I met Tommy (not his real name) back in the 1980s at our local church where I served as deacon and Sunday school teacher. We became close friends and talked about many things. Both of us being young and single, not surprisingly one day our conversation turned to sex.
I shared my struggles with my commitment to celibacy. Tommy shared that he too struggled with sexual temptation. For him, however, the temptation was for other males.
Taught by a loving congregation that being a Christian meant that homosexuality is a sin, I was aghast to learn that Tommy was gay. Being dear friends, however, shunning him was not an option, so I did as I had been taught.
I asked Tommy if he wanted to break free from the bondage of sin. I asked him if he repented from his sins, took Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior and believed that through the power of prayer he could become a new creature in Christ. With tears in his eyes he said yes. I asked him if he wanted to be a heterosexual. “Dear God Almighty, yes,” he burst out before emotionally breaking down.
I agreed to be his spiritual partner in the struggle against the evils of homosexuality. We covenanted to pray together. We fasted. We cast out the demon of homosexuality. If anyone ever truly wanted to be a heterosexual, if anyone ever truly humbled himself before God to faithfully live a Christian life, it was Tommy.
Years went by and, you know what? Tommy was still gay. Tommy did not change, but I did. For me it came down to either God was powerless to save a willing believer from her or his sins, or maybe, just maybe, I had been taught to read the Bible through the eyes of oppressors, regardless of how loving and sincere these oppressors appeared to be.
Irrespective of how earnest and caring Christians may actually be, their use of the Bible to advocate hate, disgust and fear toward homosexuals makes them the heirs of those who previously used the Bible to persecute women and marginalize racial and ethnic groups.
Like their spiritual ancestors who hanged independent-thinking women on the charge of witchcraft, enslaved Africans, stole the land of Mexicans and denied women basic voting rights, the folks at my church sincerely understood their faith in ways that oppressed and dishonored brothers and sisters also created in the image of God.
How then can we break from the overarching sin of heterosexism? Tommy’s failure to become a heterosexual led me to do what every good Bible-thumping, born-again, Spirit-filled Christian does when faced with an obvious contradiction between reality and the Bible. I returned to the text.
But this time, I attempted to read the text not from my position of heterosexual privilege, but through the eyes of those on the margins due to their sexual orientation. What I needed in approaching the Bible was a Queer Eye for the Straight Baptist.
This is why the Christian church, for the sake of its own salvation, needs the LGBTIQ community of faith. Voices of the sexual outcast, marginalized because of their orientation, are needed by heterosexual believers so that God’s holy word does not become imprisoned by the social location of heterosexuals.
Those who are gay are being called by God to bring a message of redemption and salvation to a church that is out to oppress and destroy them. This may sound unfair, but this has always been the way God operates.
God has historically chosen those from the margins of society to be agents of God’s new creation. As Matthew 21:42 reminds us, it is the stone rejected by the builders that becomes the keystone of God’s handiwork.
This theme of solidarity between the crucified Christ and the victims of oppression makes the people of the margins agents of salvation for the recipients of society’s power and privilege.