We believe in things unseen.
I don’t remember the first time I thought I might be gay. I don’t remember the first time I heard someone say homosexuality is a sickness and a sin. I don’t remember the first time I heard someone say transgender people are disgusting. My life–and the culture around me–was so fiercely anti-queer that it is hard to isolate individual events.
When I was in middle school and high school, gay marriage was not legal anywhere. I could hardly imagine what my life would look like. I was not sure I would ever tell a soul.
Many of my friends attended the same evangelical Presbyterian church as me. Whenever homosexuality came up in current events, my parents always affirmed the status quo: it was wrong, it was dangerous, it was weird. My youth pastor told us we didnt even need to discuss the issue because it was so clearly sinful. When I eventually could stand secrecy no longer and came out, a good friend sent me 26 Bible verses to read and consider. My parents asked that I see a counselor, he in turn asked if I would consider reparative therapy (I said absolutely not).
There was nothing around me I could look to and say “This is how I might do life.” I had never heard a pastor say it is ok to be gay.
I was first introduced to Soulforce through the Equality Ride. At that time, no major denominations outside of MCC and UCC were affirming. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was firmly in place. After the first Equality Ride, none of the of visited schools showed any sign of even the slightest institutional change.
And I saw something that changed my life.
Jake Reitan stood outside of Brigham Young University and proclaimed with a certainty unrivaled to this day, “We are here to tell any student who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender and who is suffering in silence: God loves you and affirms you just as your are, without reservation.” It was prophetic. Jake had the audacity to put twenty something 20-somethings on a bus to go to the most transphobic and homophobic institutions in the country and say, “This is not right. This must change.”
I remember my own experience on the Equality Ride, driving through the night, a speck in the plains of Montana and North Dakota. The group of us bound together by nothing more than a vision in our heads about the way things could be, but were not yet.
Today, seven years after I came out and four years after my Equality Ride experience, I am living in the present reality which used to only be a dream and a vision.
My parents are loving and accepting of me and my relationship. My friend with the 26 bible verses wrote me a heartfelt apology. I am a member of the oldest Protestant church in North America and one of our pastors is openly queer. My home state of Maryland recognizes gay marriages and is on the verge of allowing them to be performed in state. I am surrounded by more friends than I can count, all of whom affirm and support me.
In the wake of the Equality Ride, GSAs and QSAs have sprung up at Christian colleges across the country. Samford University changed their policy to treat queer students the same as straight students. Dont Ask, Dont Tell has been repealed by Congress.
As we gather in Kansas City to insist that Lou Engle and his ministries cease the support of lawmakers who would have us executed, we believe in things unseen. We believe that Lou Engle will actively oppose this legislation in Uganda where he has influence. We believe that American evangelical churches will recognize the worth, dignity, and wholeness of LGBTQ people. But we do not believe foolishly. We believe because this is how it is always done.
We believe in things unseen and we gather together to call them into being, to assist as a beautiful new thing is birthed into being, to stand witness to the cost and casualty until that vision becomes a reality.
We believe in things unseen, we work to make them a reality, and we watch in awe as they become manifest before us. I am honored to be part of this sacred task and I invite you join me with your presence, your prayers (or your crossed fingers), and your financial support.
We believe in things unseen.
Photo by Maureen Didde