The following is the eleventh 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.
Staring At the Steps of Equality
by David Farmer (BEA guest writer)
On March 26, 2013, I stared at the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) alongside several members of my church as part of the Rally for Marriage Equality. In the midst of the thousands of people supporting and opposing marriage equality, my eye caught the words engraved at the top of the building: “Equal Justice Under Law.” These words are meant to inspire a nation and offer a promise that all will be treated equally in this country, under law. So, the steps leading to the entrance of SCOTUS represent the steps of equality to me. In spite of the promising words at the top of the building, this country has a long and very soiled history of discriminating against various groups of people dating back to its earliest days, and that discrimination has often been rooted in religious belief.
As I stared at the promise offered by those large engraved letters, I wondered if I will ever experience true equality under law in my lifetime. Many religious conservatives seem wholly focused on denying equal justice under law practically at any cost to the dignity of America’s LGBT citizens.
March 26 was a birthday I will never forget. While joyously standing with my church family, the biggest gift I received was standing next to the Westboro Baptist Church protestors. I didn’t think I wanted to see them close up…with their venomous signs claiming that God hates fags. (After all, who wants to be shoulder-to-shoulder with people who hate you before they even know you?) I felt the evilness of their energy, and thought about the harm they are causing, and wondered about the next struggling teen that would commit suicide as a result of their (and others) wrong doing. My gift was a crystal-clear understanding of the magnitude of the healing among the Christian community regarding homosexuality that is needed today.
I wondered what I could do to offset religious bigotry and hate. I’ve been through my own struggles on this issue as it took me decades to come to peace with being Gay and Christian. You see, like many I was born into a conservative Christian family. I knew there was something very different about me at age five and by sixth grade, I was emotionally attracted to males, and since the norm was for boys and girls to like each other, I was scared. A year later, I remember boys calling each other “fags.” I was horrified when I understood they were talking about what I was feeling…same sex attraction. I fell into a fifteen-year “pit” where I dare not share my feelings with anyone.
Being in a conservative church, I constantly prayed that I would wake up one day and be “normal.” I never really dated because the one time I took a girl out on a date, I felt guilty the entire evening. To me, I was lying to her. Lying is wrong. I could not reveal my secret, but I did not want to live life as a lie. I decided I was not going to date girls even if it led to loneliness.
I was very active in church until age 21. I sang in the choir, taught Sunday School and believed God had a role for me in His ministry. It hurt to hear sermons that condemned people like me to hell, although I had never acted on my feelings. I eventually stopped going to church because of my anger and I felt tormented because God never answered my youthful prayers. However, I still loved God and He remained an important part of my life.
In 1992, God led me to my soul mate. He was a Southern Baptist. We committed ourselves to each other very quickly. Three years later a Southern Baptist Minister performed our commitment ceremony. In 2008, we were legally married in Palm Springs, California. In our hearts, the 1995 ceremony was the most important to us because it was our covenant with God.
Nonetheless, LGBT oppression at the hands of Christians kept me away from organized religion. God, in His wisdom, had other plans for me, however. In early 2009, an interview of a prominent Southern Baptist in The Advocate started to reopen my heart toward organized religion. The article focused on loving thy neighbor, treating people with respect and engaging in civil discussions on LGBT issues. I wondered if there was an emerging view in the church that I knew nothing about. A few months later, my husband said he wanted to return to church and wanted to check out Ravensworth Baptist Church (RBC).
I was very skeptical about RBC’s welcoming and affirming claims on their website, but I agreed to attend Sunday worship services. As the service began, I felt overwhelmed because I could not believe that a Baptist Church would welcome me. RBC ended up living up to what it said. We have been members for almost four years now and are both in leadership roles in our church. I feel like the prodigal son who has come back home to where he belongs, and I am so thankful that God led me to RBC and my welcoming and affirming family. I finally came to realize that God answered my prayers in my youth. I was not broken. I am his creation. He created me according to His plan.
Coming back to my birthday this year, I felt I needed to do something. Being amidst the juxtaposition of Westboro’s hate-filled signs and our church’s posters advocating God’s love for all was a very powerful experience. Passersby pointed at Westboro and said “bad Baptists” and then pointed at my church and said “good Baptists.” The required healing among the Christian community can only transpire if groups of brave individuals help churches take a second look at the scriptures pertaining to homosexuality.
I believe God helped me “stumble” across Mathew Vines’ video about a week after the Rally. I now know what I must do. I have to become authoritative on what the scriptures does and does not say about homosexuality. I have to be a resource in my community, ready to help individuals and other churches take a second look at the scriptures. I now understand the path that I have been on through my life, and how God will use me in His ministry.
My ultimate vision for reform is a country where most churches welcome and affirm the LGBT community into their circles of faith. This vision can only be achieved if there is healing in this country. The mean-spirited discourse on the issue of whether someone can be Gay and Christian that is so prevalent today must come to an end. The Reformation Project will be a significant catalyst for the healing that must take place. I am honored to be selected as one of the 50 participants for the first Reformation Project Conference, and stand in awe of the other 49 people with which I will share this journey.
While some significant progress was made with the recent SCOTUS rulings, much is yet to be done to complete our quest for equality. By working to bring healing within the Christian community, I believe LGBT citizens will be more broadly accepted into the church and many relationships in countless families will be repaired. Equality on all matters can be realized. I do believe that I will be able to stare at the steps of equality in my lifetime, and thank our forefathers for their vision of Equal Justice Under Law.
David Farmer lives in Springfield, Virginia, where he is a marketing communications professional. He holds a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from George Mason University and a MBA in International Business from George Washington University. David and Ron, his life partner of 21 years, attend Ravensworth Baptist Church in Annandale, Virginia. Jesus and the church hold a powerful centering influence in David’s life, helping him get through life’s challenges, both great and small. Mark 12:31 holds special importance to David because he believes that, if the world truly focused on Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, the conservative church would accept gay Christians.