Dwonna Know What I Think?”
A social/lifestyle advice and commentary column by guest contributor Dr. Dwonna Naomi Goldstone. Dr. Goldstone is a Professor of English and Coordinator of the African American Studies Minor at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.
I recently came out to my friends and family, and while they have been very accepting, my church family is not. Last week, I went to church with my family after some time away, and the pastor spent an inordinate amount of time condemning all gay people to hell. Should I give up on the church?
To Hell or Not
Dear “To Hell or Not”:
Blake Haney here again. Dwonna sent this one my way, so I am happy to answer this for you. I will say that there must be something in the water because this was my experience this past weekend in Chattanooga. The more acceptance the gay community receives, the more vocal the opposition becomes. As I have often said, “None yell so loud as the ones who stand in the pulpit.” These pastors’ condemnation of gays and lesbians comes from one place, and one place only: ignorance. Out of ignorance springs everything else: hate, fear, anger, and all else that ignorance breeds.
All one must do in order to understand what the Bible truly says about the subject of homosexuality is to actually read it. Read it with a critical eye with the aim of understanding. In fact, you should think of the Bible not as a study for spiritual guidance but as a study of the beliefs and values of a group of people. Many Christians find it difficult to make that detachment, but I was fortunate to learn this in the English Department at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Professors Clark Maddux and Linda Barnes taught me this approach, and it has done wonders for me as I struggled with rectifying my sexuality with my faith. In the long run, you may find that this approach will add to your faith.
As for the question originally posed, I would suggest that you follow your spirit and not give up on your faith just yet. If you are gay and still consider yourself a believer (and I strongly believe that you can be both of those things), do not quit going to church. There are many churches in Tennessee and throughout the United States that understand and welcome those who are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, and anything outside and in between all of these labels. It’s sad that too many churches today are “Come as you aren’t.” It’s all about an act. Should you give up on the church? No. Should you give up on that church? Absolutely.
I will close by saying this, and it’s something I wanted to say this past weekend at my old church when I was visiting my family. The pastor went on and on about gays coming out all over the country, and he implored the congregation to pray for them so that they “might be saved from this sin of homosexuality.” You’ve heard this, I’m sure. Now hold on, because I’m about to give a hard pill for some “Christians” to swallow. The “Christians” screaming the loudest about gays and lesbians needing to pray don’t realize that we’ve been praying about this long before these kinds of pastors ever entered the picture.
When I was 12, I incessantly prayed to not be gay, and I tried my best to act the part of a “straight” kid. When I tried coming out to my parents when I was 17, my dad said we should pray about it. This was truly out of love and not out of malice; my father simply didn’t understand that he couldn’t just “pray the gay away.” I prayed long and hard again for a little while, and finally, I stopped praying for God to fix me. Here’s the cold, hard truth that “people of faith” don’t want to believe. I prayed to God to fix me, and God said, “No.” The fact of the matter is that no is just as much of an answer as yes is. Why would God fix something He didn’t break? Smile, and know that you were made in God’s image, just the way He intended it to be. As for finding a new place of worship, search the Internet for LGBTQI inclusive churches in your area. Find a new church home that supports you and your quest to be a kind and honest Christian, and pray for those pastors who are spreading hate and not love.
*Dr. Goldstone lives in Nashville with her four unruly dogs—Satchel Paige, Butterfly McQueen, Charlie Parker, and Lena Horne. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org