This morning I got an email from Chris, a gay Christian. It was a broadcast email about happenings at his church. For whatever reason it brought to my mind, all at once, some of the great number of gay and lesbian Christians I have known.
Chris taught a Bible study class at a church my wife and I once visited during our search for a neighborhood house of worship. Except for one other person---who, weirdly enough, was also gay---Chris knows the Bible more thoroughly than anyone I've ever known. His biblical knowledge is absolutely inexhaustible. He can take any two Bible passages you give him---and he'll only need their citations, not the actual quotes---and immediately launch into a deep, comprehensive, and frightfully articulate analysis of myriad ways in which those passages are historically and theologically connected. He can do it all day. It's astounding.
The only other person I've known who knows the Bible with that same sort of apparently infinite depth was a gay friend of mine, Craig. Craig was a protegee of philosophy; professors of philosophy at the prestigious college he attended used to turn to him for insights into what they were teaching. Craig was simply an intellectual genius; he read obscure ancient Greek philosophical tracts (in their original language, which he taught himself in about two months) like I might read a story in People magazine. Except I'll forget stuff I've read in People. Craig never forgot anything he read. Or saw. Or heard. Craig was also a profoundly devout Christian. He knew the Bible and its history cold---and loved it passionately.
Craig's intellectual mentor---a man so devout he once worked as secretary (as in "primary intellectual") to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem---was also gay. If archaeologists find an ancient scriptural document they need analyzed and translated, this intellectual giant is one of the four or five people in the world who will receive these huge X-ray-type pictures of the parchment he will then examine on this special, huge light board in his home office that he doesn't appreciate you playing around with when he steps out of the room for moment.
A dear friend of mine, Bill, came out when he was the associate pastor at a church, a position he'd held for twelve years. The congregants of his church loved Bill. The Sunday after Bill told his church family that he was gay, the head pastor of that church told the congregation, from the pulpit, that anyone who in any way had any contact whatsoever with Bill would be immediately and irrevocably condemned to hell. The people of the church believed their spiritual leader. And just like that, virtually all communication between Bill and the people he'd so loyally served for twelve years came to a dead halt. Total silence. Bill turned his back on Christianity and slipped into a depression that almost literally killed him. (He is now, again, as a pastor, serving a church who, again, love him with all their hearts.)
I also thought of an e-pal of mine, Anita. Anita runs this website, which helps gays and lesbians come to terms with being Christian. A lesbian who is also a pastor serving a church in the San Francisco Bay Area, Anita regularly writes on her site of her love for, and deep understanding of, God. Her articulation of Jesus' power and presence in her life and heart make for truly inspiring reading---no matter who you are, or, I would think, where you stand on the gay issue. I can't believe any Christian could remain unmoved by Anita's ongoing testimony to the reality of Christ's saving grace in her life.
Anyway, all these Christians (and quite a few others) rushed through my mind when I got Chris's email. And they reminded me of a recent conversation I'd had with a very dear, very conservative elderly Christian friend of mine. In many ways this man has, for years, been my spiritual mentor. He and I were talking about homosexuality and Christianity. Fairly long into our talk, this good, honest man sighed, and said, "You know, the bottom line for me is that I've never known any gay people. Not anyone that I knew was gay, anyway---not anyone 'out,' as they say. I've simply never been close to such a person, in my whole life. But I imagine if I had known and cared for some of the people that you have known and cared for, I would be a little more conflicted about the gay issue than I tend to think I am."
Amen to that. I'm an unapologetic Christian; I love being a Christian; it roots my life. And I want to be the best Christian I can. But there's no two ways about it: there are thousands upon thousands upon thousands of gay and lesbian Christians out there, who, every single day, by the sheer power of the quality of their lives and the personal, proven depth of their faith in Jesus Christ, are necessarily and directly challenging---or at least confounding---what so many of we, their fellow Christians, believe the Bible is so unequivocally telling us.
All any of us can do, I guess, is keep watching, listening, and praying.
Visit me online at JohnShore.com