Before beginning my series on Christians and Homosexuality, I feel it appropriate to tell people about Patrick.
But first, some background.
When I was raised in a small town. I do not ever remember talking about homosexuality when I was younger. It was never an issue because the issue did not present itself. There were likely people of homosexual orientation in my small town, but I did not know them, they did not know me, I was just never exposed to gay people. It is probably because of that that it never really came up in church. Why preach against sinners who are nowhere to be found? My dad has always been attentive to the voice of the Spirit and so the sermons tend to be focused on the relevant, not ranting for no good reason. He has never been the kind to simply go on and on about the culture at large. In fact he recently told me that he does not like to talk politics or religion! I said: “If only more pastors were like you!”
Anyway, the main point I am trying to make is that while of course I never would have approved of homosexuality, it was not really a big deal. It wasn’t something I thought about or talked about. Even when we moved to a slightly larger town, where I knew at least one flute player in my high school band to be a covert homosexual, it was not a presenting issue.
But when I started “street witnessing” in an area of Minneapolis known as “Uptown” – a thoroughly “liberal” and even “gay” area of town – I began to meet and spend a bit of time with some gay people.
I was very uncomfortable.
Eventually I would live in Uptown with my new wife, and I worked as a server at a large seafood restaurant there. For the first time I was working with A LOT of gay people. Well, at least five. In addition, I was probably one of the only actively practicing Christians in the place, it was invigorating.
Patrick was one of the servers there who was gay. He was about my age and incredibly flamboyant. He had tons of energy and spunk, talked fast, and was a dancer. Periodically he would bust a move in the server station. He was a lot shorter than me and his blond hair line was already slightly receding. One night after work we went for a beer nearby. (side note. up till this point I had only had a few glasses of red wine, this was to be my first beer. My first Guinness. Needless to say my life has never been the same…oh, and there was Patrick)
I do not remember if we had yet talked about religion but we ended up on the topic. As it turned out, Patrick had been raised Assemblies of God. He still had pentecostal running in his blood and he told me how much he missed church. You see, he had been very involved at church, and had even been a bible study leader. But he eventually came out and was progressively ostricized out of the church. He told me how much he loves God, and how he particularly loves worship. As he was a trained dancer he told me how he loved to sing and dance before God in passionate praise.
Patrick told me about how hurt he was that nobody stood by him from the church and he felt that he wasn’t just being told he couldn’t come to church, but that he couldn’t be in relationship with God. I asked him why he doesn’t just go to a liberal church and he said he was a pentecostal.
He also recalled the many many nights he had where he pleaded with God to take away his homosexuality.
He would pray for hours and hours begging to be “cured,” crying and crying. But no cure came.
Patrick was still attracted to men. He thus concluded that God had made him that way, because surely God would take away his sinful desires if that is what they were. But he still did not embrace his homosexuality, a bit of him still “knew” it was wrong, even if he did feel that he could not help being gay. And so Patrick was in a state of utter confusion and sadness. On the one hand he so loved God, of this there can be no question. His faith was in Jesus Christ, and he wanted to go to church so badly. But on the other hand, he would never really be accepted, and he would likely not have even be allowed to stay, let alone get involved.
I was still a kid, a mere 21 years old. I had been raised a conservative Pentecostal, and I didn’t know anything about being gay or about gay people. I had no idea what to say. I wanted to comfort him, to tell him that everything was going to be ok. But I still believed homosexuality was wrong, I wasn’t about to tell him to embrace his orientation. I wanted to invite him to my church, but I knew he wouldn’t be accepted there either. I just wanted him to know that I knew that his relationship with God was real, that I loved him and that he should just keep being a Christian. But how can a Christian live a gay life I thought?
I knew deep down that I was a sinner too, and I got to go to church, I got to lead worship and lead Bible studies.
The injustice of it all!
Since that day I have strove in my mind to make an orthodox argument for the creation of space for homosexuals in traditional church. As will become clearer as these posts go along, I have not yet been convinced that the active homosexual life is in keeping with God’s will, but I think that the Lord has helped me to better appreciate my own sinfulness, and so recognize the hypocrisy of holding the gay Christian at arms length.
I haven’t seen Patrick in years, but I would love see him, and thank him for being Jesus to me that night, and many nights since.