Hope in Evolution

I’ve been reading through my archives in preparation for relaunching my blog next month, and paging through my personal history has been both trying and inspiring. At its most basic, it feels insurmountable, and with posts averaging about 1200 words each and over 350 posts, that’s a wall of 0.4 million words to read through, all while balancing committee duties, education, and personal wellness goals.

However, it’s been amazing to watch the evolution of my writing quality from month to month, which has given me hope my blog will continue to improve as time moves on–especially after it’s been visually and thematically remastered in the coming weeks. It has also reminded me of some often forgotten ideas that could continue to bring light into my life if I take my own words, said so long ago, to heart now.

Most amazing of all is how, given time, my words of yesterday have grown into blossoming trees today.

In my post I is for It Gets Better, I called on President Obama to step up and tell our youth that it gets better–and after two years, he finally has. In a three-minute video clip at WhiteHouse.gov/ItGetsBetter, our president assures children that times will improve and asserts that bullying is not a staple of childhood, but something that must end.

A year ago, President Obama came out in support of full legal rights of marriage for the LGBT community, a joyous announcement on the heels of a devastating defeat when North Carolina’s anti-marriage amendment was passed. We’re still fighting to gain marriage equality, and so is our president–and whether you’re Republican, Democratic, or anything else, that’s change we can truly believe in.

The tension is mounting as we await a ruling form the Supreme Court on Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Obama administration has already announced it will no longer defend in court. With fortune, the section will be officially declared unconstitutional and no future administration will have to defend it. The road to removing DOMA won’t be at its end if that happens, but we’ll be miles further along than we were, and same-sex married couples across the nation will finally get the 1,100 federal rights they deserve.

Over the course of my time spent blogging, I’ve given tremendous consideration to my religious life and how it intersects with being gay in the 21st century. I’ve never spoken directly of “ex-gay” reparative therapy ministries in the Christian community, but it’s been endlessly apparent that I vehemently oppose them.

Being gay is not a flaw, an illness, a product of abuse or poor parenting, and whether or not you see homosexual sex as sinful or not does not matter when it comes to respecting God’s children and treating everyone with the dignity and compassion they deserve–something these “ex-gay” ministries have vigorously promoted.

I also mentioned lately that I’m reading Torn by Justin Lee, an autobiography with the subtitle “Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays vs. Christians Debate.” Although I disagree with the wording (in that placing gays first seems to imply we’ve always been the one propagating this war, which is certainly not true), I have deeply enjoyed reading it so far, and only a few nights ago I was reading about Justin’s experiences in “Exgayland” (as he called it) and I was deeply saddened for all he revealed.

Professed “ex-gays,” he said, often misrepresented themselves, claiming that by no longer engaging in homosexual behavior, they were no longer gay–even though, in private, many would admit to still feeling attracted to members of the same-sex. They promoted ruthless theories of homosexuality that blamed absent fathers and overbearing mothers in the face of glaring scientific evidence and personal testimony to the contrary. Not to mention a plethora of more despicable acts I wouldn’t even dream of mentioning here–and through all of it, they harmed families, tore apart communities, and destroyed the hope and life God has placed in the world.

I came out to myself at a time when Judaism was beginning its own evolution toward accepting and embracing the LGBTQ community. I read Jewish legislation proclaiming that gays and lesbians could and should be treated as full and equal members of the Jewish community. I attended a religious school teachers conference and was met by acceptance and solidarity from everyone I opened up to. And earlier this month, my synagogue performed its first same-sex wedding–and even though the state won’t recognize it, our community does.

This outpouring of love and compassion helped bring me back to Judaism in a time of doubt and made me more committed to my faith than ever before. At the same time, the prevailing notions that religion and sexuality cannot exist in harmony prompted a former leader of GTCC’s GSA to ask me, “How can you be Jewish and gay?” And he wasn’t the first, or the last, to ask just that–but the media’s portrayal of this ongoing culture clash only fosters further hatred and discontent.

I’m happy to admit I’m beginning to witness the harmonizing of Christianity and homosexuality. Just as Justin Lee’s book continues to reach others, as does the Gay Christian Network which he founded more than a decade ago, the tallest towers of the anti-LGBTQ Christian rhetoric are finally beginning to crumble. As an outsider I cannot make claims for what things will look like when every rampart has fallen, but I can be assured that there’s a new, more inclusive image of Christianity looming on the horizons.

I make this claim in response to the announcement that Exodus International, the largest “ex-gay” ministry of them all, has unanimously decided to close its doors and pioneer a new ministry that seeks to “reduce fear and come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

Exodus International president Alan Chambers also released a public apology acknowledging the harms that he and his organization and churches everywhere have caused the LGBTQ community. It’s a long road, making amends, but it’s been an empty road far too long.

I know many people in the LGBTQ community who feel ostracized and abandoned by their faith communities, and I know many Christian communities who poorly display their beliefs when they respond with hatred to the needs of the LGBTQ community, and I can only hope that this is the first sign of a change in times, a sign that others too will find their faiths as welcoming to return to as I have.

Just as my writing has improved in the three years I’ve been blogging, just as President Obama came to support the LGBTQ community in every aspect, and just as Exodus International is starting a journey to reconcile a fragmented community of religious and LGBTQ individuals, we can always find hope in evolution.

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