Journey Story

A Word Of Advice For Non-Affirming Christians

by Denny Barnes

I wonder what life would have been like if I never had to hesitate when I crossed my legs.

I get a feeling sometimes that my aunt will come out of nowhere and say, “Boys don’t cross their legs.”

I wonder what life would have been like if I was allowed to clutch my shirt collar and say, “I love that movie, Dad,” without that look he used to give me, that look that says that’s the girly behavior we get upset about.

I’m thirty-two years old. I’m working on a Masters degree. I have a full-time job. I’m ‘making’ it in New York City. I should be happy. But I’m still ashamed of being gay. The little things I do, the way I love, the way I live—I’m gay. It is the linchpin of my identity. And because I identify as gay, some people believe I have given cause for Christianity to reject me.

I understand that groups like the Reformation Project, Gay Christian Network, and Believe Out Loud work to educate and mobilize and empower gay Christians to be that voice for their churches and families, to be advocates for change. I am grateful for the work they are doing. I think young gay people will see Christian leaders and allies refuse to degrade LGBTQ people and feel relieved. I think LGBTQ Christian voices like those of Matthew Vines and Bishop Yvette Flunder will encourage them to stay in the church.

But yet, I feel it may be too late for me.

I do not mean to be negative. I haven’t lost all faith yet, but I’m in a bit of a dark tunnel, and I’m calling on Jesus. I think he’s helping me sort the words I’m writing now.

Growing up, I was preoccupied with hating every gay thought that came to mind. I was cautious not to display any perceived gay behaviors. Kids were so cruel and when they saw any sign of weakness or gayness they received carte blanche from the adults to toughen me up.

I remember being young and having to hear and try to un-hear hours-long sermons about what is a “real man” (or woman). I often obsessed internally after Sunday service while eating dinner with family about how to stop thinking in this gay way so that I don’t bring them shame—so that I could go to heaven. I feel damaged sometimes because of the emotional toll this homophobia has put on me.

I am certain many LGBTQ people have endured this bullying, and yet we never seem to put it into perspective.

There is a mandate of bullying, rejection, and cruelty against LGBTQ children. Because of a religious mandate for universal heterosexuality, there is a by-any-means-necessary approach to keeping LGBTQ children from growing into LGBTQ adults. So much so, that many of us don’t make it to adulthood. In my case, I made it to adulthood, but I have a hard time finding a church to call home.

I used to be a member of Hillsong Church. In writing this blog, I wanted to respond to Pastor Brian Houston’s recent decree that there would be no gay leaders at Hillsong Church. I wanted to reprimand Pastor Brian for not being the “pioneer” he so urged his congregants to be last year.

But I cannot argue any longer with that sort of ignorance and cruelty. Because in the end it is just brutal discrimination. I respect any LGBTQ people who stay at Hillsong if that is where they feel they should be. But to me, that non-affirming decree doesn’t feel like a silly bit of misguided instruction anymore.

This non-affirming theology feels like violence against my body, mind, and spirit.

And I cannot argue “what God meant when he said” anymore. I cannot listen to hate speech attributed to the Bible and give a cool calm rebuttal explaining how I’m human. Why must I beg to be viewed as loved, accepted and blessed by God?

On the Hillsong Conference website, it says “Speak, we’re listening.” I urge Hillsong, and all non-affirming churches to listen. Homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon because homosexuals tell us so. Mandates that dictate certain roles and behaviors be exclusively performed by men or exclusively performed by women are cruel and oppressive. In their attempts to restrict our sexual orientation or gender expressions, they create pathologies that can destroy lives.

My advice to non-affirming churches and Christians is this—listen to us. Listen to those who feel different; believe us, love us, and accept us as full citizens.

Anything that you think the Bible says against LGBTQ people is wrong, and you have to keep praying and keep reading it until your belief doesn’t hurt these people who are begging to be humanized.

We are not hurting you at all.

You are hurting us, and you’ve gotten away with it for far too long. Stop, listen. We are speaking.

Photo via flickr user ashley rose