Coming out Mennonite and Queer

Posted on July 3, 2011

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This first post is going to be very long, and I hope it doesn’t dissuade you from following this blog.

My journey so far…

I grew up in a conservative Christian home, a Mennonite home. Family is very important to Mennonites. We tend to be related to each other. When Mennonites from different states bump into each other they often try to find out how they’re related- it’s called the “Mennonite Game.”
While I was growing up, most of my friends were relatives. Even in the public school I was related to almost a third of my class of 25 students. Outside of school I hung out with several first, second, and third cousins who made up most of my social group.

When I was 9 nor 10, we had a big family reunion at a nearby park (a very conservative Christian campground). I was hanging out with two cousins who I saw only once or twice a year. One was my best friend. I only saw her once or twice a year, but we had lots of adventures on our uncle’s farm.
The other cousin was a bit older than us. She was a righteous woman. NOT self -righteous, which is the opposite, but basically a good, kind person. Even though she is conservative, I am sure that many liberals would find it hard to dislike her, because she is so genuine, caring, and pacifistic.

All these things about her made it hurt twice as much when she informed me that we couldn’t eat with one of our relatives who was gay. I don’t think I knew what the word was, until she explained to me. She didn’t say it with malice or hatred, but possibly a bit of sadness and regret. I lived in terror for many years because that day I realized that if anyone found out I was gay, I would lose my entire world.

I explained how being Mennonite was my world, how my family were my closest friends, and most of my friends were family. From my point of view, anyone finding out would mean utter seclusion and loneliness.
I preemptively withdrew from a lot of my relationships. I was a happy child, and continued to be, but whenever anyone said the word “gay,” my heart raced and adrenaline screamed for me to run. There was a phase around middle school, and part of high school, where the word “gay” was a very common insult. Whenever I heard it I denied it too vehemently, and again I heard, “Hide, hide.” I withdrew further into my shell, and never had a friend over, nor spent the night at a friend’s house. I asked myself what they would do or think about those types of things if I was ever outed.

I was outed to my parents a few months before my 19th birthday, halfway through my senior year. They cried, and talked it through with me.

At that point my theological stance was: homosexuality is wrong. One cannot be Christian and a homosexual. Like many conservatives, I had been brainwashed and frightened by the misrepresented “Gay Agenda,” which is basically a twisted view of our desire to be accepted by society. NOT to convert, or “win over” more people (haven’t we yelled loud enough? “IT’S NOT A CHOICE!”).

The next morning my pastor came over. I love him dearly, and look up to and respect him to this day. I feel like his handling of the situation was very compassionate, expecially considering his background and the church where he preached. He prayed for me, and anointed me with oil for healing. I know that sounds offensive to a lot of you, but at the time, that’s what I wanted. Nothing changed.

That summer, during a missions trip, I came out to a bunch of the guys in my youth group and my youth pastor. They prayed for me, hugged me, and let me know that it was going to be ok. All that worrying and fear, and they didn’t “shun” me or make me eat alone, or call me any of the nasty things I hear about in the media.

Their reaction has been the typical one that I have gotten from all of my conservative Christian friends over the last five years. I have yet to receive a negative response. However, at that time I was looking to change, and still “on their side” (ie. believing that homosexuality was wrong).

I graduated recently, and started grad school. I flunked out my first semester because I ignored my online classes and spent all my time watching TV. I followed several gay storylines in various shows and then I watched some gay films. Finally, last month I was inspired to go check out “gay theology.”

I had always assumed it was a stretching (or tearing) of the sanctity of scripture, an attempt to justify behavior that the theologians knew was wrong. Surprisingly, I found that the arguments I read made sense to me.

A lot of the “gay bashing” Bible passages seem to condemn idol worship, prostitution, and pedophilic relations, not monogamous gay relationships. Add to this that Jesus never condemned it, that the Church Fathers are silent on it, and that my own theological father (Menno Simons) didn’t bash it, I felt amazing. Before, the future had stretched out in front of me like a road in the desert with no curves and no signs of life. Now it’s like a forest, and a huge bend has made everything a wonderful mystery.

*Side note. The moment that I accepted that this gay theology could be right was when I considered the wider Church’s stance on war and peace. To me, Jesus is patently anti-violence (inluding war, and self-defense), yet much of the Church has shifted its view the direct opposite (that being a soldier is righteous).

I accept the idea of a Christian soldier. Although I strongly disagree with giving one’s allegiance to anyone but God, or the idea of lethal force as diplomacy, I accept that such a person may still love Jesus, be in a relationship with him, and be considered “saved.”

It snapped in my head that if most of the church could be “wrong” about war and peace, most of the church could also be wrong about homosexuality. And why shouldn’t I expect them to accept me on the same terms that I accept them.

All this led me to GCN, and a lot of fellow Christians who know where I’ve been. I’m excited to walk with them in this new part of my spiritual journey, and I pray that we may together honor the Lord, and repair some of the damage done our LGBTQ Community by the Church.

Part of being Mennonite is a deep hope/love/passion for reconciliation. I hope that I can bring some of that about, because the Gays and the Christians belong together. Standing in both communities, I can see how beneficial they could be for each other, and how much they have in common.

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Posted in: Theology