Last weekend I had the privilege and honor of attending the wedding of my friends, Cara and Leah. They are such a beautiful and loving couple, and they are both very active members of our church community at New Heart. The love that they have shared over the years has been able to challenge the beliefs held by even our pastor, Danny Cortez. How special it must have been for both Cara and Leah for him to officiate their wedding ceremony in his backyard! It was a very surreal experience for me as well, since this was the first gay wedding that I attended. I cried as they read their written vows to each other, laughed as we ate some delicious Filipino food, and smiled as the couple shared their first dance under the gazebo that their pastor and friend had built. I am imagining that many years of love and happiness will be shared between Cara and Leah, no matter where the road may lead- whether in good times or times of struggle. They will always have a hand to hold on their journey, and that makes it better!
This wedding has stirred something deep within me. Love has a way of doing that, I suppose. Their wedding has made me think about the many LGBT in our Church, who have not been able to experience this because of the teachings that have been handed down and pressed upon them by leaders and Church members who have only been able to look at it on paper. They have spoken about our relationships as being deviant, unnatural, perverted, sinful, an abomination…etc, because of their interpretation of Scripture. They tell us that if we wish to be a Christian, that we must remain celibate for life, without thinking of the implications of what they are imposing on us.
We are not made up of a few layers that can be easily sliced up and divided. Our sexuality is something that is webbed throughout our being, gay or straight. Those who have treated it as something that can just be cut out of them have been so greatly harmed, many to the point of depression, addiction, and even suicide. Some of us have prayed for years and years to be made straight, because We cannot imagine a lifetime of singleness. We have so often been over-sexualized by the Church. This is not just about sex, just as a heterosexual, committed and loving relationship is built on more than sex. It is about lifetime companionship. It is about having someone to share expenses with. It is about someone to share laughter and burdens with. It is about having someone who knows you fully, as you know them. It is about having a partner by your side when you are sick. It is having someone you so love who will sit beside you as you go through months of chemotherapy. It is about having someone special to hold your hand and tell you how much they have loved you and that even as you die, you will always live on in their memories, until that day when you are reunited again. And when you take your last breath, you will have no regrets, because you have known love and you trust that it was all worth it and that love will never be lost.
My wish for those who are not gay-affirming in the Church, is for them to take a moment and to step in our shoes. Please stop doing your theology from ivory towers, where only the letters on the page matter. Take the time to listen to our stories. Take the time to eat with us and get to know real people. The way that you are doing theology is causing harm to real people. Your LGBT kids are driven to despair, unable to see a future, a God, or a Church who truly loves them. Those kids will be more likely to struggle with some serious problems, because of the anxiety that has built up in them over the years. They will be more likely to wrestle with addiction, depression, and suicidal thoughts- some of them losing their lives. They may be driven away from you as their family, not knowing the unconditional love and acceptance that should come from you. They may walk away from the faith, no longer able to handle the burdens that you have placed upon them. Please do something different!
As I had mentioned earlier, Cara and Leah had a profound influence on our pastor, Danny Cortez. Their very presence in his lives caused him to step out of his theological ivory towers, away from “the bible clearly says” and into the lives of real LGBT people, while also wrestling with the parts of Scripture that dealt with “homosexuality”. People have a way of unsettling you. People have a way of challenging your way of looking at the world, the Church, and God. When you start to pay attention to the people in front of you, you may find yourself no longer satisfied with the answers you have been given. The answers start to become trite. They start to become like pieces of a puzzle that are forced to fit, but aren’t in harmony with the entire picture. They start to become notes that are off key. The answers start to be seen as medicine that is handed out, but isn’t doing anything good, and in fact, is continuing to do damage to real lives.
When you lift up your eyes and look upon that which was said to be sinful, unnatural, and abdominal, somehow it works. Somehow there is love and beauty appearing where you thought was impossible. Somehow you see a reflection of Christ and His light shining through the people you thought were his enemies and enemies to His Church.
Sometimes God’s Light shines through the least expected. Sometimes we can be greatly surprised by new learning. The Gentiles don’t have to be circumcised, but still receive the Holy Spirit. The Eunuch can enter God’s courts and even the Holy of Holies. The sick can be healed on the Sabbath. The prostitute can touch the feet of God. A woman can sit at the feet of a Rabbi and learn. The people who seemed to have it all together and seemed to be the people of God are far off and those who were considered far off are the ones who are able to draw near. Laws that seemed binding need to be seen through eyes of compassion. Mercy needs to be applied, where stoning had once been called for. The world is not flat. Slavery can no longer be backed by scripture, and neither can racial segregation. Gay people are not abominations and God’s Spirit can also live and work through them and their relationships and they are just as important and needed in the life of the Church.
Life is a dance and we are in need of a suitable partner…someone to walk beside us on this long and challenging journey. Someone who will balance us and someone who will motivate us to keep on going when we are on an uphill climb. It isn’t all about what we do in our bedroom. It is much more than that, you must see. It will usually end in a bed though, with someone who is with you in those last moments holding your hand and giving you the courage to climb that last hill, where one day you will both meet at the finish line.
Cara and Leah, my prayer for you is this: May your love be like two flames…when brought together as one, increases and illuminates the path, that together, you may walk better. May the light of Christ shine in and through your relationship, and may you always dance and hold each other’s hand until the final moment of this journey.
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7 NIV)
photo credit: all photos by Robert Lofgren. See more of his work on Instagram @RCLOFGREN777
ROBERT LOFGREN is a gay Christian who wrestled with his faith and his sexuality and found peace. He strives to love Christ and to show His love for all people. Robert is an advocate for LGBT rights and building bridges between the two communities to which he belongs and is so passionate about — the LGBT community and the Church.
He lives in Orange County, CA with his boyfriend of seven years and two Boston Terriers. Robert blogs at The Gay Post-Evangelical.