I am not sure how to process this anniversary of Pulse as a queer Christian.
I am not sure how to be a Christian today.
I want the Church, my Church, the Church of Jesus, to be one of the things on this broken earth that puts its hands on the bleeding, pushes up against the wound, holds it closed.
I want the Church to be the first one on the scene, holding dads and mamas while they scream that their baby is gone.
I want my Church to be the one throwing out Her arms, standing in between gay kids and their abusive parents, standing in between the homeless gay kid and whatever evil bumps into them at the bus stop.
I want my Church to take the bullet for the lost, the wounded, the sad, the mourning, the abandoned, the excluded, the embattled.
I want my Church to look like Jesus.
I’m queer and I love Jesus. I’m queer and I have tried to love the Church. And I’ve tried to stop loving the Church. Neither of those feel easy, or possible.
Last year, gay people of color got killed because they were gay. The responses from the Christian community were tepid. They were generally vague.
The Billy Graham team sent chaplains.
They had the nerve to send us chaplains.
Send chaplains into your own goddamn churches. Send chaplains to the kids who are contemplating suicide because their pastor told them that their own bodies are filled with a kind of sin that can’t be forgiven. Send chaplains to your student ministries that won’t tell the queer kids that the organization is anti-gay until the kids apply to be leaders in the group and then your leadership has to “sit down with them” and let them know that “the organization’s stance is for ‘Biblical marriage.'” Send chaplains to the kids who wanted to be worship leaders and now don’t go to church at all. Send chaplains to all the LGBTQ Christians sitting in pews next to their brothers and sisters in Christ who gossip and whisper and spread stories about them until going to Church starts to feel like showing up on a battlefield.
Take your chaplains away from the crime scenes, hunting for converts, and start looking at where the crime breeds in the first place, because it is growing and flourishing and taking cover in the places you call home. It’s not just taking cover in your militantly anti-gay churches, either. It’s in your refusal to talk about us, your refusal to talk about what happened at Pulse in your public prayers, your refusal to name homophobia in your own congregation, your desire to “have gay friends” but definitely not defend queer Christians from the pulpit or over beer.
Lord God, we can argue theology all day. We can swap histories of Ancient Greece, the roots of homophobia, what Plato’s Symposium is saying about historic homosexuality, how to translate arsenokoitai, whether homosexuality ruins the metaphor of Christ and the Church. We can talk about Peter’s revelation of the unclean animals and how to interpret “what God has called clean, let no man call profane.” We can talk about sexual norms, purity, the theology of human sexuality as revealed in Scripture. We can talk about patriarchy and whether the “thrust of the Bible” is towards liberation. We can even talk “clobber passages.”
We can. We can do that. We can have a rousing fight about whether it’s theologically acceptable for two women to fall in love and get married and have a family. Sure. Go ahead.
Meanwhile, meanwhile, meanwhile.
Meanwhile, how do we look in the mirror and not see the religious leaders of the Gospels, that Jesus so fiercely stood against and was killed by, staring back at us?
We aren’t the Prodigal Son or the woman at the well or the tax collector in the tree. We’re every nit-picking, legalistic Pharisee and Sadducee tossing theologically “perfect” but entirely graceless textual interpretations at the ostracized and struggling, “putting loads on the people’s backs too heavy for them to bear.”
So for us? The 50% of LGBTQ people in the U.S. who call ourselves Christians, Christ followers?
We wake up on the anniversary of Pulse crying for a Church that won’t hold us while we weep.
And tomorrow we lace up our boots, and recommit to the work of the Spirit that is conforming the Church of Christ more and more to His likeness. We lace up our boots and make spaces for kids who don’t know that they can follow the ache in their heart for Jesus and still fall in love with another person some day. We make communities that preach that the only line around the Table is Jesus Christ. We listen to and elevate the voices of queer Christians of color in our worship. We preach the Gospel, and we preach it as gay and transgender and lesbian and bisexual people. And our sexuality and gender doesn’t change the way we see and know the power of the Cross – because to us that are being saved, it is the power of God.
Jesus, Your kingdom come, on earth as it already is in heaven.