I grew up in a home where religion was absent. We did not attend any church and there was never any talk about God or faith. By the time I was a teen and knew I was “different,” I also knew that most organized religion held the position that my very being represented sin, or at least the sexual expression of my being was considered a sin. Given that, it’s really no surprise that the vast majority of gays and lesbians, scorned for centuries by faith communities, want nothing to do with any church or any religion.
Can you blame us? I felt that way for many, many years, until I had lost my job, lost my home, and lost the partner I loved very much. Sometimes it’s not until everything is stripped away do you realize how much you need the power of faith and love and light in your life.
I had no idea how to find the way back or even where to start. I found myself willing to try anything, and one night, for the first time in my life, I sat down and wrote a prayer, then recited that prayer every night before bed. It seemed pointless, silly and stupid, but really, what more did I have to lose? It also helped me to gather my thoughts and focus my energy for the first time, in a new, positive direction.
Within six months, my prayer was answered and my partner was back in my life. We became stronger than ever. It did not come easy, I had to take a hard look at myself and make some big moral changes. I believe “morality” to God is honesty, kindness, consideration of others, and above all, respect and love. Throughout my life, I had always been less than honest with myself and others about who I was, and what I really wanted and needed. I had always put my own needs way ahead of anyone else, always thinking first about what was in it for me. The lessons were painful and often lonely, but through every one of those changes, I prayed for God’s help.
Years later, when I got a job 1,200 miles away from my partner, our relationship became long distance and I found myself feeling very alone. When you’re away from all others, you find yourself getting closer to God.
My faith walk took a brave new turn, I sought out a church where I was accepted and loved for exactly who I am. I made so many wonderful friends in my church family at MCC St. John the Apostle in Fort Myers, Florida. No matter how bad my week had been at work, or how lonely I felt, when I came to service, I instantly felt energized and uplifted with the spirit.
Faith is a not a crutch or a weakness. It is a hopeful optimism of believing in things unseen. There is nothing that makes optimism more realistic than pessimism. It’s only the human condition that makes us negative. The story of Jesus – his death and his resurrection – is unbelievable for us as humans. If it wasn’t, why would we think or expect He is capable of miracles?
There are those who will condemn people of faith as delusional and deceived, and still others will say that gays and lesbians will not be allowed into the Kingdom of God. Say whatever you’d like, but that’s the beauty of faith. Each of us gets to have a very personal relationship with God. No one else has to understand, approve or even know our feelings. It is enough to know that we know Him. Jesus didn’t die so we could all go to church on Sunday and pretend to be perfect. We aren’t and never will be. Jesus died so each of us could have a deep, personal relationship with God.
Here’s more good news: This is 2013 and many of the mainstream denominations have evolved and now openly welcome and accept gays and lesbians. Even if you had a bad experience growing up, consider one of the more progressive churches out there. Do your research online. Talk to people. Go visit one Sunday. You don’t have to come back.
Metropolitan Community Church is the largest and oldest gay church in the country with more than 250 congregations around the country. If you’d prefer attending a mainstream church, but one that is welcoming to gays, consider the United Church of Christ. UCC has a statement in its bylaws specifically welcoming gays and lesbians. UCC was also the first mainstream denomination to ordain gays and lesbians, and first to perform same-sex marriages.
Other denominations that are somewhat friendly include the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian and the Lutheran Church.
Ultimately, my personal belief is that living a balanced life requires that the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects all be fulfilled. I think of it as a wheel. When any one chunk of that wheel is missing, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Faith doesn’t mean you give up any of who you are. It just becomes a part of who you are.