Monday, June 22, 2009

Reasonable Doubt?

I wrote this in response to someone who was mulling over the whole "Gay Christian" question. I admit...I can't be objective about things like this, because of everything I've been through, but I'm trying to figure out the truth, and for right now, I think that's enough (or I DON'T think that's enough, but it's fucking going to HAVE to be, because it's all I've got...if people are KILLING themselves over this shit, I can afford to spend a few nights lying awake pondering what I believe about it, right?)

So anyway, I wanted to share this, in the fullness of its brokenness, because it's so close to what I'm feeling right now that it explains at least SOME of what is keeping me awake at nights these days.

Here is what I'm suffering through. The God that I've always known has been attached to certain rules and regulations in my mind. It's been this way since I became a Christian. People can deny it, they can say that salvation is by grace alone, but even for the people who say that and are totally sincere when they say it, there's always a catch, there's always something looming in the shadows, hiding behind the bushes, ready to pounce after someone takes the plunge and chooses to have faith and accept that God is real. Soon after you come to “saving faith in Christ,” however you come to it, there is this expectation that you will be “walking in the footsteps of faith” (Romans 4:12) and “living a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1). There is some disagreement over how to accomplish these things, obviously, but the basic principle is always there: Though we are all saved by God's grace and not by anything we do, if you're really a Christian, you will begin to DO the “right” things; you will follow some path that proves that you're living the Christian life. Even the people who don't like James or don't like the way the book is used to, as they might call it, purpose a type of “salvation by works,” ascribe in some way to the idea that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). in other words, you can't just say you believe in Christ and His saving sacrifice, even if you do believe it, at some point, you have to start doing the “right” things and believing the “right” things, or your “faith” isn't real.

Ever since I've joined the Gay Christian Network ( people have tried to talk to me (when I've been bold enough to ask the question at all) about whether physical expressions of love between two people of the same gender are appropriate, whether they can be right and good and blessed by God, and people have offered me resources and books to read, and I appreciate the help, but it always comes down to the same thing: whatever side I choose to believe, doesn't there eventually have to be one side that is right and one side that is wrong? What is going to happen to me if I am on the wrong side? I mean, in my case, I'm not in a relationship yet, and I may never be in one...and still I know how badly this is tearing ME up, so I can't even imagine how badly it's tearing YOU up since you're already in a relationship and you love that person and you don't want to hurt him. I mean, I see things splashed all over bumper stickers saying “love is not wrong” and blah blah blah, but at its heart, that's rhetoric and I know it...people who oppose same-sex marriage or whatever aren't really saying that LOVE is wrong, they're saying some of the ways people express love are wrong, or rather that homosexuals who express their love in physical ways are wrong, because even the most liberal of those fundamentalists I grew up with, the most loving and caring ones who say they only want what is best for me, are sending me literature that says that I can be gay and God will love me as long as I never act on it. It's too late for that, of course, but it's ok, God can forgive me as long as I ask forgiveness and never act on it again. I know they're sincere, and sometimes I really, truly, want to have fellowship with those people again and be accepted by their church again.

So what's the problem? Why can't I just go back to those churches and live the life they ask me to live? The problem is, I don't WANT to ask forgiveness and I don't think I need to, because I know that I loved Bailey (the girl I was with, the one who threw a whole wrench into the works and made me realize that I was gay) and the physical part of our relationship came as an expression of the love we had, so I don't want to apologize for that or ask forgiveness for something I really don't think was wrong. I don't think God would want me to do that, either, because He's got to know that this is how I really feel, and if I asked for His forgiveness for something I don't regret, it wouldn't be sincere. But do I really believe that God blesses this love? I tell people I do, and I'm not lying when I say it, I'm sincere...but then I also have doubt. I think, am I leading that person astray? Am I telling that person that God blesses same-sex love when really God doesn't, thus leading both of us astray? What if I'm wrong? I know many loving, committed same-sex couples, and I see their relationships, as loving and honest and real as any opposite-sex marriage I know, and I think, that's not wrong. God blesses that. But does He really bless that? Am I fooling myself? Am I claiming to have fellowship with God but really walking in darkness (1 John 1:6)?

I really, truly, struggle with this. I've been struggling with this for two years now. At one point, I had walked away from the church for good, because I could never be all that they wanted me to be, there were too many rules to follow that I broke every day by just being myself, and whatever I was giving up, I knew I couldn't live a lie anymore, so I could never go back to the church, and thus I had to give up on God, too, because whatever people say, the idea of God comes with all these rules and regulations that I could never follow. I missed so may things about this God, so many things that had defined my life for years, but I knew I could never go back. And then, suddenly, I realized how much I was missing out on. How empty I was without God, but I still thought I couldn't go back. I tried so many other religions, but nothing ever resonated with my soul the way Christianity did. I was part of a group of GLBTACQ students at the university in my town, and I would have to get my fellowship that way.

And then, suddenly, people in the group were telling me that they went to church, that they believed in God, that they knew that God loved them, that there were churches that accepted them and celebrated their love. This broke my brain. I mean, could it really be possible? When I was still in the church, I had heard that there were those who believed that God could bless same-sex romantic relationships, but the resources I got always said that these people were wrong, they always had a thousand scripture verses to back up their arguments (and not just the passages that people call the “clobber passages” either, these people had verse after verse about how God despises sin, these people were leading others astray, they were deceived and deceiving others with their lies about God). Now, after all these years, suddenly I was studying the bible again, coming back to all those familiar passages again, reading the words that had touched my soul again, and trying to discern if God could really accept me and accept my love for Bailey...and that's where I'm at now. And sometimes people throw books and essays and websites and other research in my face because they say that I need to read and decide what I believe so I won't be “double minded and unstable in all my ways” (James 1:5-8). But I feel like they don't get it. Yeah, I know, I've read all the stuff people are throwing at me and even more, but the point is...I don't know if I can believe it. I have way more than enough evidence for “reasonable doubt,” don't I? After years of studying, can I decide on just one answer and claim it as the truth when there seem to be so many more conflicting messages out there? What if I'm wrong? What if it's all a lie and I'm condemning myself to hell?

So...yeah. I find myself in this place, too. And I don't know if I have any answers, and that might make me double-minded and unstable. But here's what I believe (here's what I'm trying to believe when I lie awake at night rocking back and forth with doubt shaking me to the core). I was watching this episode of the television show “Law & Order” the other day, and in his closing arguments, the defense attorney for the murderer was talking to the jurors, giving the evidence that his client was innocent, that someone else could have committed the murders, and he said they needed to find his client “not guilty” because they had enough evidence to have reasonable doubt about his guilt. When the prosecuting attorney stood to give his arguments however, he looked at the jurors and said “But 'reasonable doubt' is not ANY must stand the test of reasonableness.” It sounds silly, but almost felt like he was speaking to me. I have always been the kind of person to try and see both sides and to try and study and show myself approved, a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed because I correctly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) but I also tend to forget that the verse right before that tells me to avoid quarreling over words (2 Timothy 2:14) and that I can't keep swinging back and forth between these two opposing viewpoints without driving myself insane. At some point, I'm going to have to decide what I believe and hold onto that, and when I doubt, not beat myself up but remember that the God who tells me to stand firm (1 Corinthians 15:58) also gives me the example of a man who was honest enough to admit that he did believe, but he needed God to help him with his unbelief (Mark 9:24) and that even if this is who I always am, afraid that I'm wrong but trying to stand for what I believe is right, that God can love me anyway. It sounds weak, even to my ears, but it's where I'm at right now, and I'm trying to believe that God loves me where I am. God is bigger than me. God is bigger than any person's belief or doubt, and if I focus on doing the good I know, the fruit of the spirit, I'm trying to believe that everything will fall into place, even if I never have all the answers...

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