I recently wrote a novel that I believe inaugurates a new fiction genre: LGBT-Christian.
It was inspired by Kansas City’s Spirit of Hope Metropolitan Community Church, where I’ve attended services for a decade. According to its website, Metropolitan Community Church is “the world’s first church group with a primary, positive ministry to gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender persons.”
The timing of this new genre is propitious for several reasons. The LGBT community is often silent when it comes to acknowledging the role faith plays in the lives of many of its members, which, although disappointing, is understandable.
Even more disappointing — and often frightening — are the ongoing efforts of religious and social conservatives to push agendas that serve to legitimize anti-gay discrimination, while delegitimizing the idea that LGBT individuals are worthy to receive God’s grace.
If there’s hope in the face of all of this, it’s that within the precepts of our faiths is the power to heal our divisions rather than sow them. It will take a lot of work, soul searching and prayer. Hyphenating LGBT and Christian (or Jew, Muslim, etc.) is a symbolic start, at best. But I hope it will initiate healing change that enlarges not just our faith communities but our collective, God-inspired faith in each other.
I sing with Kansas City’s Heartland Men’s Chorus. For many of my colleagues, the chorus is their church because it provides them sanctuary from judgment or the outright rejection they faced in the churches of their upbringing.
The sad fact is that organized religion has failed so many of its adherents in a myriad of ways. When our faiths reject or fail us, it’s hard to remain committed to them, no matter how ennobling their founding precepts.
If the LGBT community’s ambivalence about organized religion isn’t sufficient to make LGBT believers second-guess themselves, the onslaught of anti-gay rhetoric and actions by religious conservatives most surely will. The major mainstream Christian denominations remain largely hostile to openly gay members, making them feel unworthy of their Creator’s love and forcing them to make the heartbreaking decision to lie about themselves or leave.
Unfortunately, such intolerance extends into the halls of government, where legislation — such as so-called “religious freedom” bills — is insidiously designed to discriminate against LGBT people. Thankfully, there is a growing list of affirming denominations and individual congregations that are welcoming of all and willing to advocate vocally on behalf of the marginalized.
While I disagree with those who find reason to reject LGBT believers, I strive to honor them because, like me, they are searching for truth as best they can.
To them, I offer these words from Holly Near’s song “I Ain’t Afraid”:
“I ain’t afraid of your Bible
I ain’t afraid of your Torah
I ain’t afraid of your Qur’an
Don’t let the letter of the law
Obscure the spirit of your love; it’s killing us
Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you.”
If I could change anything in these lyrics, it would be to substitute third-person for second-person pronouns: “our” and “us” instead of “your” and “you.”
We are all God’s children. In this season of goodwill, let us, indeed, rise up to our higher power, let go of our egos, admit there’s always more to learn and, above all else, abide by the great commandment to love God and each other as ourselves.
Robert Hill is the author of “The Church of Whosoever: Extra Grace Required.” He lives in Kansas City and works at Fort Leavenworth, where he writes Army doctrine.