“I have always had His presence in my life.”
Growing up I attended mainly Baptist churches, and in the 70’s attended a Baptist grammar school in a Denver suburb. During this time, I went forward during a Sunday evening service and accepted Christ as my Savior, and was baptized a few weeks later in that same church. After high school, I enrolled at Bob Jones University for advanced studies in education and science. While at BJU, during Bible Conference my freshman year, concerned that I couldn’t remember the exact day or even the church where I got saved. On April 1, 1985, I once again I gave my heart to Christ. I can’t recall a time in my entire life when I felt separated or removed from God. It seems I have always had His presence in my life, that guide, protector, comforter. If I ever felt that missing it was because I knew I had distanced myself from Him through my own rebellion and “prodigal” ambitions, which had nothing to do with my orientation. But I know what some of you are thinking.
So what’s this about being a gay Christian? Isn’t that an oxymoron? How can someone be perverted and yet claim to live a God-centered life? Don’t you know God hates fags and gay people? Your sexuality is an “idol” that you worship above God. Your “lifestyle” is a choice. All you really need is a good man.
Yep, I’ve heard them A-L-L . . . and even thought some of them myself over the years, including: What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? I wish I liked boys, my life would be a lot simpler. Did God reject me? God has rejected me. I have no place in God’s family. I am the appendix of the body of Christ and I have been surgically removed. There’s more, years worth, but I think you get the idea.
“I knew God loved me, and I knew that I couldn’t lose my salvation.”
Here’s the problem. I knew in my heart of hearts that I was still a Christian, I knew God loved me, and I knew that I couldn’t lose my salvation (once saved always saved). What I didn’t know, for a very long time, was how to reconcile the trash in my head with the truth in my heart. You see, I spent a lot of wasted years first running from myself, thinking that if I got married that would “fix” the problem (FYI-IT DOESN’T). Then I spent even more years in self-exile from God, believing the message (well-intentioned but wrong) I had been taught from the pulpit to the classroom–the message that people “choose” this “lifestyle,” that God hates me, that I am intentionally and willfully broken. This isn’t something that anyone would willfully “choose” as a permanent relationship state. Being a lesbian is indeed how I was constructed.
I find that description repugnant, that I “chose this lifestyle,” as though my life and my partner are just some baubles I picked out in a store. To be sure, there are those who “experiment,” and those that do are just as wrong as those who “experiment” with straight liaisons. It is what the Bible calls “fornication” or promiscuous behaviour.
I was a social outcast growing up, even when I was “dating” boys because that was expected, so my lack of popularity in high school had nothing to do with orientation. I may not have made it out of high school alive if it had. Being such a social outcast, why would I intentionally choose to spend the rest of my life ridiculed and discriminated against in society, let alone in my church? What you need to know is that I discovered who I was in the mid 80’s, at the height of the AIDS crisis, during my time at Bob Jones.
First Relationship: My Years at Bob Jones University
I was in my first relationship during my BJ years, but was taking a semester off when “all of that” happened. I was terrified to be honest. I had never had such a connection with someone, all I knew was that this wasn’t supposed to happen! After sitting out a semester, she ended the relationship and I went back to BJ completely devastated. Not only because of the loss of the relationship, but because I was beginning to come to terms with being in a gay relationship and figuring out that this was who I am.
Years of Isolated Devastation: The Bob Jones Reign of Terror
I decided that all of this was far too dangerous. I never wanted to hurt like that again. I thought, This must be my punishment for ‘liking’ this horrible, sinful “lifestyle.” I spent the next several years emotionally sequestered at BJ, knowing that I could NEVER talk to anyone there about what had happened, about how emotionally devastated I was.
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I eventually met a few women on campus who either came out to me, or who I knew were in a relationship. It was all very hidden, very secretive. You would hear stories of people getting caught together and getting shipped the same day. A real reign of terror, I tell you.
I remember one friend in particular that came to me, tried to talk to me about it, even tried to match me up with someone. I was horrified. I remember thinking how wrong she was to “twist” scripture to rationalize her immoral relationship. God forgive me! Hardly a week goes by that I don’t remember her and wish I could reach out to her now! Sadly I only remember her first name, and she has yet to show up on our “BJU LGBT” survivors group.
I have two friends from BJ that I’m in contact with. One is convinced that I am backsliding, depraved, and misguided. The other one doesn’t care about my sexuality or gender identity.
My struggle was a long one, and it wasn’t until ’08 or so that the light came on, and I have been able to progress to this point of assurance and confidence in my spiritual walk with Jesus.
How the Church Gets it Wrong
The slowly growing acceptance that is now becoming part of the overall societal landscape was nowhere to be found back then. I have found that in nearly every society, in every age, if a message is spoken loud enough and long enough with enough punitive repercussions, you can get the masses to believe just about anything as truth. Sprinkle in some religion and it is a lock! Think about this, the church condemned people to death for believing the earth was round, they burned people as witches for being left handed, interracial couples were ostracized for being in a relationship contrary to Scripture (sound familiar?), black people were regarded as savages, sub-human, deserving of slavery. The laundry list of where the church got it wrong is littered with atrocities and disregard for human rights, yet in the name of God and with Scriptural reference to back their play, it still happens.
We, as Christians, whatever our orientation, need to delve into what is becoming a treasure trove of available information that shows, even proves, that this is yet again a case of where the “church” has got it wrong. To go into it all here would probably take me weeks to finish, and I suspect none of us has that kind of time or attention span. It is difficult to properly relay emotion when typing, but know that I don’t say on this with any kind of contempt–conviction yes, but not contempt. Countless of us have had to find the answers for ourselves, some in search of truth, others just to stay sane. It is hard work, it may make you uncomfortable, nervous, anxious, maybe even a little sweaty (lol). Once you come out the other side, and see God from our side of the coin, you will join the growing ranks of brave believers who are willing to stand up and admit that the church’s approach of the LGBT community has been off base and counter productive. The church tragically misses the mark by rejecting the LGBT community as a whole, and who wins? What is accomplished?
Teaming Up with Satan: Keep People from the Message of God’s Love and Redemption
From my perspective, the goal of Satan is to keep as many people as possible out of ear shot of the Gospel, and away from God and the love and redemption message of the cross. And the rejection message so many churches proclaim DOES EXACTLY THAT!
You have no idea how many times I hear people in the LGBT community say, “The church ran me off,” “The church doesn’t want me,” “God hates me,” and on and on and on. As Christians, we have allowed, no, we have ENDORSED, the wholesale rejection and condemnation of an entire class of people. We are literally pushing them out of the house of God, claiming, “The foot of the cross is full, and there is no room for the likes of you.”
How can we be so blind? My heart breaks when I think of the mass of souls lost to eternity at the hands of the church. Every pastor in the world should fall on their knees and cry for forgiveness for even one sheep that is lost that could have been saved!
Excuse me, but here is where I have to get oddly conservative on you.
The problem with gay people in general is not that they are gay, it is that they are LOST! The sad part of this problem is that the church will bear a large responsibility for this. Why? Because the church has set the message that “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever* believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life.”
* Whosoever, unless you are gay. Then you’re in a special category. God doesn’t love you, you are going straight to hell. Go away, you make me uncomfortable, unless you are willing to undergo our own special brand of humiliation designed to change who you are at your very core. We all know that really doesn’t work, but it makes us feel better to offer you the option.
Ministering to Gays — New Testament Style
I came to a turning point around 2008. I was searching the internet and listened to a sermon on the Roman centurion. The message changed me, it opened my eyes, and I have never been the same since.
I find it curious that every example in the Gospels where Jesus came across someone in need, He didn’t sit there and tell them all the things they needed to do to get right before they could come to Him. In that particular case, regarding the Centurion and his pais, Christ didn’t even mention the need for the Gentile Roman centurion to become a follower and quit sinning. He simply healed his pais, his entomos doulos, and then told the crowd that they should follow the centurion’s example of faith. Not even an honorable mention “Go forth and sin no more.” In Acts, Phillip did not tell the eunuch he had to change his “lifestyle” first before he could be saved and baptized. On top of that, it is believed that the eunuch is the person who founded the Christian church in Ethiopia. So we have an apostle, sent by an angel (a direct messenger of God) to a shunned Gentile regarded by the “religion” of the day to be an abomination, to witness and baptize without a single mention, let alone a finger wagging, regarding who he was. The only thing that mattered was WHOSE he was. I could go on.
Contemporary “religion” has subverted, in my opinion, this entire issue, because most straight folk, quite bluntly, feel uncomfortable around LGBT people. Like we are going to come out of the shadows and molest all the upright folk and ruin their children. Please, nothing could be further from the truth for the average LGBT person. Cultural studies show the risk of forced intimate contact or unwanted advances typically come from straight people. (Sorry, I tend to rant a little. Chalk it up to a lot of years spent being beat up and run out of churches, and abuse from extended family and in some cases “friends”.)
Gays and Lesbians in Conservative Congregations
So how does one handle a questioning LGBT Christian and a resistant, if not hostile, family member, friend, or congregation? I suggest handling them with love and support and understanding. Take every passage apart (there is a lot of material out there), including a good bit of brave work from Ron. I would suggest you personally take some time to read Mel White’s autobiography, Stranger at the Gate, and take in Rev. Perry’s book, The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay. Visit Soulforce and the Gay Christian Network, develop your own personal knowledge. I’ve posted some additional links at the bottom for more material. The list is nowhere near exhaustive.
Jesus never promised an easy path, only to walk it with us.
It has never been easy to rise up on the side of right and swim aganst the current when your elders, and even your peers, scream that you are wrong. But then again, Jesus never promised us an easy path. He did, however, promise to walk it with us. He never promised popularity, but He does offer comfort for the persecuted. Jesus stood alone in the end, the religious right of the day called for His blood, which He gave. He calls us to be willing to follow His example. Do we have the faith to be that brave?
“Struggling with the ‘trash in my head’ — there’s too much at stake.”
Please understand, none of this was intended to offend or point fingers. It was intended to open dialogue and walk with you through this journey. I have walked this path. It is not easy, and there are still days I still struggle with the “trash in my head.” But I can’t, I won’t, sit by quietly and be an accomplice to the condemnation and spiritual exile of my brothers and sisters. There is simply too much at stake.
LaNeece White serves on the Board of Elders of the Living Word Community Church in Gladstone, Missouri (15 minutes north of Kansas City).
If you liked this, you may also like the testimony of Monique Lopez (Vanguard University alum) and the links to the blog of Todd Clayton (Point Loma Nazarene University alum).
Yeah, I like this! And yes, I still run across people who have been run out by those conservative-theology type churches. They don’t want or need a liberal-theology church telling them to just ignore the Bible and all they have come to believe, they need a Christ-centered church that preaches the gospel, but also knows the truth that sexual orientation and gender
identity have NOTHING to do with God’s love and acceptance and calling!
Anyway that is what I have observed. Thanks for sharing! BTW I am from Greenville SC where we always made fun of BJU. My liberal Methodist churches never talked about gays, or much about Jesus either, unfortunately!
Wow! Thanks sister. I made the jump over the theological cess pool close to 20 years ago but I still remember how painful it was.
Thanks very much! Your point about what, in effect, is the fundamentalists’ message to gays and lesbians is really very well stated. I’d like to quote you on this in the spring issue of our Evangelicals Concerned newsletter, RECORD — found at our website, http://www.ECinc.org.
LaNeece, what a journey. I’m really saddened by all the hatred you experienced. Bigotry and condemnation and they call themselves ‘Christians’. How un-Christlike. But still you kept your faith and have found the love and acceptance of a good woman. It’s good this website is here to share stories like this. Blessings to you – may you be surrounded by more tolerance and love.