Monday, August 3, 2009

The Gay Vocation

I just finished a book called Gifted by Otherness by L. William Countryman and M.R. Ritley. Definitely a great read for God's children, especially those of "the gay tribe."

It's hard to know sometimes exactly what good comes out of being gay. In a straight world, it would be much easier to just be straight. There would be no need to hide my sexuality from anyone. There would be no threat of violence for just being who I am. I would never have had to reconcile religion and sexuality. Things could have just been easier. What do I gain from confusion, pain and all that comes from being gay?

But that's not God's way. God's way is not hiding in fear. Jesus never said that the Christian life was easy. He warned us about persecutions and hatred and violence, and he himself died from torture.

In finishing this book, I realized that being gay is like a vocation. It's a quiet little feeling that lies quietly until the right time, then it never goes away. You can hide it, you can run from it, you can deny it, you can try to eliminate it, but it never goes away. It constantly nags you, it continually makes itself known, and it demands to be heard. Being gay is part of my own life. I tried to hide it and hide from it, but my gayness kept on entering my life.

People who have spent time discerning their call have told me that this constant nagging is what a vocation feels like. The Holy Spirit is persistent and continues knocking even when we slam the door in her face. We can try to run and we can try to hide, but the Spirit finds us anyway.

So why would God call me to this life? Why would God not leave me and so many other LGBT folk alone until we came out and embraced our God-given vocation?

God needs his Church to have courage. As Jesus said, "In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!’" (John 16:33)

In the world today we're facing threats from all quarters. Environmental degradation is rampant. Economies are in serious trouble. Violence still plagues so many places and so many hearts. And people are looking for someone to blame and for someone to save them.

In other words, fear is everywhere. I'm afraid of what will happen in the near future; who isn't?

Let me take a small detour. In the US we continually hear about the decline of the mainline churches. It's like seeing the decline of the nation as our beloved institutions which were once so powerful have lost the ears of many and the strength to get things done. We lose power, we lose control, we lose the ability to defend ourselves. We fear that we will cease to exist and that our "enemies" (whoever they may be) will prevail. Isn't that one of the greatest concerns of people in this country? Aren't we afraid that we will lose power and the security that comes from economic superiority and military might? Aren't we afraid that we will cease to be? That we as a people or an institution will, in other words, die?

As a gay man, one of my biggest fears when I was younger was that I would lose control over my image. "What would people say if they found out that I liked guys?" was a pretty constant question during those years. I worried about the consequences. If people found out, would I lose their love and respect? Would I lose opportunities? Would I even have to face violence? By losing control over my image, it was entirely possible that I would lose everything.

Now none of that has happened to me. I have never to this day been faced with physical threats. I haven't lost close friends when they find out. I haven't lost important opportunities because of my sexuality. That's definitely a huge blessing, and I'm grateful.

There's still definitely a risk in being open about who you are, though, as so many people around the world attest. People are still attacked or killed for being who they are (race, religion, sexuality, sex, gender, ethnicity, and the list goes on). Worse yet, people still hate and hurt others who are just being who they are.

Now how does all of this relate to God's call for the Church to have courage in the face of fear? In being who you really are, in being a whole human, in living a life in communion with God, you are proclaiming the Good News that pain, injustice, violence and fear cannot force your hand.

In other words, by being just as gay as God made me (in addition to living my baptismal covenant), I'm saying that no one, no thing on heaven or earth can separate me from the love of God. Hmmm.... I think St Paul said something like that...

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-38)

So the gay vocation is about calling the church again of God's promise. In the face of fear and destruction and death, nothing can separate us from living out the Good News of God's unconquerable love.


Country Parson said...

A powerful post. It need broader circulation. I'd like to send a copy to the clergy of the diocese if you will e-mail the text to me.

mary said...

This reminds me of an article we read in Queer Religiosities which used the term "gender as calling" least that's what I'm remembering it as. But of course, I am having trouble pinpointing the article may require an email to melissa. Good post, though!

Karl Julian said...

Mary- Thanks for reminding me of that article. I can't remember who it was, either, though I could search through my binder full of my Queer Religiosities articles (Yes, I saved that stuff. Yes, I'm crazy).

What was coming to me in this was really how important living out this calling is and what it means for the wider Church. Every calling comes in order to serve the Church and the world, so my question was how the gay vocation was of service.

How is your own discernment going, Mary?