I’ve spent the last hour sitting in Joe Van Gogh, a great coffee shop on campus, refilling on coffee every thirty minutes or so in an effort to stay awake.  I’m supposed to be staying awake writing a paper—I have four BIG papers due within the next two weeks. Yet instead, I’m browsing facebook.
I went on quickly, to put up a link on my status for the fantastically beautiful Keith Olbermann video, but my eye was caught by yet another status update of excitement about the passing of Proposition 8. It read: “ Jessica is we are not taking away their “rights” they already have them this is about the institution of traditional marriage!” The girl who wrote it was a friend of mine in college, my R.A.’s roommate my freshman year.
Even more painful was a comment posted under the status. This posting was by one of my roommates…mind you, I was not out at the point when she was my roommate, but, still…. Her comment reads: Amen. What about the voters’ “rights” that those judges took away when they tried to overturn what we had already voted on?!
In some sort of masochistic curiosity, I began exploring many of my facebook friends’ pages. My old friends from the church I grew up in. My classmates from APU. People who have shaped and influenced my life. Joining groups like ‘Defend Democracy—Defend Prop 8’, ‘I Stand for Traditional Marriage,’ and ‘A Million against Gay Marriage,’ posting status updates like ‘the will of the people have spoken and overturned the crooked judges in San Francisco!!’, ‘ Sarah is glad the will of God is in control and prop 8 was passed!’
I don’t know what to say about it except that it depresses the hell out of me. I want to email them all and say, “DON’T YOU GET IT?” But, apparently, they don’t. And I don’t think that will help. What I really want to do is ask why? Why do you care sooo much for something that causes other people to suffer? Why does this matter to you so much? How does it hurt you? Do you even know any gay people? I mean, obviously they know at least one gay person, but a facebook relationship doesn’t offer much opportunity for conversation.
I don’t know what to do. Part of me, for my own sanity, wants to remove them all as my friends. But that won’t do any good. Part of me really does want to email them all. Part of me wants to cry. Which, incidentally, is what I usually end up doing.

Its weird, because, though I’m really upset at these friends of mine, I don’t want to remove them as friends. I actually want reconciliation. I was at the American Academy of Religion conference in Chicago a few weeks ago, and, as I was navigating through the crowded foyer on Sunday afternoon after a session, I ran into two pastors from the church I grew up in, one of them being my old youth pastor when I was in sixth grade. Weird.
The church I grew up in, that I’ve spoken of a little bit already, was interesting. Its soo hard to speak about because on one hand, its been a source of so much hurt and pain—it goes beyond the often phobic, sometimes hateful stance on progressive issues, on my life, by my old peers and leaders. This was the church I worked at, and left in a rather painful way. This was also the church where, when I was struggling with an eating disorder during the beginning of my college career, I went seeking help from my pastor and his response was—and this is verbatim—“you obviously don’t have a relationship with God.” Because anorexia is directly correlated with spirituality? It was a very health and wealth gospel that my church embraced—if you don’t have a great life with lots of money, perfect health, and a seemingly perfect life, you just needed to pray more and live more morally. The health and wealth gospel of my childhood church caused a little scarring, to say the least. I could really talk for hours about how my childhood church has hurt me.
Yet, on the other hand, this church did a lot of good things for me. It was at this church that I found my faith—mind you, my faith has changed a lot since then, but still. In addition to learning a lot of wrong things about God, I learned a lot of things that I still think are right—things about God’s love and faithfulness, about Christian discipleship, about the role of community. I learned a lot of good from this church, and the bad that came, well, I learned from it.
So, needless to say, it was strange to run into old church folk at an academic conference. My academic/Duke world is just so far from my old Covina world, or, at least it seemed that way. But that changes when you are running from a queer theology panel to a discussion on feminism, critical theory, and scripture and run smack dab into your past. We stopped and chatted in the foyer for a few minutes, about life and what not—how the church is going, what else they are both doing, how I like Duke, etc…
And then, my old youth pastor says something along the lines of “I like your blog Brandy, I really appreciate your honesty.” Weird. Not to mention a little embarrassing. I guess that’s what you get when you post your life on a blog open for public consumption.  I suppose I just never expected people from my old church to read it!

And I couldn’t turn off the dialogue that was running in my mind (not out loud!) during my conversation with my two old pastors. “Do they think I’m going to hell? Do they pray for my salvation? Might they be a little supportive? Might they have become a little bit supportive since they heard, considering they know me? Or did it just make it worse? What can I say to make it better? Etc…. etc…” It didn’t help that I answered stupidly, giving a little too much information, when they asked how my parents took the news…

After about four minutes chatting in the foyer, we both had to go our separate ways to make the next session on time. What was weird was that I found myself wanting to talk to them more, to try to understand where they are really coming from, to get to the heart of what they really think, not just about sexuality, but about faith, about who God is, and what God wants from us…
I’d always imagined that if I saw a person from my old church, I’d turn and run the other way screaming, but it was oddly the exact opposite. I want to understand, I want to get beyond the hateful, vitriolic bullshit cast forward by both sides and understand. I want to understand why people think I shouldn’t be who I am, why they believe I shouldn’t even get married someday? Even the most conservative people here at Duke (and there are plenty of them) who think I am living in sin, believe, for the most part, that I should be allowed to get married, that the government’s actions do not necessarily coincide with the church’s beliefs, nor should they.

I think I want to get where they’re coming from so I can show them where they can go? I know that makes me an ideologue, not to mention a bit arrogant, but, I believe with all my being that people’s hearts and minds can be changed. I will not completely reject the possibility that it is my heart and mind that needs changing. But, this is bigger then me. This is about 18,000+ gay and lesbian couples who were married in California who now may have their rights taken away from them. This is about people who may want to get married one day, who may fall in love, and want to visit their spouse in the hospital if they got sick. This is about children who know from a young age that they are different and grow up hearing only that homosexuality is a sin. This is about kids who suffer because of that—be it through an eating disorder (like me), cutting, acting out, shutting out the world, or, God forbid, suicide. Teenagers who are LGBT are THREE TIMES more likely then other teenagers to attempt suicide.  The college I left due to my sexuality has had two people in the last ten years kill themselves by stepping onto a train track in the midst of an incoming train. Both these young men identified as gay, and, though one cannot know for sure, many believe that their tragic deaths had to do with their struggles with their sexuality.

With these realities and so many more, I don’t think it’s ‘just me.’ I think LGBT people have been marginalized and oppressed, and that the church has certainly not helped, and that it needs to stop. I hope and pray for the day when the Church will take a stand against culture in the way it should be doing—to be more progressive, to be more concerned about the rights of its own, to recognize that every one was made in the image of God. Well past the time government abolished slavery, many in the church still supported it. It was in 1920 that woman were allowed to vote in this country. Many woman still cannot lead in their churches. And, while the government is taking small small steps forward towards equality for all, regardless of not only race, gender, and ability, but also of sexual orientation, it’s a great deal of the church that is holding the movement back. This breaks my heart.

This does not mean I leave the church. Though, to be honest, sometimes I feel like it. My faith in God, in the God my church brought me to belief in, stays precarious but strong. My faith in the church universal, on the other hand, does not, and sometimes I wonder if its worth it. But, as of now, I think it is. Though I’m exhausted of fighting, of arguing about my humanity, of hearing the same freaking six bible verses over and over and over again, I’m still in this. Because, I believe the Church, for the most part, is good, and can be a force for good. And, because I believe many in the church need to be saved from their fears, from their ignorance, and for some, from their hate.

The church is where God has called me, and it is where I will continue to work tirelessly until I can’t work anymore. Hopefully, God can use me to change some hearts in the process…. So, I will not delete any facebook friends, but, continue to converse, and to hope….

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