'Never place a period where
God has placed a comma.'
Yes. That kind of church. Well, maybe not that kind, if what you’re thinking is angry misogynistic homophobic against-everything-I-stand-for church, the kind that makes the most noise and seems to get the most attention. No, I went to another type of church, one where they follow principles of compassion and peace and are open and affirming to all people.
I explain this because I’ve had to “come out” at many times in my life – as queer, of course, which for me can mean admitting I like women in hostile homophobic spaces or admitting I like men in spaces where my belonging as a part of the “gay community” might be challenged. And sometimes saying that I have a spiritual life feels like a type of coming out, too. Though Christians in this country are, at most times, privileged, for me this part of my identity is sometimes another layer I have to negotiate when it comes to acceptance. Just as there are religious circles that are hateful to queer folks, there are queer circles where saying you go to church means you might as well be admitting “but some of my best friends are homophobes.”
Let’s clear this up: like queer folks and immigrants, or queer folks and people of color, or any other intersection of our identities, queer folks and people of faith are not entirely separate and opposite people. There are queer people in churches and temples, leading congregations or just taking part, and expressing their spirituality otherwise all over the place. And, some people of faith believe that part of their call is not to exclude or condemn queer and trans folks (or even welcome us with some “hate the sin, not the sinner”-type judgment), but to welcome and affirm us as we are, to help us on our journey towards loving and accepting ourselves, and, as Desmund Tutu calls for here, to stand up and take action against our persecution.
For me personally, faith serves a similar purpose as writing – it gives me hope. In the moments when I can’t find justice anywhere else, can’t look for it in the criminal justice system or rely on institutions like police forces for it, I look instead to art, to music and dance, to writing, and yes, to some higher power. I look to real people, those real bodies that hold real truths that will reveal themselves if you look for them. And I look to my silly idea that there is something beyond this world. I may not always believe that justice will be served in a court of law, or that hearts can be healed over prison terms, but I do believe that at times bodies and hearts can find healing and balance in the joy, laughter and tears shared over art. And shared in communities of faith.
The faithful people I know are not the angry, hateful ones you see on TV, but loving, compassionate, justice-seeking people I can often count on when I’m trying to find some glimmer of hope. This isn’t to try to preach about my beliefs, but just to spread the word that these folks are out there. We’re here. We’re queer. And sometimes we pray.