Previously, I wrote about my experience of being a black gay man with evangelical Christian faith. After writing the draft, I found the writing process to be mixed with both catharsis and fear. It was cathartic in the sense that I found a sense of release from sharing my experience. I was able to put my thoughts into my fingertips and type away with resolve. Simultaneously, I also feared the reactions I might get from readers of the post. I don’t know why I get afraid because I’ve been candid before on other occasions. However, I’ve been avoiding writing about my most deepest, abiding fear, namely that I’ve internalized homophobia due to my adherence to a traditional Christian sexual ethic. This constant worry or struggle makes me question my happiness, my self-worth, my professional and personal relationships, and my integrity as a minister of the gospel.
Despite my continual readings of LGBTQA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and allies) literature, both religious and secular, my fairly liberal politics, my personal relationships and interactions with amazing openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual, and transgender people, and my personal experience of falling in love with another man, I still subscribe to a monogamous, heterosexual paradigm for marriage, religiously speaking. While I endorse the right for same-sex couples to seek the right to marry, I don’t know if I would attend a religious-based same-sex wedding. I rarely attend liberal or “open-and-affirming” churches for worship. And I mean rarely. While I studied in Atlanta, I visited a friend’s former congregation (belonging to a non-affirming African American denomination) whose pastor is very inclusive of “same-gender-loving” people and their families. Overall, I had a wonderful time in worship. Nevertheless, my personal inclination was to seek an evangelical church, which I did when I attended a church in Decatur.
I think a significant reason for my traditional sexual ethic lies in my understanding of Scripture, its authority, and interpretation. While I do not subscribe to the doctrine of full biblical inerrancy (naively, I did years ago), I do maintain, however, a traditional Protestant (specifically Baptist) assumption of the Bible’s infallibility, or its trustworthiness. Now, I’m no slouch when it comes to biblical exegesis. I believe that I was trained by some of the top scholars within the field of biblical studies (i.e. Duke and Emory). I employ historical-critical methods of biblical interpretation and I have employed other methods as well when its necessary to illumine a given text for preaching and teaching. However, I’m find that my chief method of biblical interpretation is primarily canonically and theologically driven. I interpret the Scripture from a presupposition which I’m concerned with the revelation of the Divine will for all of creation i.e. soteriological. Every time I open the blessed Book to study, I come to it with a hermeneutics of trust–I trust the presence of the Holy Spirit will illumine my understanding to receive and to proclaim the Word.
The irony with this confessional stance is that I share it with many white European/American heterosexual males who claim to subscribe to a traditional view of biblical authority and interpret the Bible in ways to legitimate chattel slavery, racial segregation, miscegenation, colonialism, militarism, hetero-patriarchy (church, home, society), and/or the demonization (and at times slaughter) of LGBTQ people, not to mention the abuse and/or neglect of the environment. From the standpoint of the oppressed, I should approach the text and Christian tradition with primarily, if not exclusively, with a hermeneutics of suspicion. I am mindful that a growing number of evangelical Christians who affirm biblical authority are drawing more “gay-affirming” conclusions after engaging the Scripture with different (some would suggest “fresh”) lenses. Their different readings of the Bible show that no one group has a monopoly over the Bible and its interpretation. Objectivity is non-existent. So where does this position me?
I don’t know. There is no neutral space from which I may speak. I ask myself, “How can I, a preacher no less, proclaim liberty to captives, feel captive? How can I tell a person who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender that God loves them, suggest to them to attend a ‘Bible-believing’ church that will most likely not acknowledge their presence, or do so in a damning way?” “How can I continue to affirm a ‘traditional’ view that is heterosexist? Don’t I want to be happy, whole and healthy? Don’t I want to experience life with another human being in a covenant relationship?” “Is the cost worth it all?” Constant, lingering, pressing, exhausting questions flood my soul. I pray for peace yet I don’t have it. Am I being faithful or am I a phobe–a tragic case of a self-hating black gay man? I don’t know. I probably will struggle with these questions until Jesus comes or at least I leave this earth to see Him in peace. I wonder why I’m not a wreck. And yet despite my struggles, I somehow manage to preach the good news. Imagine that.