The following is the first installment of the “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews” series. The series features members of The Reformation Project’s Inaugural Conference -a leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform.
“I’m A Straight Ally Because _________”
By Ryan Kuramitsu (BEA guest writer)
A couple of months ago, I attended an ally workshop led by the Reverend Dr. Phil Snider of Springfield, MO. When I walked into the room, I was given a placard they probably expected me to fill out that read “I’m a straight ally because ___________.” That card has been sitting on my window sill completely unattended for the past few weeks because I still don’t know what the heck to put on it.
Looking for a little inspiration one day, I picked the thing up and flicked it in front of my friend’s face.
“Why are you a straight ally, Brett?” I probed. He took the card from me and spun it around in his rough hands. After a moment, he responded: “I guess because I’m a Christian.” I thought that was beautiful and really cool, but now that he said it, I felt guilty playing the Jesus card as my own. That would have been cool if I had thought of that first though.
“How about you, dude?” he cut into my thoughts. “What do you stand for? Why are you a straight ally?”
I thought about it.
I thought about this year – how several friends (and even professors) had thanked me for being a safe person to talk to, a friend, a counselor, an ally, a cool reminder that God’s love really is for everyone, a religious person who isn’t totally insane. I nodded, pleased with myself and my recent actions. Maybe I stand for equality and love, I thought. Maybe I’m a straight ally because I’m such a great person.
But I couldn’t help but keep thinking back and in seconds my mind began to unravel.
I thought back just 6 months, to when I was nodding faithfully along with a Cru staff member who told me that gay couples shouldn’t be able to adopt children because Homosexuals can Never be as Capable or as Natural as Traditional Parents. I thought back some more, to the day a friend came out to me and I reminded him that I loved him but I could never support the “gay lifestyle.”
I remembered the day I told my mom I could never welcome her same sex partner at my future wedding.
I thought back to my freshman year of high school, when I refused to participate in a schoolwide Day of Silence to raise awareness for anti-gay bullying, and, in an act of protest, wore a t-shirt to school upon which I’d passionately scribbled “speak the truth” in red ink.
Less proud of myself now, I felt my heavy heart beginning to crack.
And so as much as I like to think myself some great straight ally, I know that my rather indelicate history tells a different story. For much of my life, I’ve stood for nothing but myself. I’ve too often been on the side of fear and judgment and hatred, naming evil ‘good’ and thinking I was standing in some twisted solidarity with God through our shared hatred of sinful humanity.
It took me years to realize that although I’d taken to calling my position “God’s side,” the God of Israel has never been on the side of the oppressors: God has never been on the side of the bully or the social insider, never served as a witness for the prosecution.
It took me years to understand that when angry believers rise up and call upon the name of God to strike down the weak and the broken, these people themselves are actually the naked ones. Their precious deity spurns riches to take the side of the underdogs, to serve as a God who is with the enemy, a God who has such a reckless commitment to redeem the lost that he has even descended into hell to rescue them.
This truth became especially evident to me the other day when I was catching up on a friend’s blog and I found myself slack-jawed in surprise to read the following statement on his site: “I’d rather go to jail and die for speaking against SSM [same sex marriage] than remain silent and aid the decay of society.”
I had always considered this friend to be of a more conservative persuasion, but this had not ever particularly bothered me before. I honestly just couldn’t remember the last time I’d heard anyone I know in real life make this sort of argument in such an abrasive, inflated, self-righteous sort of way.
Baffled at his candidly horrible approach to the issue, I hungrily clicked through a few more pages of posts until I found one that featured a similar religiously-justified tirade against same sex marriage.
“Choose your side carefully,” the post, called Straight Pride, warns. “Those who support straightness align themselves with God, the angels, christians and their straight lovers. On the other hand,” it concludes, “those who support crookedness align themselves with Satan, liberals, sinners, and their prostitutes.”
What was shocking to me wasn’t necessarily the content of the post but that it was written by a friend of mine. A Christian friend, someone I’d think would want to be known (for all of its tired use, this is the only phrase I find appropriate here) for standing on the right side of history, for standing with those that always win out in the end, the side of burgeoning faith and indefatigable hope and unconditional love.
The post ends with the otherwise amusing melodramatic flourishes of: “Where do you stand?” and “I stand straight with God.”
I sat there for a minute or so just absolutely dumbfounded because – as a Christian – I could hardly believe what an easy question had just been asked of me.
When somebody asks me something like “where do you stand on this?” I have to admit that now that I’m a Christian, it’s kind of an easy answer.
As a disciple of Jesus, it’s pretty simple. We must go where God goes, and God goes to the forgotten at any cost. “Being on the right side” means pursuing God anywhere. Even if that means following him into hell.
Even if that means losing our own salvation.
Maybe that’s why Mother Teresa wrote “If I ever become a saint—I will surely be one of darkness. I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
So where do I stand?
I can tell you right off the bat that, yes, I can’t believe how easy of a question this is, I will always stand on the side of “the liberals, the sinners, and their prostitutes“ (otherwise known as the people the Bible specifically mentions as those Jesus constantly stood in direct solidarity with).
In order to model the way of my Savior, yes, I probably will have to end up standing with the drunkards and the gluttons and the tax collectors and the religious heretics and everybody else the Pharisees ever raised their noses at…because God knows I’m no better than the worst of these “sinners,” even on a good day.
Rather than realigning myself with the self-created god I once worshipped, yes, I will stand with the unchurched, with the victims of homophobia and sexism, with the atheists, and with everyone else mainstream society has cast aside.
I’ll stand up for the liars and the cheaters and the accusers – and maybe even for the accuser – because the task of a disciple of Jesus isn’t to bully the little guy or to strike back at her enemy or even to refuse to pick sides. The idea is to stand with God and with those who are the most hated, with those most stripped of celebrity.
Lucky for us, those two things – God and the least of these – are always going to be on the exact same side.
This concept is fascinating and it has plenty of implications for our lives, but what’s especially clear right now is that standing on the right side of history, sharing your voice as a straight ally, is a supremely important task. It’s something I’d like to invite you to come alongside me on if you’re not there already.
When I finally got there myself, I found out that’s where Jesus had been all along.
Ryan Kuramitsu studies social work at the University of Illinois and will serve as one of The Reformation Project’s 50 inaugural reformers this fall. Ryan is a straight, biracial male and a former fundamentalist Christian who identifies as both Evangelical and Roman Catholic (that’s allowed, right?). When he grows up, he wants to be happy, to help people, to write, and to have a family. Ryan is passionate about human trafficking and LGBT equality and inclusion, and he blogs about these things as well as spirituality, sexuality, social justice, and the kingdom of God over at A Real Rattlesnake Meets His Maker.
The opinions expressed above are those of the guest writer and do not necessarily state or reflect the views of Brown-Eyed Amazon. Publication on this website should not be considered an endorsement.