For years, I just shook my head and closed my browser window when I read pro/anti diatribes from either side — which was several times a day — because that kind of discourse only seeks shake down the other side to the lowest common denominator. "The church started it," I would always remind myself, like it was a playground fist fight. And I would walk away because I was too cowardly to stand in the middle and shout, "I believe in God and also I like boobs!"
As time has passed, the alienating language from both sides has gotten even worse. Ask 20 gay people to say the word "Republican," for example, and see how many can do it without derision seeping into their voices. Because the Republican extra value meal we’ve been sold means "anti-gay" and "anti-woman" — in part because many of the loudest, most obnoxious pundits scream those ideas across airwaves every second of every day. But those howlers are not the sole voice of the Republican party. And the Republican party is not the sole voice of every faith system in America.
My best friend in the whole world is an evangelical Christian who works in the apologetics department of one of the most prestigious Christian universities in the world. Last time I visited her, there were "Yes on 8" signs all over the campus. But she marched in the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., last year, and when an AfterEllen.com reader contacted me to tell me she was planning to attend that university, my best friend took her under her wing and promised to help find her a safe space to be herself.
When the gubernatorial election rolls around later this year, my best friend will vote for a Republican, an "anti-gay" candidate you might scream at the top of your lungs about while balling up your fists at her. But my best friend is not a single-issue voter. She believes firmly in marriage equality. But she also understands the role of the governor in this stage of the marriage equality battle. And she would also like to ensure that gay couples don’t sink into the Pacific Ocean along with everyone else under the weight of California’s debt. It’s not always as easy as "anti-gay."
When I spoke to Jennifer Knapp after she came out earlier this year, I asked her about this phenomenon of Christians persecuting gay people and gay people persecuting Christians.
"I think that’s certainly out there," she told me. "I’m not inventing the turmoil. I don’t want to separate them. I don’t want to say you can only have one without the other. I think we make personal decisions and experience personal consequences on both sides of that dynamic."
So what’s a Good Christian Girl to do in a Big Gay World?
I don’t really know. I don’t even know if I’d call myself a "Christian Girl" anymore. I’ve experienced some metaphysical things I’ll never be able to shake. But I’ve wept over the atrocities committed for centuries in the name of God, too. I do know that the screaming and violent language and lack of authentic discourse on both sides are only making things worse. To quote my mom every time she had to pull my sister and I off one another — fists flailing, hair flying — "I don’t care who started it! You’re going to kill one another!"
My faith isn’t the same as it was when I left church all those years ago. I didn’t leave because I am a lesbian. I didn’t leave because I stopped believing in God. I left because I wanted the freedom to really seek the truth. I continued to study the Bible. And I continued to study other religious texts. I continued to study history and politics and sociology and science. After all this time and all that soul-searching and all the hollering from both sides, the one thing I still cling to is what Jesus said when he decided to lay out his game plan for the first time in the synagogue. He quoted from the prophet Isaiah, and it went like this: "God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace."
Healing. Freeing. Pardoning. Grace. I like that. It sounds like an extra value meal worth purchasing.
I think it will take me a lifetime to reconcile my logic and my faith and my political persuasions and my sexuality. But sometimes when I’m walking my dog on summer nights, the jasmine and magnolia will cling to the sultry summer air. And I’m back in that wooden pew, as gay then as I am now, knowing now as I knew then that it is well, it is well, with my soul.