Friday, September 15, 2017

My Struggle as a Gay Christian

"Well what do other Christians say about the Bible?" 
"Oh, you mean 'other people' and their book of rules?" 

At the age of 19, I walked into a confessional booth, guilt-ridden and ashamed that I was dating another person of the same gender. The palm of my hands were sweaty as I entered into the small confessional booth, which had a tiny bench and a black mesh in between the priest and myself. I knelt down before the mesh and told him how long it had been since my last confessional (eek) and then poured out my heart, especially now that I was dating girls.

"What do you mean you are dating girls?"
"Well, I'm dating 'a' girl."
"What do you do with her," he asked as silence followed.

I didn't know what to say, other than tell him it was no different than dating a man, in some sort of innocent 'dating' way. I didn't want to describe my sex life with the priest, but he kept on asking me details of my sexual relationship. As soon as he felt my awkwardness with confessing sexual aspects of my relationship, he then said to me that living that lifestyle is a dead end road. I'll never forget those words being spoken to me, ever.

A dead end road.

I did the Act of Contrition and he -- the priest, forgave me. Shouldn't God be the one forgiving me though? Did I do something so terribly wrong? I didn't hurt anyone, I didn't make anyone feel bad about themselves nor did I have any bad intentions with any of my "sins" that I confessed. So how could it be wrong?

That's when I decided to study the Bible from front to back and from back to front again. Some days, it was like reading Greek literature in a dark room, while other times, it spoke out to me as if God Himself was standing before me. I started realizing and understanding that what the Bible refers to in Leviticus was an Old Law that Jews need to keep, not Christians. They also explain that eating shellfish is an abomination, a man shaving his beard, getting tattoos and sitting next to a woman who is menstruating were all great sins in the Old Testament. The list goes on. And how would you know if a woman was...eh, never mind.

This is when my relationship with God became stronger. Instead of attending the Catholic Church where my mom took me for mass, CCD and to get my communion and confirmation done, I gladly left and started attending a Trinity Assembly Church. I couldn't believe how different it was to be around spirit-filled Christians who were happy to be at church. They were so happy to be there, that they even stayed there for over two hours praising God and having fellowship afterwards. They were so nice to one another, unlike the Catholic Church where you felt as though you were being sneered at -- at least for me it felt that way. But here you had people talking in tongues and interpreting it. You had some crying for joy and raising their hands to receive the Holy Spirit. Wow! I always walked out of there with a sense of euphoria.

The following Sunday, I was surprised to see another pastor up at the podium speaking. She was a pastor who traveled here from Ohio to tell her testimony. But before she even spoke, people were gathered in the lobby shaking hands, greeting one another and having small chat before services started. Two older women approached my partner and I and said, "I hope you don't find this intrusive, but we do have a gay and lesbian ministry here." The two women looked like a couple. We were so happy that they had an LGBT group they catered to! How incredibly accepting of this church!

It was until we sat down that we realized the "gay and lesbian ministry" they spoke of was more about a "pray your gay away" kind of group. The pastor was a "former" lesbian who got out of the homosexual lifestyle. The two older women got up to give their testimony as "ex lesbians." Yes, you read that correctly. Ex lesbians. But wait, there's more. The "ex lesbians" still cohabited, but they practiced celibacy. That's OK, but the act is not OK. This was the message sent to my little confused brain. Each testimony had each of the women crying hysterically, not because the Holy Spirit moved them, but it felt like they were incredibly sad to withhold their true selves to one another due to what other Christians had suggested. My furrowed brow was giving me a migraine as my mind was racing with all of these questions. I needed to speak to the pastor about this. This is wrong. As the sermon went on with the guest pastor, she said that if anyone in this church are gay or lesbian, that they will miss out on the glory of God. The analogy she gave was this...

"You can't ride the coattails of other good Christians. You have to repent for your sins and do away with them forever. Picture this... You walk into your parents' house and you smell the delicious aromas of your mom cooking up a storm. You expect all of your siblings and extended family to be there, but as you approach the kitchen area, there's just a boiling pot with nobody around. That's how it's going to be when you die. Your soul will find just a boiling pot of what you could have had, but you missed the boat. You missed out on the forgiveness of God because you didn't repent for your homosexual lifestyle."

I raced back home eager to open up my Bible and check for everything! I read each condemning scripture with a fine tooth comb, hoping to find some answers within the book itself. I couldn't take it anymore. I sat there for hours upon hours, until it was 6:30 in the evening. There was another service being held at 7pm. I told my partner, "I have to make a quick run to the church." She just looked puzzled and was like, "Ok.....?"  I had to find out for myself and hear it through my own pastor's words on how my lifestyle is "evil."

As I pulled up to the church, I found myself panicking. My heart was racing, my breathing was shallow and I started to have doubts -- about approaching him as well as doubts about myself. How can I ever debate with a pastor who guides and teaches hundreds of people every week? But I was prepared. So I walked inside 20 minutes before the service started. They guided me to his office. I knocked on the door and there he was, sitting at his desk doing some paperwork.  I took a deep breath and closed the door behind me. He took off his glasses and said, "Well hello, Debra! What brings you here this evening?' How can I help you?"

This was my defining moment. Was I really prepared or this?

"Your guest speaker...she...she spoke about homosexuality today."
"Yes, how did you like the sermon? It was moving, wasn't it?"

"No."

He stared at me closely and then said, "So you disagree with her?"

"Yes."

I had my bible with me and pointed out scriptures that conflicted with homosexuality still being a sin. So I went on with my beliefs.

"Leviticus: Old Testament. Our sins were abolished once Jesus died on the cross. Christians no longer go by Leviticus as the Jews still do.

New Testament: Speaks about the promiscuity of all homosexuals as well as heterosexuals. They have taken the meaning of reckless sex and threw it upon all gay people.

The origins of the word "homosexuality" doesn't necessarily mean same gender sex. The passage in the ancient Hebrew is clearly talking about male-male sex acts, specifically anal sex. The issue was penetrating an anus with a penis, this making the penis literally “unclean” to the point of forbidding entry into a vagina.

Sodom and Gomorrah was about rape and humiliation -- not sex between two people who love one another. But Christians will cherry pick this and twist the story around to condemn those who are homosexual.

So with our handful of homosexual references in the Bible (some not even referring to homosexuals themselves but the act of reckless sex), they never seem to focus on the 100 plus verses on slavery and find it to be "okay" to accept those who are adulterers -- which can be someone divorced while her ex is still alive. In the Bible it talks about divorce being even more sinful than homosexuality, especially if her ex spouse is still alive. The Bible is convoluted with ancient stories that we no longer abide by i.e.: slavery (thank God), and if we were to go by all the rules of the Bible, then what kind of world would we live in? It would be a man-driven society to control the masses -- to control the immorality of people -- even if they're behind closed doors."

As I kept fumbling through my Bible, I pointed out to the scriptures that were confusing to me, or that proved that all that Jesus has done was fulfilled and his death was not in vain. He died to save us. 

I continued on...

"The law was abolished once Jesus died on the cross for us.

'So we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be accepted by God because of our faith in Christ--and not because we have obeyed the lawFor no one will ever be saved by obeying the law.' --Galatians 2:16

You will not get a ticket into heaven if all you do is 'good deeds'. Some good deeds come with an agenda, or an evil attempt. It's about your faith.

Continuing with Galatians:
But what if we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then find out that we are still sinners? Has Christ led us into sin? Of course not! rather, I make myself guilty if I rebuild the old system I already tore down.

'For when I tried to keep the law, I realized I could never earn God's approval.'

So I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ. I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this early body by trusting the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless.

For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die." --Galatians 2:15-21

Wait, there's more I have questions about." 

Then I fumbled back to Sodom and Gomorrah, since they use this story all the time to make references of how immoral we are. 

"The story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Basically, God says that He's going to destroy cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, if two angels cannot find any good people within the towns. Once the angels arrive, a kind man named Lot invites these angels into his home and entertains them. This angers the cities' men, and the men rallied outside of Lot's home, wishing to do 'perverse actions' to these male angels. Moments later, the two cities are destroyed by fiery rain. Many anti-gay Christian ministers use this passage to say that this is an example of God’s wrath against homosexuality -- as if the men of Sodom were all gay, and all trying to 'be gay with' these male angels. Historians and sociologists tell us that gang rape was a very common form of brutal humiliation of the subjects, in the ancient Western world. The Sodomite men did not come to Lot’s house to have monogamous, committed, loving relationships with the male angels residing there. They came to rape these angels.

All references to Romans were about promiscuous sexual acts between heterosexuals as they burned for lust toward one another, moving onto other partners, even of the same gender. They were speaking about orgies and reckless sex -- not a loving relationship between two people. They were defiling one another -- not loving one another. Lust is not love. There's a huge difference. What do you think about all of this I've found?" 

I went through everything I had. I went through all that I had read and understood. And he just looked at me and said one thing. 

"God loves the sinner, but not the sin." 

I walked out after pouring all of my knowledge and research of the Bible disappointed that I was given an one liner -- a cliché -- the same ol' spiel when they get hit with the homosexuality question. I then realized that I was in a church that had a religion, but they had no relationship with God Himself. They had no forgiveness or acceptance in their hearts, as Jesus once did. They didn't recognize us as human beings and so, I changed my church. I started to pray to God in the privacy of my own home. I studied the Bible in the comforts of my own home. Soon enough, my book, A Prayer Away From Healing was finally published. 

My purpose in life was starting to take shape. I started writing articles and helping those who struggled with their relationship with God as well as trying to find a place in the world given that they were gay or lesbian. God loves all of us, and those who condemn our relationships with our loved ones are way off base. 

I will say this though... Faith is something we have to respect as a non-scientific factor. Faith is something that we need to keep for ourselves, share with others, but not to force down anybody's throat. That's so important, because God gave us free will. We also need to respect people's faith or lack thereof. But once it comes off as disrespectful, we need to reel that in. 

What that pastor said to me wasn't "disrespectful" -- it was his faith. It was his "opinion." It was what he has read to understand as a "sin." That doesn't mean that it's all black and white just because a pastor said it. What it means is, respect it, and then move on. For instance, as I've said time and time again, if I walked into a baker's shop asking them to make a cake for my "gay" wedding and they refused due to their religion, I would walk out and find somebody else. 

Why? 

Because they feel as if they're sinning by partaking in something they disagree with. That's LIFE! We have to come to terms that other people will have other beliefs different than our own. That's OKAY. But there is a fine line with respecting their views, and bowing down to taking away our rights. I'm not saying it's okay for people to discriminate against one another, what I'm saying is, as much respect that we beg from society, we also have to give that same respect back in return. 

What I have learned about this 20+ year lesson is this... 

Put God first. Everything else will fall into place. 

Pray to God before you open the Bible. Don't just flip through a scripture without reading the entire story, or else you will get a strange message that'll baffle you and make you wonder if the book has any value whatsoever. Just as you wouldn't flip to the middle of a book at the bookstore to judge it, the same applies to the Bible. There are many books within the Bible. You can even start at one of the books inside the Bible if you wish.

For me, when God comes first, everything else seems to be okay. Spending hours at a time with Him is not "slacking off." Do not feel guilty about spending a lot of time with Him! That's what the devil wants you to think. Guilt and fear is not of God. Those are dreaded emotions that the evil one gives. 

Remember to not only pray to God, but also listen. Oddly enough, the word "silent" and "listen" have the same letters. I don't think that's a coincidence. He will answer you, maybe not in your time, but in His time. If you don't believe me, please contact me because I can tell you a million and one stories of how God has spoken to me personally. He has changed my life forever. 

Commit everything you do for the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you. --Pslam 37-5 
Put God first before everything in your life. Watch how your life changes. He WILL help you! I am experiencing this for myself. It's amazing. 

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. --Matthew 5:8 
God sees your heart. If you're gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and you have a good heart, don't you think God already knows you by now? People judge based on assumptions about certain lifestyles. Be confident that God loves you more than anybody in this world can. Trust that. 

It's about your heart. It's not about "good deeds." It's about your faith, it's not about the work you've done to establish a seat in heaven. Just be you, because everybody else is taken. 

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me over on the right side of this blog in the contact form. I will respond within 24 hours. 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!