“Diana’s a lesbian and we’re moving out.” I literally dropped the laundry I was putting away and turned to look at two of my roommates. Diana had almost instantly become my best friend during my freshman year of college. We were inseparable. We were soul sisters. Gay? No way. We were in a Christian sorority together for Pete’s sake. And, we shared a bathroom together. If Diana was gay, I would be the first to know. I told my roommates that I was sure that they were mistaken yet they both moved out a few days later.
Two more roommates moved into our apartment and I tried to continue life as normal. However, I was no longer comfortable with the easy closeness that Diana and I once shared. I was paranoid about sharing a bathroom with her and so I moved to the other side of the apartment. I was completely terrified by the idea that my best friend might be gay.
I had grown up Southern Baptist where I was taught that homosexuality undermines God’s creation. God created Adam and Eve to procreate, to “be fruitful and multiply.” Although the church taught that we all sin, homosexuality was seen as a sin that carries a heavy judgment. Practicing homosexuals live a life of sin and therefore have to face God’s holy condemnation. Although there are only 7 Bible verses that address homosexuality (and none of these coming directly from the teaching of Christ) I knew them all well. And these verses, according to my Southern Baptist preachers, did not paint homosexuals in a positive light.
As a 19 year old, I was torn. Here was my best friend that I loved dearly and on the other hand was my church, which was very important to me at the time, telling me that my friend’s sexual preference, which I still wasn’t positive about, was an abomination. I wish I had talked to Diana about what was going on. I wish that I had been there for her as she was struggling to find her identity. I wish I had been there to root her on and to tell her that I loved her no matter what. I did none of these things. I was a coward. I ran away. I refused to face the uncomfortable. I was a horrible friend that was not there when my best friend needed me the most. We graduated from college and moved on. I barely remember telling her goodbye.
About two years went by when I received a random phone call from Diana. In the call, Diana told me that she was indeed a lesbian and had met someone wonderful. I told her that I wasn’t surprised, that I was happy for her, and that I loved her no matter what. And I meant it. But, I was still struggling with the whole issue of what my church was teaching me about homosexuality. I was beginning to feel like the church preached that God is love out of one side of its mouth and then preached about judgement and condemnation out of the other side. I was afraid to question the church’s teachings. What if I found out that they were wrong? Would the foundation of my religious upbringing come tumbling down?
I was afraid to discover the truth for myself and terrified not to. I was beginning to strongly believe that anybody, including a church, that treats another human being like a pariah is wrong. How is it right for a religious body to make anyone doubt that they are a child of God? Thus began my own spiritual search for the truth. I won’t bore you with all that I read and found, but just know that for every preacher that claims that homosexuality is a sin, there is another pastor preaching that the scripture has been misinterpreted and misused. I came to the conclusion that I must form my own conclusions after doing my own research. If I never question why I believe the way that I do, I will never grow.
I know a lot of Christians that practice “tolerance” towards homosexuality. They believe that while homosexuality is a sin, it is not their place to judge. I struggle with the idea of tolerance. To me, tolerance is something we choose to put up with. I tolerate the disgusting heat and humidity of Houston in the summer. I tolerate my husband leaving his shoes all over the house. We are forced to tolerate things that bother us because we live on this planet and there are things that are out of our control. Yet, as people, I think freedom is moving from just tolerating one another to being more open and accepting of one another. For me to be able to move to a place of acceptance, I had to determine for myself what the Bible was actually saying. I ultimately came to the conclusion that the God that I have loved since I was a little girl is not likely to vilify any one of us. We are all His creation. God just doesn’t “tolerate” some of us… He loves every single one of us.
I believe that if God truly is love and requires us to love one another, I must be open-hearted and accepting of others. No exceptions. When I come from a place of having to be “right”, making the other person’s views “wrong”, I am coming from my own ego. True love does not come from ego. It moves beyond having to be right. It moves beyond having to have things my own way. True love does not dishonor others.
For these reasons, I refuse to be a part of any organized group, my old church included, that refuses to practice love. We are all children of God. We are all worthy. Thankfully, there are many religious bodies that are accepting of all people.
And to my dear friend, Diana, thank you for coming into my life and teaching me the true meaning of love. Love knows no boundaries, no race, no gender, no religion, no country, no sexual preference. Thank you also for teaching me that I didn’t have to stop believing in God to be accepting of you. I just had to stop going to churches that didn’t fully understand the meaning of God’s love. I had to learn that because God is accepting of all others, that means that He is truly accepting of me. I’m sorry that I was unable to see this as my 19 year old self, but I hope you know that you have had a lasting impression on me. I believe that you came into my life to bring me something that I needed to learn. It was not an easy lesson. It was one that took hours of researching and studying, one that required me to question a deep-rooted part of myself, one that went down into my very core. But, because of you, I am a better person.