Spirituality an integral part of gay life

I’ve gone through Calvin College feeling relatively safe and respected in the four years I’ve been here. This may seem typical of many here, but I’m pretty different than most. I am gay and I share the same faith of many of my fellow students.

While my orientation has been a point of discourse for me and many others, I’ve never felt severely persecuted or marginalized within the Christian community here, but when I read my fellow writer’s article, “The Christian Way to Vote Obvious from Parties’ Platforms,” I felt the exclusion that a lot of other LGBT+ people have complained about from the church.

Now, I had plenty of issues with the article, from the idea that there is a “Christian way” to vote, to the idea that the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage should be more important to Christians than issues of helping the poor, combating sexism and addressing racism and other systemic injustices. However, I am already sick of the political bickering occurring all across the country (part of me feels guilty for spurring it on by writing this article) but the deeper issue for me, as it was for the author, goes beyond politics and in fact into the realm of my own Christian faith.

When I started as a freshman here at Calvin, I was deep in the closet, afraid of who God had created me to be, yet searching for answers to how I could reconcile faith and orientation. My freshman year was affected by the Memo, a policy under former President Byker that, while not directly condemning homosexual students, essentially put a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in effect for faculty and staff in classroom discussions. The very discourse I wanted so desperately to hear had been silenced.

It took two and a half years of wrestling with myself, wrestling with God and taking two semesters abroad before I had the courage and God-given grace to come out to my friends and family. This wrestling wasn’t easy either. I spent my formative years, from puberty to 20, begging God to change me. I cried, I attended charismatic revival meetings, I prayed for healing. I read “Every Young Man’s Battle” and substituted the word“boy” for every “girl” I wasn’t supposed to be noticing. I cut the first boy who ever liked me, a good friend, as completely out of my life as I could in the name of holding strong through temptation. I spent long nights switching between the pervasive thoughts of “What if?” and reading scriptures just to push those thoughts away.

Finally, at an ultimate low, sitting on a bench in Beijing, China, three months before I would return to Calvin, I looked up into the smoggy night sky and prayed, “God, if you won’t change me, can’t you at least grant me peace?” I regret that it took so long to pray such a simple thing. The peace was overwhelming and the answer shocking. It was as if God had been waiting for me to pray this exact prayer, and was outstretching his arms to me, saying, “It’s about time.” I knew in that moment that God had made me gay and he was pleased with me.

I’d like to make very special notice that here at Calvin, I have felt overwhelmingly accepted and loved and most of all respected. Certainly, questions arose from concerned friends about how I could possibly be comfortable with my homosexual self in light of what the Bible may seem to indicate. But the key to success in all of these conversations was respect from me to hear my friends concerns and questions, respect from them to hear my opinions and answers and ample room for all of us to continue on the conversation in love, grace, and deepening understanding of each other and of God.

That’s why to read an article by a writer who claims that the Bible is “clear” about the issue of same-sex marriage and can go on to judge what one’s opinions are on the matter say about their walk with Christ is so hurtful. To imply that there is an unarguable biblical answer to the issue of same-sex marriage silences my voice and the power of what I experienced. It also silences any further dialogue on the matter. That’s not the safe environment that I want for myself and other LGBT+ individuals.

How can we emulate the body of Christ if we tell a segment of the population that their experience doesn’t matter or that their ideas are wrong? I would similarly argue against anyone writing an article stating that the one, Christian way to vote is to vote in favor of gay marriage.

The body of Christ is diverse and the body of Christ operates on respect and love. I’d urge my fellow students to disregard the statements provided in the Oct. 12 article and vote however they choose by talking with others and approaching all things with love and respect. Calvin is a place for dialogue, not silencing.  I hope it remains so for years to come.