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Confessions: Choosing to be an Ally-A Letter to My Previous Denomination

Trigger warning: images of self-harm and suicide

I was fifteen years old when my best friend passed me a note in AP American History class asking if God hated her because she was gay. I was a freshman in college when a boy I had grown up with came out to me and begged me not to tell anyone because he was afraid of losing his life. His step father later threatened to shoot him if he ever talked to him again. I was 23 when my roommate began their journey toward accepting their gender fluidity after years of psychological trauma and distress caused by being a part of a religious system that denied the validity of their existence. I was 27 years old as I watched a childhood friend die from pancreatic cancer. I also watched as “good-meaning-church-folk” condemned him to hell for choosing the “gay lifestyle” as his mother and sister grieved over his lifeless body.

Each of their stories is not mine to tell. However, each of these stories bring up a person whom I love; a person whose life matters to me and even more to the God who created them.

I know what you are going to say, as the conservative evangelicals you are, because I have heard it a million times. You will confirm God’s love for “sinners”. You will condemn the sin and point to their hardships as a result of their choices. You will say they should remain celibate and conform to the rules you created out of a handful of misinterpreted verses. You bend scriptures to produce hate and fear in the hearts of the people you are called to serve. I am not blind when the highest level of leadership uses the pulpit to denounce the existence of the transgender community. I am not deaf when statements are released affirming that all lives matter as long as they conform to the guidelines you adhere to, regardless of the outcome. It's time to be honest, this isn’t just an issue of interpreting scripture differently. It is a matter of life and death.

It is no secret that LGBTQ persons who grow up in churches and households who do not affirm their identity are three times more likely to contemplate ending their lives than their cis-gendered, heterosexual counterparts. This is an alarming statistic. The problem with statistics is that they do not tell the full story. They do not tell that my best friend at 15 attempted to take her life. They do not give you faces and names to go alongside the numbers. But I have seen the statistics in real, living people—people whose lives are windows into the divine life of God just as much as anyone else’s.

God as life-giver is one of the most important hermeneutics through which to look at our holy scriptures. God gives life to a world and then breathes God’s divine spirit into dirt and animates humans in God’s own image. These humans are gifted with the ability to love, create, give, and sustain life. And if all life is sacred to God, if all lives matter, as most of the congregants in the local churches bearing your denomination's name around the nation would argue (to diminish the hurt of our black and brown skinned neighbors, but that is another letter for another day), then that must include all lives—even the ones described as abominations before God for decades within your doctrine.

In fact, life to the Hebrew people was so sacred that all of the laws and traditions were created to ensure the survival of the entire nation. The sabbath was to be broken if a life hung in the balance. Life was what the farmers were called to preserve as they left the edges of their fields during harvest, so the stomachs of the destitute could be filled, if only for a little while. “Choose Life,” Moses admonished the people he had led to the promised land, knowing he would never enter that land flowing with milk and honey. Choosing life is what Jesus did over and over again throughout his ministry. He chose life as he raised Lazarus from the dead. He chose to honor life as he healed the sick and the blind. Life is what Jesus protected as he stood in front of a crowd of angry people ready to throw stones at a woman for committing adultery. And it was life that Jesus gave up willingly to embody the love that God has for the whole world—especially those who live on the margins of society and are reviled by religious leaders who value keeping order over literally saving lives.

If there is one thing I have learned in all of my years in theological education, it is that God is love. Holiness is love. Loving God and loving my neighbor is what makes me more human, what makes me most like Jesus.

During my education, mentors would encourage me to “just make it through the process” by acceptably saying or not saying what I believed about this particular “issue” (since when can we reduce human beings to issues). But those people who deserved the first paragraph of this letter were worth more than appeasing a system set on discrimination and exclusion based on who a person is sexually involved with or not. When my conscience caught up with me, the deepest conviction of the Holy Spirit, I knew I had to leave. I had to leave so that I could love. I had to leave so that I could stand beside those who had been cast out into despair and proclaim the vastness of God’s love by affirming their humanity. I choose life, because life, especially new life, is the Gospel I was taught to proclaim.

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