Sometimes you just reach a breaking point. It’s not that you don’t care anymore or even that it’s not important anymore, but sometimes you just grow weary of the constant tension, the constant sensation of being “always on.” Because why wouldn’t that be exhausting? That’s sort of how I feel right now when it comes to Christian LGBTQ things and LGBTQ things in general, the dialogues, the conversations, the controversies, the debates, the activism, all of it. I feel burned out if I’m being completely honest.
Here’s a piece I wrote back in the spring about some good changes and things I see happening back at my alma mater (that sounds weird to say…).
Bethel is one of my favorite places, and I’m thankful for the ways God is moving there, especially in the sense that LGBTQ students are starting to feel safer and that the atmosphere is shifting for the better. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.
Editor’s Note: The following article is a reflection on discussion prompted by the piece, “Being Gay at Bethel,” published May 2015 in the Clarion. Because the article was published in the last month of the year, the Bethel community had no opportunity to discuss and respond to the article, and many in our community left Bethel with more questions than answers regarding Bethel’s policies and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. In publishing this article, we hope to inspire further conversation. In the first chapel of the year, biblical studies professor Juan Hernandez Jr. challenged the Bethel community to speak up for the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed, imitating Christ in this way. At the Clarion, we strive to speak up on issues that matter most to the Bethel community. Venegas, a junior linguistics major at the time “Being Gay at Bethel” was published, has since graduated and now works at Cyber Village Academy as an office administrator.
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The air was cool for Minnesota summer, and a fire crackled and snapped over wet logs in the fire pit in front of me. I was about to tell a story I had only told once before, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the words still felt almost fake as they churned inside of me, bringing a new sensation of reality to the term word vomit. It just didn’t feel right. In a way, it felt selfish, what I was about to do. At a cursory glance, everything about my life seemed to be just as it should, if not better, but I was about to confess that for the majority of my life I had felt like I had to earn love and wasn’t quite sure what it actually meant to be loved.
I mean, honestly, I’m 19 years old, have a college diploma hanging on my bedroom wall, my family is great to me and always has been, my friends are some of the best you could ask for, and I have everything I need, among other things, but I couldn’t escape the voice of God trying to convince me, for the umpteenth time in however many years, that there was no possible way for anyone to ever earn someone else’s love. But along with that, He also seemed to whisper that the reason was that you didn’t have to. His love, as well as anyone else’s authentic love, doesn’t need to be earned. That seems like such a simple, basic concept, but it’s one I’m honestly still processing and learning to be true.
This is the fifth entry in a series of posts on friendship. To find the others once they’ve been published, find the menu button in the upper right corner of the blog and see “Summer Friendship Series.”
Something that I’ve noticed about American relational culture recently, and perhaps especially so with Christian American relational culture, is that we really like to have lines clearly drawn. I see this as the reason why we have phenomena in Christian colleges like DTRs (defining the relationship). There seems to be an increasing neediness to always know what the status of your relationship with another person, and it doesn’t necessarily come from within ourselves. More often than not, it comes as an external question, when we may or may not have been thinking about it.
I think most of us have probably found ourselves in a situation, or at least observed a situation in which two people have begun spending significant amounts of time with each other, prompting some or all of their friends to probe them on whether they’re “just friends” or something more than friends. This can be an incredibly awkward or frustrating experience for everyone involved, regardless of whether the two people actually might have feelings for each other and are trying to navigate that or whether they are close friends who enjoy spending a lot of time together.
Either way, I think this fascination with needing to define relationships has begun hurting our conceptions of friendship, because along with a desire to know exactly what status a relationship has, there also exists an assumption that the relationship will also fit neatly within the preconceived assumptions of what “just friends” or something more than friends might look like. (That being said, I’ve really grown to hate the term “just friends” as I’ve been learning more about friendship and working through this series, because I’ve come to realize it’s a rather derogatory way to refer to a relationship as beautiful as friendship.) If we really think about it, friendships already tend to exist in the middle ground of a Venn diagram, but our attitudes toward them skew towards trying to keep them cleanly isolated to only their safe extremes on a gradient spectrum and this severely limits our ability to understand and have healthy friendships in my opinion.
I’ve really grown to hate the term “just friends,” because I’ve come to realize it’s such a derogatory way to refer to a relationship as beautiful as friendship.
It’s hard to feel anything but heaviness when it’s the second day in a row that you wake up to texts from friends informing you that yet another tragedy has occurred in such a short time period. What else can you feel when you wake up to news videos with parents crying and footage of LGBTQ people texting their families telling them that they’re most likely going to die? And what else can you feel when it very quickly spins into a political, ideological, and theological firestorm when that’s the last thing that this horror needs?
I’m not sure, but what I’m trying to feel is love, because I believe that love is a verb, and what we need is an overdose of love injected back into our hearts to combat the apathy, the homophobia, and the rampant hatred of all kinds that continues to abound in our midst.
That’s why I’m posting this piece today. I wrote it several weeks ago, but I wasn’t quite sure when it would be most appropriate to share, because it’s a mournful piece. It reads as if it’s accompanying tears, and it doesn’t necessarily end optimistically, and that’s why I think that today is the exact right timing, because I think that so many of us, both Christians and non-Christians, have lost sight of what it means to be human and what it means to see the humanity and the image of God in others. So, here’s to prayers that we’ll soon be able to join in under the mantle of the love that we’re supposed to be known for. Continue reading “heartfelt inequality”
Perhaps you’ve heard and perhaps you haven’t yet, but Trey Pearson of Everyday Sunday just came out as gay about a day or two ago. This follows similar coming out stories by the likes of Vicky Beeching and Jennifer Knapp who have gone on to lose much of their music careers, with Beeching instead moving on to religious commentary and other projects in the UK, including a book that she’s currently working on. But at any rate, just like those other coming out stories, this one has already generated its own fair share of controversy and reactions from the general Christian populace, both positive and negative, as larger outlets such as Yahoo and Religion News Service have picked up the story.
Unsurprisingly, there have been quite a few opinionated responses coming from a handful of Christians, with many lamenting the fact that he has chosen to come out after having married a woman and having children among other things, and this is specifically what I want to address in this post. With more and more people finally acknowledging the basic fact that being gay or lesbian or bisexual is not a choice any more than being straight is a choice, what I’ve seen is that many Christians have instead chosen to go the route of lambasting Pearson for his decision to come out now after having been married to his wife for over 7 years and having had children with her, and I think that perhaps I understand a little bit of where that’s coming from, as misdirected as it might be. Continue reading “when christian superstars come out”
Amidst all of the culture wars that our world and society are currently embroiled in, it goes without saying that there’s always room for more grace, and I believe that’s true. If you’ve ever read any books or articles about conflict resolution, they will usually tell you that the blame for a problem can very rarely be 100% attributed to one party. In most cases, both or all parties have contributed at least a little bit to the overarching problem, regardless of whether that split is revealed to be 97% one party’s fault and only 3% the other party’s fault. That’s a pretty significant split, and that doesn’t mean that the one guilty party hasn’t done something wrong. In simple terms, most conflicts usually involve one party who was wronged and another party that committed the wrong, but what this conflict resolution strategy does is to point out that in any given conflict, there were often factors on both or all sides that were key to the situation unfolding the way that it did. And this is the perspective of grace with which I try to approach the raging controversial debates, but so often, it feels like maintaining a posture of grace is getting you nowhere, which very quickly becomes exhausting. Continue reading “when grace puts you at stalemate”
Alright, here’s the full, unedited version of the article that was published in the Bethel Clarion earlier this week, detailing my stream of thought about the Mark Yarhouse sexuality event last week. The Clarion staff did a great job editing it, but it definitely read more like a newspaper article (as it should have) than some of my normal writing, so I wanted to stick the original version up on here. Take a read if you weren’t at the event or haven’t already.
I checked the time on my phone as I speed walked through the BC on my way to the Underground. It was already 8:01pm and I was late, having just come from helping lead an exam review session for CWC. Mark Yarhouse, a psychologist and professor from Regent University, was giving a talk on sexuality and I was going to be there, though a bit reluctant at first. From what I had heard and read of him in the past, I wasn’t incredibly optimistic about the event, but the Underground was relatively full, so I slid into the second row from the front and took out my notebook just as it was beginning.
It’s been just about a year since I’ve come out, and I think it’s only now that I’m starting to feel normal again, after two months of summer school in another state, four months living abroad in a different country and immersed in a different language, and a year out of church. Yeah, I’m only starting to feel normal again now.
And what does “normal” really mean anyway, especially in this context? I guess you could say that I’m not really normal in any sense of the word. I’m a gay person of color who goes to a Christian university, is younger than everyone in his graduating class, and also happens to be the child of first generation immigrants. So, I suppose normal isn’t really the best descriptor of me to begin with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s taken a full year for me to start feeling like myself again, and feeling comfortable as myself again.
For a long while after coming out, I felt like I was trapped between two repelling magnetic poles. The church didn’t want me because I was an anomaly, unnatural, choosing sin, in need of healing, or whatever other spiritualized phrase they chose to describe me, and I certainly didn’t fit into the LGBT community because of my faith that many saw as being in direct opposition to identifying as LGBT. Even many of my closest friends weren’t immediately sure how to respond to me, which isn’t a bad thing. I know firsthand how complicated and difficult to navigate intersectional issues like this can be, but that didn’t keep it from being any less isolating or any less discouraging as I started out on that road. It felt like I didn’t quite fit into any of the spaces that I was accustomed to occupying, and I felt a little lost. Continue reading “coming out: on feeling normal again one year later”
Notes: Before I get into this post, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who’s been reading this blog and keeping up to date on my outward thought process. For many of you, that’s involved sitting with me as I rifle through thoughts and ideas over tea and food on multiple occasions, and I’m especially thankful for that. For others, that’s encompassed your kind and encouraging words that create safe spaces as I continue to write and think out loud in a public space on what it really means to be on this journey and on this path that has all the twists and turns you could imagine. And for yet others, that means challenging me and having open discussions on where we’re coming from, the perspectives that we hold, and why we hold them. So thank you.
And for anyone who’s just met me recently or who’s new to the blog, I hope that you find this as a safe place, a safe place as an LGBT Christian, as a Christian in general who has a heart for this, as a Christian who might not know a lot about this sphere, as anyone. I hope that everyone who comes here finds this as a safe place where dialogue is open, where learning is sought after, and where ignorance is not always willful or inherently bad. So, (in a bit of self-promotion here) for you guys (and anyone else who hasn’t yet), feel free to subscribe to the blog so you can get emails that link to new posts when they go up, and also feel free to engage and talk with me about anything that you might be thinking, whether that’s questions about what I’ve written or what I believe on this, curiosities on things in general, or just to talk. I’m open to that and I love it.
All of that being said, I want to talk about two things in this post: a couple things that I’ve seen and realized thinking over everything that’s happened since last year when I started writing this blog and also some of the things that I’ve been reflecting on, specifically regarding LGBT Christians, as it’s Holy Week this week and Good Friday today. Continue reading “coming out: one year later preview & good friday reflections”