On Easter Day, I spent some time reflecting on what this holiday is like for those who feel estranged from their church communities because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. For most of us who grew up in church, there was a time when the words “Happy Easter! He is risen” only ever brought joy, peace, and hope.
These words were an affirmation of our faith in Christ resurrected, in God’s sovereign reign, and in our hope in Christ’s return.
They were words passed among friends, mentors, and spiritual leaders—words of safety, comfort, community. Not only did we have eternal hope in Jesus, we were not alone. We were joined by multitudes, by a family of God’s people, and by the living God himself in the restoration of all things.
But for many of us, when we came out, it was the very people who first gave us our faith, who nurtured it within us, who then turned against us. Our sense of safety in God’s family was punctured, our easy embrace of hope sullied.
Some of us lost faith in God altogether and were shamed and ostracized for it. Others of us held onto our faith in Jesus but were shamed and ostracized for that, too.
For me, the warm embrace of Christian family morphed into the suffocation of judgment.
The acceptance of my community was tarnished by polite but crippling prejudice. Few people seemed willing to walk a mile in my shoes, and to truly absorb the consequences of their beliefs for my life.
Rejection and betrayal always sting, but when you are rejected in the name of your creator and savior—well, that takes its toll on a human soul. Is it any wonder, then, that it can be hard to feel the same hope on Easter Sunday that you did as a child?
I believe in the resurrection, and I believe in the reconciliation of all things—and I will continue to passionately defend what should be the obvious truth that gender and sexual minorities will be embraced and affirmed in that reconciliation, not excluded.
But during this Easter season, I invite you to reflect on why many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as many of their allies, do not believe, and why many of those who still do believe may feel the pangs of exclusion and erasure more than the wellsprings of hope today.
And to those of you who are struggling to feel hope during this Easter season, please know this: You are okay.
You don’t need to will yourself to feel something that you don’t. After all, Christianity has never been about your performance anyway. It’s about what God has already done for you.
So go out into the world and meet those who are suffering. Tend to their wounds and let them tend to yours. Show the kind of love to the marginalized, the oppressed, and the afflicted that you wish others had shown to you.
Maybe one day a church will want you again. Maybe that day will be too late, and you won’t want them back.
Whatever the case, for now, find God by showing love for others on the margins.
And let them find God by showing love for you.
Happy Easter, beloved.
Photo via flickr user Mike Lavoie