This is the 2nd in a 2-part series on the intersection of LGBT and interfaith issues. The first "Being Out as an Interfaith Activist" can be found here.
By Marin Klostermeier
During my senior year of college I found myself in what many people would consider a contradictory situation. Every Wednesday night I assumed my role as a co-President of the Queer Student Alliance (QSA) and every Sunday morning I adopted my role as a member of a United Methodist Church (UMC). Even though I identify as straight, I feel very lucky to have found a church community that shares my liberal point of view (much like the Presbyterian Church in which I was raised). However, the converse was not the same; In QSA, many of the members that grew up going to church felt strongly against the church as an institution.
I don’t blame them. Many members of QSA were raised going to churches that told them they are an abomination. They were often in churches where ignorance regarding the natural spectrum of gender-identities and sexual orientations was so high that they felt completely isolated. I often ask myself, how can an organization that proclaims to foster community find it so easy to exclude people and deny them rights?
The fact that I even have to ask this question makes me embarrassed for my religion. While Christianity is not the only religion with members who adhere to this non-inclusive belief, it is the one faith with which I am most familiar. I am familiar enough to feel safe saying that a lot of the Bible makes me uncomfortable. Not only the passages regarding men lying with men (Leviticus 20:13), but also passages that condemn touching the skin of a dead pig (Leviticus 11:7), wearing clothes of mixed fibers, and growing different crops side by side (Leviticus 19:19). Is it possible for a church that is not led by a person who identifies with a Queer identity and was not created to explicitly serve the needs of individuals in the Queer community (but to be generally inclusive) to reconcile the extreme subject matter of the Bible along with the tradition of discriminatory churches?
As a member of what many would call a progressive UMC congregation and the straight person who co-led QSA, I find myself thinking a lot about how to show that many Churches are very inclusive while acknowledging that the Church has hurt many people and those people do not often want to go to church. Finding an answer becomes even harder because I believe that a Church should not try to ‘sell’ Queer individuals (or anyone for that matter) on the idea of going to Church. How do you explore that dynamic when the indicator that a progressive church is actually making positive changes is that Queer individuals participate in the community? This is something that might involve changing lots of people’s minds.
How can I best communicate my feelings about the church without feeling like I also need to protect people who have their own agency? What is the best way to own up to the faults of a dominant religion, but also speak to how many parts are changing in very positive ways?
Is all of this just Christian guilt? God, I hope not.
Marin is a recent college graduate, originally from St. Louis and currently lives in Denver. With a degree in Psychology, a minor in Business Administration, and a passion for social justice she hopes to continue the work of making traditional corporate environments, diverse, inclusive, and focused on the complete wellbeing of all employees in and outside of the office. Marin believes that the work being done by the Faith Matters Network and organizations like it are laying the crucial foundation for creating a healthier world.