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(Not) Belonging: A Gay Christian Who Refuses to Take Sides

Yes, I used to see the world in rigid binary oppositions. But now that I am a man -- a gay, Christian man -- I've put behind me such a childish way of seeing.
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My devotion will always be to two men: Jesus, and the man I marry.

I am a gay Christian.

Many people tell me I shouldn't, or can't, take both labels. After all, they remind me, "Either/or is the road to Heaven; both/and is the way to Hell."

When I was growing up, I wasn't allowed to listen to "secular music." I was given Christian CD's for my birthdays, and listened to Christian radio stations in the car. Whenever I asked my mom why I couldn't watch MTV, she would remind me of one of her favorite Scriptures: "The Bible says, 'Come out of the world, and be ye separate.'" (I'm still not sure what a Bee-Yee is.) Mom taught me there was an Us, and there was a Them. And I needed to make sure everyone knew which side I was on.

This is also the way my gay friends encourage me to live. I'm supposed to trust liberals over conservatives, and vote for Democrats rather than Republicans, and drink low-fat, no-whip, half-caff soy lattes instead of the house blend.

And this doesn't only happen with politics and coffee. Want a drink? Go to a gay bar. Want a book? Go to a gay bookstore. Want a Mani/pedi? Go to a gay spa. Unless you don't know where to find a gay spa... in which case, any spa will do. (Spoiler alert: they're all gay.)

We have our own gay movies, our own gay islands, our own gay slang. We live together in gay neighborhoods, eat together at gay bistros, and pledge our allegiance to our own gay flag. Sometimes it seems as if we, too, are only comfortable with a world that is sharply bifurcated into two categories: that which is sacred to Adonis, and that which isn't.

I've had many discussions with gay friends and Christian friends where I've questioned this tendency to divide the world into two groups. Christians are quick to remind me that Jesus separated people into categories: those who know the Father and those who do not. They also remind me that following Christ means rejecting certain elements of this world, like revenge, violence, and indiscriminate sex. Dividing people into two categories is, in a way, the safe thing for Christians to do if we're to remain holy.

My gay friends also have good reasons for splitting the world in half. It wasn't too long ago that a gay person could have a drink at just any bar, or walk down just any street, without the very real threat of being the victim of a hate crime. For this reason, gay people created their own safe spaces in which they could interact with each other without having to worry about bigotry.

For a long time, I tried my best to organize my life around the Us/Them division. But the problem was I was both an Us and a Them. I belonged to the gays and the homophobes, to the Christians and the sinners. Or actually, I belonged to myself -- a self that no group wanted to claim. In a culture where everyone takes such extreme sides on the gay debate, it's very difficult to be that one queer dude who is saving himself for his future husband because he loves Jesus.

When I was at seminary, I came across Derrida, the father of deconstruction. The more I started to read his writing, the more comfortable I became with not fitting in. For Derrida, the dichotomies we've come to trust aren't fixed, unchanging categories, but are actually our own constructed ways of seeing the world. If you stare at a dichotomy long enough, you'll notice it begin to dissolve. As TS Eliot wrote, "Words strain/ Crack and sometimes break... will not stay in place/ Will not stay still."

One of the greatest ironies within postmodern queer theory is that, while preaching Derrida to our opponents, many of us still choose to fashion our lives around the same rigid categories that the Frenchman warned us about. When we prefer the safety of our divisions to the tension of our differences, we do an injustice to the messy, morphing thing that is the human spirit.

The Christian vision of the future has always included the union of contradictions. The lion will lie down with the lamb. Heaven will come down to Earth. God will dwell with humanity. Whether we interpret these events as literal or metaphorical, the point is that in the end, all will be united -- even those things whose differences are seemingly irreconcilable.

Various queer prophets also proclaim their hope for the future union of incompatible groups: fathers and their gay sons, republicans and gay newly weds, the armed forces and gay servicewomen and men. "It gets better," we tell our children, looking forward to the day when all schoolchildren learn to love each other in spite, and because of, their differences.

When I was a Christian child, I divided the world the way I was supposed to. There were good guys and there were bad guys. There were godly people and there were sinners. There were cowboys and there were Indians. When I was a gay college student, I was guided by this same principle. There were gays and there were homophobes. There were New Englanders and there were Southern knuckle-draggers. There was Anderson Cooper and there was Fox News. There were still Cowboys and Indians... but they were joined by a police officer and a construction worker.

Yes, I used to see the world in rigid binary oppositions. But now that I am a man -- a gay, Christian man -- I've put behind me such a childish way of seeing.

Mother Teresa told us that we have no peace because we've forgotten we really belong to each other. If our goal is to progress beyond the current gridlock that has come to define gay/Christian relations, then we must remember we belong -- not just to a particular group, but to a messy, dynamic, united humanity.