Awful good. Deafening silence. Definite maybe. Original copy. Random order. Resident alien. True lies. Wise fool. Gay Christian? The spiritual identity of many queer people feels a lot like an oxymoron. This is particularly true for queer people who participate in many of the major world religious traditions, who’s rules and interpretation of their tradition excludes many of us from their ranks. To be honest, to think of myself as a “gay Christian” hasn’t always been easy. It sometimes feels like a contradiction in terms.
But I have now come to see that it is precisely through my willingness to hold together the tension between the various parts of myself – parts that some would say do not belong together -- that allows me to be an instrument of grace and a model of healing in the world. Despite the approved doctrines and regulations of institutional religion, God’s grace has blessed me in both my sexuality and my Christian faith. I have come to see this most profoundly living and working at Easton Mountain.
It’s no secret that post-modern peoples, especially in developed countries, report suffering inauthentic and superficial lives. This is the prevailing soul-disease of our time. The world’s political, economic, and often religious voices have succeeded in getting us to conform to their image of who they want us to be. Many feel that their lives have become dominated by an almost irresistible pressure to conform to the expectations of society. In the process our individuality and uniqueness gets sacrificed. While this is true for all people, being gay has meant sacrificing the truth of one of the most deeply personal and spiritually powerful parts of ourselves: the way we express our love sexually. Denying the truth of our full humanity has meant that many of us have had to live a castrated spiritual existence, particularly those of us who hold faith in the major religions of the world.
Yet in the midst of all this, something new is happening. We live in times where things are changing. As a man of faith I believe that God’s Spirit is the origin of these new and life giving changes. We live in a time when gay Christians are courageously reclaiming the dual truths of their spiritual and sexual identities. Gay Christians are iconoclastic, breaking false images that the powers of this world try so desperately to get us all to conform to. By our willingness to hold together the truths of who we are – being both gay and Christian – we bear witness to the secret truth of God’s Kingdom that is at the heart of the genuine Christian experience. Simply by telling the truth of who we are, we challenge any ideology or institution what would substitute its truth for God’s truth.
Mike Hands is a resident and full-time faculty member of Easton Mountain Retreat Center. In retreats, workshops, and other programs for spiritual growth, he shares his faith, academic learning, and personal experience. He will be one of the leaders of Easton Mountain’s Holy Week retreat, Journey to Easter, March 24-27.