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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Sometimes, I think fiction is one of the hardest styles and genres of writing to want to excel at. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the inability to churn out piece after piece of fiction (since I’ve been finding that even short stories are challenging to mass produce, for lack of a better term) makes it seem almost like the loftiest of writing goals. Unlike poetry, nonfiction, or other types of essays, it takes time to develop the voice, style, characters, flow, and all the other elements that go into crafting quality fiction, which I think frequently prevents writers from being able to showcase their fiction ability regularly. It seems to come down to actually publishing a popular novel or getting a short story published in a good literary mag, and that can be discouraging for a lot of writers I feel like.
This has been something that’s run through my head a lot as of late, especially since I’ve mentioned that I’ve been doing a good deal of storyboarding and outlining for fiction the past few days, and it almost feels like all of that work has nothing to show for itself, since I haven’t actually written anything yet, just conceptualized ideas and thought through them.
At any rate, that’s some of my internal process I’ve been going through while trying to write fiction the past couple days. So, today, I’m publishing another piece that I wrote a little while back. Even reading through it now, it sort of seems all over the place, but that makes a little sense since it was originally born out of a sort of literary pep talk I was trying to give myself at the time. Continue reading “inhale, exhale (you’re okay)”
For this piece, I wanted to take an idea and a theme I’ve already written about quite a bit and start playing around with different literary and poetic devices, so this piece is more an experiment than anything. I fiddled around a little with more explicit repetition and variation in line length, which has always been something I’ve found difficult to do with poetry, but I feel like it lends such a sense of cleanness and simplicity to pieces, which always causes me to think more thematically when I read pieces written in that style.
Also, I’ve been finding that my fiction writing muscles are pretty stiff and out of practice, so I’ve been in a very stop-and-go place when it comes to the short stories I’ve been working on. Perhaps that’s the overly perfectionistic side of myself that’s always said that fiction was my strongest form of prose, but maybe it’s also an element of not allowing myself to be as free with writing fiction as I sometimes feel like I can be with other styles of writing, just because I still feel pretty amateurish with them. Either way, I’ll be working through some of those things and trying to coax something out of mind soon.
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”
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”