I have asked myself so many times, “Why do conservative Christians stick their heels in so much in regards to their beliefs on queerness? Why do they choose their beliefs over their children, their parents, their spouses, their childhood friends, their lifelong friends, those they work with, those who they pass on the street everyday?” I have seen how these decisions have torn apart my friends’ lives and have torn apart parts of my own. It can be atrocious. Seriously so. bad. Completely contrary to what any and all of us know as how to be a decent human.
The way we treat gay people is inhumane. It is contrary to their human spirit and contrary to our own to do that to them.
So why do we do it? How do we do it?
I think a large part of it has to do with the way cultural norms have rooted themselves in religion. Queerness flips a patriarchal world on its head. It doesn’t just demand that the oppressed female gender achieve equality with that which has made itself oppressor, the male. It throws all the crap out. It says, “Hey. This two gender thing. Bro. The world ain’t like that. And this man over women stuff (which demands man with woman.) The world ain’t like that either.”
When a society’s been built on that, it’s hard to overturn.
I also think a lot of the resistance conservative Christians experience when navigating queer topics has to do with something more personal. I think it has to do with ways we each deal with messiness in our lives and how we allow our faith to inform those navigations. I think specifically it has to do with, and greatly reveals, the ways we navigate certainty, comfort and control. All of which are reactions to FEAR.
Our lives are really messy. Our lives are really hard. If anything can be promised for us humans on this rock it is that we will experience pain. We will experience chaos, and loss, and change. We will be disappointed with the outcome. We will lose control of things we thought we had in our control. Things will not work out as we expected and wanted. We will try really hard and fail. We will be burned by what once saved us.
When we experience that, we stand at the edge of a fierce forest we do not know. Monstrous trees, dark shadows, and eery sounds are the only things ahead. The easiest thing to do is to tell yourself the forest does not exist. To tell yourself that whatever this unexpected thing is, that it doesn’t exist, that it’s not real, that is the product of someone (yourself or someone else) fucking up and going against the way of the world. It’s easier to put on pair of blackened glasses so that to you the forest goes away.
We take a Holy book and try to organize its contradictions and its confusions and its gray areas and its stories of grace and love and chaos and loss and failure —into a single flat story line, one devoid of questioning, one that is absolutely certain. One that works for us.
If we can believe we are certain about the things in our lives, we are gifted with comfort. No matter what happens to us, we will understand it and we will feel the warmth of comfort. Believe you know what is going on, believe you and your righteousness are tethered to the side declared to be good —and you will feel like you have control in a hostile world.
It works so well.
Except the forest is still there where you have glasses on or not. And continuously throughout our lives, little bits of light will sneak in around the rims of our glasses.
So when your son comes out to you as gay, and your whole world has been built on the fact that gayness isn’t real, isn’t of God, isn’t right, isn’t good. It makes you think, “Shit. What does this mean about everything else?”
It makes you tear up and rebuild every part of your world. If non-queerness was part of that original world anyway.
Forests are places of richness and exploration. Places for us to run around in and gaze up in awe in, to lean against massive trunks and feel humility with, and to climb and look out over the land in, to breathe fresh renewed air in, and watch birds and butterflies and bats dance around the sky in, and to discover that ~despite the shadows and sounds we first were afraid of~ the thing we really were only ever afraid of was FEAR itself.
Biblical literalism is not a literal interpretation of the Bible. People who claim to be biblical literalists are misidentifying themselves. What they actually are really good at is believing that the cultural interpretation of the Bible they were taught is the only interpretation available, is the way of the universe from and for all time, that it is infallible. Except that’s not true. Cultural interpretation is informed by the country we live in, community we are a part of, our education, our friends, our political beliefs, our life circumstances, our ethnicity, our socioeconomic status, our sexuality, our gender, and on and on. Go to the church building on the other block and that is made clear.
The Bible is so contradictory that is literally impossible to literally interpret and believe in its objective, one-lined truth. (It’s that way from literally Genesis 1. There are literally two creation narratives. Literally two!)
And the Bible was never meant to be interpreted in a literal way. Some holy books from some faith practices are believed to be received directly from the Divine, perfectly God-breathed, and a direct, immediate message from the Divine. Us Christians don’t believe that. We believe that the Bible is inspired by God, God-breathed, and God-cannonized scripture. But we believe it to be written by various authors over various periods of time. Not all holy books are like. For example, Muslims believe the Quran to be a more direct transmission from the Divine, a message from God to the angel Jibril then straight to Mohammad.
Different faiths believe different things about their holy texts and learning about others is helping to knowing about your own.
I believe that the Bible is meant to be and has always been meant to be a wonderful, divinely-inspired, fierce text brought to the world to teach us the nature of the Godforce, of the Divine, of God, of Jesus. I’ve found it to be really really good at that. And I’ve found that the things in it never call us to worship certainty and comfort and control.
In my life, the Bible gets me to step away from those things. To come to know that those things aren’t helpful to my human existence. That certainty and comfort and control make me a really crappy person to myself and a really crappy person to others.
But that’s just me.