Large parts of who I am as a writer, as a Christian, as an academic, and as a person were developed growing up. And I would be in complete denial if I said that I was finished, that I was completely done, that I know who I am and how I fit into the large scheme of things.
I most certainly don't have a clue, and realizing that has been one of the most liberating things ever. There are things I hold dear, things I know for sure, and things I unsure of. All of these, wrapped up together, create who I am. Nothing more, nothing less. It would be rash and, well, stupid, of me to proclaim that who I am exists only in certainties, and only in the things I know I hold dear, when so much of myself is also wrapped up in the not knowing, the not seeing, the not having an answer.
I am as much what I know as what I don't know.
One of those things I haven't known what to do with for years, at least not with certainty, are the church's teachings on homosexuality.
And no, for the record, I'm not about to drop a big bombshell or anything. I am very much a heterosexual female, and that is one of the things I know with certainty.
But the way the church reacts to the issue of homosexuality is one that has created a struggle for me. The church's typical stance on the issue is strongly anti-gay. Homosexuality is a sin, and therefore homosexuals themselves are some of the worst of sinners. I remember keeping the knowledge that Ian McKellan is gay from my dad for months, because I thought it would keep him from wanting to see Lord of the Rings.
In high school, I knew several gay/bisexual people - one of which was my best friend. I found out that she was bisexual via the internet during my freshman year of college, and how I reacted is one of my biggest regrets. She was afraid to tell me because she knew the church's stance on homosexuality, which, at the time, I parroted, and so when I confronted her about it, I didn't do so in a loving manner. I am not proud of that moment in my life. It was one of the things that made our friendship rocky (but I'm happy to report it has been somewhat repaired).
As another one of my best friends struggled with the possibility that he was homosexual, instead of being there for him and listening, I grew uncomfortable, told him that the Bible speaks against homosexuality and I'd pray that God would put him back on the right path. Again, another friendship essentially ruined by my own lack of critical thinking about the issue.
In college, as I lived in the little bubble that is private Christian college, I encountered very few gay people, decided not to study the issue, and therefore, never really reached a theological stance on the topic.
Moving to Waco brought the issue back, somewhat, to the forefront. One of my good friends here did his senior thesis in college on homosexuality in the church, and had come to the conclusion that homosexuality itself is okay, and that our first response as Christians needs to be not condemnation but loving. The rise of Westboro Baptist Church also brought forth the question of whether or not I could, theologically, agree with at least part of their stance: Do I still consider homosexuality a sin?
To answer honestly: I don't know.
What I do know is this: Homosexuality is unique in that it is something that it becomes such a part of the person that to say "love the sinner and hate the sin" becomes completely absurd. To say "I am going to love you without accepting/acknowledging the fact that you're gay" is like saying to a Hindu holy man "I'm going to love you, but I'm going to ignore the fact that you're in this hugely important religious position." It is such a large part of a person's life that to ignore it is to ignore who they are, something I cannot agree with.
So is there a middle ground? Is it possible to still hold on to a supposedly Biblical stance on homosexuality (one that I do not know whether it is necessarily supported, but that is an entirely different issue) and still exhibit the love of Jesus?
I don't have an answer.
I can't tell you whether homosexuality is a sin or not. I can't tell you whether or not condemning homosexuality is Biblically supported. I cannot tell you a Biblical case for or against homosexuality, whether it is a matter of orientation or choice, whether or not one can "outgrow" it (though, therapy to "cure" homosexuals has been notoriously condemned by psychiatric and psychological study as being much more harmful than good in terms of a person's mental health), and I cannot tell you what stance the church should take on it.
Despite my years of theological study, this is one (of many) that I have never been able to settle upon.
What I do know, though, is that, whatever we reaction we have, if we do so in the true, kind, loving grace of Jesus Christ, then we do the right thing. The tradition of condemnation, of turning away, of reacting with disgust and fear to homosexuals fails to show them the love of Jesus.
Jesus did not come to die for those already righteous. He did not hang on the cross so that we could condemn others in his name. He did not drink vinegar and have his side pierced so that we may picket soldier's funerals. The church needs to step up, say, "Okay, let's drop the debate, and just love people the way Jesus taught us to."
Simply, it is a matter of what matters more. Does it matter more to me that there are millions of people working in sweatshops to produce my clothing than the fact that the person next to me on the airplane may be a homosexual? Does it matter more to me that I show everyone around me - drunkards, rapists, gays, the homeless, even the slave-owners - the same love, mercy and grace that Jesus first showed me than whether or not said person should be condemned?
I sure hope that they would show the same mercy and compassion to me.
This blog post inspired by thoughts raised in Derek Webb's Stockholm Syndrome and Jennifer Knapp's announcement in Christianity Today that she is gay and has been in a same-sex relationship for eight years. The interview is well worth a read.