The past couple of weeks, I’ve been having many difficult emotions coming to the surface. They have been repressed for years, only surfacing at times. I did not know where they were coming from and in the past, the only way I would deal with them was through drinking so that I could temporarily escape them. I have been angry. I have been having a hard time sleeping. I have indigestion. I have a lot on my mind. I have much to say, but I don’t know quite how to say it, but I will try anyway. Please listen to me, even if it is hard to hear, even if you want to turn away, because maybe it will save you before it is too late. So here it goes:
Evangelicalism, you have traumatized me.
I grew up in your faith and culture. You appeared to represent God the best. You spoke about God’s unconditional love for us. You claimed that you did so many good things in our world. Your gospel promised to give us eternal life, and make things all shiny and new, little by little. You would improve families and communities. Churches would grow, producing beautiful praise and worship songs. Your children would be safe, saying the sinner’s prayer at VBS and rededicating themselves at Bible camp every summer. But, what did your gospel look like for me?
I grew up in your faith and culture as a gay child. What was preached to me from your pulpit? You told me that I was an abomination, a wicked and deviant homosexual. No, you did not know that you were speaking to me, but I heard you loud and clear. Yes, you did offer me a solution to be acceptable to God, but what did that solution look like? It looked like this: I could invite Jesus into my life (this was the easy part) and I could turn from my sins. As a gay person, that meant that I could in no way identify with being gay. Sure, I could admit to “same sex attraction” as a struggle, with tears, but I could not claim that as part of my identity. You told me that I would have to either force myself into marrying the opposite sex, after much counseling (which was never proven to work) if I wanted to find companionship. If I did not want that option, then I was to remain companionless for the rest of my life. This was my cross to bear.
When you gave me my cross to bear, you did it so nonchalantly — “This is your thorn in your flesh. We all have our own struggles with sin. You can do this. God will be there for you and so will we. We will fill be by your side, fulfilling your need for companionship. Now, cheer up and put a smile on your face and go on and serve the Lord with joy and gladness!” So while the rest of those in your Church had the hope of finding love, forming a family, and finding a lifetime of companionship, we did not have that hope. In fact, those desires in themselves were evil for us, if not imagined with the opposite sex.
So with that, you stripped away our hope for a future. Sure, many of us did it for a season, just as many of your straight members will remain single for a season. But, as spring turned to summer, and summer turned to fall, and the last leaves started to fall, what we were left with was coldness and isolation. You see, college friends are great! They have free time to hang out, partially filling that need for companionship. But, as our friends start to marry and have families of their own, they didn’t have as much time for us. And that’s ok. That’s normal. They should be spending time with their families. But, what happens to us? What happens to us as we grow sick and old? Who will stay beside us, day after day, hour after hour, sleepless night after sleepless night as we lay in our sickbed, and eventually our deathbed? Who will hold our hand, kiss our face, sing to us, share sweet memories with us, and calm our fears? Will you do that?
Evangelicalism, you have traumatized us.
You see, when a tragic disease hit our community, you did not lift a finger. That is what you do, you tie up heavy burdens, but you will not lift a damn finger to help. Instead, you would swiftly lift it up with ease to point and judge. This is what you said, “God is judging them, and they have received within themselves their due penalty for their sin.” You would also wield your power to lobby and to keep the government from helping us, when we needed it the most, leaving our sick and hurt community to fend for itself. Where were you during this time to show the love and mercy of God to our community? You were to busy being righteous, I guess. You did not want to made unclean by us. And so, many of us would die, separated from Church and family.
Evangelicalism, sadly it becomes much worse. You would drive us to depression — driven by shame, to addiction — driven by hopelessness, to suicide — driven by despair. You ignored the transgender community as well, as around 40% of them would attempt suicide. You told them that they were confused and a threat to society and your Church. Your queer children would be kicked out of their homes and bullied at school. Still you weren’t there. You were too busy singing beautiful, empty songs of lip service to your god.
Evangelicalism, you have traumatized all of us.
You have given us a Janus-faced god, a god of love, and a god of endless wrath. If we get him right and if we say the right prayer, and if we repent enough, he will clothe our wretched selves with his own righteousness so that he can stand to look upon us. But if we don’t get it right, it will be eternal wrath, with fire and brimstone, where we will suffer and scream out in terror for all eternity with no relief. ISIS would be more gentle and merciful than your god. You would use fear to convert your kids to this god who loves them so much, if they will just let him in. You would also gave us purity culture, where your girls were only valuable if they made it up to the alter as pure, spotless brides (even better if they saved their first kiss for the alter). Your women would feel like worthless rags with one slip-up, while your men would be excused and easily forgiven. You would forever make us wonder if we were ever worthy enough. You would tell us that Christ is our righteousness, but boy, we had better be doing our part. We would always wonder if God really loved us, even while we told the world that God really loved them.
Evangelicalism, you have made your people defend a book, but not the marginalized in front of them. You have blinded them with your judgements. You have made them so hungry for power, that they want nothing to do with the powerless. You have turned them into the oppressors. You have made it all about the next life, while ignoring this one. Your people pray, sing, maintain their holiness, but what they don’t see is that this is turning them into white-washed tombs. They don’t realize that righteousness is justice. Holiness is defending the powerless and taking care of the least of these. You have made it all about themselves.
You still have some honest, good people within your religion, but you must release them from your bondage. You must give them the freedom to be messy, to question, to love, to do justice, to give mercy, to be kind and gentle. You must step aside and let them see Jesus, and to be Jesus.
Evangelicalism, you have traumatized us enough. Maybe you are the one who is traumatized. It is time to examine your fruit. It is time to heal, so that you may bring healing.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” -Matthew 7:16-20
“Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” -Romans 13:10
“Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:37-40
photo credit: Robert Lofgren
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.