When You Feel Oppressed by My Faith: A Love Letter

A man walking on railroad tracks

Image Credit

Yesterday I listened as a local affirming Gay Christian shared a little of his faith story with me over private Facebook messages. At one point he stopped and told me he wanted nothing to do with the oppressive message of the Side B/traditional sexual ethic position. The conservative church had told him his sexual orientation was sinful, a mistake, and contrary to his status as an imager bearer of God. He didn’t want to waste any more energy around it.

 

I paused as I reflected on the weight of this man’s words. It’s easy to become defensive when someone slams my personal beliefs—to feel I need to justify my faith. But I’ve been Side A and affirming. I remember what it was like. I truly know how the conservative church’s teaching on sexuality can oppress the spirit. My faith felt like trying to stay afloat in a tumultuous ocean. I fought so hard to keep my head above water, gasping for oxygen as the waves crashed over me. Does God really love me? Am I a reprobate? How do I reconcile the chaos going on inside me? As I struggled to survive, Christians would come and share Bible verses, platitudes, arguments, and their fears for my salvation. All of these felt like weights I couldn’t carry as I sunk into the ocean’s depths. If I was going to live, I needed to run. So I left the church for over a year.

 

“I get it, man,” I told him.

 

~          ~          ~

 

But I have no agenda, no expectations on friendship. You don’t have to become celibate for us to be cool. I understand if I bring up painful memories with the church and I won’t be offended if you need to walk away. But please know I don’t think you’re disgusting or a mistake. I believe you’re always within God’s grace—the same grace we all depend on as fallen creatures in need of a great Savior.

 

I know you’re doing your utmost to honor the authority and integrity of scripture. This is not a light manner. I know the depression and anxiety; I know the stakes. But I have to believe God’s grace is more efficacious than my ability to check off every correct theological box. I’m a reformed Christian, at least that’s my background shaping my interpretation of scripture. Romans 8 says that nothing can separate us from God’s love. I have to believe God’s redeeming grace covers me and my self-destructive tendencies; that it covers our blind spots and biases. I have to believe God looks at the entire story; that he’s more than an apathetic robot.

 

I’m here for the journey with you. Not to remind you of our differences whenever tensions and disagreements arise, but as a friend who supports and loves you through life’s beautiful joys and aching sorrows. I’ll have coffee with you and give you high fives when you share about the new love interest in your life. I’ll go with you to the dark places through the break-ups. I’ll celebrate with you at the wedding and I’ll hold your hand at the funeral. I’m in this with you.

 

I want your faith to thrive. I don’t want to be an obstacle keeping you from experiencing the power and beauty of the gospel. I want my friendship to reveal a little bit of Jesus and his unceasing love for you. Perhaps my friendship will reveal a celibate calling for you, but more than likely it won’t. And I’m ok with that. Maybe you can discover a deeper appreciation for friendship, learning that life can be purposeful in this present moment even without a romantic partner as you participate in God’s kingdom, assisting in redemptive work. But this I know for certain: I will learn from you. You have much to teach me.

 

I can’t change how scripture speaks to me, how it informs the way I feel called to live my life. But my life is not the standard, and I’m humble enough to admit I could be wrong. When I speak about sexual ethics, I can only speak for my own story. In stories we find common themes and resonate with similar experiences, but each story is unique. My story isn’t a weapon to tear you down or invalidate your perspective. I’m just one thread in a diverse tapestry.

 

When you feel oppressed by my faith, please know I don’t extend judgment or condemnation to you. Just grace and a hospitable heart.

  • Josh

    But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
    1 Corinthians 5:11, 13 ESV
    http://bible.com/59/1co.5.11-13.ESV.

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
    1 Corinthians 6:9, 18 ESV
    http://bible.com/59/1co.6.9-18.ESV

    • Jeremy

      Is this the best you can do? Quote Scripture? Where’s the compassion and the love? All this shows is hate and condemnation. Haven’t you anything else to offer?

      • Josh

        Nope just God’s word.

        • Jeremy

          And pray, Josh, how is that being Christ-like and compassionate? I could tell you where to put it (that’s your Scripture quotes lifted out of context with no explanation), if that’s the best you can do, but I won’t. It’s just this sort of thing that really really gives Christianity such a bad name and causes the label of bigot to be justly and deservingly applied to you. You totally spoil the whole dialogue here by climbing in with your Scripture club and beating people with it, and refusing to listen.

          Who made you the judge of other people’s sin, by the way? Just concentrate on your own sin. That’s what you meant to do. I’ll keep you busy for a good long time and out of the mischief of wielding that Scripture club so dangerously.

          I’ll pray for you! You need it more than these others. Bless you!

        • AnotherJosh

          There’s much that I could say, but I’ll say only this: if I knew you and Seth in real life, the chance of Seth changing my mind versus you would be … well, possible in his case, and 0.000% in your case. I know more than a few conservative Christians who think that they can bludgeon someone with scripture – without even having the context of an existing friendship – and expect it to be seen as “sharing the truth in love.” Beating someone up and/or shunning them is about as likely to be change someone’s mind or behavior as planting a quarter in the ground expecting to germinate a money tree.

        • Not exactly “just” God’s word. You are quoting a modern English translation done entirely by people who regard homosexuality as right next to murder in their lexicon of Biblical evils. Translators not so hell bent for leather against gays do not translate those passages as harshly against gays. The actual Aramaic and Greek words had a variety of meanings and contexts, even back then. The only form of homosexuality that is uniformly condemned throughout the Bible is that which was associated with pagan temple fertility rights. Some pagans got the bright idea of imitating plowing the fields and fostering a fertile growing season by inviting community leaders to rape boys in their temples to worship their gods. Sending gay Christian boys to conversion therapy is pretty much the modern equivalent, human sacrifice to please the gods.

  • Lynne

    Very well said though I don’t see a name as to who wrote this letter. I like the way you think and the way you love (unconditionally). Why is that so difficult for too many Christians who cannot refrain from greeting gays without a large dose of judgment and condemnation? All while ignoring the logs in their own eyes – those of divorce, adultery, pornography, abuse – and all within their very own marriages and families.

    Tragic hypocrites living in the white-washed tombs of Matthew 23.

    • Thanks Lynne! I agree with you. I appreciate you reading my post! I’m Seth by the way. 🙂

      • Lynne

        Really good to meet you Seth. I so agree with you and pray that others are rising in the body of Christ who believe and behave thusly!

  • Jeremy

    Wow! This was beautiful: “I’m here for the journey with you. Not to remind you of our differences
    whenever tensions and disagreements arise, but as a friend who supports
    and loves you through life’s beautiful joys and aching sorrows. I’ll
    have coffee with you and give you high fives when you share about the
    new love interest in your life. I’ll go with you to the dark places
    through the break-ups. I’ll celebrate with you at the wedding and I’ll
    hold your hand at the funeral. I’m in this with you.”
    So speaks of unconditional love. Thank you!

  • AnotherJosh

    I appreciate how you’ve illustrated how you view maintaining a friendship across differences in belief. If your perspective was even remotely common in the part of Christendom that I inhabit, I’d likely not be planning my exit to greener [affirming] pastures – even though I’m more or less happily single and don’t really care to change that. It’s just that it gets old having scripture quoted without understanding (as illustrated so helpfully upthread) and regularly hearing that America is going to you-know-where because of people like us. That’s why the online community of your blog and others like it are a Godsend for people like me. Thanks!

    • Thank you for the kind comment. I appreciate it! It would be nice if the church practiced more kindness to those who are different. I hope one day we can get past our fear and ignorance and value the Imago Dei in every human.