A week ago, my best friend back home sent a very personal Facebook message to some of his closest friends, myself included. After almost two-and-a-half years of hiding a part of his identity from his high school friends, he finally told us that he is gay.
We went to a very conservative Christian school. We were all taught that homosexuality was a sin; though it was never explicitly said, most were under the impression that homosexuality was a choice just like murder or rape, and as a result, deserved the same type of punishment and ostracism.*
I know what you are thinking: “Ricky, I doubt it was that bad. I am sure you are just over-reacting.” Before a week ago, I would have thought you were right. But after listening to my friend’s story and doing some personal reflection over my time at Fresno Christian, I feel like I am putting it as mildly as I can. People encounter gay men and women far more often than murderers and rapists, and as a result, it is a lot easier for them to be judged and punished.
For years, my friend spent every night praying to God to take away his attraction for men. He was tormented emotionally and spiritually. The worst part is that he, justifiably, did not feel like he could talk about this with anyone. He had to struggle with this alone.
On Christmas Eve of his junior year in high school, he sat his parents and sister down to tell them. It took him 30 minutes to say only two words: I’m gay.
The first people he could be truly open to outside of his family were his fellow students at University of Chicago. He felt more comfort, care, and support from strangers that he was meeting for the first time than his Christian brothers and sisters that he has known for almost his entire life.
That part of his story affected me the most. To be honest, I wasn’t that surprised when he told me he was gay. I have a feeling that most of his friends weren’t either. However, his message did show me how bad the Christian community can be at loving those who are gay.
It is hard to feel the love of Christ in community when you are not able to share your life with that community. There is no love if all you feel is judgment.
Christ called his believers to love God and love all people. He did not say to love all except the gays. He did not say to love everyone except those who are different. He did not say to love all except those who are imperfect. He said to love all. Period.
Homosexual persecution by the Christian Church is still just as prevalent today as ever. People are still out there holding signs that say “God hates fags.” And worse, the Church has turned a blind eye to the hurt and persecution that has arisen.
I know this blog post makes me sound angry (mostly because I am), but I am equally as angry, if not more so, with myself. All Christians struggle with what it means to love other people. We all have fallen short of what God has planned. I can think back on so many times when I have chosen not to share God’s love because I felt superior. We have all thought “well at least I am not like that guy,” when we all are just as sinful and broken. We all deserve judgment apart from the grace of God.
So why must we hurt each other so deeply? I have never been this passionate about anything before. If you know me, you know that I am generally relatively emotionally reserved and passive. My friend back home is the closest I will ever have to having a brother and knowing that he has suffered bothers me.
I am lucky. The Christian community I have here has been very supportive. I have gone through struggles, both sinful and not, and have felt nothing but love from my brothers and sisters in Christ that I have shared my struggles with, through keeping me accountable, giving support, or just listening. I know that if I were gay, that my Christian community would be just as loving and helpful as they have ever been. However, from the scope of my entire experience in Christianity, I feel like this is the exception rather than the rule.
Someday, I hope that the church is the first place that those who are homosexual go to for love instead of the last. I want this endless love to be the rule instead of the exception. We have a long way to go, but I know that through the transforming power of Jesus Christ, we can get there.
In closing, I wanted to add that my friend has come to accept his sexual orientation and is a lot happier now. He has a great community of friends who he knows loves him and cherishes him. I will always see him as a part of my family and love him. I thank him for letting me share his story.**
*In no way am I trying to blame our high school for being abusive or bad. I think that this is an issue lot of Christians struggle with and high school is the only Christian context that my friend and I both shared.
**Also, I purposefully am not making the claim that homosexuality is or is not sinful. Regardless of my beliefs on that topic, the issue is about Christians being like Christ and loving all who hurt and are in need.