Esther at the moment of decision---Sir John Everett Millais, painter, 1865
The Story of Esther in the Bible means a great deal to me. On the day I decided to come out it was Esther who gave me the last push. She was the one who told me–you aren’t just doing it for you. You’re doing it to save your people. Every act of coming out is about saving people. But more on Esther in a moment.
Some background is in order: I had kept the secret of being gay for five years before coming out—three of them I was gone from the Yukon, a student in Texas, researching whether or not God was okay with me being gay. He was uppermost on my mind. If He didn’t like it, I would go through therapy, I would become a monk, I would do whatever was necessary to change myself to fit what He wanted. Thankfully, not only was He cool with me being gay, it was how he created me to be. So it was quite a revelation. However, just because God was okay with it, didn’t mean I was itching to tell my church. People are unpredictable.
At first, I wondered if I really HAD to come out. It wasn’t anyone else’s business. I had known many gays who told me to go live my life and not bother with coming out at all. Who needs to know? — Well, I had lived my life pretty open to this point, and it was difficult to keep part of myself from people I loved. In fact, it was so difficult it was hitting me on multiple levels that I had to come out.
1. I had become deceptive. This was hard for me to accept. That I would have to hide who I was in order to keep the life I had been living, to keep the friends I had. I was never a liar growing up—and never a liar as an adult. But suddenly, I was a liar in order to keep the peace, to keep friends, to keep interacting with the church and people I loved. It made me into a person I didn’t want to be.
2. I wanted to share who I loved with the church. They loved me, and I wanted to be as open as I could be with them–letting them know, like anyone else, when I was dating, when I was happy, why I was happy, who I loved. One day I wanted to stand up with my boyfriend like so many other couples in the church and declare that we got engaged. The whole crowd would clap. There would be such a renewal of love and hope in the congregation whenever a young couple announced their upcoming marriage.
3. God told me, point blank, that he couldn’t use me until I came out. How could he use someone that had a secret to spill–a secret that might endanger whatever mission he would give me? And further, how could God put me on any kind of road to minister to other gay christians–when I couldn’t be honest with them?
4. I was hurting others who knew. A woman in the church whom I’d told many months before came up to me and said–we can’t keep your secret any longer. You have to tell the pastor. She set in motion a pressure that would just increase every day until I came out. She wasn’t threatening to tell–but she said that the pressure to keep the secret was hurting her family.
And then Esther came along. I realized what I had to do—but for some reason I thought Easter was the best time to do it. I knew that I would go from family to family, but just like it’s hard when you skydive to let go of the safety of the plane… I was lingering at the door, looking at the thousand mile drop below me. I knew if I went to one family, it would get away from me and I would never be able to control who knew what. The truth would be out and then they could decide to hurt me with it.
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–a poem for the seekers
In the glow of the computer screen you search
for biblical truth, having already made a deal
with God, that he not strike you dead for researching
But you have to know if you’re really
going to Hell or if you can one day have
a boyfriend, or a husband without impunity.
And here, at midnight, when your parents are asleep,
you look for scraps of scripture which will boost your hope,
make you a believer again.
These gay Christians sound authentic–
they pray, and they love God
and they read their Bible every day,
and they are as worried as you about screwing
up everlasting life, except they’ve found a way to have
their husband and their Father too.
How did they do it? Can they teach you
in the next thirty minutes before you think
about the boy that asked you to kiss him, how he leaned
his face close enough for you to feel his warm
breath and the heat of his arm, before you hate
yourself, and let the guilt swallow you
in the dark.
Can God give you an answer soon? Because
if you’re going to die for this, you need to know.
You’d rather there be a loophole, somewhere.
You’re no theologian, but you can’t ask
your parents, or your pastor. And you don’t
want to hurt God either. If He gets upset at a kiss,
you wonder if He’s really paying attention
A thump down the hallway makes you scramble
to click the pages, erase your steps, turn off
your lamp and sit breathless at your desk
in a darkened room, where all you can see
are your mother’s socks blocking the light
under the closed door, as she stands
waiting for you to either stop squirming
or come out.
I get asked a lot which books I would recommend for those seeking some answers in their struggle to reconcile their faith with homosexuality. I’ve started compiling a list of books I found most helpful. On the top of the list is Jack Roger’s Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality–with a study guide. For churches and individuals who are seeking answers, it’s thorough, complete, but not too heady.
When I was looking, I didn’t want answers based on “feelings” or “desires” or “wants”…. I needed a way to think of homosexuality as I think of other things: in accordance with the one book that holds a lot of importance and authority in my life–the Bible. If I couldn’t find a Biblical way to make it work–a way to make it work within my faith–I don’t know how I would have coped with being gay.
Christians have a worldview that includes a personal relationship with a god–the God. This is so radical that I think we’ve lost sight of how radical it is to talk like this, both inside the Christian community and what we sound like outside of it. But the truth is—we DO communicate with a god, and that God is seriously in love with us. He watches us individually as if we were the only person on Earth, and he cares what’s happening in our lives. So, we don’t want to hurt him, and we don’t want to do anything to mess up that relationship.
This is why many Christians who find out they are gay commit suicide. They can’t find a way to reconcile these two things. The Helpful Books page is a way, I think, for people to find the merging of their faith–INTACT–with their sexuality. If they are afraid of the “lifestyle” choices of other gays, they need not be—straight men and women also choose “lifestyles” that aren’t the most productive. You can choose to do whatever you want to do with this life you are given, straight or gay. The important part is to choose life.
The Books page is for anyone looking for life.
When I was living in Canada under a Student Visa, I was constantly being asked to stop doing this or that for fear of deportation. You couldn’t make money at that time off campus. Unfortunately, it seemed the interpretation of those laws was arbitrarily decided–and I didn’t know, nor had I seen, the laws used against me. The breakthrough that happened for me was being able to SEE the book that Immigration was working from. Once I had their book, I could know where they were coming from–and find loopholes to use to survive.
Echoing this article, let me emphasize how important for the GLBT community to know their Bible well. It is the language of this gay struggle. It is even the language of the gay struggle in Canada–the one that everyone thinks we’ve won. If we don’t convince SOME mainstream churches to re-examine the biblical evidence, changing the laws makes little difference on suicide rates, hate crimes and discrimination. Yes, Canada allows Same-Sex Marriage, but bible-believing people can still wield a lot of power and authority, and can hurt a lot of gay people unintentionally with their intolerance and skewed ideas of the bible. Let me recommend a book for GLBT Christians.
The Newsweek article: Our Mutual Joy, one of the best articles in a mainstream magazine that looks closely at the biblical and evangelical arguments around Same Sex Marriage–and they ARE different.
Bulletproof Faith: a Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians by Candace Chellew-Hodge; an awesome book on how to cope with evangelical attacks. Both how to answer them, but also how to protect yourself inside from the demoralizing effects of that kind of attacking. It’s not only for believers, but for everyone who is hurt by “christian” attacks–it damages your character, your soul, your well-being. This is a good book for building the armor.
Reconciling Journey: a devotional workbook for gay and lesbian christians. Specifically for recovering your spirituality–something that may have been ripped from you.
Start there. Read up. Even if you don’t believe in the Bible, give these books a chance–what’s at stake is your personhood right now. And God is a greater advocate than Christians right now. And knowing the book used against you is always helpful.