Friday, August 3, 2012

Coming Out of the Closet: I'm a Christian

"Famous Christians," from Wikipedia

The whole Chick-fil-a debate or debacle, however you choose to view it, has me wondering if I'm a Christian.  

I didn't know there was a choice to not be one until my next-door-neighbor asked me "Who is that?" when I said something about Jesus.  I was about seven and she was about four.  I was stunned.  It was as if she had asked me who Mork from Ork was.  How could she not know?  I snapped my rainbow suspenders and walked away in disbelief that there could be disbelief in the world.  Everyone in my family called themselves Christian, whether or not they went to church.  My mom read the Bible every day and she often quoted passages from it to me.  Like when I was in seventh grade, watching an episode of The Phil Donahue Show about gay people with my mom.  Immediately afterwards I asked her what she would do if any of her kids told her they were gay.

"I'd open the Bible and point out the part that says it's a sin."

I didn't take it personally since I not only didn't feel gay at the time, I didn't feel straight either.  I felt asexual.  Since I was sexually abused as a very young girl, I learned how to shut down my body's sexual sensations and ignored any instincts I might have felt if I'd had a healthier sexual upbringing.  I never even masturbated until I was twenty-six.  Not because I thought it was a sin.  My body felt dead to me and I had no desire to try to enliven it.  So when Mom made her anti-gay statement to me when I was in seventh grade I don't think either of us could have known in just three short years I'd stumble home drunk one night, waking up my mom as I cried to her that I thought I was gay.

"I already know.  I love you.  Go to bed,"  she said.  Evidently Mom was more concerned with my lack of sleep than my lack of salvation.  She didn't say anything about the Bible after all.  In fact, she welcomed my first long-term girlfriend into our family like a daughter-in-law during our three year relationship.  

But I figured my mom's unconditional love was unique.  Of course she loves me.  I came from her.  But as a gay/bi/questioning teenager and young adult, having grown up hearing what self-proclaimed Christians Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant were saying about people like me, I made up my mind to stop calling myself a Christian so others would not assume I associate with hate.

I've spent the last twenty or so years saying, "I'm not a Christian but I really dig Jesus" when others would inquire about my religious beliefs.  I sometimes go to church, mostly to hear some good Gospel music.  But mostly I've agreed more with the philosophies of secular humanists such as Kurt Vonnegut and non-Christian religious leaders such as The Dalai Lama.   

But I'm also open to the open-minded philosophies of many Christians.

I certainly don't agree with Pastor Rick Warren on many things, but I love what he has to say about compassion:

"I am not allowed by Jesus to hate anyone.  Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate."

I'm also a fan of John Shelby Spong, Philip Gulley, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  So I understand that it's ridiculous of me to lump all Christians into the same category.  Just because Fred Phelps calls himself a Christian doesn't mean that Fred Rogers should have felt the need to shrug off the label himself.

So I'm thinking of "taking back" the word Christian.  We are all God's children.  We just need to find ways to overcome the sibling rivalry.  Instead of disowning myself from the Christian family, why not embrace my sisters and brothers and show them love even when I disagree with them?  The Bible quotes Jesus as commanding us to simply do two things: Love God.  Love people.  I do.  I guess that makes me a Christian.  It's time for me to come out of the Closet.