Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On having gay friends, part 2

In a previous post I already talked about what it means to have gay friends, and you may have gathered from what I discussed that most of them are Christians. Gay Christians, to use the controversial term. So what do we talk about? No doubt many people think that my conversations with gay Christians centers around sex, sex, and more sex. How do I stomach it? Either I am extraordinarily tolerant, or there is something seriously wrong with me.

Actually it's neither. To give you an idea of what I mean, how many of you have straight Christian friends? Show of hands. Now, how often do you discuss sex with any of them? Over pancakes at IHOP? Over coffee in the fellowship hall? During play dates? I'd expect the two most popular answers would be: Rarely or Never. Well, that pretty much sums up my own experience with gay Christian friends. And I'm leaning toward Never.

What do we talk about then? I suppose everything you ought to talk about when you count honest fellowship time as precious and rare. When I talk to gay Christians, the unspoken rule seems to be that nothing is off the table. Everything is okay, this is a judgment-free zone. I don't sense the usual barriers of pride, or the subtle game of spiritual one-upmanship. I can talk about having doubts, for instance. I can talk about being angry with God. I can talk about depression and disillusionment. I don't always talk about these things, and I make sure I do my share of listening. But knowing I can talk about them is what makes the difference.

You see, gay Christians face a problem with many of their straight Christian friends. Either they have to keep their conversation superficial because their friends don't know they are gay. Or if these friends do know, they still have to keep the conversation superficial because most straights get uncomfortable or even hostile when it comes to honest talk about the struggles and challenges of being gay.  

But gay Christians aren't the only ones who have to do the stifling. A lot of straight Christians can also relate to the depressing reality that sometimes church is the last place you are allowed to share your real problems. Like when your marriage is about to collapse. Or your teenager is cutting herself. Or you suffer depression from the secret abortion you had ten years ago.

When you're aching for fellowship that's authentic and truthful, you need to seek out people who know what it really means to walk by faith through deep waters, who won't judge you as you flounder through your own journey. And if you know what I'm talking about then you'll understand why my gay Christian friends are such a treasure to me. They are a blessing and a gift from God. I wish everyone would avail themselves of such a blessing, but if not, I'd be more than happy to enjoy it all for myself.