Excerpt from Chapter one, Reaching for the Rainbow: Relating to God
There are countless different reasons why people leave their childhood faith, drop out of church or stop believing in God, but growing up as LGB or encountering LGB people and issues in a church environment can kick-start a questioning of values and assumptions. This may mean leaving church, it may even mean leaving God, whether for a short while, for years, for decades or for good.
You may leave because you are made to feel that, because of your sexual orientation or that of a friend or family member, you cannot have a relationship with God. This is what happened to Richard H, who describes losing faith when he came out because he thought he had to. “I thought faith and the gay lifestyle weren’t compatible,” he explains looking back. “I thought that leaving my faith was what I was supposed to do, so I did, but then I came back into faith when I’d finally accepted my sexuality. I don’t think I’d really accepted my sexuality until then.”
When asked which aspects of her faith were challenged by LGB issues, Sophie, who’s straight, exclaims: “Everything!” As she saw over and over again how the church responded to homosexuality and how Christians behaved towards her LGB friends, she started to question the fundamentals of her faith.
It all came to a head “one morning, at about 4am, after more than my share of booze. I suddenly thought, ‘If I have to choose between God and my friends, I’ll choose my friends – what sort of a god is that?’ Then I started thinking, ‘How do I know what God’s like anyway?!’ So that triggered a collapse of faith for me.”
Excerpt from Chapter four, Coming out in Church
At the end of the seminar Alex queued up to talk to the speaker. Over a decade later, he still remembers how he felt that night: “My heart was thumping. ‘I think I might be gay, and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of some people who might be able to help me.’ ‘How old are you? 18? Don’t be silly, you’ll grow out of that.’ That evening I was in bits. A very precious secret part of who I was, which I had struggled with for years, had finally surfaced, to be completely dismissed by someone who I thought was an expert.”
Fortunately Alex was with friends, his then youth leaders, who were relatively new Christians. They were initially shocked. They’d never known any LGB people before and weren’t sure what to say or do. But this uncertainty was just what Alex needed.
He remembers that because they didn’t know the answers “they weren’t prepared to simply trot out the usual line. Over the subsequent months and years they wrestled with the issue as I did, thinking, praying and reading up on it, and really listening to what I had to say.”
Excerpt from Chapter five, Family Values
Most parents don’t believe it’s the end of the world when their child comes out, but many still find that their instinctive response is to blame themselves, either for having an LGB child or because their child hasn’t felt able to confide in them before. This is completely normal: parents never grow out of feeling responsible for their children, or worrying about their wellbeing.
While Bruce is now totally accepting of his son being gay, his first reaction was paralysing guilt, based on myths and preconceptions about LGB people: “My understanding at the time was that homosexuality was a perversion brought about by wrong family relationships. That is, a remote, uncaring father figure and an oppressive dominant mother figure. Although this didn’t really match our profile, I knew that there had been too many times when I had been off looking after the church where I was pastor and leaving the bringing up of the children to my wife.”
And while Bruce worried that he might have failed as a father, his wife Janet began to doubt her ability as a mother. “My first reaction was to run and tell our son I loved him,” she says. “But also to ask him where we’d gone wrong – what awful sin had we committed and to try to work out how to get things fixed. I was distressed to realise that my son knew from around age 11 that he was different, had hoped it was a phase he was going through and later had prayed he’d be delivered from it. He had been going through something on his own for years and thought he might never be able to tell anyone. I’d hoped I was a good mother and yet I had been totally ignorant of all of this.”
Excerpt from Chapter two, The Good Book (each chapter ends with an action and prayer)
“Being ‘Biblical’ actually means going against the grain, taking a stand for what is right and just and daring to believe that God may see the world in entirely the opposite way to how most people imagine it. This view of the Bible is entirely consonant with how Jesus handled scripture: ‘You have heard that it was said…but I tell you…’” (Terry)
Is there a verse or passage in the Bible that particularly troubles you? Read it and then take it to Jesus. Imagine him saying, “You have heard that it was said… but I tell you…” about this passage and see if you can hear what new thing God is saying to help you understand these difficult words afresh.
Author of our lives, You call each of us to play our part in the Bible’s story, to meet its challenge and challenge it in turn. Forgive us when we try to misuse or control it. Show us its power to transform us and touch us through its pages with your love. Amen.
(from words by Martin)
Sarah Hagger-Holt & Rachel Hagger-Holt