"Help! I'm An Open-Minded Christian In A Close-Minded World!"

I’m in a bit of time-bind today (closing in on finishing the LGBT letters book), so I thought I would just share with you the letter below, which I got in this week. I’m not sure why I found it particularly touching. I think it’s just because it kind of breaks my heart, to think of this excellent woman unable to find a church where she can, through the joy of the Holy Spirit, share with others her love of God and Christ. Awful. But also, certainly—and fundamentally, even, for me— inspiring, to think of her, and untold numbers like her, out there, keeping the flame alive, when seemingly everyone around them is intent on dousing it.

Dear John,

I just discovered your website today, after hearing about it on Dan Savage’s podcast. [In his podcast on Tuesday---episode 263---Dan recommended this blog to anyone trying to get a Christian in their life to stop hating on gays.]

I am a 35-year-old, married woman (happily married for 10 years: hurray!) with two daughters, ages eight and six. I grew up in a God-fearing household with two parents who are the epitome of all that God’s love is. They taught me to think for myself, believe what I believe because of my research and soul-searching, and to preach it from the rooftops once I’ve become fully vested in that faith. I grew up in a non-denominational Charismatic church, and went to a college affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

These experiences allowed me to really figure out my way, and as such, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is a God of love, not one who is all hell, fire and brimstone. And in that knowledge, I know that my God loves gay people just as He loves me. We are all God’s creatures. And God has a lot more important things to be concerned with than the “rules” of sex.

Here’s my conundrum: my husband and I both share the same view of God, and have tried wholeheartedly to impart that to our daughters. Our marriage is a testament to being open-minded and believing in acceptance, because he’s black and I’m white. Color’s not an issue, and never has been. Our families get together, and it looks like a meeting at the UN. Every race, age, weight, height is part of our family, and because of that, my kids don’t see people “in color.” They see them from the heart. And I am so grateful for this.

Anyways, we are having a really hard time to find a church that’s open-minded and accepting of EVERYONE. We live in a conservative small community, and there are a plethora of fundamental, literal-based churches here that believe that there is only one way to Heaven, and if you’re gay, you’re definitely getting an express ticket to Hell. We had high hopes for this one church that has a more contemporary feel to it, and were willing to overlook some of its literal-Bible views. But the pastor made some anti-gay remarks in one sermon, and the following week went on a diatribe about how men should always be the main breadwinners in a household, and men who stay home are shirking their Christian responsibility, etc.

That was it for us. We both looked at each other and agreed that we couldn’t attend a church that propagated such a limited world view.

The problem lies in the fact that we want to go to a church, but it seems like all of the ones around us are lead by conservative, right-wing quacks who don’t understand that you shouldn’t spend every Sunday berating your congregation for their transgressions, but instead, they should be firing their members up about God’s love and spreading that love on. Are there certain denominations (I hate that “divide” comes from that word, ugh) that have a wider scope of God so that maybe I can narrow my search that way? I want my girls to be excited about God, but I refuse to take them to a church that promotes excitement based on crappy interpretations of the Holy book.

Dear woman who wrote me the above excellent letter:

Thanks for the letter! Google “gay affirming denominations,” and you’ll get all the information you need to learn what denominations are LGBT-affirming. (The Wikipedia page on this matter is good.) It’s been my experiences that such churches generally have a theology with which it sounds like you could get on board.

Also, you could always start a little church of your own. I don’t know how small  your town is, but it sounds like it’s large enough to support … well, as you said, a “plethora” of churches.  So—via a posting on a Craigslist.org site, if your town has one, or notices pinned on laundromat bulletin boards, or whatever—maybe you could find others in your community who share your understanding of God. And you guys could start meeting at your homes, and so on. Be your own little organic “church” that way. That could totally be great. Let us know if you do that; I’d like to hear how that goes. Good luck, and please keep in touch.

[Update: My friend Gwen Ashby from Believe Out Loud wanted me to share with you BOL's excellent Find A Welcoming Church map.]

Image flickr Pierre Hurtevent

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