with followers of Christ in all the wrong places.
Now you may not go to a church like the ones from my past, but I spent over 30 years of my life trying to find one that truly followed Christ, that emulated his love. Oh yes, many had a lot of outward expression about God this, Jesus that, they could speak about God, pull verses out as fast as you could speak, but their actions spoke little about Christ’s love. Because I believe that when Christ is in your heart, the light of love shines. God does not live outside of us, he is a part of us, and we are part of him, and that makes us whole. We are not wretched children of God, we are his beloved. When we know that we are whole, we have no need to judge others, we have no need of a caste system with some group being the untouchables—gays being the latest in that group. The minute we have hoisted ourselves up on a pedestal above all others, we are thumbing our noses at Christ’s commandments.
Having said all that, I don’t believe it’s impossible for a Christian to change, to wake up and realize the dogma of hate they’ve been fed through their church or talk radio programs. In Christ all things are possible. I don’t think love is super hard to do either, if it’s in your heart and you give up the doctrine that tells you its hard. I know we don’t always act loving, but being loving is not hard when it is in your heart. I think perhaps the hardest thing to do is seeing and admitting that perhaps our beliefs aren’t all they are said to be. I had to let go of a lot of fear that had been programmed into me from my childhood. I guess the best way to say it is, I had to leave the fear and control of Christianity to find God and become a follower of Jesus.
I’ve seen a parade of Christians spill their dislike, hiding behind scriptures to justify their unloving and unkind actions towards gays (I am using the word gays for any LGBTs), all the while thinking they are doing God’s work. What they actually do is leave behind an ungodly wake of what would make anyone targeted feel hated. I am often left wondering how some Christians can be so disrespectful of a group of people and then cry that they are victims when anyone protests their words. For me, if a Christian truly has Christ’s love in their heart, they would not sit in disapproval of anyone being a homosexual, hiding behind slogans of hate the sin, love the sinner. That saying is not about love at all. If a Christian wants respect, then they need to stop being disrespectful. And when someone acts disrespectful, they shouldn’t be surprised when their target disagrees with them.
Christians have a lot of house cleaning to do, but so many are too busy doing the white glove treatment looking for the dirt in other houses to be bothered with cleaning their own. I am glad to see some working on their own toxic clean-up, and it gives me hope many will soon follow suit. However, I think many like me who do this, end up leaving the religion that teaches judgment of others, and look for churches who emulate what Jesus commanded us to do—love him and others, and not judge.
I am so grateful for my gay friends who have offered me friendship regardless that I am a Christian. Maybe their acceptance of me is because I have not put myself above them, because I am not above anyone. My friends have had their hearts broken enough by Christians that being wary is a very healthy thing for them to do. I believe many gays are much better persons than I am—more willing to readily forgive, forget, and move on. I believe all they want is to be treated equally and with respect and dignity. I don’t think that is too much to ask for; after all, isn’t that what we all want?