By Kimberly Poovey
So you’re a Christian. You love Jesus. You love the Bible. Perhaps as you were growing up, you were at church every time the doors opened because you found comfort, welcome, and community there. Maybe you were a passionate, on-fire, purity-ring-wearing youth group kid who “rededicated” your life to the Lord every six months or so, just to keep your faith fresh.
Then you settled into the beauty of a love-conversation with Jesus that has nurtured you throughout your adult life. But while you usually checked all the boxes to support the label “Good Christian Girl,” you had a secret. You held some beliefs and convictions close to your heart for fear of rejection or discrimination by the church. Beliefs that you never dared speak aloud in certain company but which mattered to you in big, important ways. Convictions that would end up mattering profoundly both in your own life and in the lives of those you love.
This was me. I grew up a “textbook Christian”—a perfectionistic, people-pleasing firstborn who said and did all the “right” things. My parents were Republicans, and my upbringing was very conservative. When I was eighteen, I voted for George W. Bush in my first-ever presidential election and felt good about it. But that wasn’t the whole story for me. For as long as I can remember, my heart has been pulled in another direction. When it came to the LGBTQ community, I just couldn’t jump on the conservative bandwagon. Even as a child, something about my church’s verbiage about gay people felt wrong to me. I wrestled with the Lord. I begged him to change my heart if I was wrong. But if anything, my heart softened even further. I couldn’t see an “issue”—I could see only people loved by God.
Several years ago, long before anyone other than my mom read my writing, I wrote a simple blog post that later evolved into an article on the Huffington Post. It’s titled “Jesus Would Have Hung Out at Gay Bars.” After the heart-shattering tragedy of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida, the article went viral, and then the backlash began. In the name of “being loving,” friends and relatives insinuated that I was a heretic. They told me I was a false teacher and that I was leading others astray. A former boss was quick to let me know that, if I still worked for him, he would fire me because of my opinions.
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut, and I quickly learned that I needed to be far more careful about who I shared my “heretical opinions” with. I worked in a conservative ministry setting, and in the name of loving others and supporting civil rights, I learned that my very livelihood could be at stake. Church, a place that had always made me feel safe, didn’t feel safe anymore.
I lived in the uncomfortable tension of this gray area for years (a place where I think we all ought to spend some time) until the dam broke open and flooded me with a fresh perspective. Within the course of a year, two of the people I loved most in the world came out and told me they were gay.
I won’t share these beloved people’s stories here, because those stories are theirs alone to tell. But I will tell you that when the news broke in certain circles in my life, the proverbial excrement hit the fan, and I became the mediator and peacemaker between key players during the subsequent weeks and months of emotional upheaval. Many tears were cried. Gut-wrenchingly difficult conversations became a common occurrence. Prayers became desperate. Emotions ran high. All of this took a significant amount of time, but I truly believe that God was sovereign and working in each of our hearts individually.
Now I am delighted to say that every key player who stood in opposition to those people I love when they came out has come to identify as a fully gay-affirming Christian. They started attending a Jesus-loving, Bible-preaching, and yes, gay-affirming church, and you can find them at the local pride festival every year, waving their rainbow flags proudly and loving Jesus too.
I’m not here to argue about the politics of marriage equality; you can debate that at length in a million other forums. What I am here to say is that if you’re a Christian who loves and supports the LGBTQ community or is a part of the LGBTQ community yourself, you are not alone. If you’re a Christian who goes to a same-sex wedding with joy, raises a toast, and dances your heart out, you are not alone. And you are not a heretic. Your choice to show love and acceptance when so many others choose to show indifference or hate will not return void. You and those you love don’t need to feel like black sheep. We who make the same choice to love might exist in the margins, but we are here, and there are more of us than you might think. The power of our love matters, and it is slowly, quietly changing the world.
In John 13:35, we’re told Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (NLT).
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Kimberly Poovey is the founder of The Exvangelical Parent. She is a liberal misfit Enneagram 9 INFP who likes long walks on the beach, honey-habanero lattes, and Zoloft. After spending over a decade in the ministry world, she now writes and creates full time. She lives with her partner of 15 years and their 5-year-old son in the mountains of North Carolina.