To Love and Be Loved

I'm in a season at the moment where Christian platitudes are making me angry and bitter. In a book that is supposed to encourage someone who is experiencing difficulty and deep, emotional grief, this sentence is loathsome: "Like [King] David, you will visit Ziklag [a place of suffering] somewhere between your prophecy and your destiny." I nearly threw the book across the room. I then searched for further help, only to read, "Faith is the victory that overcomes -- even on the worst day of your life!" I thought to myself: Communicate to me like a normal human being. Enough with your Christianese lingo, bumper-sticker sayings, and tired clichés.

I don't want to footnote the author because I respect him too much. But when a person is grieving, teetering on an emotional breakdown, the last type of attempts at encouragement she or he needs is this "joy-in-the-morning" sentimentality. (cf. Ps. 30:5) There is a deep grieving in which a person refuses to be comforted. (cf. Gen. 37:35; Jer. 31:15) No words can fix the wound. No amount of empathy can bring someone out of this state. Grief, pain and anguish actually seem appropriate, almost a comfort for this sad and desperate state of mind and heart.

Allow me to explain why conservative Christianity is a difficult sell to LGBTQ people: you are not merely demanding that the convert remain single and celibate, difficult as celibacy is for those not "gifted" in the discipline of celibacy (cf. Matt. 19:11; 1 Cor. 7:7), but you are commanding them not to romantically love anyone for the rest of their lives. You respond: "Well, they could learn to love someone of the opposite sex, and thereby be romantically involved with that person for the rest of their lives." To which we respond: "Could you? Could you, as a heterosexual, learn to love someone of the same sex and be romantically involved with that person for the rest of your life?" Unless you are bisexual then we know your answer is no.

So, you throw up your hands, and begin to quote those seven passages of homosexual proscription from the Bible. Without the slightest inkling of empathy, without understanding even in the slightest what being a believer who loves the Lord but who longs to be romantically involved in a same-sex relationship is like, you feel vindicated because you are "standing up for what is biblical." You gain for yourself a sense of being right, righteous, and dismiss the individual, categorically placing him or her as "liberal" (or unregenerate), staunchly gleeful that you are "right." But allow me to brazenly inform you of your greater guilt.

By focusing on "the sin of homosexuality," and by that conservative evangelicals are referring to homosexual sex, you have just reduced the individual to a sex act, dehumanized him, and neglected the fact that he is created in the image of God. Should we, then, also view heterosexuals as little more than sex objects? When we think of or view a man and a woman, shall we conceive of them in our minds the heterosexual sex act, neglecting all of the other aspects of a union between two human beings -- the elements of a deep and self-sacrificial love for another human being, kindness, tenderness, provision, support, affirmation, gratuitous surprises that demonstrate an overwhelming and abiding love and care and concern?

I was reminded by a friend to consider the era in which I live as a means of encouragement. Truth be told, fifty years ago, I would never have published a post like this for everyone to read. Society at large, and especially the Church, would have shamed me into a manipulative psychological and emotional closet in which I would wrestle with feelings that I alone would know. Or, by social pressure, I would marry a woman who knew of my struggle and we would live together as friends but appear like a romantic couple in order to keep up appearances. The toll that secrecy, fear, and shame have taken on the homosexual psyche must be enormous.

Right now I am experiencing some excruciating emotional pain from wanting to share my life with someone -- actually, someone in particular. I've been an emotional wreck for days now, crippled from wanting to love and to be loved, crying desperately from within the depths of my very being. The emotional pain is, at times, unbearable. I have to keep distracting myself in order to not experience a complete emotional breakdown. I'm just faking it to make it right now.

That's probably uncomfortable for some of you to read -- especially those of you who know me personally. What am I asking of you? What is the point of this post? I want you to realize that the issue of homosexuality, and its cognates, addresses not a mere sex act but the very heart and soul of the individual. Sex, as most heterosexual married couples will attest, is an important and yet minuscule aspect of a relationship. My longing is not for sex. My deepest desire is to love someone, romantically and emotionally, and to be loved in the same manner. At 48 years old, single but having so much love to give, remaining single is, at times, excruciating. I feel loveless (unloved), desperately hopeless, incurably lonely. But let me ask a favor.

If you contact me on this blog or via email because you read this post, depending upon what you write, perhaps less is better. If you lecture me about homosexuality, throwing seven passages at me, our on-line connection will be severed. I will not be treated inappropriately by anyone. I have been studying those seven passages for the last four years and I am about to study them again with fresh insight. My main hope is that LGBTQ people will be viewed and treated with the utmost dignity, respect, and as the human beings that they are -- created in the image of God, whom God loves, for whom Christ gave His life (and took it up again). I am asking that you view us not as objects of a sex act but as thoughtful and caring human beings who want what the rest of heterosexual society wants -- to love and be loved.


Post a Comment


My photo

My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.