UPDATE (7/19/2017): Thank you for reading one of my popular posts. The second part of my story is now online: How to love LGBT people: a letter to the church.
My brother tells me a joke that he and one of the pastor’s kids laugh about at youth group.
“Let’s go get Christian t-shirts from Mardel’s and drink beer like the New Life Christians! Hahahahaha!”
I don’t laugh. I feel the gut punch. Pause.
“Do you know anyone from New Life Church? Have you ever met them?” I ask.
My brother backpedals. “No, it’s just a joke, don’t you see? We were just teasing.”
“But those are real people, and you don’t know them. You don’t know what they’re like. You’re treating them unfairly,” I say.
He hands the phone back to my mom. I tell her my concerns. She brushes it off. She knows it’s not appropriate, but I know that our church has been poking fun at the biggest megachurch in Colorado Springs for years.
We were raised to hate those different from us.
The church doesn’t accept each other, deeming some “real Christians” and some “worldly Christians” based on doctrinal minutia, saying the chaff among us will be weeded out by the persecution that is supposedly still coming. So we shouldn’t be surprised by how they treat gay people.
// // //
I’m helping my family evacuate from a forest fire. I’ve been living on my own for almost a year, and my opinions are shifting.
“I don’t think you’re a real Christian anymore,” my sister says. “You don’t witness to your friends at college, you don’t tell your gay friends that they’re sinning. You hang out with them and don’t tell them that they’re going to hell.”
“But Jesus ate and drank with sinners!”
“But he also pointed out their sin!”
“Have you ever actually met a lesbian? Did you know that there is someone from our writers’ group who is a lesbian? You should actually try being friends with a lesbian before you talk to me like this.”
She responds with angry silence.
// // //
Growing up homeschooled, we weren’t taught how to interact with people different than us. That was after all, why we were homeschooled. So we would remain unstained by the world’s influences. We weren’t supposed to make friends with outsiders, because they could corrupt us and lead us astray. No public school kids, non-Christians, or megachurch Christians allowed.
We gave them tracts. Here is the true way, you are not following it. Be like us.
Wear ankle-length loose skirts, baggy long-sleeved t-shirts and sweaters, have long hair. Button your collared shirts to the top button. Never show your boobs. This is how to be a peculiar people, this is how to live godly.
And stay away from the gays.
They are persecuting churches, after all. They are the enemy. Their angry protests and public kissing are shoving abomination in our faces. They are singlehandedly causing America to collapse, they are bringing the wrath of God down upon our nation. Or so we were told.
And then I found out that I am gay.
This post is about discovering I am the thing that we were told to scorn.
I was 14 the first time I wanted to kiss another girl. I shoved it out of my mind, thinking that this desire was from Satan himself. I must take every thought captive like the apostle Paul said, I must never think about sex until my wedding day.
I was 24 when a new girl came to tutor at the campus science center and I couldn’t speak coherently to her. I thought about her for weeks, and I melted like warm chocolate when she looked me in the eyes. My best friend at the time told me to ask her on a date. But I couldn’t do actually do that, I accepted my LGBT friends but I couldn’t accept myself, I couldn’t really be gay.
But the next year, my world turned upside down. How I acknowledged that I am bisexual is another story for another blog post, but I started dating a girl whose soul I had loved for four years.
Purity culture said guard your heart, don’t give pieces of yourself away, but they never told me you could give yourself to another girl.
My friends know that I am bisexual. My church doesn’t.
My community is filled with people from diverse backgrounds, some are affirming and some aren’t. I haven’t written about this before because I don’t want to shove my identity in their faces, I don’t want to be “that angry gay person,” but I can’t be silent anymore.
Last Sunday changed everything.
They’ve predicted a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah for as long as I can remember, and the hatred finally boiled over. They didn’t love the sinner and hate the sin, they hated the sinner too. They spoke condemnation and here is the fruit.
I am the thing that you hate.
Follow Eleanor Skelton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/eleanor_skelton