Being queer in Carolina has become a tougher row to hoe in some ways. As expected, the passage of Amendment One has been taken by some as permission to open the floodgates of anti-gay vitriol. A few histrionic preachers are gaining notoriety by advocating outright violence, even death; how do I share the label Christian with them?
This is a struggle I’ve been having since the early ’90s when I came to a pacifist stance at the same time as the United States was going to war with Iraq. What did it mean to be a United States citizen, and a Christian, when I completely disagreed with how President Bush (the first) was defining those realities?
I decided then that I would not let Bush define my way of being a U.S. citizen or of being a Christian. For me, patriotism entailed critical engagement with my country’s policies: i.e., dissent. And being a Christian, for me, entailed a refusal to make — or be made — an enemy: i.e., pacifism. I took the public actions I could: preaching against the war(s), teaching about militarism and the false promises being made to youth of color regarding their education possibilities, advocating for peace and diplomacy. I took the private actions I had to: insisting that the pain and frustration of being at odds with my president and country did not completely steal my joy. Holding on to joy and refusing to hate became spiritual disciplines, acts of discipleship and faithful living.
I am making similar decisions now. These pastors spewing hate don’t know me; therefore it’s impossible for them to obey God’s command to them to love me. That’s their sin, and their loss. I know they are not listening to me or people like me, and so it’s pointless for me to speak to them. They will have to hear and see the truth from people a few degrees closer to them, and so I hope and pray people near them continue to witness to love and life, which always win out in the end.
The ongoingness of love and life is the good news that is unfolding all around us … have you read the studies that show young people who disengage from church often do so because of its homophobia and lack of acceptance of people who are gay or otherwise different from some mythical mainstream? Talk about building a fence and starving those inside to death. These hate-spewing pastors are doing it to themselves. Meanwhile, we’ll keep having and loving gay and straight parents, gay and straight friends, gay and straight children. Life and love will keep leading to … life and love.
So here is how I am surviving being queer, Christian and Carolinian: I am choosing life. Over the last few months, knowing I’d have a quiet couple of weeks between the end of the school semester and my summer gig, I began stockpiling works of queer theory and queer theology. Rather than fight the miasma of pro-Amendment One voices and the aftermath I figured would follow, I prepared to dive deep into the wisdom and love of my own community, my own tribe. Instead of seeing red, I am seeing purple, and loving it.
Frankly, I spend most of my time with straight people: helping them, teaching them, ministering to them, praying with them, loving them. I wanted to — I needed to — indulge my hunger for queer life and liveliness and love. It’s been great. My mind and heart are kindled and full. My own next work is beginning to take shape in my writer’s workshop, and that’s very exciting.
I am trusting that God is going to keep making ways for me to give love wherever it’s needed, and wherever I can. (Even as I hope for more queer community, and a chance to minister to my own.)
I am trusting that God will keep giving me the grace that remembers, “They know not what they do.” (Even as I work to overcome that ignorance.)
I am trusting that my straight allies and activist gay friends will keep standing up in the face of hate. (If you want to stand up in the face of the latest bigotry, here’s a great way.)
I didn’t choose to be queer; but I have chosen to be a Christian, and a Carolinian, and I will keep choosing life, in the face of all that that means.