Sunday, June 10, 2012
Tonight I attended the evening service at Metropolitan Community Church of Portland in support of my new friend AJ Mendoza. AJ is entering his senior year at George Fox, and is the president of a student group on campus called Common Ground. Common Ground is an LGBTQ and straight ally club, formed to support LGBTQ students on campus, and raise of the awareness of LGBTQ issues. He gave his testimony about realizing he was gay as a teen, and how he dealt with those feelings as a member of a Pentecostal church. After coming out in high school, he went back into the closet when he started at George Fox, and found the closet much smaller and more painful the second time around. When OneGeorgeFox started to form, AJ developed Common Ground parallel to, but separate from, 1GFU, and come out of the closet once again, this time in a much more condemning environment. You can check out Common Ground here: http://www.facebook.com/commongroundgeorgefox
But AJ’s testimony wasn’t what had me getting emotional. MCC is what most people would call a “gay church.” The large majority of its members are gay and lesbian people, most of whom appeared to be attending with their partners. I know a few of them, but most of them were strangers. Unlike bigger churches where it’s easy to blend in and hide, when you show up by yourself to a gay church, people notice. And people hug. A lot. It was awesome.
When they took communion towards the end of the service, the couple in front of me spent most of it in each other’s arms, faces buried in shoulders. It wasn’t hard to see what church meant to them. I tried to put myself in their shoes - a Christian, inter-racial gay couple. Separately, each of those identifiers mean something different. The identifiers of being Christian and gay usually mean the two are not the same person. I thought of how in everyday life, a Christian person may have a hard time gaining acceptance from gay culture. And a gay person will likely have a hard time finding acceptance among Christians. How hard it must be then, for someone who is both. Not being fully accepted by the gay culture because they cling to the faith that has caused so much damage to the gay community. And not being accepted by the Christian community because they were born a certain way.
But here they were, in a place where all of the things that make them different are accepted and embraced. It was as if when they’re at church, they don’t have to look over their shoulder to see who might be judging. When they’re at church, they can enjoy songs and sermons about the God they love, and they can do it next to the same-sex person they love, and nobody thinks it’s strange. Church seemed to be their refuge, and I found that powerful.
It’s moment like these that fuel my fire to figure this faith thing out. I might not be able to enter into faith intellectually, and if we got deep into theology, I’d probably disagree with them on most everything, but the fact that there ARE gay Christians inspires me. Who else has a better reason to reject the Christian faith than gay American Christians? Who has been treated worse? But they’re around, and they’ve found a way to hold onto their faith despite the beating they’ve taken from their spiritual brethren. More than any theology, to me, that speaks to the power of their faith, and the impact it can have on someone. And isn’t that what we want? Not to arrive at a perfectly logical set of faith statements, but to find the place where we can finally let go. Let go of our fear of dying, our anger towards those who have wronged us, our desire to be fully known and fully loved. Isn’t that really the point? Those amazing people have found their place, and they give me reason to think someday I might too.