When I came out to you, Christian friend, you were so nice. Even after you knew the truth, we still lined our days with fellowship, our nights with prayer and choir rehearsals. We still ate our meals together and walked to church together. I thanked God, I remember: it seemed like nothing had changed.
But we never talked about it. You said that you still loved me, and I believed it.
So when our friendship turned to silence, and silence turned to distance, I learned too late that I didn’t need normalcy; I needed authenticity. I needed co-conspirators: friends who were curious about what my coming out meant, and who were willing to entertain that my epiphany could be theirs, too. I needed friends who could believe that while God may be challenging my understanding of self and Scripture, She could be challenging theirs, too. I needed friends who walked with me not only to the gate between the pasture and the wilderness but into the wilderness itself.
Beneath my disappointment, I forgive you, of course. But I want you to know the difference between pleasantry and love because next time – if there is a next time when someone trusts you enough to come out to you, I want you to do it right. Give them the comfort of an open heart. When someone gifts you their authenticity, meet it with your own. Niceness doesn’t win souls. Niceness doesn’t change queer people. And niceness isn’t Jesus’ model for love.
Instead, give queer people the chance to answer your questions, and give them the chance to answer none. Not questions that Google can answer or those that presume queer folks to be at odds with you. Ask questions that trust them to be the pilot of their own experiences of God, not hijackers in the seat of their own souls.
Hold your own beliefs with as much humility as you ask queer Christians to hold theirs. Trust that God is as much in them as She is in you. Give queer Christians the chance to be journeyers on this road you share instead of a guide or a stumbling block.
Resist the temptation to discredit their experiences based on your own. Give queer Christians the permission to be scholars in training, just as you are – still unlearning decades of scriptural mistranslation and abuse.
Through it all, remain open to the possibility that God has not finished speaking into your heart.
In the story of the wounded man on the road to Jericho, we’re taught to see ourselves as the Samaritan – the underdog, the agent, the force for good. We’re taught to see our own moral superiority over those whose understanding of God differs from ours.
But Jesus asks his disciples to identify the wounded man’s neighbor in this parable. He asks us to put ourselves in the bare feet of a man in need of help.
The story of the wounded man is not just a story about works; it’s a story of faith. It comes from Jesus’ mouth – this account meant to ask who we consider holy, who we consider agents of the Spirit.
We all get wounded on the road, Christian friend. It may not surprise you to be lifted off the dirt road; your faith is strong. But mine is, too, as is the faith of so many queer Christians who travel the same road. When you are stronger, lift your head and ask the traveler beside you: who are you? Your face is unfamiliar. Tell me who you are.
The answer may surprise you. It may reward you both.
Artwork by Belhoula Amir