stepping out and stepping away

Well rats, I’ve grown rather fond of the name “Jordan.” It’s kind of a shame to have to say goodbye to it. But…

Hi. My name is Matt Jones, and it’s been an absolute joy and privilege to contribue to GaySubtlety over the past year. I’ve learned more than I thought possible and grown in ways I never anticipated, and through it all I’ve made some very dear friends who have enriched my life greatly.

Today I came out on my personal blog, meaning a pseudonym is no longer necessary or even desirable. I think this small step into the open is a natural progression for my life and I feel very at peace about the whole process. Much of what I desire for the church – that it would love more fiercely, more humbly, and increasingly become a sanctuary of rest and wholeness for LGBTQ people and everyone else – will be easier to work toward if I am living honestly and openly.

So here’s what’s happening: I (no-longer-Jordan) will continue to blog about sexuality and a whole lot else on my personal blog – here (and here, in case you missed the first one). I’d love if you would keep the party going over there and subscribe, though I understand if you decide to jump ship because the only reason you’re here at all is for the daily challenge of trying to spell “Subtlety” correctly on the first try.

As for this blog, it will hopefully remain as a resource and encouragement for people curious about the intersection of faith and sexuality. At some point this summer I hope to reorganize things and make it easier to search for certain topics. Then again, I told myself I’d read Dr. Zhivago and I’ve barely managed 200 pages in, oh, just over two years. So the restructuring may take a while. Lord Jesus come quickly.

It’s been an incredible blessing. Thank you for your patience and grace as I grew up and grew deeper into the love of God. There is a long way yet to go…

Should this be the last thing you ever read from me, know you are loved. Know your story is worth sharing and worth listening to, and know that there is indescribable joy and peace to be found in the redemption of Christ. That’s all I ever really wanted to say.

See you on the other side (which is located here, in case you were curious).

With much love,

Matt

in weakness

There are certain words that we carry with us wherever we go. Sometimes tacked onto us by friends or strangers, sometimes dragged behind us by leashes of our own making, they follow us and seem to declare their existence at every moment.

Mine is weak.*

It’s like some indelible curse, scrawled on every mirror, sports field, tool, or disappointed face – a damning refrain of inescapable truth. I hate it. And yet I continue to grip the worn tether.

I think it’s because I have generally understood weak to be a safe word; one that demands nothing from me and gives me a reason to push away all that might complicate my life. If I’m so weak, I must protect myself. Tension and complexity and nuance become the enemy – threats to my fragile stability and brokers of an inevitable compromise. After all, I’m weak, I can’t handle it. A pious and poisonous half-truth that I’ve believed for most of my life.

But that’s changing.

The conviction that I need to speak up and step out, to move deep into the tension and dedicate myself to truly loving those around me, allowing their lives to press into mine, is overriding the base urge to shield myself from any and all pain. And as pin-prick circulation returns to my knuckles I am realizing that being weak isn’t the problem: being selfish and afraid is.

Because I am weak. And yet as I started to see a year ago, such weakness can be a beautiful opportunity to move forward in trust. That one word, weak, used to bring forth a comprehensive, anxious distrust that paralyzed me, but now it’s starting to have the opposite effect. Over the past year as I’ve blogged, emailed, met-for-coffee, and prayed, I’ve never ceased to be filled with wonder at the ways God has proven himself faithful to use my weakness to bring life…

…as a hushed confession of shame erupts into a boisterous oh-my-god-me-too! and a newfound freedom takes root amidst the shared laughter.

…as friends step up and become heroes.

…as an “issue” becomes a living, breathing, hurting human for someone and their world changes.

…as I find myself feeling more alive, more loved, more hopeful, and more passionate than ever before.

I could go on. I’ve had the chance to meet and become friends with so many incredible people as a result of that one decision to move beyond my frightened comfort zone. Friends who agree with me, disagree with me, think I’m crazy, force me to dig deep and reexamine what I thought to be true, inspire me, frustrate me, and point me to Christ. I would have never met any of them, never encountered the gospel of their lives, if I’d let my fear of pain decide it was more important to shelter myself from it all.

So you think I’d get it by now. But…

A few weeks ago, the damning refrain crept back into my mind.

You’re pathetic.

They’ll tear you apart.

You’re so disgustingly weak, you’ll never make it.

I was sprawled on the couch of a friend unsuccessfully trying to convince my exhausted brain that, really, it’s more fun to sleep than implode, watching tattered visions of all that could undo me flicker in an out of focus. It was my first week back in the States; DoMA and SCOTUS were still trending on Twitter and lighting up my Facebook feed. From the moment I deplaned I was confronted with the fact that I was, once again, caught in a controversy. An old anxiety started gathering around the fringes of my awareness and I couldn’t shake it off.

You’re going to give in.

I pulled the blanket over my head. I’d spent the afternoon hanging out with new friends – a warm and hilarious couple who let me tag along on a date – and I was wrestling with my tired mind about it.

You’re weak. Protect yourself.

Those old lies that would have me believe it was “dangerous” to hang out with a loving, affectionate gay couple – two passionate Christians, at that! – kept replaying because wouldn’t life be simpler if you isolated yourself from anything that would complicate your beliefs?  Wouldn’t it be easier if you spent all your effort on drawing lines and defending yourself and pushing away those who disagree? You’re going to crumble if you keep this up.

I carried these bitter thoughts with me to church the next morning. It had been almost ten months since I’d attended a eucharistic service, though I wasn’t really thinking about that as I waited in line to receive the elements. I was starting to feel a little bit crazy. The decision to begin living and writing more openly about my sexuality and faith seemed increasingly foolish in light of the mounting tension and you won’t be strong enough to help anyone, much less –

“This is Christ’s body, broken for you.”

– yourself and the controversy will consume you and you’ll be –

“This is Christ’s blood, shed for you.”

ridiculed and misunderstood and abandoned and –

The accusations ended abruptly as I watched the chunk of bread slowly turn crimson. My mouth started to water. Then my eyes. I gently placed the elements in my mouth, and breathed deeply.

“Epiphany” is the only word I can use to describe that moment: a sudden burst of clarity that overwhelmed me and my whispering fears. The confusion of the preceding moments dissolved and in its place there appeared a calm certainty: this is the shape my life must take.

The eucharist rendered my life intelligible again.

Please bear with me as I gush:

We follow a Christ who was, and is every day, torn to pieces. He was misunderstood and ridiculed, or sometimes understood perfectly well and hated for what he said and did. He was nailed to a low-hanging plank and slowly suffocated outside the city gate. And this is how we are told to remember him.

Because this is our story. This is who we are becoming. People who love so fiercely that we throw ourselves into the midst of things so that there may be peace, so that the unloved would know the touch of a friend, so that the hopeless would see with new eyes and the neglected would discover what it means to have a family. We proclaim Christ, and him crucified.

And people may tear us apart for it. The tension will pull at our seams and always feel as if it is a second away from undoing us. We will have to struggle against the impulse to move back to safety, relieve the tension, remain untroubled, and bury our weakness.

But eucharist is the utmost display of weakness. The cross is weakness.

And this is the beauty of it.

The celebration of bread and wine is a sacrificial, destructive act. But the miracle of it is that as the body of Christ, the bread, is torn to pieces the body of Christ, the Church, is made more whole. We are nourished and drawn together and given the strength to carry on. We are empowered to boldly live in weakness.

This is how the power of Christ is made perfect in weakness: that although we are vulnerable we press deep into the suffering of the world and make it our own, although we may receive blows from every direction we refuse to let our capacity to love and forgive be beaten out of us, and although we are silenced and misunderstood we never disdain the sacred act of listening to another and seeking to understand. It seems like I will never cease having to relearn this most basic of truths, and I imagine that is why celebrating the eucharist will never cease to astonish and amaze me.

The fears that plagued me on my friend’s couch are still with me. Honestly, despite there being many incredible men and women who have gone before me, the idea of making information about my life and sexuality publicly available is a bit terrifying. I mean, gosh, writing under my real name about being an evangelical Christian who happens to be gay is just begging random strangers to take nasty, painful swipes at me.

Pictured: good times.

Pictured: a good time to be had by all.

And yet I’ve never felt so at peace about this process nor so confident that the Church will be there for me in and through it all. This is why I think now is such an important time for me to temporarily step away from blogging: to allow this abundant energy to drive me further into spiritual discipline and wise counsel so that, when I do finally “come out,” I will be more grounded in the living grace of my God with whom I’ll have sat in blessed silence and more in love with his Church that will sustain me and inspire me to act in truth and humility.

Thanks again for your kindness and patience with me over this past year; it’s been quite a journey. Thank you for all you’ve taught me and for all the ways you’ve challenged me to grow in my faith. I may never have the pleasure of getting to meet you, but I take great joy in knowing that our many voices sing together in awe of our Savior and our weary souls dance together toward the table of clarity and grace.

Peace, friends.

Jordan

______________________________________________________________________

* Like, if Harry Potter and all that were real (deep breaths deep breaths) my patronus would probably be an asthmatic woodland rodent of some kind.**

** Just kidding, I’ve actually thought about this a lot and it would totally be an otter, which is, according to trustworthy friend-sources, my “animal personality” (i.e. playful, creative, smelling of shellfish and brine, intelligent, et al.).***

*** It is also, I’ve been told, my gay bar body-type classification. Layers, you guys, layers.****

**** No, mom, I’ve never been to a gay bar. *****

***** I’d rather not end on that note, so here’s 2 Corinthians 12:9 –  “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (NIV). Blessings.

my own medicine

Given that my last two posts have been, directly and indirectly, about silence, I probably should have seen this coming.

After talking a bit with my pastor and my parents, we all think it would be wise if I took a bit of a break from blogging to simply be silent, to ground myself in spiritual discipline and seek wisdom for the “next step,” whatever that ends up being. (I have my fingers crossed for becoming an international ping-pong superstar… time to proof-text Philippians 4:13 for motivation!)

Basically, I’ve felt for a while that the ground is eroding beneath me, so to speak. Bible-reading is slipping toward “sporadic-at-best” and I’m becoming increasingly incapable of simply sitting still and being with God. I had planned to “come out” publicly at the beginning of May, but such a move would be unhealthy; for all my excitement and passion, I can tell I stand on a very tenuous and fragile stability at the moment.

So. I’ll be taking a bit of a break. I have one more almost-finished post that I’ll put up this weekend and then I will promptly and metaphorically drop off the face of the planet (I superstitiously insert “metaphorically” whenever an idiom would, literally, kill me – can’t be too careful). I hope to reemerge some time in June, at which point, if it seems wise, I’ll set fire to my closet and not look back.

wolverine explosion

Like this, but cooler.

I also won’t be regularly checking GaySubtlety’s Twitter or Facebook for this time, though I will be checking email, so don’t hesitate to metaphorically shoot something my way. If you have any reading suggestions aside from Foster’s A Celebration of Discipline, I’d love to hear from you.

And, finally, I’d appreciate whatever prayer you’re willing to offer on my behalf. I want so badly to, you know, do this whole thing right… but my general proclivity to screw absolutely everything up will certainly loom large during this brief time.

Thanks so much for understanding and for being so patient with me as I struggle to discern what faithfulness looks like for me at this point in my life.

Peace and blessings to all of you.

Jordan

P.S. I really did only just learn how to embed photos… so… here’s a cute picture of a red panda.

One of the only good reasons to keep the internet around.

Adorable animal pictures are pretty much the only good reason to keep the internet around.

silence and sadness

Very few people like silence. It’s uncomfortable and itchy, filling the heavy air and getting beneath our skin. It just sits there and demands we do the same.

Silence is a fragile tyranny, never far from shattering into a cloud of glass.

The Day of Silence often fails to really live up to its name, frequently co-opted by various groups of various ideologies and becoming, instead, a day of blame, a day of “truth,” a day of snarky T-shirts, a day of argument and name-calling.

Meanwhile, more kids are being beaten and ridiculed for simply existing; more kids are realizing they are something controversial and that angry strangers are, in a way, arguing about them. There is fear and loneliness. There is shame.

Sometimes there is death.

This is why the concept of silence is important. The bitter reality that some children are driven to believe the lies that they should undo themselves, that it would be better if they didn’t exist, should cause us to fall silent. In the face of such tragedy, our words should stick to our throats and our lungs should be robbed of breath.

In light of this, our addiction to saying things, to instantly appropriating any situation to serve our goals, is absurd.

We politicize pain and enslave suffering to protect ourselves, to deflect the immense weight of tragedy before it crushes us. Silence is vulnerability, unburdened air doing little to protect us from the wounds of simply being human.

Permit me a small tangent: This week has been terrible for the US. It’s been a while since I’ve feared my news feed so much. Violence is a borderless disease, and every day I’m more certain of that fact. But the madness of this week has been the daily rhythm of other cities and countries for years and decades. Baghdad, Syria, Sudan, DRC, Burma, and so many more are mired in the dark night of perpetual violence. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by it all. It’s hard to keep the bursting sadness at bay.

I think it’s time we let it get a bit closer to us.

Maybe it’s because I spent a decent part of my life unable to express sadness, but grief is a kind of gift. The unconscious process of bifurcating myself in high school to avoid the obvious reality that I was attracted to men suppressed my ability to feel anger or sadness. The past three years have seen a blessed return of tears, but it’s still a struggle for me. I won’t ever forget the night, two-and-a-half years ago, as I sat tattered and unravelling in a small prayer chapel begging God to do something, when I realized I could possibly cry for the first time in six years. But it was up to me. I could make it all go numb again, return to the dull but manageable ache of denial, or I could dare to acknowledge that I was in deep, tortured pain and unsure if God would do anything about it.

It was worth the cost. I slumped against the wall, shaking from fear and exhaustion, and decided to risk healing.

I’m faced with that decision – to allow the pain and suffering of others to disturb me or to close myself off – on a daily basis. For me it’s not just a choice between crying or not crying (I still rarely do), but about choosing to push into the new growth that began years ago with five tears in that dark, too-warm prayer chapel.

I need to consciously decide to sit with the confusion and sadness because I am all too aware of how easy it would be to slip back into a defensive posture and default to ignorance. It’s a very human, very safe move.

But I’d like to think, and this is where The Day of Silence comes back in, that even in the midst of the unfathomable violence of the world and inescapable display of global injustice, that even in a society drowning in words like “nuclear proliferation,” “car bombs,” “school shooting,” and “yet another,” a young boy getting punched into a locker for being “different” might still cause us great pain.

To fall silent and grieve is not alien to the Gospel; Jesus was dead for more than an instant.  In Christian fervor to defend the sovereignty of God or rationalize the presence of evil I think we often forget that, when confronted by great sadness, our tears could preach a more powerful word than a million sermons and our silence could speak of a love far greater than any utterance could bear.

Silence and grief compose an overture to redemption, a defiant pronouncement that the unremitting insanity of the world has neither robbed us of the ability to share the pain of strangers nor weakened our resolve to love our neighbor and work toward a future in which suicide and bullying are no longer looming threats to our children.

I wish I had more to say or offer, but I guess today, of all days, is a good day to just leave it at that.

Jordan

before the dawn comes

I’ve always wondered what it must have been like to live in that nauseous limbo between the first Good Friday and Easter Sunday, to wake up with the image of a limp and bloodied messiah (though maybe…false messiah?) etched into my vision without the healing salve of resurrection to bring significance and peace to the roiling ache.

How quickly would my trust and devotion bleed out of me to join the crimson mud beneath the cross of the dead man? Would I flinch at every little sound, just waiting for the soldiers or violent crowd to begin their search for the remnants of the incendiary prophet’s followers? And if they came to my door, what would I say? Would I bathe in a desperate mixture of tears, doubt, and denial so the angel of death might pass my miserable self by?

Would I despair?

Would I allow the dark current to pull me under?

Would I be able to keep living in a world suddenly and viciously rendered absurd?

I don’t know. It seems like the only honest answer that could be given on a day of lightless uncertainty.

But then: pulse. movement, speech, rumors, hope appearance touch restoration new-life.

And there is no going back, no undoing of this stark watershed of history. We now live in the irrevocable abundance of the resurrection, flushed with the infinite wonder of redemption.

Redemption - the miracle in which darkness augments the beauty of in-breaking light, suffering produces a hope that does not disappoint, and doubt becomes an invitation to venture trembling fingers into eternal scars of love.

Holy Saturday is a day to dwell on silence. For me, it is a day to confront my fear of silence, my anxiety that God has left me on my own to muddle through life. And yet, the resurrection has come: the hushed cosmos erupting into endless praise for what God has done.

I’m reminded that even in the tortured silence of Holy Saturday God was moving to break the chains of separation and dissolve the power of death.

So when I find myself wounded, sitting in a too-quiet room with a disquieted mind wondering why or why not, I can cling to the comfort that such doubt is not a shameful, disturbing departure from Christian life but is and always has been a part of our history. The question is, though, whether or not I will be faithful and keep my eyes and ears open even in the midst of the intense darkness or struggle because I have the promise that God has not, will not ever, abandon me and that some day, whether tomorrow or in eternity, I will see what beauty he was working in and through me and will be in awe of it all.

Easter Sunday doesn’t dismiss the anguish of Holy Saturday, but gives it purpose and direction. The resurrection doesn’t negate the suffering of life, but gives us the strength to declare that even in the throes of our suffering there is hope and the beauty of redemption; tear-choked voices can find a song, bruised feet can learn to dance, and weary hearts can beat with passion.

A day of silence, a day of pain, a day of honesty, a day of hope.

Blessings.

Jordan

nailed it

Brent Bailey, the wonderful guy who writes the wonderful blog Odd Man Out, recently posted three heartwarming examples of how his friends “got it right,” specific stories of being treated so correctly that they stuck with him. He then asked a few of us to post something similar, and seeing as how I love what he writes I pretty much had to do it.

1. Camping

What happened: A large group of my guy friends had planned an international (ok, we were just going to Canada) camping trip that would take us to a remote island for a week. A friend and I needed to wait an extra day because I’m an idiot and left my passport at home 2500 miles away and it had to be Fed-Exed to me. As my friend (this friend) and I talked, I commented on how bummed I was that my accountability partner/one-of-my-absolutely-closest-friends flew home and wouldn’t be able to come to Canada with us. (I mean, come on, Canada has toffee and jell-o-in-a-cup and vast expanses of wastelandic nothingness, how coud he say no?!) The friend I was with, who knew I was gay, interrupted me and said, “Hey, you know he loves you a ton, right?” “I mean, yea, I know that.” “No, but listen. Before he left he told me to make sure to look out for you, and to be aware that when the guys decide to strip naked and jump over the fire or something I should go over and just talk to you. He made me promise to be there for you. Which is stupid because I was going to do that anyway!”

How he got it rightThey both were winners in my book, but I want to focus on the guy who had to go home. At that time of my life I struggled immensely to know if he really cared or not. He was the first friend I told I was gay in person and had been with me through the whole, slow, agonizing process of coming to grips with my sexuality, and therefore bore much (too much) of the weight of my anxiety. This small revelation made me feel overwhelmingly seen and loved in a relationship often punctuated by uncertainty and tortured invisibility. His comment showed that he took our relationship seriously, that he was thinking and learning and growing with me. We ended up not going camping anyway because of a certain, now-notorious, explosive incident that required a trip to the ER and some minor surgery, but the excitement of being known, of being carried in the hearts and minds of my friends even when we weren’t in the room together was a gift I haven’t forgotten.

2. Pillow Talk

What happened: My freshman year of college, while I was still deep enough in the closet to have one foot in Narnia, I went to a friend’s house for Easter. I instantly noticed there were no sleeping bags laid out in his room, and sure enough when night-time rolled around he simply asked if I wanted the left or right side of the bed. I tentatively chose the left side, unsure if there were, you know, rules to this or something. He slept with his arm draped across my chest, which was nice and not awkward but made it rather tricky when I woke up and needed to go to the bathroom really bad. Four years and an email saying I’m attracted to men later, I’m crashing at his apartment for a few nights. Still no sleeping bags. Left side. Arm across my chest as we talk late into the night.

How he got it rightHe’s always been a deeply affectionate friend, and I had no doubt he would still love me, but there’s this lurking fear that once straight guys know you are gay they’ll shy away from physical affection or closeness. Yet he displayed the same warmth and intimacy as before with the ease of someone who wouldn’t even have considered the possibility of treating me any differently in that regard. Having a friend like him is just one more nail in the coffin of my anxiety and fear.

3. Casual

What happenedI’ve mentioned this before, but at a recent wedding reception I was sitting next to a very dear friend who, during a lull in our conversation, asked if I was often attracted to people of different ethnicities. It was the first time anyone who knew I was gay had asked me for specifics about what I found beautiful, who talked about attraction in a way that included me and my experiences. The conversation shifted from that topic to others with ease, helped by a steady flow of sparkling apple cider, sometimes touching on my sexuality, sometimes not. Eventually we wound up talking about Harry Potter or something (as we always do), and that was that.

How she got it right: She treated the fact of my homosexuality like any other part of my experience and allowed me the privilege of being able to, finally, talk about my attractions concretely without having to lie (the answer, by the way, is yes, far more often than being attracted to people of my own ethnicity). Coming off of a summer in which my sexuality dominated my daily life and was a perpetual source of debate, she gave me a much needed reminder that my same-sex attraction could come and go in a conversation without shoving everything off center stage. It was a small thing, but it felt like a spell was lifted and I could finally see myself without the cursed distortion of being controversial.

So those are just a few – I have many, many more examples just as life-giving. If you’ve experienced anything like this, please tell us the story! Lord knows we could always use a bit more encouragement in our days.

Jordan

other

Sometimes I forget that I’m gay.

Seriously. I’ll just be walking around, doing my thing, thinking about coffee or tennis or sleep or whatever, and suddenly:

Wait a second, I’m attracted to guys. Woah.

Then I resume my espresso daydream and life goes on. I probably don’t need to explain why such an occurrence is a little odd.

I mean, I’m going to just assume that straight people don’t know what it’s like to spend all day worrying over how straight they feel and wondering if other people can tell. “Oh crap, a beautiful woman! Was I staring? I think I was. Was someone watching me stare? Everyone must have noticed my eyes dilate. That man over there looks like he’s judging me. Great, now I have to leave the country…” “Did I play this sport too competently? Ugh, I hate myself…” “That old woman said she had a niece I should meet… does she think I like girls? How did she find out? Oh god, what if she tells my mom?” “Maybe if I just wear scarves and skinny-jeans no one will question my sexuality.”

But I could be wrong.

Either way, I used to be entirely preoccupied with image-control. I was almost always aware that I didn’t quite fit in and, therefore, pathologically tried to disguise that otherness, certain that should people find out I was gay the internal isolation that scraped and slithered around my brain would become an external reality and encompass me.

But a couple things are happening now: I am feeling less “other,” and my otherness is slowly shedding the fear and stigma of its youth.

I am not saying I expect, or even hope, to ever be “non-other”. Not at all. So long as I’m attracted to men, and so long as the late Jerry Fallwell’s elite team of ninjas succeeds in stopping President Obama’s diabolical plan to infect America’s drinking water with the gay gene, I will experience the otherness that comes from being a sexual minority until I die. However, such difference is no longer an inevitable occasion for anxiety because it is starting to reveal its role in the grand unfolding of God’s grace in my life.

(It is necessary to say that, even though I will be referring to “otherness” in the abstract, I can really only speak to my particular experience as an evangelical Christian man attracted to men – which is a reality that doesn’t externally mark me for marginalization. More than that, I happen to have inherited almost every other kind of socio-cultural privilege imaginable, which has, I am sure, significantly diminished the potency of my experience with “otherness.” While I may find myself occasionally camping in the margins, I do so with a $500 tent.)

The reason I’m even commenting on these brief flashes of “unawareness” or whatever-it-is, of not being consumed with feelings of “otherness,” is because this is the last place I expected to experience something like this. I flew down to Central America alone, re-entered “la bodega”, and have daily come up against rampant and incessant homophobia from the teenage boys I live with (and Central America’s machismo culture in general) – a recipe for angst and feeling super-gay and isolated. And yet…

I’m intrigued by the fact that I can feel so at home in my body while in a context where, honestly, I think bad things would happen if it got out that I’m gay. I’m experiencing almost-ideal self-perception in regard to my sexuality* in a less-than-ideal environment to be gay because, I think, they do one thing really well at the orphanage: work with the kids through diverse gifts and histories. I may not be “out” here, but the fact that I’m gay, and the way I’ve grown and deepened because of that fact,** has enabled me to serve these kids in a manner that is different from other staff members and yet still important and valued – namely, I tend to be more aware of how certain kids are being pushed to the fringes, more aggressive against bullying, and less rough in my behavior toward even the most obnoxious boys (one of whom, as I type, is randomly pressing buttons on my computer forcing me to engage in manic typo-prevention).

This is why I think the Church has so much to offer those attracted to the same sex.***  So many people can only dull the ache of difference by staying in communities comprised of those who are equally “other” and thus experience a kind of normativity.**** Though the Church does, in some ways, serve a similar function, it does not do so through the normalization or flattening of otherness; the Gospel is not about homogenization (this is one reason I think we have four notoriously idiosyncratic Gospels accounts), it’s about redemption, conformation, and scandalous equality before God.

I don’t love Christian community because I get to spend time with people “just like me,” though Christ-followers do share certain unshakeable foundations. I love Christian community because it reminds me that I am united in purpose and worship with a bunch of crazy people around the world who aren’t like me at all and who reveal Christ to me in ways that would be otherwise unknown.

In this community my otherness, once an occasion for feelings of distance and loneliness, can, and should, take its rightful place as a site of revelation of the goodness and beauty of God. And thus, somehow, otherness – the multiform, embodied experience of being wrongly marginalized for one reason or another – becomes a catalyst for a more profound unity and depth. And while I hesitate to ascribe any sort of moral exceptionalism to marginalization, we must acknowledge that we serve a Christ who seemed far more at home on the dusty fringes than in the cushioned halls of privilege.

There is so, so much more to this, and I apologize for all the nuance I couldn’t include in less than 1000 words.

But I want to finish by saying that I am hopeful. I am hopeful that the Church (specifically the North American church) will become less concerned with the maintenance of social power and position and more passionate about proclaiming the Gospel through myriad stories of redemption lived out in a community dedicated to loving service of the world.

Jordan

Edit – Please do not think I am glossing over the gross sins of the church in regard to the LGBTQ community or the serious hurdles we face as we try to move forward in love. For slightly more critical posts, see What Is Love (which I think is one of the most important posts I’ve written), and Family Talk, among others.

* Almost-ideal not in that I forget that I’m gay, but in that my sexuality does not dominate my self-perception as it used to.

** Though such growth and depth are, I would say, the result of interacting with my sexuality through the primary and total filter of my Christian faith.

*** Aside from the, you know, relationship with Jesus and eternal life and all that.

**** I’m not saying such communities are bad. Not at all. In many ways they can be both necessary and life-giving. I greatly benefitted from my time in the gay student-group at Wheaton, which is but one example among many. I just don’t think they are an adequate substitute for what the church is called to be.