Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Schizo paradox

They don’t call it schizophrenia any more, it’s “schizo-affective.”

At least they have drugs for that. I am feeling very split between two very opposing worlds, lives, ways of thinking, ways of being. Not just different, but opposing.
A Queer in the Church.

Being queer and Christian has never been a problem for me. It’s the Church. And, it’s “Christians.” They are all driving me nuts.

So many GLBT folk have chucked the Church, and I really understand that. Not all parts of the Church are as condemnatory as, say the Southern Baptist tradition, or the “Focus on the Family” folk. But the majority of what one sees and hears and experiences is the rejection and condemnation.

And yet I am part of the Church. Granted, I am in a more liberal end of a more liberal denomination, but we are having our troubles with the “sexuality” issue. And it may bring us to a split of some sort, this summer.

And, being queer is so very antithetical to many Christians and most Churches, that I don’t even think I could begin to explain. It is really different, and I am trying to figure out how and where and what.

I have been reading Soul Beneath the Skin by David Nimmons, and I highly recommend it. Now that I have finally come out to myself, I am accepting just how different I am, and it is beginning to pervade my life. And it’s scary.

Can I continue in the Church? Can I continue in a leadership position in the Church? I just don’t know.

Part of the scariness of all this coming out business is the darkness: facing into the darkness wondering if anyone is there. It would be a lot easier to go out and find some guy to shack up with. At least then I would have someplace to go. Now it’s just darkness.

I had a bad cold this past week. Nothing big, just a cold. But the thought of being sick and alone was scary. I am afraid of that lonely darkness: no family, no job, no career, no way to support my children, old, sick, alone.

It is all a big paradox. Being marked as unacceptable by the Church, being jeered as unacceptable by GLBT folk who have no use for the Church. Leaving family to find . . . what?

But it’s like so many paradoxes: giving to receive, dying to live, and so on. Paradox often points to holiness; a place that makes no sense, but is nonetheless the only way. Emptying to be made full. Showing power by serving. Victory through defeat. Life in the midst of death.
Where will it end? Where will I be? And, how?

23 comments:

Moncrief Speaks said...

Could you find a gay-affirming church to belong to?

I assume you've thought of that option... sorry to state the obvious.

Alan said...

I thought "Soul Beneath the Skin" was a great book, but primarily for the arguments he makes about the differences between gay men and straight men.

I know exactly what you mean about the Church. Both Brian and I are ordained elders in the PCUSA and have asked the question, "Do we want to be part of a denomination that, by and large, seems to not want us?" So far, we keep answering "Yes" but only because we've found such a wonderful church home in Ann Arbor.

At this point, I'm mostly fed up with the denomination as a whole. I simply don't care any more. And I'm not all that thrilled with the denominational LGBT organizations for various reason either. But I am thrilled with our little church, and that's good enough for me right now.

And then there's the issue of other queers. I've said many times that coming out as a Christian in the gay community is more difficult than coming out as gay in the Christian community.

In any event ... I hope you're able to find some peace with all this.

Bigg said...

I'm afraid I am one who has "chucked" the church from his life, and so can't give you good advice on this subject... but I still wish you the best of luck with it.

Frank said...

I'm also a person of faith....and the United Methodist Church is also struggling with the gay thing. I probably will leave that denomination soon to be best affirmed by the Metropolitan Community Church, or the United Church of Christ....or even perhaps a reconciling United Methodist Congregation. I don't know....

One of your comments really struck me.... "I'm afraid of that lonely darkness: no family, no job, no career, no way to support my children, old, sick, alone."

My children have taught me that although the marriage is over and out the window.....they're still my kids. I have family regardless. I'm an only child and worry when my parents pass on. But I will still have my kids.

I'm branching out and reaching out to people to make friendship....to establish new relationships to replace the ones I've lost. I'm determined to press on.

You will have your kids regardless. AND...there are affirming churches out there.

My thoughts are with you!

Frank

CanEragon said...

In the end your relationship with "Church" will change and all that will matter is the relationship you have with the God of your understanding.

God can be found everywhere and anywhere. We don't necessarily need an institution to bring us closer to God. The Gnostic believe that divinity can be achieved from within, so there is my answer to "Do I need church?"

But we all must walk this journey as Queer christians and be damned what the fundies might say!

Peace
Jeremy

Steve said...

Oh, Joe, you have focused on the heart of my struggle right now.

I have had a love-hate relationship with the church for the last four years or so. I've been through two painful congregational splits since 2000, and getting booted from seminary because I had too much debt (not because I was queer - I wasn't even out to myself then) was yet another brick in the wall.

So the idea of being part of yet another organization that's going to split over dogma and theology just annoys the hell out of me right now. We don't divide over caring for the poor (although Jesus talked the most about that). We don't split over divorce and remarriage. We don't split over supporting war or any other social issue. What the hell is so threatening about queers, do you suppose?

(Actually, there's a whole library of books on that topic, but I'm just not goin' there, for now.)

I've found two new "faith mentors" in Henri Nouwen - a man of great spiritual insight who struggled his whole life not to come out (and may well have died prematurely from it) and in Chris Glaser (who was one of the pioneers seeking gay ordination in the PC-USA). Glaser's Uncommon Calling: A Gay Christian's Struggle to Serve the Church and Mel White's A Stranger at the Gate should be required reading by all gay Christians.

I haven't been "out" in the ELCA - that is, I haven't been back to an ELCA congregation since I've been out. But I really do struggle with this idea of being a pioneer in churches that are largely in "don't ask/don't tell" mode. As the old story says, "You can always tell a pioneer - by the arrows in his back."

I want to believe - I want to believe that Christ came and lived and died for all of us, gay and str8 alike. But the painful realization is that Is The Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response was written in 1978 - and even then, both authors agreed that the book should only have had one page, with the word "YES!" on it. The concept hasn't seemed to catch on, however...

It's funny, because in the Emergent church movement, the focus is on bringing the church to those who don't belong and who don't believe. Yet there is no desire to bring Christ to the GLBT community. "Let 'em burn" is the general consensus, it seems.

It's also tragic that the Alpha Program - which I found to be an incredibly powerful tool for outreach - has been so co-opted by the antigay folks thanks to Nicky Gumbel's rejection of homosexuality in his book "Searching Issues." In my former home congregation, the Alpha class didn't even address homosexuality, except in discussions that focused on love and acceptance and loving one's neighbor.

Strangely, even in a town the size of Chicago, there are only 3 MCC churches - and all on the far north and west sides of town, way the hell away from where I am. There are other gay-affirming churches, so I have many more choices than you probably have.

But part of me doesn't feel strong enough to get back into church and the "vampire service mentality" that sees new members as fresh meat to be sucked dry. I need to go somewhere and heal - and unfortunately, there are way too many country-club churches and damn few spiritual MASH hospitals around.

Where will it end? In death, as it does for everyone - and in eternal life, I'm told. When people tell me I'm going to hell, my response has become, "You know, absent the saving action of Christ, you'd be absolutely right."

Where will you be, and how? Standing in the light, honest and proud, I hope. That's my prayer for both of us, for now.

Keep on keepin' on, brother.
Steve

sauvix said...

The best thing to realize it that it doesn't matter how others perceive religion it's how YOU perceive it. Granted I left the church long ago opting for a different way of thinking but remember... you are made up of your beliefs, your way of thinking, your outlook on life and you are an individual. Never let anyone tell you how to act, think, and feel. If you want to believe in the christian god then that's great for you. Don't let anyone take that away.

MEK the Bear said...

Frustration at an orginazation that constantly screams "we don't want you here" is to be expected. But I agree with Caneragon that your faith, your personal spirituality is all you need.

Though I found a different path for myself, keep in mind that Christ did say "two or more who are gathered in my name" equals church!

Anonymous said...

Hey, guys,

Jesus died for everyone. As far as I'm concerned we need each other. Would our Lord turn anyone away?

Love and support, and the prayers of other Christians are so important. Hang in there!!!!

marlan said...

I once tried to explain to a pastor why the church became offensive to me after I came out and subsequently became a 2nd class citizen in Christ. He just didn't get it--even after I mentioned that the only real sin is that of ignoring God. Go figure.

Scott Miller said...

Joe:

Most human cultures do not have a lot of tolerance for non-conforming sexuality. Clearly, it is very threatening to many people.

Sadly, that is also the set up for exactly what this blog is about - men and women who are same sex oriented feeling compelled by social pressures to enter into heterosexual marriage relationships. As individuals we believe (we want to believe) that we fit into the culture. [One estimate in print suggests that there are 2 million mixed orientation marriages in the US.] One day we realize that we cannot masquerade any longer. Probably that we never could. But the culture sees that as our problem and has little or no understanding how its valued and behaviors contribute the circumstance. Gay and lesbian individuals move in and out of being suicidal as they try to navigate these impossible waters. Some of the stories are truly heartbreaking.

In a chat with a lesbian friend a while back, we both acknowledged that life would be much, much easier if we were straight; that we would never choose to be gay. But then we both laughed and said, yes, but it is so much fun!! Deep inside each human being, our sexuality is truly important to us. It really is a gift from God.

It is important that we have support structures in place - you are so wise Joe! You have friends in this blog that would travel to help in a crisis, I am sure.

As for Christianity, many very evil things have been done in God's name. But as Aslan says in The Last Battle, if one does good in Tash's name it is Aslan who receives it. And if someone does evil in Aslan's name, it is Tash that receives it.

For each of us, it is our faith and integrity that matter. The church will do what it will do. Local congregations may be welcoming or not. And even in welcoming congregations there may be individuals who are hostile. While we each must make individual choices, to the extent we can we need to be courageous and faithful and remain in community. But Aslan does not judge us negatively for our inability to endure the pain if it is too great.

Scott

dave in cleveland said...

easy to say never worry about being alone in the dark as i am fearing the same thing, friend you know if you ever need me you know how to get ahold of me.....i am here just ask buddy
d

bear said...

It's scary because the foundation has become unsettled to you when it was so strong in your mind before. The gay - church conflict is something I have struggled with myself. In my heart, I don't feel less love from God, only from other people. You ARE loved. Let that be what helps strengthen your foundation.

The mentioning of this "darkness" is really not related to being gay I think. The darkness and the loneliness has always been there, you were just less aware of it before. Those questions were always there as well, and the answers are really what you make of them. It is up to YOU to decide the answers, they are not decided for you...

Neil said...

"It is all a big paradox. Being marked as unacceptable by the Church, being jeered as unacceptable by GLBT folk who have no use for the Church. Leaving family to find . . . what?

But it’s like so many paradoxes: giving to receive, dying to live, and so on. Paradox often points to holiness; a place that makes no sense, but is nonetheless the only way."

Hi, I'm another struggeling with the Church and my sexuality. Thank you for what you wrote above because you have put into words what has been formulating in my mind also. I am finding more and more that life is to be lived in paradox, which is a difficult thing to accept when most people tell you to pick a side.

gratefulbear said...

In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, when asked about religious obligations (fasting, praying, almsgiving), not to bother: "Don't do what you hate" (verse 6). I would say that if you hate going to church, or if you can't find a church you can truly love attending, then don't go. I once gave up Christianity for Lent, and it was one of the wisest choices I ever made. Take a break from it all.

Step outside and hug one of God's trees. Let the wind blow through your hair. Feel the warmth of God's sunshine on your skin and know that you are loved.

Michael said...

Boy this one got a lot of good comments, didn't it!

At the risk of getting all goldurned piocious on you, sometimes I reflect on the so-called Bookmark of St. Teresa:
Let nothing disturb you [not even the church],
Nothing affright you [not even Christians].
All things are passsing [including religious institutions and structures].
God never changes [and is always merciful love in all ways].
Patience obtains all things [but not very fast].
The one who possesses God lacks nothing [as does the one God possesses];
God alone suffices [God alone, only God, all one in God, all, God].
Amen.

Michael said...

PS -- To give due credit to John of the Cross, he has a wonderful passage called the Prayer of a Soul Enamored, from which this is taken:

"Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are the nations, the just are mine, and mine the sinners. The angels are mine, and the Mother of God, and all things are mine; and God himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me. What do you ask, then, and seek, my soul? Yours is all of this, and all is for you.

"Do not engage yourself in something less or pay heed to the crumbs that fall from your Father's table. Go forth and exult in your Glory! Hide yourself in it and rejoice, and you will obtain the supplications of your heart."

Those who would keep us from the banquet have only crumbs to offer. They cannot keep us from the Father's table.

Lisa said...

I've only been reading here to this point -- and holding you in prayer -- but this post is so poignant that I must speak.

First, you've really touched me with your comment: "I am afraid of that lonely darkness: no family, no job, no career, no way to support my children, old, sick, alone." Brother, I do understand that fear. But we do build our own "families of choice." I have some lesbian friends and we have this ongoing fantasy that we're going to buy a rambling Victorian house and dub it the Old Dykes Home where we can all live out our last days together. Sitting on the porch, sharing meals and laughs. But, yes, something like that does require a big change of perspective -- especially for you, having had the American Family Dream for so many years.

I agree with someone who commented upstream: It makes complete sense that you would be depressed. You are grieving. For some important hopes and assumptions and dreams are dying. But others will be born. I guarantee it.

Finally, on the subject of church: It's church -- the Episcopal Church -- that has sustained me and kept me out of despair. Mind you, I am not in a progressive parish nor a liberal part of the country. But my moderate-to-conservative parish loves and accepts me as the Christian I am; being gay just doesn't matter. (Well, except for the couple that did try to fix me up with their daughter ... which was quite sweet, I thought ... But I digress.)

Joe, we grow in community. I sense you need the support of that community. Please don't give up. Just be sure you're in a good parish where you aren't just a token.

My prayers are with you, my brother.

Restored Vows said...

As a mental health provider, I felt I needed to correct you and your readers. Schizophrenia did not go away. It is a legitimate diagnosis as much as Schizo-affective is.

These are listed in the DSM-IV
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders - 4th edition)
It is published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is a large book full of mental disorders and diagnoses.

You visited my blog one time...your welcome back. Leave a comment if you are so inclined.

Restored Vows said...

As a mental health provider, I felt I needed to correct you and your readers. Schizophrenia did not go away. It is a legitimate diagnosis as much as Schizo-affective is.

These are listed in the DSM-IV
(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders - 4th edition)
It is published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is a large book full of mental disorders and diagnoses.

You visited my blog one time...your welcome back. Leave a comment if you are so inclined.

walking, not falling said...

W.E.B. DuBois spoke of a "dual consciousness" or a "dual awareness" where he was often confronted by being a man and being black man. gayfolks in encounter groups often talk of this perception and for many gay Christians there is yet another layer of this awareness.....lots and lots of ground for conflict but it must still be good ground 'cause we all seem to just keep slogging along at it, right? ;)

Casey said...

Reading your blog and some of the comments on this entry makes me want to cry. I am so sorry for the way the Christian community treats homosexuals. It isn't right.

I want to encourage you to stay in the church. Really. I know that is so easy for me to say, but the times in my life where I haven't gone to church regularly (wether I get anything out of the message or not) have been so much harder. There is something about being in the church that makes things better. I think that maybe to you that seems stupid since that is where you have so much persecution, but church edifies your heart and soul.

There are Christians out there who are not so judgemental, and how are things supposed to change if you leave your church? I tell this to my best friend who has some issues with our home church, If you leave the church it won't be any better for it. If you stay here you can be one more person who wants things to change, one more person to help out, one more person to open the eyes of another and help them to fell the loving spirit of God.

I will be praying for you.
Casey

Casey said...

Oh and one more thing, have you read Fear and Trembling by Soren Kierkegaard? It is so good. It is about Abraham having to kill Isaac... About how he was so empty because he was loing his son and his God all in one day.. and about the faith that filled him.. and the faith that filled him was so much greater after his great loss because he was so emptied. It's hard to explain... read it!

Casey