Hello, my name is Lionel. I've joined Soulforce for several reasons. Prior to my divorce I attended a very conservative Christian Baptist church. At that time I believed in the inerrancy of scripture but the primary focus of our pastor tended to be personal evangelism not larger social issues. Our congregation existed as an isolated subculture, mainly cut off from and unaware of things outside our small community. Most of the negative rhetoric I heard regarding the LGBT community came from Christian talk radio.
Regardless of my conservative life in the church I was more socially aware than that isolated subculture because I work for a very large forward-thinking international Fortune 500 company that embraces diversity. So whether at work or for drinks afterward, I regularly socialized with openly gay/lesbian coworkers who I accepted as friends. The contradiction I was living first became apparent to me when a lesbian coworker asked if I would be a reference for her as she was trying to adopt a child. Even though in my heart I wanted to help her, in my mind was all the anti-LGBT rhetoric I heard from the Christian right-wing, so I regretfully declined even though I was hounded by doubts after my decision. It was the first of several incidents that made me conscience of the fact that my personal views weren't really in line with those of my church. In spite of this, I glossed over the incident and rationalized my situation with placating thoughts while keeping my church friends separate from my work friends in order to avoid criticism.
I lived two separate lives up until my divorce in 2003, during which I went through a deep crisis of faith. It was then that I finally confronted the fact that the conservative church standpoint just was not in line with my own personal-faith-of-the-heart. I left the church and over the ensuing months, continued to struggle deeply with my faith. Having lived in a vacuum of information, I just didn't know how to reconcile a genuine Christian perspective with a liberal social viewpoint. So I rejected Biblical inerrancy, but then found it difficult to find a rational basis for my belief in God. Angry with myself and with my so-called Christian friends that were so quick to reject me as a heretic, I became angry with God, and tried being an atheist for awhile, all to no avail. I just cannot reject what I know to be true in my heart, even though I cannot always explain it rationally.
I finally found hope when I discovered St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and became acquainted with Dr. Jim Rigby. He introduced me to a very different and better Christian perspective. I’m still doing research and trying to understand this new perspective. I'm also educating myself to LGBT social issues and injustice. Although I considered myself a "liberal" "open-minded" guy, I'm often surprised at how completely ignorant I was about a lot of social topics like transgenderism, to which I was only first introduced after seeing a Discovery Channel program. It is because of my own very confused and indifferent past and my newly renewed and active faith that I feel a profound need to educate other “religionists” that may still be in the position I once was, whether they are Christian or otherwise. No, I cannot yet answer every objection from my former right-wing religious community using a strict "inerrancy" perspective, but I still know rationally as well as in my heart, that many of them are engaged in discrimination, bigotry, or indifference that naturally begets only hatred and violence and this just is not at all in line with the type of world Jesus truly envisioned. So I feel a profound responsibility as a Christian and as a moral citizen to do everything I can not only to educate myself and others, but to stem this tide of abuse begotten by my so-called Christian brethren and ultimately, by my own past of indifference.
I believe that all in the LGBT community should be able to enjoy the same rights and protections under law as the rest of us. I'm looking for people that want to talk and exchange ideas and I want to take an active role in LGBT activism and education in Austin so I can begin to live on the outside the kind of Christian I believe I should have been from the beginning.