The Guise of “Christian Values”Posted: 25 September 2013
Well, hello again. It’s been so long since I wrote something that anyone who visits my blog probably thought I was dead. Ahem. Well, you’re not far from wrong. I am obviously still alive, but the reason why I’ve been absent from blogging recently is something I’d like to save for another time.
*takes a deep breath*
You know those niggling, annoying things which send you straight up the wall of apoplectic rage as soon as they’re mentioned? Well, smush all of them together in a big angry mess and you’ve got a taste of how I feel about certain “Christians” and their horribly well thought-through attitudes regarding the LGBT plus community. I could name names. I’m sure you could too. Michele Bachmann for one, who is portrayed most wonderfully in this caricature by Cole Dixon of Chronicles of the Nerds fame.
However, I don’t want to talk about my anger or indignation. I’ve done it before and I’m sure anyone who has read this far without closing the window will already know what I would say about the above. I want to write about the things that I’ve done that I’m ashamed of.
Quite a few years ago I attended a church which prided itself on being modern and geared towards young people as well as old. I was a member of the quite sizeable youth group there, which sat together in the front pews at the Sunday night service. I was first invited to this church and youth group by good friends of mine from college, as I was becoming a bit blasé about my home church’s lack of youth support.
I will never forget the first service I went to. There was a reasonably new pastor, who had recently come from America. He was energetic and his sermon was exciting and inspiring – all the things I was looking for. At least, so I thought, until a comment he made nearing the end of his sermon about how homosexuality was against the will of God. I think I went into shock. You might think that I should have been expecting this sort of rhetoric from an American pastor, but I wasn’t. I was a teenager who had only just recently come up against the issue of gay rights and had only shortly beforehand placed myself behind the cause. I was still in shock when the pastor came over to where we were sitting and shook everyone’s hand. Did I speak up? Did I say anything? No, I didn’t. I was scared. I was scared what he’d say. I was scared of what the other members of the youth group would think of me, especially my friends. I said nothing and shook his hand, just like the others.
A few months later, I was learning more about homophobia in the church and becoming a little more confident about my beliefs. In a previous church meeting one of the same friends who had introduced me to the group was telling us about a friend she’d made who happened to be gay. She was talking about how they were such close friends; how she’d tried to tell this girl about Jesus and how homosexuality was wrong. Even though this girl disagreed with her they’d stayed friends and she prayed for her daily.
I happened to meet this lesbian girl at my friend’s engagement party. She was the first gay person I’d met and I was very nervous. She was very confident and outgoing, which made me even more nervous to approach her. There was something about her which made me suspect that she was gay and I became really anxious to talk to her and tell her how I felt about the issue. So when I got the chance, I walked up to her and smiled and said, “Hi! Aren’t you….”. I stammered and couldn’t get out what I wanted to say. What I wanted to say was “Aren’t you [My friend]’s friend?”. I never got the chance to finish that sentence. She looked at me and said “…gay? Yes.” Then she walked away.
I had missed my chance. I stood there, red with embarrassment, with horrible thoughts going through my head.
“She probably thinks I’m the same, that I think being gay is a sin”
“She thought I was going to try to proselytise, force God on her, start preaching at her”
“She thinks I’m ignorant and full of hatred for people like her”
It is one of my deepest regrets in life that I didn’t speak up, that I didn’t follow her and explain. I would give a whole lot to see this girl again, recognise her for who she is and tell her how I really felt, what I really wanted to say. I was so ashamed. It is one of my ticks that I hate being seen or thought of as stupid or ignorant. Especially when it comes to this. But most of all I was ashamed that I had probably hurt this girl deeply. She obviously expected more preaching like she was used to because I was at my friend’s engagement party. I felt sick. The feeling still hasn’t left me.
On another occasion, the youth group was having a meet at one of the member’s houses. This was something that happened every so often; we would all get into cars and drive to the house of a church member and be treated to a lovely meal. By this time I was getting ideas. There was a tradition at these meetings that we would have a ‘panel’ of older/more experienced people whom would answer questions from the ‘audience’ about the life of faith. These questions would be anonymous and written down on paper to be taken out of a hat one at a time.
In the car on the way there, I was buzzing about gay rights and full of questions and a childish zeal for those questions to be answered. I told everyone in the car what I would be writing on my bit of paper. I didn’t feel at all disheartened by their almost total silence, because I knew I was right. My head was filled with the idea that I would bring this issue out into the open and it would be discussed openly and fairly and that of course, these people who I trusted would be loving and Christian like I knew they were.
So, it came to panel time and the questions were read and answered one by one. When it came to mine, the room went quiet. The panel went quiet. A girl (who sadly happened to have learning difficulties) spoke up and said, “that’s an important question.” And then, as my face burned, these people who I loved and looked up to started spewing forth all the arguments that I’d heard bigoted Americans make. No, you couldn’t be a Christian and gay. Being gay was unnatural. Being gay was a sin. One of them even said “there’s a cure for it, right?”
And I said nothing. I hid how I felt. I acted like there was nothing the matter but inside I felt angry and ashamed and vengeful and scared. All the poisonous kinds of emotion you can think of, wrapped up together like a tumour inside my head. But I stayed silent – and I’ve regretted it ever since.
You see, I know personally how convincing this kind of argument can be to a developing mind. Even for me, who knew that it was misguided and wrong. The forcefulness and so-called Bible-approved surety with which this kind of ignorance and hate is delivered. Kids take it in and believe it wholeheartedly; they grow up and pass it on to their kids. No one speaks out. I could have, but I was scared. I was too scared to lose what I would later find out that I didn’t have anyway – the true friendship and fellowship of real Christianity.
If I had spoken out, maybe I would’ve been chucked out of the house and forced to walk home like I feared. Maybe I would’ve been shunned and encouraged to leave that group and that church long before I actually did. But maybe if I had spoken out, just maybe, someone else’s mind may have been put in doubt. Maybe I could’ve opened the eyes of these ignorant people and told them that gay cure centres are only a gas chamber short of a nazi concentration camp. I could have made a difference. That is my greatest regret.