Archive for the ‘coming out’ Tag
This website has a lot of my story on it–but this is the less than ten minute version of my story with the church. The Queer Story Archives came up to Whitehorse–Lulu from OnMyPlanet.ca–in July 2013, recording stories of Yukon Queers, and we recorded this right before I was to leave for Dayton, Ohio. I think it’s turning into a positive story so I’m sharing it. Ultimately I’m suggesting that including gay people can save a rapidly diminishing Church population. To do that, I tell my story. Some of you have heard it–either through the Yukon News, or through DNTO. Both sources were good but heavily edited. It feels better in my own words, complete.
We grow from hard times in our lives and this was a good growth for me. Eventually, I’ve come to retain and re-establish many friendships from the first church. I hope my story still helps others. Thanks to LULU and onmyplanet.ca
Having been raised in churches all my life, having done the double, triple, renewing salvation genuflect that Baptist kids do over their lives, knowing the plan of salvation in scripture form, calling card form, bracelet form, code form— you’d think that I was duly saved. You don’t really have to do it so many times.
Until your life is at stake.
Coming out to myself really hit me hard. It threw my sense of what I could believe in the Bible. Waking up to the idea that I had been misinformed at such a deep level about who I was, and what I was, made me wonder if the Bible (or Christians) could get wrong how God felt about being gay, what else could they get wrong? It threw me, too, into a world where I felt pretty lost.
But then one day, I found Anne Lamott. Actually, she was given to me, and the man who gave her book to me said, “Many people who have lost their faith have found it again after reading this book.”
He was a pastor in Oyster Bay, Peter Casparian, 1988 Quatrofilio Alfa Romeo-driving liberal Episcopal pastor preaching in an historic church, Christ Church, the church of Theodore Roosevelt. Over croissants and jam outside of a French Bakery, I came out to him. Because I was shaking, because I cried, and because I didn’t know what I wanted to believe any more, he said I should find a copy of Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, that it would restore my faith, or at least calm my nerves. I was frightened of churches, a little scared of the Bible…as if it were now riddled with land mines. If I go to Romans, bam! If I head to Genesis, boom!
Traveling Mercies is Anne Lamott’s honest memoir of trying out church. It’s not written like anything you’d find in a Christian bookstore. It’s refreshing. It comes at faith from a non-churched point of view. God is surprising, he’s real, he’s around the corner; Anne is the kind of believer who questions God, gets upset with him, does things wrong! does things surprisingly well! She is fearless in her attempts to believe in God, and in a quirky group of believers. Thank God she didn’t go to a stuffy, we-have-all-the-answers church.
I’ve heard people come away loving this book–and I certainly did. It renewed my faith despite having had it trounced by well-meaning folk. She provided a way back to the parts of faith that I loved and remembered. Faith is not Religion, but Religion can be made of Faith. For her there are only two prayers, “Help me, help me, help me!” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I think that sums up most prayers well.
Anne Lamott allows herself to be so vulnerable, to be, as she puts it, “such a mess.”
It allows the rest of us to be imperfect, to approach God as people who don’t have it all together, who aren’t doing everything right, who don’t sometimes believe in every unbelievable thing, but we’re trying. Traveling Mercies reminds me of that Tim Allen show, Home Improvement. Tim’s marital problems are given the best advice by Wilson, who seems to embody Robert Bly and Joseph Campbell and God all rolled into one. But Tim, as he tries to carry that advice in his cupped hands back to his wife and family, spills most of it, and always blurts out a tainted version of that wisdom, a splattered, messy version of wisdom that somehow works–mostly through the forgiveness of his wife. Anne Lamott is messy in that Tim Allen way. She wanders into the same kinds of sermons and wisdom we all do but the application is messier than she thinks. And wow, it’s messy for all of us, but none of us admitted it.
Anne allowed my faith to be messy, and allowed me to approach church in a different way–not of trying to regain some shallow perfection I thought I had, but in trying it out in whatever way I could muster. She allowed my approach to God to be a little wobbly, a couple of bounces and skids, and sometimes I circle the runway for days… It was never a perfect landing. Faith is trial and error not a performance.
If Anne Lamott can be human again, then so can I. If she can be a Christian, outside of perfection, then so can I.
Churchiness takes the humanity out of you. Traveling Mercies somehow puts the humanity back into Faith.
Here’s an excerpt from Traveling Mercies on someone else’s page.
Thank you, Anne Lamott! I know you’ve probably saved a lot of lives before–and perhaps you don’t even know that you’re doing it, but honest memoir saves lives. We may write it only to save ours, but it ends up having multiple life-saving effects. Resonance. Mercy.
Ironically, my pastor at RBC suggested I write for Geez magazine. I don’t think he imagined what piece I would eventually write for them. But here it is, Issue #24, on “privilege”. I wrote the fast version of my coming out at church. I centered it on the idea of privilege–of the privileges I had as a single, white male Christian who had leadership potential and of the privileges I no longer had when I added “gay” to that mix.
The church has to change. It has to. It may not change from those fighting it on the outside, but it will have to incorporate change if it is to survive further. It faces irrelevance, it postures with discrimination, it plays favorites, it values money.
Not all churches–no. (When I say a statement like this I have to stop and say, Thank you, churches that are moving more towards social justice, focusing on issues like poverty, the environment, civil rights. You do exist, but I wouldn’t, yet, call you the “Church”–as the “Church” tends to be the Catholic Castle or the Evangelical Juggernaut. One day, you will take on that mantle–you will be the “Church” and it will have a positive ring.)
The full essay is here, Moving Up, Coming Out, Moving On.
Anyway, there it is, in Geez #24. If this brings you to this website, welcome. There’s lots here, I hope, that will spark conversation. If this entry leads you to Geez, welcome to Geez. There’s lots there that will spark conversation as well. It’s a valuable, important magazine carrying on “the” conversations we need to have happen. It is intrepid, bold, and unflinching.
I would marry Geez magazine if it looked like a bear and loved me back.
*apologies to Kevin James, pictured, who is not gay.
Today, as I was checking my statistics on the site, I smiled at one google search that brought someone to my page: “As a christian should we sing ray boltz music in church?”
Ray Boltz was a staple of Contemporary Christian music for twenty years–a string of albums that contained songs sung in every church across America. Who hasn’t heard “Thank You”? “Thank You for giving the Lord/I am a life that was changed/ thank you for giving to the Lord/ I am so glad you gave,” or heard it sung to someone who had fulfilled a life of Christian Service. Who hasn’t heard someone sing “Watch the Lamb”? It’s the story of the crucifixion narrated through the eyes of a father who brings his two sons to Jerusalem to participate in the normal sacrifice of a lamb for their family. He is unwittingly pulled into the drama when he becomes the man who is forced to carry Christ’s cross to Golgotha. “Shepherd Boy” is the story of David–who isn’t picked because he’s big and strong, but because God wants to pick him. I used to sing these songs in church–Ray Boltz and I have similar ranges (and I can only hope I did them justice).
His songs speak to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian—“does he still feel the nails/every time I fail/ does he hear the crowd cry crucify again?” and he sings to life the many people that we only know through Biblical stories. Paul and Silas are singing “I will praise the Lord” in jail, and he sings about the view of the cross from below–the sisters, his mother, watching Christ as he hung there in “At the Foot of the Cross”—reflecting on every Christian’s hope: “keep me near the cross/near the cross/ may I never stray so far/ that I cannot see/ what flowed down for me/ at the foot of the cross”.
These songs keep you close to Christ; they are filled with passion and anguish and they tell the stories that we are familiar with. Yes, keep singing the songs of Ray Boltz in Church. To throw them out is to lose a canon of beautiful music, and lyrical devotions worthy of a prayer book.
When Ray Boltz came out in 2008, it shook the Contemporary Christian music world. Though he had retired several years before, his coming out spawned a massive hate fest on blogs, in magazines, chat rooms, and even hate mail to his house. His career, and even his legacy, was nearly destroyed. But he was a brave man, and that kind of devotion to God and bravery in the face of opposition, I think, doesn’t go unrewarded.
He put out a new album, True, in 2010. Aimed at two audiences, Ray Boltz tries to meet both their needs. His gruff, deep voice still sings about contemporary christian experience, but it has a focus and a drive now, to help Christians understand gays, and to reach out to the LGBT community. Many of the songs ask Christians to reconsider their stance–that they are in error–and that they need to understand that gays mean no harm to their families or their Christianity. In some ways, Ray Boltz is a Paul, trying to talk to us about gentiles, that we are a part of Christ’s plan and message.
I hope one day that Ray’s new songs are also sung in church. “I will choose to love” is Ray’s response to the hate mail. “I will choose to love/ though they shake their fists at me/and I will be myself/ and live in authenticity/ though they wrap their hatred in a message from above/ I will choose to love.” A truly Christian response to the discrimination and judgment of Christians.
“Who would Jesus Love?” asks “would he only love the ones who look the same as me/ would he only offer hope if he saw similarity/ would he leave the others waiting like a stranger at the gate”–and challenges Christians to go beyond the narrow confines of the WWJD movement.
Should we sing Ray Boltz’s music in Church? I hope so. I hope we still do. I hope that one day who someone loves will not interfere with the lyrics and the heart of their offering. Ray Boltz has written some of the strongest, most beautiful Christian songs, and he still writes and sings these songs–in the churches that will let him. Ray Boltz is singing his music in church, and I can’t think of a better way to express the heart of Christianity than to keep him singing, and sing with him.
Many times people ask why a person didn’t come out beforehand–why they waited, why they lived a lie, or stayed hidden, why they kept their secret. To understand this, you must understand the fear associated with coming out, especially for those who are both gay and Christian.
Christianity: the ultimate lifestyle choice
First of all, you already understand that being a Christian is the biggest lifestyle choice you can make—it changes everything from your friends, your activities, to your career, and certainly adds a component of the supernatural–a relationship with God–into the mix. That’s an all-encompassing choice: to be a Christian is to fill your life with Christian people, events, motivations, aspirations, and other things.
It is also about joining a church family–a group to do all of that stuff with together in a building called a church. You can only be friends, or be intimate friends, with a few people–and becoming a Christian is like being connected to a whole club for your life. You eliminate, or limit, most other activities outside of church-related ones–because you just don’t have the time. A Christian reduces his or her world to a set of people who support, affirm, encourage and love them throughout their lives (if they are lucky to live in the same place for a long time). It also guides your future—you stay with the same denomination if you move; it may guide your decisions as you make those moves, because you are always in prayer. This is a 24hour hobby, this being Christian. You aren’t just gold-plated; you get turned into solid gold. Becoming Christian takes over everything you are.
But if you’ve shrunk your visible society down to the size of a church—and you’re gay—you have a dilemma. In a society where churches fear homosexuals, fear them enough to want to silence them, legislate against them, push them out of their churches, or strip them of their ability to serve, and finally to withdraw love from them, stop listening to them, and ostracize them—it is not a safe place to be gay, and in the end, it’s not a safe place to be an authentic Christian either.
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Ray Boltz, one of my personal heroes, came out about 8 months before I did. I used to sing Ray Boltz’s songs at church, for special music. I think his songs are deeply personal and passionate, and they resonated with christian audiences and congregations. Ray Boltz sold a lot of CDs, but even more importantly, his music was a part of Christian worship for two decades.
He came out in the Washington Blade in September of 2008. You can read the article here . (I love how Christians who denounce Ray Boltz are actually the only places we can find the article….alas, skip the commentary, and enjoy Ray’s story)
But I think even more compelling is Ray in his music–and he has penned a new album, True. This single from the album has a great video where it looks like Ray is typing his story…. it’s a powerful one. It says a lot about what we think of as success, of what we guide young gay men to do, in hopes that this will change them: Ray married, Ray had kids, Ray was a big Christian music artist. He did everything the church wanted him to do–except be who he was. And now he is that. And thank God!
Ray inspired me to take steps to come out. If Ray could do it–someone with such a high profile, so much to lose–then I could take a little of that courage and come out too.
I’m still hoping to get Ray to come up to the Yukon soon. 🙂
–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.