The stack of evidence had been building for quite some time, yet I wasn’t able to put the pieces together - or rather - it would be very difficult, and life changing to admit that I was in fact gay. I had made it through my adolescence and early twenties living under the presumption that I was indeed straight. It was easy being the Jesus Freak in high school and using God as an excuse to not really pursue any romantic relationships. I would do a three year stint at Teen Mania Ministries in Texas, where there would be the occasional mention of homosexuality from time to time, yet I never really gave it much thought.
Guys always nabbed my attention - I can think back as early as the eighth grade. Every year at Teen Mania a new round of interns would arrive, and the photos of accepted interns would be added to a board in the room where their applications were processed. One such intern caught my eye and I would return on several occasions to look at that photo. Even then, I didn’t understand why I was so concerned with this one particular individual, it might have had something to do with how dang gorgeous he was - and I never “chose” to feel that way. Nope - I was straight, and I was going to marry a woman, and there were even abstinence power ballads to keep me on that path - l”Someday” sung by LaRue would be included on many a mix CD.
While finishing up my French degree (stop - I know what you’re thinking) I would slowly start to have the “I think I’m gay” conversation with a select few people. It would take a while longer until I would finally have the phone conversation with a female leader from my Teen Mania days. As our conversation went through some of the details, she asked me how I thought this new revelation jived with my Christian beliefs. As I stood there in my dimly lit kitchen with the overhead florescent bulbs burning down on me, I had no idea. After many years of indoctrination and the bible being used more like a weapon - I didn’t know and was frankly too exhausted from the gigantic torments of the back and forth of the church world. It would be easier to not really think about it, and slowly let my faith slip away.
Those conversations would have been much easier, or maybe even non-existent - if a book like Matthew Vines’ “God and The Gay Christian” had been available to me. Perhaps I would have had an easier time assimilating with the college campus ministries, or just been more at ease about myself and perhaps I could have kept my beliefs in tact. It didn’t help things at all that I had recently exited a severely extremist toxic mind-control spiritual environment, and so it was tough sorting through many things - the worst being the war between two parts of me, and with any war there would be casualties along the way - primarily a sense of self, and positive self-esteem would suffer the most,and wind up dead in the figurative no-mans land of my soul.
A few years ago Vines dropped out of school at Harvard to study in depth the bigger scope of homosexual references in the Bible and came up with a throughly insightful sermon he delivered and posted on YouTube. His video would amass thousands upon thousands of hits, lead to the formation of a non-profit established to help build bridges among churches regarding this divisive issue, and ultimately the book, which hits store shelves today. I’m not one to really care to debate or discuss this issue anymore, as it is just exhausting and most people have their minds made up. Many churches have done a great job of indoctrinating people, without allowing other areas of logic, reason, history and science to have any say in the decision making process.
What is most alarming to me after reading the book is seeing how biblical translators have changed translations over time, and how it shows the vast array of interpretations available - and this is just in translating - a task that requires the reader to literally have blind faith that the translation is as close as it can be to the original intent. I did a semester of translation - so I know it’s an intricate art and some meaning doesn’t always follow. It also shows that they must not have done a similar study as Vines has done, or else the results quite possibly could have been very different. The case Vines builds over the course of the book for marriage equality, inclusion, and a Biblical case for blessing same sex-relationships - is quite comprehensive and compelling. I definitely appreciate his cultural analysis of the era when certain clobber verses were written. For ethnocentric American Christians - it’s hard to think outside the Super Bowl, white Jesus, and the English language - there is so much more understanding required if you are going to fully understand a complex topic like ancient world sexuality.
It’s obvious Vines cares deeply for his faith and despite his struggle wants to stay in the church. I can’t personally say the same is for me, nor do I really want to rejoin the severely dysfunctional family that has become the American “Christian” church. The word “Christian” itself has no gravitas and means nothing anymore - but has allusions to hypocrisy and judgement over love and acceptance. I’m content in not being certain with my faith or lack of faith. I no longer have a penchant desire to have to be right. I would rather people sense I’m different by my behaviors and not use labels to make said distinctions. Despite my theological crisis - I’m glad for Vines’ book as it does help bring some clarity to raging questions of inconsistency I’ve had simmering for some time.
This book will change the arena of discussion, making it easier for the common reader to access the facts quickly and easily, while not sacrificing quality. I love how Vines has entered the arena of discussion with such humility and grace, that it is astounding to see such spiritually prideful responses from his so-called “Christian peers.” I see it time and time again that Christians want to be right about an issue more than they want a Christ-like reputation of love - my deepest hope is that at least for this issue, perhaps their desire to be right about their current convictions will morph into an understanding that perhaps the “church” got it wrong and that inclusion and acceptance will have more value than strife and separation. It just might take a book like “God and the Gay Christian” to get us to that point - and perhaps a generation of gay boys and girls won’t be exiled by their families and communities for just being their little fabulous selves - and perhaps a little glitter can brighten the lives of the church - at last.