The following is the nineteenth 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.
The Rooster Test
by Suzanne Lindsay (BEA guest writer)
I was raised in the church. As the daughter of a minister and an organist, I mean that I was literally raised in the church. My earliest memories are of me crawling on the altar steps, hearing the choir practicing while my mom was accompanying on the organ. Every Sunday, just below the massive wooden cross, I sat next to my mom during services to turn the sheet music for her while she played. I can still smell the worn pages of the Bible my dad used to prepare for his sermons and I often wore his collar as a headband. My dad didn’t mind and he always encouraged my inquisitively playful side. It was in this environment when I was a child that I learned about a loving, forgiving God.
It wasn’t until my teenage years that I heard the fire and brimstone sermons designed to get me back on the path of righteousness according to my father. Not God my father, but my father the minister. I remember many times in my life that I truly felt as if God was more of a loving father than my biological father could ever be. That idea was formed with the clarity of hindsight as I battled for my father’s approval for years. I wondered how God accepted and loved me unconditionally when my own father could not.
My dad conditionally accepted me for a while, he came to my college graduation, he met a few of my girlfriends and he even got along quite well with one of them. She was the one I would eventually marry. In some ways, I knew she was “the one” because she passed my father’s chicken test. Well, I guess you could technically call it a rooster test. See, my father and my grandfather raised Bantam chickens. They raised them for eggs but also for show at fairs. I assume it is the Ohio code for raising chickens but for my family, they prefer to cut the comb down off from the rooster’s head, as it shows better at the state fairs. Or, in my opinion it was a fowl way (pun intended) to torture the poor chicken and shock onlookers. Cutting a chicken’s comb is a bloody, precarious mess. Sure enough, when my girlfriend used scissors to cut the comb of my father’s prized rooster the geyser of blood shot into the air and onto shirts and faces. Without wincing, she passed my father’s rooster test and was now one of us. For the first time in forever, I felt close with my father and I had my soon to be fiancé to thank for bridging the gap between us.
My father welcomed us on many family occasions and treated us as equals to my stepsisters and their boyfriends. But, as soon as I told my father that we were going to get married and that we wanted his blessing, it was as if time reversed and I was a teenager he was admonishing for deviant behavior. He spouted verses; he used the Bible to explain his hatred for me. I ran away from it and from God. I didn’t think I had a choice, my father was telling me I was no longer welcome in his home or in God’s home. This sparked a period of atheist and agnostic musings in my life. I felt abandoned and un-welcomed in organized religion. When I drove by churches I felt as if the people inside were staring at me and judging me through the stone walls.
It took me a few years of healing to bring myself to go inside the walls of a church again. I lived my life backwards, living for things that I only hoped of and dreamed for—not truly living within the moments God intended my life to be. Looking back on the past I see how much passion and happiness was missing in my life. I put myself on autopilot after plotting the course I thought would lead me toward the “right” way to live, ignoring the truth of myself and not seeing the only way for me to be was open and free from societal expectations and my father’s demanding sermons. I am thankful for churches like the Metropolitan Community Church who provide healing spaces and spiritual renewal to people who have suffered spiritual abuse from their home churches. I also admire those LGBT people who remain steadfast to their faith despite being ostracized from their church. God speaks to me so profoundly and to all Christians with open hearts seeking spiritual growth.
Therefore, I want to build a welcoming place for LGBT Christians in the church. I believe God has placed possibilities within our grasp and I have been called to act on them in a few ways. One of my visions for reform is to initiate and be a resource for leading my church, Zion United Church of Christ and other nearby churches, to becoming Open and Affirming, which is a designation for congregations that make public statements of welcome into their full life and ministry to persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. Declaring ONA status at Zion UCC will provide a beacon of light for LGBT people to see and know they are welcome to worship with us. This designation will also affirm them as Christians. Moreover, completing the steps to becoming ONA will be significant to Zion church members as well because they will have the opportunity to engage in dialogue and study about the inclusion of LGBT people in the church.
I think in thunderous ways and wish to speak like lightning about the non-affirming church’s role in excluding LGBT people from worship and from God. Today I am disappointed to know that my father and other ministers still choose to exclude me and all other LGBT Christians. However, the unconditional love of my Father, my God is stronger. My prayer is to be filled with the Holy Spirit as I bring the light of love to all who may seek it. Though my voice may just trickle like rain, in time, it will fill the pews with loving affirmation for LGBT people in the church and quench the seeking souls of our brothers and sisters.
In her native Maryland, Suzanne Lindsay is a veteran English and Graphic Design teacher. She is an Equity and Diversity Liaison where she teaches, and she had the privilege of repeatedly speaking and teaching at Columbia University’s National Journalism Convention. As a writer and photographer, Suzanne strives to connect her creativity with the world to communicate positive ways we can act to bridging the gap between us. Suzanne trusts that Christianity is acting on the belief that you are unconditionally loved. She believes that as Christians we’re called to demonstrate unconditional love to all through our actions as Jesus tells us in Luke 6:17-49. We are called to connect with other Christians and to demonstrate purposefully what Jesus intended for His people. We are also called to connect with others who have yet to discover the exponentially positive power Christianity can have in one’s life.www.withactionsintruth.blogspot.com @suzlindsay
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.
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