I read Dr. White's book with interest. It was one of the things that led me to a point of self-acceptance, and it helped start me down the path of coming out after 40 years as a closeted evangelical.
But I have noticed something disturbing since I began this journey. There are a number of good resources for reinterpreting the Biblical passages used against homosexuals. Invariably these are written from a conservative standpoint -- the historicity of Sodom and Gomorrah isn't questioned, the exclusive claims of Christ aren't challenged, etc. I have yet to find an inclusive church that treats the Bible in this manner.
I joined a liberal, American Baptist church with the attitude of tolerating their beliefs to gain acceptance in a Christian community. I didn't like the fact that they ridiculed the virgin birth, but I kept my mouth shut. I didn't like the fact that they embraced religious pluralism, but I believed the pastor's assurances that some of the older church members were as conservative as I. I disagreed with their stance on evolution vs. creationism, but I decided to learn instead of voicing objections. After all, I had been the "liberal" member of a conservative Baptist church, and I didn't want to be the "conservative" member of a liberal church.
But over time, they crossed a threshold. I wanted acceptance as a gay Christian male. Yet I wasn't prepared to ditch Christian theology for "trans-rationalism", "esoteric Christianity" (gnosticism), and other far-out beliefs that struck me as hypocritical, given their contempt for supernatural elements of conservative theology. I stopped attending, because I am not willing to become what I have always considered "cultic" just to gain acceptance as a gay man.
I don't think there are any churches in my city that are inclusive of gays but could otherwise be categorized as within the limits of traditional Christianity. Yet the approach to winning support for gays among conservative evangelicals is to approach the Bible as they approach it. I need someone to tell me this is an honest endeavor. Can I remain an otherwise conservative evangelical while being open about my homosexuality? Can otherwise conservative evangelicals embrace me as a gay Christian without also opening the door to theological heresies?
In the final analysis, I think I would rather give up attending church than -- just for the sake of being accepted as gay -- to embrace things I have always considered theological error. Am I the only person who's experienced this?
I doubt you are the first or only person to experience this. You've posted in the right place, soon someone will read your post who can answer better than I can, and from a Christian perspective. I am not Christian myself, can't even give you a name for my "spirituality" but whatever it is, I do practice it every day (I hope that makes some sense to you.)
Here's why I'm answering your post: I have not yet located a spiritual community that embodies all - or often not even most - of what I practice, of what I know to be spiritual truth. Some Christian denominations have parts of it, some Hindu or other eastern traditions embody parts of it. What this has meant for me is NOT attending a worship service or belonging to any religious organization until a time may come if and when I come across one that fits the whole me. From my experience, most churches are social above all else, and I have a social life without need to get up extra early on Sunday and go pretend that having a lovely sunday morning with friends is a "spiritual" experience any different than any other day/time/place.
Worshipping alone in the way that works for me suits me very well, as I have a tendency to prefer keeping the worshipful side of me private (unlike every other aspect of my life which I divulge freely). It may be different for you if being part of a religious community is a high priority for you - but right now it sounds like it may be a time for you to worship and practice your Christianity in private. Let that private worship take its course with you and your life. It may be that there is some other denomination out there that you find suits you and then you can re-join a community. Or maybe you need this time to yourself.
It's my firm opinion that you "can be" whatever it is you feel you are - if you feel you are a conservative evangelical Christian and that it isn't incompatible with being gay, well then that's what you are. God gave us intelligent minds so that we could use them and come to an understanding of truth on our own. Believe whatever you know inside to be true. What else *can* you do?
Meanwhile, wait a while and see who posts with some more specific Christian insights for you, since others will understand better the religious traditions you have been exposed to.
You wondered if there were other conservative gay evangelicals. Eugene, I can personally introduce you to several! However, I am not one myself. Though growing up Southern Baptist, there certainly were times when I was. :)
Since that time, I have come to understand God's love in a more inclusive way. For me, I have found the liberal social gospel to be much more in step with the real "passion of Christ" that I find in the gospels. And it seems to me that several gay and lesbian Christians who grew up fundamentalist or strongly conservative, have now been liberated on sexual orientation, yet remain in bondage to the very things that caused them to be excluded in the first place.
To be sure, traditionalism has a proper role. And yet in the history of religion, traditionalism so often has worked against what the Spirit was doing. The Pharisees were zealous about God, yet their traditionalist-driven arguments for excluding certain people frustrated Jesus to no end.
My gay and lesbian friends who identify as conservative evangelical (or as conservative pentecostal) sometimes similiarly frustrate me. For example, they can understand how God accepts them as a homosexual person, yet cannot seem to understand how God could fully accept a Jewish person as a Jewish person and not simply view that individual as a "potential Christian."
Regarding Soulforce, some would say that together we are working towards the day when gay evangelicals can go back to their churches and be accepted, when lesbian Catholics can return fully embraced, when GLBT Jews can return to temple and be welcomed and affirmed. But in the process, on this journey, I think we're learning a great deal more about what it means to be people of God. And I feel we're experiencing the furious love of a God who makes himself known to many people in many ways.
I'm glad you're here, Eugune, and I hope you'll walk with us!
Your question is profound and deserves a thoughtful answer. Instead, I'll reply in the short form.
First, if you can't find a church that is both accepting and evangelical, what does that say to you, to me, to all of us? If evangelicals are oh so wrong about my sexual orientation, what else are they wrong about? I may be wrong, but it sounds like you escaped their error in accepting yourself. Now you may want to consider escaping their error by accepting others who are not evangelical by your standards but are open and searching and willing to learn.
Second, there are accepting evangelical congregations. Keep looking. You'll find one but for the most part evangelicals have given way to fundamentalist Christian leadership. NOW, "inerrancy" prevails. And we who love the Bible, who read it and benefit from it, are left with that old familiar choice. Should we take the Bible literally or take it seriously? There is no way to break with inerrancy in accepting yourself as a gay man and still stay with inerrancy as a personal view.
So, do we stay with people who despise us (from their literal reading of those clobber passages) or do we join with people who welcome us (and are all over the place theologically and biblically).
I, for one, have no trouble chosing to take my journey with those who welcome us and in the process demonstrate to my new sisters and brothers how wonderful the Bible is and how informative it can be for our lives. But I will not join those folks who read it literally. I'd rather be with those who are still struggling to find their way (even if they don't know it) and be a blessing to them as they, by their acceptance, are being a blessing to me.
Being exclusive the fundamentalist risked losing me/us. Being inclusive, we accept folks where they are. And though it may feel like a compromise it's a risk well worth taking.
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