Friday, February 21, 2014

Gay Christian Fellowship at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church

I invite you to attend the Gay Christian Fellowship with Katie and me, and our new friends at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. It's every Thursday evening from 6:30-8PM.

But I'm not gay, you say? That's OK. Neither is Katie.

Katie: "Mom, what is bisexual?"
Me: "I'm bisexual. It just means you love both men and women."
Katie: "I'm bisexual."
Me: "You are?"
Katie: "Yeah. I love all people."
Me: "Well, by love I mean romantic love. Like how I love Daddy, and how I loved the women and other men I used to date before I met Daddy."
Katie: "Oooooh. Like the way I love Aidan."
Me: "Yeah. Romantic love is a certain kind of love reserved for your boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife."
Katie: "Yeah. I feel romantic love for Aidan. We're gonna get married when I finish college."
Me: "Sounds like a good plan. Don't worry if you change your mind, though. You have lots of time to decide who you want to marry. You don't have to decide when you're seven."
Katie: "Seven-and-a-half!
Me: "Oh, yes. Sorry. Seven-and-a-half."
Katie: "I've already decided I'm going to marry Aidan. He wants to have twins and I said that's OK."
Me: "Cool. But just remember, life doesn't always work out the way you plan. Daddy and I wanted six kids but we were blessed with just one. Although the one we got is so great I guess we can't complain."
Katie: "Nope! You can't complain!"

We most certainly can't. Katie is such a great kid. She's constantly surprising me with her depth of thought and caring, and her ability to get along with people of all ages.

Me: "Do you want to go the the Gay Christian Fellowship at church with me tonight, or do you want to go out to eat with Daddy?"
Katie: "Where's Daddy going out to eat?"
Will: "I don't know yet, Punkin. I haven't decided."
Katie: "That's OK. I wanna go to church."
Me: "I doubt if there's gonna be any kids there to play with. Just a bunch of growups talking about boring grownup stuff."
Katie: "That's OK. I like that."

The two weeks we've gone to the Gay Christian Fellowship, Katie has indeed been the only child there. From what I've seen while attending this church since last November, there are several LGBT people who have kids at the church. I see them at the service on Sunday, but I haven't seen them at the two GCF meetings I've attended. I understand. Weeknights are hard for parents, gay or straight. Kids have to be in bed early. It's hard to find a sitter. My hope is that we can convince more people with kids to come to the Gay Christian Fellowship so that, if we get enough kids who regularly attend, we could provide childcare like they do for other meetings.

Before we attended, I asked Marvin, the moderator, if it's appropriate for kids. Marvin is 88 years old. He has three adult children. He knows.

"Oh yes. It's for all ages. We don't talk about anything inappropriate."

Now, I love to talk about inappropraite things. But I understand there is a time and a place. Kids don't need to overhear grownups talking about grownup things. They don't need to tag along to places with their parents where adults are hooking up. I can assure you, this Gay Christian Fellowship is not in a bar. It's still churchy. We eat dinner together. We read some stories from the Bible. We talk about the stories and how they relate to our lives. Pretty tame stuff.

The difference between this and a "regular" Bible study group is we invite all people to join. It's called Gay Christian Fellowship because they want to emphasize that this Bible study group is open to all, including gay people who have been turned away and hurt by other churches. But they encourage straight people to come and support their gay neighbors. There is one heterosexual couple in their eighties who regularly attend. If you come for no other reason than to meet them, you'll be glad you did. They are amazing people.

But it's not called "Everyone" Christian Fellowship. It's called "Gay" Christian Fellowship for a reason. In this day and age, it's important to specifically reach out to gay people and let them know that our love for our neighbors is all-inclusive.

But the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, you say? Guess what? The Bible says lots of things modern people ignore.

The Bible tells us not to "put on a garment made of two different materials" but I've never seen a greeter turning away yoga-pants-wearing moms at the church door. Cotton and spandex, people! Where do you think that fabric gets its stretch?

The Bible tells us not to eat lobster. So what are you gonna do? March over to Red Lobster and announce to the diners they're all going to hell? I know some vegetarians who might be tempted, but most people I know would likely rather join one of the tables and dig in, dipping the warm flesh of that biblically forbidden beast into that delectible melted butter.

The Bible tells us to execute women who can't prove they were virgins when they marry. So because I was sexually abused as a preschooler and therefore my hymen was broken before I got married at age 33, I should be executed? You've got to be kidding me. That's absurd.

What interests me about some Christians who won't let gay people join their church is that they have no problem allowing straight people who have been divorced to join their church. And yet, Jesus himself denouced divorce:

Matthew 19:3-12

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?” He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery."

10 His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Most modern Christians wear polyester blends and eat shellfish. Our society has long ago dropped the custom of parents pouring pig's blood onto a sheet and presenting it to the crowd outside the window of their daughter and son-in-law's marital bed to present evidence needed so they could all drop their stones and go back home. Our churches no longer ostracize people who have gotten a divorce. My mom was allowed back into the Catholic Church when she married her third husband, despite her two previous divorces.

Why do we look the other way when some rules in the Bible get broken, but over-focus on one rule that was made before scientists figured out that gayness is a natural part of biology for some people? Lefties used to be suspected of being possessed by the Devil. Nowadays we understand that favoring your left hand to your right is simply an expression of the amazing biological diversity among humans. When Katie started favoring her left hand at the age of six months, Will and I, both righties, just looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and grinned. I think we were both secretly happy our kiddo's a lefty. Most of our favorite guitar players are lefties, and most of our recent United States presidents are lefties, so whether Will gets his wish or I get mine and Katie turns out to be a guitarist or the President, we think the odds are in her favor. But guess what? We'll love her no matter what she decides to do with her left hand.

So don't worry about your kids "mixing" with the gays. Gayness does not rub off, just as straightness does not rub off. My parents are both straight, and yet I turned out bisexual. Will is straight and I'm bisexual (and monogomous, remember the two things have nothing to do with each other), and yet Katie self-identifies as straight. Katie's got Will's eyes, his lips, and his sexual orientation. She's got my nose, my jawbone, and my love of surrounding myself with all sorts of different people.

During our first Gay Christian Fellowship meeting, as we sat down to eat dinner we went around the room introducing ourselves. When it was Katie's turn, I asked her, "Do you want me to introduce you? Or do you want to introduce yourself?"

I assumed she wanted me to introduce her. Mind you, this is the same girl who hid in her bedroom during her 3rd birthday party because she was too frightened to come out to the living room with all the people she barely knew. I have a large family and we don't all live in the same town, so at that point Katie wasn't quite sure who all these aunts and uncles and cousins were. An only child, between 23 and 10 years younger than all her cousins on my side of the family, and someone who wasn't sent to preschool til she was four, on her third birthday Katie was not used to big crowds. I should have thought of that before I invited my whole family over to celebrate.

But you know what? She got used to it. This is her family. We might live in diverse places and we don't hang out every day, but you love your family no matter what, right? My sister-in-law Dale managed to convince Katie to come out of her bedroom and have some cake and ice cream and open presents. Katie walked out of her room and down the hall, Aunt Dale smiling behind her. Katie wiped her eyes and crawled into my lap and managed to not die of a panic attack when we sang "Happy Birthday" and ate cake and opened presents.

See, life is a party if you're brave enough to mingle with lots of different people.

So when I asked Katie if she wanted me to introduce her at Gay Christian  Fellowship, I forgot she's had four years to get used to talking to all sorts of people since the birthday event.

"I want to introduce myself," Katie said, decicively.

"Well, OK, then. Go ahead," I said, looking around the room at all the new faces, beaming with delight at such a confident child. My heart swelled with pride. Oh shit. I think pride is a sin. Great. Why'd you give me such an awesome kid, God, if you don't want me to be proud?

Katie cleared her voice dramatically and began, "I'm Katie Carleton. I'm in 2nd grade. My teacher is Ms. B..."

I can't remember what else Katie said. It was so cute. But my heart was racing and my cheeks were starting to get flushed. I realized when my seven-year-old public-speaking-pro finished it'd be my turn to introduce myself. I hate that shit. Sure, I can blab about my personal life on my blog, but face-to-face conversations with people I don't know frighten me. And yet I'm the one who comes from a big family. It's weird how we're all different. Katie, an only child and yet so outgoing. Me, the youngest of six and yet totally not the stereotypical show-off face-to-face.

"...and I'm here with my Mom," Katie said as she looked over at me. I'm lucky I had my confident girl there to support me. I was able to introduce myself without dying of a panic attack.

We all need support. Everyone. The Bible often confuses me, but the one story I really get is the one where Jesus tells us to follow these two rules: love God and love people.

All people. Not people-just-like-you. It's easy to love people who agree with us and think just like us and like to do the same things as we do. Challenge yourself. Try hanging out with someone who is not just like you and see how much your love can grow.