Anchoring My Queer Christian Pride in a Spirit of Gratitude | Sojourners

Anchoring My Queer Christian Pride in a Spirit of Gratitude

Photo by Michele D'Ottavio / Alamy via Reuters Connect

June can be a difficult month for LGBTQ+ Christians. On one hand, Pride is a time of fellowship and celebration for the queer community; it reminds us of how far we’ve come in the struggle for equality and encourages us to cast off the undeserved burdens of fear and shame. On the other hand, June is also the month when many Christians revel in the opportunity to say exactly what they think of us in venomous detail. Combine this with anti-Pride boycotts, trite apologetics, and some interesting attempts by the Chrisitan Right to rebrand it as “Fidelity Month,” the spiritual-emotional whiplash can get pretty intense for LGBTQ+ Christians.

That’s why this June, I’m anchoring myself in a spirit of gratitude by focusing on the people who’ve left a meaningful mark on my spiritual journey. The list of people below is not an exhaustive one, but I hope that by sharing the way they’ve impacted my life, I can impart a small portion of their courage, kindness, and wisdom to others. Some of the people I mention below identify with the LGBTQ+ community while others are simply allies and advocates. What matters is that regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, each of us was created by an incredible God who delights in our presence, and who invites us to join them in beloved community.

Rachel Held Evans

My first encounter with Rachel Held Evans’ writing was shortly after I accepted the fact that I was gay. To say I was in a bad place mentally and emotionally would be an understatement. The process of coming out to myself had severely shaken my faith. Suddenly, everything I’d been taught about God seemed childish and self-indulgent, and the church — the cornerstone of my relational life — morphed into a place of extreme danger. It was a terrifying experience, but Evans showed me that I wasn’t alone in this spiritual wilderness.

Through books like Inspired and Searching for Sunday, Evans shared her own struggles with doubt, but also why she believed that Jesus was worth the journey. She became a champion for those existing on the margins of Christianity, including countless members of the LGBTQ+ community. I can still recall how moved I was after reading Evans’ 2013 blog post where she wrote,

“If God blesses Dan and me with a child who is gay, I would want that child to know without a doubt that he or she is loved unconditionally. I would want her to know nothing could separate her from the love of God in Christ. I would want her to know that she isn’t broken, she isn’t an embarrassment, she isn’t a disappointment. May I be part of creating a world in which I will not have to protect her from the bullies. And may I be part of creating a world in which I will not have to protect her from the Church.”

Even after her tragic death, Evans’ words continue to inspire me as I navigate my faith as a Christian who is also a gay man. This Pride month, I am grateful for Rachel Held Evans because she taught me that pursuing God is an act of holy courage.

Tyler Huckabee

Over the years, I’ve known many people who’ve left the Christian faith and, if I’m being honest, I can’t really blame them. There’s a lot of ugliness in the church today. Smugness, hypocrisy, a rising tide of Christian nationalism, and of course, overwhelming hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community have pushed many away from the Christian faith. All these things nearly pushed me away too. It was Tyler Huckabee’s words that reminded me why I stay, and for this, I’ll always be grateful.

Huckabee is a Christian writer who has covered everything from Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter (now known as X) to the theology of X-Men. Huckabee showed me that our God is one of beautiful, crooked wonders. In particular, his Substack post Why I’m Still a Christian is an incredible piece of writing that I think everyone should read. Huckabee doesn’t shy away from the damage Christians have done — especially to LGBTQ+ people — but he also believes that Jesus is bigger than our collective failings. 

“I do believe that Jesus — the real Jesus, stripped from all the culture war bullshit and colonialism and dingbat John Wayne authoritarianism — offers hope for the world,” he writes. “And I think the natural reading of the Gospels would lead any honest person to this Jesus.”

There’s no escaping the mess we Christians have made out of institutional religion, but the beauty of Jesus is still visible beneath the grime if we’re willing to look.

Jeff Chu

I’ve wrestled with a lot of terrible emotions as a gay Christian. Considering the ways sanctified homophobia permeates our culture and laws, anger, bitterness, and cynicism are familiar emotions for LGBTQ+ Christians. Jeff Chu is also no stranger to strong feelings. An author, teacher, and recently ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America, Chu has spoken candidly about his experiences as a married gay man who works in some spaces that aren’t affirming. However, Chu believes that our pain and grief can have a purpose in the labors of Christ.

It was from Chu that I first heard the theology of the compost. Farmers, he explains, often use rotting debris to cultivate their soil and coax new life from the earth. In the same way, God seeks to take whatever festers within us and redeem it into something wonderful. A theology of the compost reminds us that God is always sewing new life in places of death. For my part, this meant trusting that God would not abandon me to fear and despair, but rather give me the strength to live my faith through simple acts of grace and humility. This Pride month, I’m grateful to Chu for teaching me how to surrender the things of death to God, so that new creation might take root.

Bridget Eileen Rivera

I am an affirming Christian. I do not believe that LGBTQ+ identities and relationships are sinful, and I find the conservative arguments against them to be profoundly unconvincing. Still, I recognize that some queer Christians have come to a different conclusion, and that many have chosen to embrace a life of celibacy as part of their faith. While I strongly disagree with their interpretation of scripture, I still admire many of them for their faithfulness, selflessness, and commitment to showing Christ’s love to others. Bridget Eileen Rivera is one such Christian.

A writer and speaker, Rivera has spent years confronting the church’s damaging attitude toward LGBTQ+ people. Her book, Heavy Burdens, highlights the numerous ways that non-affirming Christians have failed to deliver on their promises of friendship and dignity. By sharing the stories of individuals who’ve lost jobs or been driven out of churches despite adhering to a conservative sexual ethic, Rivera forces her readers to accept an uncomfortable truth:

“Underneath all the talk about ‘family values’ and ‘biblical teaching,’ a much more hostile commitment lingers. Even if LGBTQ people go by the rulebook, commit to celibacy, and follow traditional teaching, it’s often not enough. At the end of the day, it’s not progressivism that many oppose. It’s LGBTQ people themselves.”

While we may differ on some things, I’m grateful for Bridget Eileen Rivera and her willingness to stand up against injustice. Queer Christians are not spiritual eunuchs who exist to coddle the egos of our straight, cisgender peers. We are siblings in Christ, co-heirs to a heavenly inheritance, and we deserve to be treated with respect.

My parents

I know that counting two people as one entry is technically cheating, but I could not create a list like this without including both my mother and my father. From an early age, my parents showed me what it meant to follow Christ in everything that you do. My father is my constant role model for integrity and wisdom, while my mother is a daily source of courage and kindness. Even still, coming out to them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — not because I was afraid they would stop loving me, but because I feared the truth would hurt and disappoint them. Instead, I was met with only love, support, and affirmation. 

In the years since then, I’ve come to realize what a rare blessing this is. For most LGBTQ+ Christians, coming out results in a parental rift that never fully heals. I want to encourage those who are struggling with non-affirming families this Pride month to listen to the words of pastor and singer Darren Calhoun, who reminds LGBTQ+ folks “that their first responsibility is to take care of themselves.” Surround yourselves with people who support you, use any resources that will safeguard your mental and physical health, and remember to love yourself as you seek to love others. As for myself, I can only say that I am grateful for my parents because their unconditional love is what points me daily to the endless, all-encompassing love of Jesus.

May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, be with you all this June. Happy Pride month everyone!

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