I don’t know how I feel about sharing this with you. I’ve told my close friends [in London], but I can gauge their reactions in person. You. I don’t know how you’re going to react. I imagine some will be indifferent, but I care more for those who will care too much. I know a couple of friends will want to set up skype dates and try convert me, but I don’t want to be converted. I want your genuine friendship regardless of how our beliefs align or I want nothing at all.
I’ve kept quiet for a long time.
For months, blogs have been swirling in my head but I haven’t had the courage to put my fingers to the keyboard for fear of potentially hurting a number of friends. If you’re sensitive, maybe don’t read any further. If you’re happy with your current state of being and your love for me, I beg you quit.
I was happy in the world I had formed once. I had gathered around me friends who confirmed my biases and fulfilled my prophesies. I had one pair of perspective glasses through which to view life; it was predictable, it was comforting, it was easy. I could quote and reference; my friends would nod and agree.
And then I left my safe confines in south east Queensland, unintentionally leaving the context where my glasses made perfect sense, and boarded for London.
Within a few weeks, vision had blurred: definition paradoxically unrefined.
Stay with me.
I joined a church group where they discussed the meaning of being a Christian for ten consecutive weeks. I already identified myself as a Christian – I imagined I’d automatically become an unofficial facilitator with my CV of Christian life – but this was a tactic move to make new friends. I was allocated to a wonderful group consisting mostly of girls. Success. I love girls.
During a session, a girl not previously exposed to church asked, ‘If God answers some prayers, and doesn’t answer others, how do you know your prayers had anything to do with it?’
If you’re a manufactured Christian, you would have replied, ‘f.a.i.t.h.’
But that answer isn’t good enough to someone who doesn’t have any. So I decided to undertake some empirical research: I actively stopped praying. Things I assumed wouldn’t happen, did, and things I dreaded, didn’t. I’m still stumped, but I suppose I would have to start praying again for more research to be conducted and data gathered. And that was because one girl asked one question I had not previously considered.
And then there was this other girl.
I adored this other girl. She was beautiful, kind, open but endearingly reserved; she had a beautiful girlfriend. Their relationship made me wish I was gay. Their emotional connection bewildered me into wondering if I could convert myself.
During this ten week group, we went away for a weekend to have a slightly more intense and focused time to talk about God together. During this weekend, heaven did not come down; for an ‘intense’ weekend, I found it rather diluted.
That was, however, until the Sunday morning session began.
A person who had never delivered this particular talk before, talked. Perhaps a different speaker would have given the talk more gently. This speaker removed my glasses.
Now that you have come away for this weekend, you are a Christian. Christians must do two things: 1) come to church every Sunday and 2) only have sex with a hetereosexual partner only once you’re married.
That was it.
That was it.
That was all being Christian was about, spoken to a group of people who weren’t even sure if they subscribed to this God. And now, they were told how to live some of the most personal details of their lives.
I wasn’t sitting next to my beautiful friend at the time, but I saw her crying while the speaker banged on about not banging outside straight marriage. She was too kind to leave: she didn’t want to hurt the speaker’s feelings. So she stayed, receiving blow after blow a message that she was inherently wrong for loving another girl so much. Receiving blow after blow a message that God didn’t love her enough or make her well enough because her core self conflicted with his ‘perfect design’. But she is gay, she was born gay. She was born incredibly beautiful.
I’m straight. But I imagine it’s like hearing I have to be marry a girl, and that being attracted to boys is wrong. But I never chose to be attracted to boys. It wasn’t my decision. And girls don’t turn me on.
Since then, I have a few gripes with church. (Forgive me for being so bold.) I know full well that churches nor people in them are not perfect, but we often foster a cult-like culture where all our friends go to the same church, all our overseas trips are mission trips, all our nights are taken up by church-related activities. Christians are really busy people! My gosh, they’re (we’re?) busy. We have small group on Wednesday, music practice on Thursday, youth group on Friday, a women’s night we only attend because we feel obligated on Saturday and church on Sunday. And then the preacher suggests meeting up with a few leaders you trust, to talk about your inward struggles. So… Monday night, then? Should we do something on Tuesday night too, since that seems to be free? Heaven help me if I don’t have an planned activity on Tuesday! And I haven’t even mentioned volunteering. (Which, I have to admit, is one of my favourite activities).
We talk so much about ‘doing life’ with others, that we forget to live. We’re so busy conceptualising a life free of sin that we have no bloody time for sin.
I admit, I liked growing up surrounded by church rules. They provided stability and a measuring stick against which I could measure my (*cough and apologies* and others’) behaviour. I was considerably occupied being depressed; I was grateful for something I did not have to figure out by myself.
But then I grew up a little bit. Some of the guidelines I have discarded, some I think I would have found by myself: I’ve held onto those.
I have a super Christian friend. As we talked one particular time, the topic of ‘gay as a sin’ came up. He argued, ‘I would have compassion on them’. Wait, what?! ‘have compassion’? Why? Because LGBT (lesbians/gays/bisexuals/transgender) young people are the group MOST LIKELY to commit suicide? Because some young people have to grow up where there is a stigma against who they are? No. ‘Because they’re wrong’.
What a condescending approach. I have NEVER ‘had compassion’ on a hetereosexual person because they were straight. What annoys me most about this approach is its similarity to one of the most beautiful passages of the Bible, where Jesus looks at the crowd ‘as sheep without a shepherd, and he had compassion on them’. The irony is that the crowd were small-minded incompetent fools who couldn’t prepare so much as a lunch in the countryside. And yet, we take that scripture and apply it to people whose sexuality differs from our own, when we should have compassion on ourselves, perhaps, for being the small-minded incompetent fools unprepared for the real world because we’re stuck inside the church walls every night of the week.
Oh, I have gripes alright. And I like it. I like reshuffling things in my mind around. I figure God is big enough to draw me back and settle these issues within my own soul. But for now, I’m enjoying the restlessness that comes with the process of learning.