Take Me To (Gay) Church // Queerness & Religion
Becca returns to Boshemia to share her thoughts on being bisexual in the Christian faith. Becca is a writer and MA Publishing student at Oxford Brookes.
I am bisexual and I am a Christian. My faith revolves around a deep, individual relationship with God. When I’ve needed help and guidance, when I’ve been grateful, frightened, angry, joyful—in need of a chat at any hour and in any situation, I’ve spoken to God. I’ve felt His love and seen evidence of His power to save me. I chose to be confirmed aged 13 and I used to go to Church all the time, except I was usually in the back helping with a children’s arts and crafts group called Church Mice. As the children and I grew up, it gradually stopped running; more recently I’ve just been a few times a year, when I’ve been home from university and wanted to sit with a community who loved God as much as I did.
The relationship between Christianity and homosexuality is historically terrible. At worst, gay people are horrifically persecuted; at best, they aren’t taken seriously. Much of the Bible is filled with parable guides on love and life, but when it comes to homosexuality, it’s frustratingly minimalist and inflexible. In Genesis 1:27, 28; Leviticus 18:22; Proverbs 5:18, 19 and Corinthians 6:18, any sexual activity that is not between husband and wife is condemned. The emphasis on ‘husband and wife’ is widely accepted to confirm that homosexuality is included in this condemnation. Conversely, the Bible does encourage respect for everyone—‘honour men of all sorts’ (Peter 2:17)—so homophobia is technically is frowned upon. The Christian website jw.org uses the concept of smoking to illustrate Christian attitudes to homosexuality. Christians disapprove of the idea of smoking, but do not judge people who choose to smoke because they respect that they are free to choose how to live. Jw.org suggests that Christians use the example of smoking to answer the question of whether the Bible supports being gay. Of course, you can’t equate being gay with smoking. We don’t choose to be homosexual. It isn’t just about sexual activity; it’s about love and how we recognise ourselves. Smoking is a choice and a habit: sexuality is part of your identity.
During the months that I felt my sexuality changing, I kept praying, asking for God to help me understand what I was feeling and accept the huge change in myself. Every time I prayed, I heard—or felt—reassurance and comfort. It was okay. I was who I needed to be and I was loved.
Being bisexual has affected my confidence in going to and being a part of the church community. I’ve always wanted to get married in church in the eyes of God, and especially get married in the church where my parents got married and where my mother is buried. When I was with my partner, we talked about it and they gently let me know that it wouldn’t be easy to just get married in church like everyone else. I asked one of my best friends, who feels the same about Christianity as I do, about this. She said that gay marriage is legal in the UK but there will be some priests and some churches who don’t marry gay couples. She said that the parishes of our hometown, Stafford, were particularly against it. I felt upset and excluded, full of doubt.
Not long after this conversation, Easter came along. I absolutely love going to church at Easter and celebrating life and rebirth, and after so much personal growth, this year felt particularly important. But when I went into my Church on Easter morning, I didn’t feel celebratory. I felt anxious and unwanted. Not by God, but by the Church as a system, as a business. Church services so commonly refer to the original Bible, which, as aforementioned, can be out-dated and archaic in what it teaches. I’d felt so much comfort from my conversations with God in the past weeks, but when I came into church that morning, it felt as if humanity, what they had devised and written down, didn’t accept me. I sat feeling uncomfortable and guilty, and I actually kept praying in my mind for God to be with me and save me from the church. The rest of the day, amazingly, was so happy and peaceful.
I haven’t actually been to church since. I want to go, but I’m still unsure of where I fit in with it all. It feels complicated and uncertain. Faith is having a personal relationship with God, however that may be. Singing hymns and listening to readings is part of being a Christian—but not all of it. Living with benevolence, forgiveness and unconditional love is true Christianity.
Now, my favourite way to go to Church is on my own when it’s empty, just to feel the peace and tingling sense of hope. I went to a local Saxon church a couple of weeks ago after one of my grief counselling sessions, lit a candle for my late mother, and felt tenderness, not judgement. I try not to let the fear of the brand of Christianity affect my true faith. Love is Love, God is God, and I am me.