Ok so I know, I’m late to the party on this one, I mean it’s been nearly two weeks right, we’ve all moved on! Although we haven’t because people are still writing about it with a lot of opposing views coming to the table. It’s taken me this long to write not because I’ve been busy or not bothered about it, but because it’s been a constant stream of thought running through my head and mixing up a stream of emotions that surface every now and then and I didn’t want to rush in with a knee jerk reaction.
I’ve written about homosexuality and Christianity before and I always say I’m going to follow it up, and the few people who read this regularly will know I haven’t managed it yet. Not because I get bored or there is nothing to say, but because there is so much to say you could spend your life researching it and just get lost in it all and never come out with an answer.
This week I’ve read Vicky’s interview about ten times! I’ve read replies and responses, both positive and negative. Each time I see her response on twitter or in a quote or on Facebook and I’m impressed by her resolve and her strength and her standing as it is in her original interview.
She said that many would and have turned their back on the church but she will not because of her love for God. In response many Christians have come out, however the amount Christians coming out seems small compared to the amount of out gay and lesbians declaring their faith! I guess I’m in the second group…kind of
Everyone’s telling a story and I could tell you mine (that might actually make some people stop insisting that my book Judged By Your Peers is my true story: it’s not! But that’s another rant for another time!)
However this is a blog not a novel. Also I did write my own story and then last night saw a comment from Vicky on Facebook saying how hard the last few days had been due to some of the nastier and more derogatory comments having taken their toll. Today I saw some of those comments and it saddened me greatly, but mostly it made me angry.
I was raised in a very Christian home, I went to church/fellowship every Sunday, I went to Sunday school, on Tuesdays we went to bible class, on Thursdays were prayer meetings and on Friday evenings I went to the church youth group: Jesus’ Joyful Juniors, or 3J’s as we called it. When I was 12 I spent a week at church camp and at the end of the week I was stood on a grown mans shoulders in Leeds city centre holding a microphone singing this little light of mine and for some reason I was showing a skill of being able to juggle one handed with my other hand. I was not in any of these instances forced or made to go, it was a an option, it was one for my brother and sister as well. They chose not to go, I wanted to go, I honestly did and more to the point I loved every minute of it.
Then I hit my teens! I guess my story is not dissimilar but also very different to Vicky’s.
I was 13 when I first realised I felt differently and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
I prayed over and over and over and over to make it go away . I begged and I begged to make it better, my prayers and my pleading went unanswered for years. As I started to realise it was never going to change, I began to change my life. After 12 years, when I was 25, I went back to university and found more of the answers I was looking for in science and that, along with my sexuality caused me to question my faith and what it was I was actually believing in and why I was punishing myself for something that had never seemed to bring me anything but heartache.
The night I came out to one of my best friends, I was 26, I was on the floor in the town centre literally sobbing. My whole body was shaking out of control as I just couldn’t think what else to do. When I woke up in the following morning, a necklace I had worn for about ten years, a little silver cross with my favourite psalm on it was gone. I have never found it! I felt that I had finally opened up and given up trying to change and for it I had been abandoned!
The truth is I got drunk and angry and upset and the chances are that cheap silver chain got caught and snapped and in my drunken state I hadn’t realised. In my head and in my heart, I had been abandoned by the God I had been begging and turning to for years for help.
I went to counselling to try and change, but all that did was make me realise how angry I was.
I was so angry!
I have questioned my faith every single day, I have lost a lot of people I love and I have hurt and tortured myself over how I feel coincides with that upbringing. I have stood and questioned how any of it can be real when I see the evidence in science that shows a very different reality, and when I see the suffering and horror around the world. How can this God of love be real when just about everyday we look around us and find barely any evidence for it? All we see is heartache, struggle, suffering and in some, true and real evil.
My answer was really in my family and my Christian family. I was not disowned by anyone in my family, I was not discarded by the church I was raised in. My old pastor and Sunday school teacher have both been wonderful. You see I isolated myself for all those years presuming from what I was reading that these people would interpret the readings as I had and I would be pushed out in the cold. They haven’t or if they did, they don’t anymore and I have been loved and welcomed home.
It’s not been an easy road by any means. I’ve had people tell me I can’t be gay and Christian, I’ve also had people tell me I can’t be a scientist and a Christian. I’ve been shouted at in public for holding my wife’s hand and wearing a cross necklace (I bought another one…it was that simple!) We’ve had stares, we’ve been called names and we’ve been shouted at.
18 months ago my father died and again I was so angry. My whole family, we had begged and pleaded for him to come through it and recover, for a while we honestly believed he might, but then he was lost and I was furious with God; he never answered my prayers!
At my own fathers funeral I heard two comments from people, not direct to me but I was in earshot, whom I had known within the church, about how they couldn’t come to accept homosexuality in the church, one even snubbed my wife with some sort of righteous indignation…at my fathers funeral!
That is not Christian love, that is arrogance and ignorance! It’s also petty and quite frankly pathetic!
Reading the responses to Vicky’s interview, I realise something more now: I’ve not always been angry with God, I’m angry with people and their hateful spiel of my Christianity and faith. I’m angry with these people who use what is supposed to be a word of love and use it to spread hatred and condemn people who might not think or feel or follow the path they do because their minds can’t consider an alternative.
Many are insisting that the bible is the word of God and is final and we can’t change it or question it to suit how we feel. Many use Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of how homosexuality is unacceptable by God. However surely that story when read is the example that we can question God.
Abraham pleaded to god for Sodom; God said he would destroy it and Abraham questioned him and asked: what if there are good men in there? God resolved he would save it for good men. Abraham questioned him again and again until he had resolved with God that if there was only ten good men in all the evil God would not destroy Sodom. I think this shows that if we’re not completely content with what has been said in the bible ‘by God’ we can go to him and question it!
I think it’s also ok to be angry with God; we get angry with our parents all the way through our lives for one thing or another, why can’t we be angry with God as our heavenly father once in a while? When my father died I was angry, I was told that’s natural and it’s ok to be angry with God for that. Yet I was told I can’t be angry with God for me being gay because of what God has made natural. There is nothing more in the natural order of things than dying and I was allowed to be angry about that so why I can’t I be angry about something I don’t feel to be completely in the natural order of things? At least not for me.
The Bible is a book and it was not written by God; it was written by men, and then interpreted by men and then assembled from hundreds of scriptures by men. It was influenced by culture and by the civilisations and empires that ruled through that history, which is why the original scriptures are in several different ancient languages. It is very much open for interpretation. It is biographical and it is factual for some events that took place: there was a flood in the East in ancient times, there’s evidence of an armies remains under the red sea, there was a comet that went across the sky two thousand years that would’ve been a visible trail in the middle east. The Bible accounts for historical events, but it was still written by men interpreting these events and what they understood God to be saying to them.
There were also dinosaurs, Neanderthals, sabre-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, a comet that wiped out nearly all life on earth and there is a universe out there that is much bigger than our little world and there is of course evolution! These things are undeniable and they are not in the bible.
The Bible is not everything, just like any history book you pick up is not the entirety of history. Every text book you pick up for any subject is not the entirety of that subject.
People are forever researching and learning about science, development and also about history and the papers and theologies and understanding of them are constantly changing. It’s ok for that to happen with religion, theology and faith too. There are other scriptures that didn’t make it into the Bible: the apocrypha, the pseudepigrahal and deuterocanonical books are some we’re aware of. The Dead Sea Scrolls weren’t even discovered till 1946 and are of a lot of historic, religious and linguistic importance to many different faiths.
The fact that I say all this has caused a lot of people to ask me the same point Vicky made in her interview. Many who come out turn away from the church and from their faith as they can’t reconcile it. My friends have said: well just stop believing in it if it bothers you that much!
I can sit here and say I have stopped believing in it, and I can use every logical persuasion and scientific reasoning to justify that and back me up. I would however be being to myself in that regards, what I did to myself for many years with regards to my sexuality; I’d be lying. I’d be lying to you and to myself. I can try and convince myself that I don’t believe in it, that I don’t follow it and I don’t feel this way towards God, but I did that already with an important part of my life that it hurt and almost broke me, I’d like to think I’ve learned from that mistake.
As much as I would like to stop believing because it causes a constant internal questioning and conflict, I can’t just make myself stop having faith anymore than I could just stop myself from being Gay, as much I wanted and tried to for a long time.
They are two parts of my very being that I cannot change and are at conflict with one another on many platforms.
Not long after my dad died a friend I have known for years said she suddenly realised what was wrong with me all those years.
She said that even when I had seemed at my happiest there was something behind my eyes that had seemed faded and lost. In the last couple of years, since my coming out, it was gone and I had seemed truly happy. When my father died she said it was back, and she now realised that all that time, from when I was a teenager, I was grieving!
There are five stages to grief (generally)
1.Denial and Isolation: Oh yes, I definitely did this.
- Anger: I feel I’ve just rambled about that at length (not sure how much sense it makes)
- Bargaining – I begged and pleaded and prayed for it to go away and every account I’ve read has been the same.
- Depression; for most of my late teens and early twenties: it’s exhausting trying not to hate yourself.
5 Acceptance: I think I’m there.
I accept that nothing I am really marries well with another part of me, maybe that’s why I write so much, maybe that’s where my weird personality comes form, maybe I’ll be trying to reconcile those parts of my life and forever be questioning.
And maybe, that’s ok!
People have used the Bible for centuries to justify hate and segregation against different types of people. Race, religions, creeds, gender, culture and now it’s sexualities turn.
Vicky as a public figure in the church is challenging that on a very open level and I can’t even begin to imagine how scary that is. I found it scary just to do it in my little world.
I’m Gay, I’m a Christian, I’m a Scientist.
It can’t be impossible for that to happen, people can’t say you can’t be all three or two of them, because I am all three and I exist. As do many others and in our little worlds we are standing with her in challenging those stances.
Unfortunately Vicky Beeching will hear hate and judgement and there will be people fighting her all the way. Some days it will hurt and some days it will be too much and she’ll probably want to run away and hide somewhere. She’ll probably get very angry and she’ll get very upset and she’ll wish she’d just kept a very private person and not said anything.
In those times I hope she knows there are so many of us who are not against her, but with her. She is not alone and there are a lot of us who have an amazing admiration for a very brave woman.
Yesterday I was blessed to celebrate my first anniversary with my beautiful wife, next year we will convert our civil partnership to a marriage under the UK laws. What would make it perfect would be a blessing or church ceremony, maybe with the strength and convictions of the Vicky Beechings in this world that will one day be possible.
I cannot believe that to feel this happy and this loved can in anyway be a sin or be wrong and I truly hope Vicky Beeching finds that happiness, and the love she deserves in her faith, in her church and in her personal life.