Homosexuality & Christianity - Part 1
To start my posts on homosexuality & Christianity, part 1 will merely set up my experience of encountering (or lack of encountering) homosexuality while growing up in a conservative, Christian home.
This post has been a long time coming, but I wasn't going to write it until I was ready, and now I'm ready more than ever. There's a topic in a lot of circles, especially Christian circles that isn't the most talked about, but I think it needs to be discussed: homosexuality. Especially we Christians don't like to talk about it and find it uncomfortable to discuss. However, we need to talk about it, and we need to talk about it now. Enough on that - now to my experiences.
A lot of people know that one of my best friends is gay and it wasn't until my other best friend confronted me on my disdain that I really started changing my mind and heart towards gay people. Yes, my brother, Patrick, is gay and my other brother, Peter, has taught me how how to treat Patrick. This might sound odd to say as it is fairly odd, but I didn't know how to treat Patrick - do I shun him or love him at arms length at most?
It sounds odd to me now that I had to be coached and questioned on how to act towards Patrick after he came out. To step back briefly, I should unwrap this: we three boys grew up in a conservative, Christian home in a conservative, family-friendly town of Fort Collins, Colorado with amazing, loving, and incredibly selfless parents. Other than Peter's stint in elementary school, we went to the same private school (of which Patrick was the first Kindergarten class, both Peter and Patrick graduated from, and we all attended for at least 8 years), where my mom taught for many years, which was affiliated with the small, Methodist church we grew up in. We all went to private, Christian colleges. So we were all supposed to live in Colorado our whole lives, get married, have kids, and settle down forever, right? If anyone knows the Janelles, that's the least likely scenario.
During the Summer after my freshman year of college is when I "found out" about Patrick. Frankly, it rocked my world. It hurt. I cried. It was so different than anything I ever experienced. I thought Patrick was personally rejecting his family - other evidence of me being extremely selfish. I thought any remaining relationship we had was over. Luckily, that was far from being the case. Over the next 2 years, the legalistic school I was attending was good for me. I was falsely accused of an event and was kicked out. For whatever reason, I accepted it and knew it happened for a reason. The school really cleaned up my life in the sense of realizing what Christianity is not. I remember writing an essay about not conforming to the world and that that meant transforming your mind, not your wardrobe and was given a low grade. Even though I had grown up in a conservative, Christian bubble, my faithless "faith" needed to be scraped clean, and I needed to be made into the Christian man I would become - I have no doubt God was leading me where I thought He would never lead me. At the end of my tenure there, I was on a 12-day, 4000-mile roadtrip which ended with a 16-hour drive with Peter.
In the middle of nowhere (literally, in South Dakota) he started questioning everything on everything. Why? Why? Why? This rocked me. I didn't know why I believed that. I couldn't answer that question. It made me realize that everything I believed was because that's what my parents, church, and school believed. I wasn't critically thinking nor questioning anything. He then proceeded to confront me on my bitterness towards Patrick. It then hit me - having gotten kicked out of my previous school was God pointing his finger at my bitterness towards Patrick. It may seem odd from the outside, but think about it. Naturally one would be bitter towards an institution that falsely kicks you out, but I accepted it. Subsequently, I learned how to overcome bitterness in other areas of my life, including one towards one of my two best friends. It has been a journey since that day in May 2005, but it's one that I would not trade for the world, nor would I expect everyone to understand. This road trip would be the fulcrum of my journey to date, whether or not Peter fully realizes this - I don't know that he would care to know he was the main ingredient as long as he knew my life would take the turn that was more God-centered and God-directed.
The most ironic part about my journey is what was to happen the next two years following this fateful conversation with Peter. I would start questioning everything in life and question how I should treat Patrick, ask for forgiveness, and be a loving brother...all while attending Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell, who was probably not the closest of all Christians with the gay community. How the dichotomy of this played out is another story for another time, in part 2.
Coming up: what happens when a Christian guy has a gay brother but attends one of the most conservative, "moral-majority" schools in America. Would he be affected by spending a week with Patrick and his gay friends in Los Angeles during Spring Break of his senior year at Liberty? Will his open mind deter him from deepening his faith? Has he gone too far to the extreme and come back to the middle on the issue? Has he safely distanced himself from the gay community in order to live a good Christian life? All of these and more will be discussed in the next two posts.