Monday, July 9, 2012

"How do you remind yourself that you are a beloved child of God?"

anthropoidia asked you:
Hi! I just started following you. I’m a trans guy, recently refinding my faith. Can I ask you a preacherish question? How do you deal with the mountains of LGBT directed hatred from Christians? How do you remind yourself that you are a beloved child of God? How do you keep from internalizing that hatred? I ask because I find it very difficult to do myself, and I thought maybe reaching out to another queer person of faith might help. All the best, I really enjoy your blog, and many blessings!
Well hi!  Welcome, and stuff.  It’s taken me a while to recognize my own belovedness, but here are the things that hold me up on a daily basis. 

(Full disclosure:  I grew up in an Episcopal congregation that fully welcomed gay and lesbian people, and in a family that did too.  I now study and serve in a denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who will allow me to serve openly as a queer woman in a partnered relationship.  Some of the things that work for me might not work as well for people who were raised or are now living in less supportive situations.  But, here’s my experience.) 

1.  I have friends to remind me.  This may or may not be easy to do, depending on where you are (both geographically and in your own life’s journey).  But I do believe that one way to remember how loved and beloved I am is to have friends that treat me as such.  I seek out like-minded people (most of us do!) and keep up with them however I can.   I especially seek out people who remind me willingly — I don’t have to “go fishing” for support from them.  If I say “Let’s run in this 5K to raise money to defeat the constitutional marriage amendment,” they say “Awesome, let's make T-shirts!” and not “Why?”.  

That’s not to say I’m not also friends with people who don’t think that I can be in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship and still serve God.  I am, and those friendships are important and can be transformational.  

But for the most part, I have friends who support me.   And that goes for everything — not just my sexuality.  My closest friends are the ones who remind me that they care about me and want me in their life. 

So cultivate those friendships — and remind those friends that you care about them, too, and care about having them in your life.  That will take different forms for different people.  Maybe you remind people you care by texting randomly, or giving great bear hugs, or leaving funny comments on Facebook, or whatever.  Do what seems authentic to you, but do it.  Find people who support you, and remind them how important they are to you. 

2.  I go to a church that reminds me.  Again, this is the kind of thing that varies by region.  Gaychurch.org is great for finding out who in your area might welcome you.  Welcomingresources.org has a similar list, and maps them in Google so you can see who’s nearby.  When Kristi (my partner) and I started looking for a church, the very first qualification was that they welcome us unequivocally. 

I’ve also gotten to a point in my leadership formation where I have no intention of ever sitting through a sermon that condemns me.  I’ll walk out.  (But I’ll walk out of bad sermons in general — I’m rebellious like that.) 

3.  I read lots of things by people that remind me.  If you follow me on Tumblr, you know I’m constantly posting quotes from articles and books I read.  Here’s a short list of things that have really helped (and continue to!). 

Blogs / websites: 

- Patheos has a new blogroll on its Progressive Christian Channel called Coming Out Christian; there are some really great posts by lots of different writers. 

- The Gay Christian Network on Facebook is great to follow. 

- Sojourners has failed to consistently take a pro-welcome stance, but they have a great list of resources (books, movies, articles, etc.) about LGBTQ inclusion here

- Inclusive Orthodoxy has some great articles too. 

- Nadia Bolz-Weber.  She’s a bad-ass, life-changing super-Lutheran pastor out of Denver where she started a brand-new church, which is (among other things) queer inclusive.  She is deeply into God's grace and love for us despite how we treat ourselves, how we treat each other, how others treat us, etc.  She blogs about it and posts her sermons here.  I rabidly fangirl about her (and then she finds it and comments on it, with utmost grace and kindness) here

Rachel Held Evans.  A straight, white, conservative evangelical woman who, through her experiences with LGBTQ people, has come to a different understanding of what it means to be Christian, and what it means to be biblical.  She’s a brilliant writer, and extraordinarily brave, and frequently features lots of different topics and voices on her blog. 

-Nakedpastor. David Hayward is a former pastor who now does comic-strip criticisms of common church behaviors.  He also does beautiful artwork of the inclusive Christ, for example, and a great series of Sophia, the woman freeing herself from tyrannical religion. 

Boggle Loves You.  Not queer-oriented specifically, but good grief that little owl is so sweet and cute. 

Books: 

To the Tune of a Welcoming God, a book by David Weiss.  I first got my hands on this back when it was a three-hole-punched collection of essays; now it’s a book and it’s better than ever.  It’s a mix of hymns/poetry, essays, and letters calling the Christian community to a full welcome for LGBTQ people.  It completely transformed my understanding of the Gospel and how it calls for a full welcome. 

Take This Bread is the story of journalist, atheist, and lesbian Sara Miles becoming a Christian and starting food pantries as a result of the experience of the Eucharist.  Her story makes lumps rise in my throat every time. 

Manna and Mercy, a book by Daniel Erlander.  A retelling of the Biblical story, it’s not queer-focused per se, but has great feminist and liberation theology undertones.  I’ve struggled a lot with learning to love Scripture (since it’s been used against me!) and this book really helped me reclaim the story that God wants to call us into. 

The Great Emergence, by Phyllis Tickle.  She claims that the church has a “rummage sale” every five hundred years and decides what to keep and what to sell / toss.  See:  the Great Schism, the Reformation, etc.  Her belief is that we’re in another rummage sale.  It helped me contextualize the changes I see in the church (and the big changes coming). 

- Anne Lamott, especially Plan B.  She’s irreverently reverent and deeply hilarious, and very committed to the intersection of social justice and the church.  Her vulnerability helps me come back to myself when I have rough days.  She also has a fantastic Facebook account where she narrates her daily life in the same voice in which she writes her memories, which delights me to no end. 

4.  I have a killer playlist to remind me.  Laugh if you want, but sometimes what a queer girl needs is to put on P!nk’s “F**ckin’ Perfect” at volume 11 and sing along until her throat is raw. Here’s some other selections: 

  • P!nk, “Ave Mary A”, ”Raise Your Glass”, ”So What”, “Stupid Girls.”  
  • Sara Groves (If you don’t know Sara Groves, she’s a fantastic Christian artist from Minnesota whose album Fireflies & Songs was Christianity Today’s top album of 2009.  I have loved her since 2001 and she’s only gotten better and better.):  ”When It Was Over,” “You Cannot Lose My Love,” “Why It Matters,” “Less Like Scars,” “Remember Surrender,” “Maybe There’s a Loving God,” “Cave of Adullum,” “From This One Place,” “Like a Lake.”  (Did I mention that I LOVE HER.)
  • Jennifer Knapp’s album Letting Go, especially “Dive In,” but the whole album is just fantastic.  If you just barely recognize that name, it’s because she was a Christian artist until about seven years ago when she disappeared from the concert circuit.  She stayed in Australia for most of that time and then came back to America and to music recording… after coming out.  Yeah.  Badass.  So guess what else — she has a website called Inside Out Faith, where she talks about being gay and Christian.  Yay!
  • Lady Gaga.  ”Born This Way.”  Obviously.
  • Katy Perry.  ”Firework.”  Even though I’m still mad about “Ur So Gay.”
  • Wicked’s “Defying Gravity.” 
  • If I were a closet Gleek (not sayin’ that I am, I’m just sayin’) I would probably sing along to “Don’t Stop Believin,” ”Forget You,” ”Loser Like Me”, “Light Up the World,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot / One Way or Another,” and “Survivor / I Will Survive.”  I’d probably cry whenever Lea Michele sings “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”  And I’d have an entire car-dance choreographed to “Give Up the Funk.”  …Yeah, go ahead and judge me.  I’m OK with it.  :)
You know what?  I'll just make you a playlist.  :)


5.  But what it comes down to at the end of the day is that I believe in the Gospel, which reminds me.  The gospel is the foundation of everything above this.  

I believe that I and my queer brothers and sisters stand in the light of the long arc of God's dream for the world.  That God calls us, points us, pulls us into a world defined by compassion, justice, and righteousness -- into a world where we are freed from bonds that keep us from loving ourselves, our God, and our neighbors. 

I believe that God acts to cross boundaries, to break down walls, to continually expand the circle of God's welcome beyond where we are comfortable. 

We see God's radical reach writ large across the narrative of the Hebrew Bible -- 

-- in Sarah and Abraham, called to be the ancestors of God's chosen people, who were far too old to bear children, who doubted, who struggled, who laughed behind a tent flap at God's messengers' proclamation; 

-- in Rahab, the Gentile prostitute, who trusted in the God of the Hebrews and became part of their family, and and is one the ancestors of Jesus; 

-- in Ruth, a Gentile who lost her husband but remained faithful to her Hebrew mother-in-law, and became the grandmother of Jesse; 

-- in the Gentile citizens of Nineveh, spared from destruction by the words of the reluctant prophet Jonah; 

-- in the words spoken through the prophets:  by Hosea, "I will say to those called 'Not my people, ' 'You are my people'; and they will say, 'You are my God.' ", and from Isaiah:  "See, I am doing a new thing!" 

Over and over again, the God of the Hebrew people looked at the carefully drawn lines between "God's people" and "Not God's people" -- and crossed them, destroyed them, never looked back. 

And that same kind of radical reach, that call to all to come and be a part of God's kingdom despite their age, their sex, their race, is found in abundance in Immanuel, God-with-us, Christ Jesus. 

Jesus did not turn away from the bleeding woman who touched him, or the possessed, or the lepers, or the blind -- all unclean, unwanted, outside of the community.  He praised the faith of a Roman centurion -- the enemy, the ruling force, a Gentile whose job was to oppress Jews.  He spoke with Samaritans, the theological competition; he offered one as an example of true neighborly love.  

He socialized with women.  He blessed little children.  He pointed to troublesome mustard weeds, to careless shepherds, to wasteful sowers and said, "That.  That kind of extravagance is the kingdom of God." 

Those who pushed back against him -- who wanted to keep the lines clear, the walls strong, the separation between God's People and Not God's People certain and uncrossable -- are the ones he turned away from. 

And when he was raised, he appeared not to Peter the rock, not to John the beloved, not to his enemies to convince them, not to scribes who could record the miracle or Romans who could deify him, but to women -- to what society thought of as "unreliable witnesses" -- to one woman in particular, Mary Magdalene, out of whom had been cast seven demons.  In his resurrection, he crossed the boundaries yet again. 

When the Spirit blew at Pentecost, when Peter saw a vision of unclean animals, when God's voice and a blinding light knocked Paul from his horse, when Philip met the Ethiopian sitting in his chariot -- each and every time God burst through doors, broke down walls of language and religion and ethnicity and race and gender, crossed uncrossable boundaries and set up camp in hearts of people once called Not God's People. 

That is why I want to do what I want to do -- because I believe in the message of the Gospel, and I believe in it for everyone.

2 comments:

  1. Emmy - Thanks for reminding me why I'm so stinkin' excited to start work next week in the midst of my terror at not being with my beloveds 24/7. I love your thoughtfulness and love, and am so honored to call you friend.

    Cath

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  2. I just started reading your blog too.

    I don't see, or maybe I just don't recognize recognize the "hate" from Christians toward the homosexual community. In fact, I see the opposite. Many mainline, large, wealthly demoninations experience huge membership loss, criticism, and financial costs in order to support homosexual rights and inclusion. Even the largest (by numbers) Roman Catholic Church has been reaching out since I was in college (and that was before you were born! - ugh)

    I do see in many non-Christian values countries the public execution and torture of homosuexuals, threats, and imprisionment.

    Can you point out some examples to a middleclass guy that works for a Fourtune 500 company?

    PS - I love the blog. No need to be terrified - remember the Gospel is the Good News not the scary news.

    SDG
    Tony

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