That moment when you’re sitting in a church in Nashville, TN with your girlfriend and her family and the pastor who you were fond of and thought was a cute elderly man up until this moment detours from his sermon to talk about how the Church is in turmoil because a lot of the people who fill her pews don’t even believe the Bible anymore. Then he throws out the word “homosexuality” and gives a spiel about how the Bible is clear on “homosexuality” being a sin and that if people in the Church really believed the Bible then they would not currently be affirming same sex marriage. He says the Bible is clear that “homosexuality” is an abomination and that people who are tempted towards “homosexuality” can’t help the temptation, can’t help how they feel but can help what they do with those feelings, can help how they behave.
And then you see your girlfriend’s mom pat her knee in solace, or comfort, or in affirmation of the pastor’s words. And you’re fighting back tears and fighting the urge to tune out the rest of the sermon. But you don’t tune out the rest of the message because you have learned from experience that there is still Good to be found where God is involved, and people who say hurtful things also often say good things.
You want to tear this pastor down and criticize everything he says from this point on but instead you continue to acknowledge his good points. Instead you tell yourself that God doesn’t see you as an abomination. You mentally repeat that God calls you to love your enemy. You comfort yourself with the truth that God loves this pastor just as much as he loves you and God loves you just as much as he loves this pastor.
God loves you queer, young, working class, black woman just as much as God loves this heterosexual, elderly, upper middle class, white male pastor.
You last for five more minutes before you leave the room and walk to the bathroom, continuously breaking down with each step. You cry audibly when you get there, but only for a minute. You stare at your brown skin, short black hair, and red watery eyes in the mirror. You think, “I’ll never have thick enough skin for this.” You also think, you should never have thick enough skin for this.
You go back to the service and wait 10 more minutes for the end. You decide to speak to the pastor. You wait in the short line of people wanting to see the pastor after the service. It’s your turn—you tell him how he made you feel and how he would have made any non-straight person in the congregation feel with his words. He eventually apologizes for the hurt he caused and asks your forgiveness, squeezes your arms and kind of moves you to the side with a smile that makes you think he doesn’t understand the hurt he apologized for.
You think that you are grateful that you’ve reached this place where you’re just secure enough in God’s grace and love for you, that statements like that pastor’s no longer make you doubt (too much) your worth before God. You mourn for other LGBTQ persons wanting but lacking that security—persons who are and will continued to be damaged by a lack of love and understanding directed their way and by the holding up of their identity as the epitome of sin, as the one line you can’t cross if you want to be a “true” Bible-believing Christian.
You think that all you truly wanted from that interaction with the pastor is that he would remember your face and the tears he caused the next time (and every time following) he opens his mouth to discuss “homosexuality.” You pray that it would be so. You pray for joy and peace and to continue to learn the truth.
In the Formation of Christian theology, we also see white privilege at work. Theology that prioritizes the individual and arises out of the Western, white context becomes the standard expression of orthodox theology. In our understanding of what is considered orthodoxy, we see the emphasis on the individual aspects of faith. What is considered good, sound, orthodox theology is a Western theology that emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus, with its natural and expected antecedent of an individual sanctification and even an individualized ecclesiology. The critical issues and discussion in theology lean toward understanding issues relevant to individuals and Western sensibilities. The seemingly never-ending debate between the proponents of Calvinism and Arminianism, between predestination and free will, revolves around individual salvation.
Theologies that speak of a corporate responsibility or call for a social responsibility are given special names like: liberation theology, black theology, minjung theology, feminist theology, etc. In other words, Western theology with its individual focus is considered normative theology, while non-Western theology is theology on the fringes and must be explained as being a theology applicable only in a particular context and to a particular people group. Orthodoxy is determined by the Western value of individualism and individualized soteriology rather than a broader understanding of the corporate themes that emerge out of Scripture.”
"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." 1 Corinthians 13:12
I have a goal to read 1 Corinthians 13 every day during Lent. This verse especially stood out to me today, seeming very applicable in my ongoing quest to reconcile queerness and Christianity.