HURT BY CHURCH? GET A STR8 APOLOGY HERE

[The tee shirts are now available for order M - 3XL,( printed on BOTH side) on this link. ]

When an idea comes to me on a hiking trail (AKA my “sacred space”) I most often count it as a good idea. My mind is relaxed and I have no distractions.  I would  soon be heading down to San Francisco for Gay Pride weekend in June of 2008 to work with my friends at Freedom in Christ , (FIC)  a fully affirming Evangelical church (near Franklin & Ellis), pastored by a very dear friend of mine Pastor Maria Caruana.  I could picture an idea and  needed to make it work.  Once at home,  I searched my dresser for a white tee shirt , got out some blotter stamps and went to work on the tee shirt.

Kathy | Canyonwalker

I spelled out “Hurt by Church? Get a Straight Apology  Here” on both sides, big . Big enough to be read at a distance.  And big enough to make me feel completely exposed in a crowd. No hiding  in crowd on this one.I go to SF Pride each year  to be with and work with my GLBT brothers and sisters at FIC.  I help at a water  booth they staff at Pride on Saturday and in information booth on Sunday. But, mostly I walk around wearing my tee shirt and  feeling more naked than the truly naked people.  There are quite a few folks who have no clothes on or no tops or wear only very skimpy clothes.  But, try strolling with the “Jesus bulls eye” on your front and back.  This Jesus, the One who many think is the driver behind the anti-gay nastiness  that has been hurled at the gay community.  Even I get tempted to cover up my shirt in crowds.  You can hide the front with crossed arms, but not the back. Genius plan, God.

Often I stand at the FIC booth to talk, answer questions, hear stories and hand out information and  FIC produced CDs, but the most successful engagements come when I walk around the Civic Center area.  People stare at my shirt, lips moving, eyes popping open. They motion me to stop.  They look at my face, they quickly try to assess my authenticity and then  ask about my intentions either quite haltingly or aggressively. Not much in between.  One year, I walked around with Freddy, my sweet buddy in his “Christian + Gay = OK” tee shirt.  He carried CDs and informational materials for FIC.  We talked to lots of people in tandem. Hugs, tears and smiles are exchanged.

Freddy G. White and teen girl

One of my favorite stories, oh, actually I have lots of favorite stories, involved a teen girl who had just come back from Church camp. She was at Pride with a straight friend who encouraged her to deal with this confusion of her sexuality head on. The friend was very supportive of church-camp-girl being a lesbian and wanted to help in a tangible way by accompanying her  to SF Gay Pride. It was she who saw me and dragged the just-back-from-church-camp friend up to me. She pointed at Freddy’s shirt, “Is that true? Do you believe you can be gay and Christian?”  We talked. They cried, they laughed, we hugged.  No one can resist Freddy G. White. She told us she had not wanted to make a choice , but knew she couldn’t change her orientation.  She had chosen to “quit Jesus” and now, after talking,  the dating was back on.

I’ve never experienced  one nasty confrontation at Prides.  Never.  I have gone to the Wiccan and sex workers booths to chat, talked with completely naked men (oh, they did have shoes on), men in S & M gear, old war veteran  partners in wheelchairs, transgenders who are into S & M,  the tough, young, Chicana dykey chicks —the whole gamut.  All have a story of  being tossed out, not being good enough, having to make a choice between faith and orientation ,  being asked to change or told they are not welcome.  And, most never go back to faith communities.  They often wander on over to Buddhism; it is welcoming.   I cried with one woman as she told me she loved to teach Sunday School and, you could tell she was probably very good at it.  Once she fell in love with a woman , she  was un-fellowshipped. She never looked back.  I invited her back.

“Hey Church Girl, come over here and talk to me.”  No problem.  I was raised on the streets of New York;  I don’t shrink from much.  He was in his interesting Folsom Street Fair appropriate leathers, all buff, whip in hand and straps across his chest.  “What’s the deal with this Jesus? Why does He hate us so much?”  Now if that does not make a Christian weep, there is no hope for your theology.  I listen to hundreds of stories over a Pride weekend.  I don’t know the results of the dialogues.  I only started blogging this past year so there has been no way for people to reconnect with me.  Till now.  Now, I can point to a place where they can read a view of Scripture they may have never seen. I want to be able to point back to God , back to church, back to this Jesus who never “quit” them.

My friends at FIC do a wonderful job reaching out.  They go yearly to the Folsom Street Fair in their purple “Christian+Gay = OK” tee shirts  just to hand out water and be available for spiritual conversations.  That is edgy and the Jesus of the New Testament would be right there with them.  Every year at SF Gay Pride, and this will be their seventh year in the parade, Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church has a float and it is a stand out. Amongst all the groups and marchers, the dykes on bikes, the Mikes on trikes,  there they are, the FIC congregation on a float declaring “Christian + Gay = OK”.  I have ridden on the float with these my brothers and sisters singing techno-pop versions of praise and worship songs.  We sway and lift our hands in worship in our colors-of- the-rainbow choir robes.  What makes me smile/makes me cry is the number of people along the parade route of 1.2 million people that sing along with us; they know these songs from past years in churches

Angel Steven

.Pastor Maria tells me that in the first few years, the crowds did not know how to receive them. Were they anti-gay? Surely they must be, they are a church. Now, folks expect to see the tiered float with the choir and Angel Stephen glittered in white dancing on the top tier.  The year the float happened to stop very close to the Westboro Baptist Church crazies, “Amazing Grace “ was playing. I don’t think I have ever sung or felt that hymn more deeply than in those five minutes.  To stand with about 20 GLBT believers in my orange choir robe, alongside people I really love, a fortress against the hatred hurled in the name of Jesus, is a profoundly spiritual moment.

Last year, I opted to walk (and run) alongside the float to hand out hundreds of information bags to people along the route. Yes, sporting my “Hurt by Church?  Get a Straight Apology Here” tee shirt. How do you pick the right people I wondered?  When those clever answers come to me, I say “thank you God”.  If  I saw people who were singing along with the music blasting from the float, I knew they had a church background. I would head directly to them and offer them a bag. The response was usually a silent nod of gratitude and knowing.  Eyes connecting and a blessing spoken.

I know this is not the typical Christian response to Gay Pride events. Most of us ignore the  Pride events and some will use it as a “ministry” opportunity. Two years ago, I got into an email exchange with Dr. Michael Brown of Charlotte, NC and of the Coalition of Conscience. He and his co-sponsor, Lou Engle of The Call and the “Kill the Gays Bill” in Uganda (in)fame, sponsored a march called “God Has A Better Way” during Charlotte Gay Pride.  This is their yearly response to Charlotte Gay Pride. The goal (which I do not think they met) was to have “five hundred worshipers, prayers, dancers, musicians and praisers” march from their church to a church facility immediately adjacent to the Pride festival area.  The video is now gone from youtube, but I saw what appeared to be about 250 people in bright red tee shirts emblazoned with “God Has A Better Way” walking  to the Pride area where Dr. Brown and others spoke on a public address  system.  They talked about the corruption of America and the destruction of the family; one man recalled a prophetic vision of the church rescuing the GLBT people. In Jesus name, amen. Then, the red-shirted (m)asses , walked into the crowd to “love on people”.

Rev. Troy Perry, founder of MCC

I engaged with Dr. Brown many, many times in the weeks prior to Charlotte Pride pleading with him  to not do this the planned way.  No movement, no surprise. I actually had to cover my face in disgust when  I saw the video from the event; I knew the impact of their actions. It would not be positive.  Michael Brown proudly stated in his radio show that two or three “God Has a Better Way” people got to pray with folks at the event.  Now, I know two or three people are very important, but my God, and I do mean, my God—all the people that were pushed even further from my God. Ahhhhh!

We Christians look like fools and bigots with a “God Has a Better Way” sort of action.  How much more effective is engaging others in grace with a truly loving heart? Forget the “love the sinner and hate the sin” drivel.  Jesus never said it, it is not in the Bible and we keep quoting it as a validation for bias.   God does have a much better way and His people don’t seem to know what it is when it comes to gay/trans people.  It is so, so simple.  Love.  Now, that is something Jesus talked a whole bunch about.

Each summer, I attend as many Pride events as I can get to in my “Hurt by Church, Get a Straight Apology Here” tee shirt.  The tee is as raw and as big in graphics as the original. Are you brave enough to wear it and mean it? If you are, bring your tissues to your local Pride event; you will hear stories of pain that never should have happened. Here is a list of Gay Pride Events worldwide; they tend to be in the summer months to commemorate The Stonewall Rebellion.

[The tee shirts are now available for order M - 3XL,( printed on BOTH side) on this link. ]

This is what I think the church should be doing. Apologizing and meaning it. We have gone the “laws and rule route ” and it sure does not work.  Maybe what we actually need is more grace?  What a Jesus-like concept.  Who someone is attracted to has nothing to do with God’s love  for them. Everyone means everyone. All means all. Whosoever means whosoever.

Gatekeepers step aside, God has a better way and this maybe the formula:  figure out what makes you so skimpy on grace-giving, fix it (this process is usually long and gets you to focus on you which is pretty Biblical if you are bent on looking for sin), go listen to the stories and be brave enough to keep your mouth shut, and then, listen some more.  And, when the agony for the damage done by well meaning parents, friends and churches hits your Spirit, acknowledge the wrong and apologize. Hug. Smile. Next. Sadly, you will never run out of “nexts”.

And, if you are one of those hurt by church and by well intentioned, but just don’t get it Christians, I apologize.  That is not the heart of God. He adores you. He wants you back, He never “quit” you.

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14 Responses to “HURT BY CHURCH? GET A STR8 APOLOGY HERE”

  1. Sarah August 17, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Dear Lynnea,
    You had posted originally about the hatred forced upon you “in the name of God” for simply being gender dysphoric. I was alerted by the Blog owner, who is a friend, and she asked me to write a note of encouragement. I read your original post and felt to myself that you had been totally abused and wounded like I had in churches before I left Christianity. I felt I was being simply supportive of your struggle with being kind to you. However, your response in return was not nice, and if you did not want anyone replying back to you, perhaps you should not have written the original posting in the first place. People followed the call of the Lord to be there for you in their own way. I know I did. I did not have to, and to be honest, I have resisted helping people for this reason–I do not like being scolded for simply offering to be kind or help. I only offered my e-mail address, even though it is still a risk to me since you and I do not know each other personally, as a means of being a supporter. I will not offer you again, and feel you should apologize to the people here who innocently reached out to you. Your comments were like slapping us in the face. Thank You.

  2. Lynnea August 12, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Some of these responses, however well-intended, are wrong.

    This is like telling a Jew who has survived the Holocaust, “I’m sorry on behalf of my country. All is forgiven. Let’s forget the past. Come back to Germany.” A Jew will never forget. A Jew can never forget. Neither can I.

    What will inevitably happen is that I will only be placed in a position in which new abuses would be perpetrated to the advantage of their respective cults. This has been the circular pattern in which I had been locked for over 20 years. I’ve heard apologies like these before. They end up in a new round of exploitation without exception. Those years have proven to me that apologies and Abrahamists cannot be trusted, no matter how sweet they may initially appear. I have learned to live without Christian forgiveness and I am doing fine, thank you.

    I, for one, will never again accept the title of Christian for myself, or of any religion. So what if followers of Messiah were first called Christians in Antioch? That doesn’t mandate my taking the name at all. A historical reference is not a command, though some try to make is so. My spirituality is not based upon any church. Let spiritual truths remain transcendent, unmuddied by cultic manipulations.

    While I do visit churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques freely, I never stay long. It is simply too dangerous for me to do so.

    I don’t even pray like Christians pray. Prayer for me isn’t just talking into the air with the expectation that God listens into the heart. I don’t dispute that God does. But prayer for me is also a visual exercise, and I am also summarily condemned by Christians just because I happen to be eidetic. Anyone who thinks that I could join a church with these practices is certainly unreasonable.

    I have received a request to contact me through my e-mail directly. I have denied this request. I don’t need the continued harassment that would inevitably force me to delete that account and install another in order to maintain peace.

    Kathy | Canyonwalker Reply:

    Lynnea–people are moved to compassion and want to help and encourage. Those are good and pure qualities. If you have found a path that works for you, that is good. I think these people wanted to extend a hand and heart of understanding. Your request to be left alone will be, of course, honored.

    Lisa Salazar Reply:

    Lynnea,

    Perhaps the problem we have is our inability to express things of the heart accurately. Words often fail to convey the full depth of what we feel and think. I don’t mean to cop-out by saying so—words can sound shallow and trite, but sometimes that is the best we can do. Sometimes we simply need to be silent as we walk beside each other in solemn recognition that each of us bear a heavy cross. Though some of our experiences may be similar, we can never fully know what each other’s journey has been like. Conjecture, deduction and imagination are the only things we can engage in a vain attempt to understand each other’s pain. What we can agree (and rejoice about) is that even when we are at a loss for words, we have a great high priest, Jesus, who is able to be touched by the feelings of our feeble flesh. It is with this confidence, therefore, that we have the privilege to lift each other up in prayer. All labels aside, we come humbly and meekly before the throne of grace and acknowledge our need and dependence on him, who is able to present us before the Father’s glorious presence without fault and with great joy.

    Peace to you.
    Lisa

  3. Ellie White August 12, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Amen Sarah… may the love you know be experienced by Lynnea and others like myself.. you inspire me girl :) x

  4. Ellie White August 12, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    Oh Lynnea,

    My heart bleeds reading your story… I too am a transwoman, have been to bible college, got a B. Min, worked as a pastor in my male role and once I came out lost any support from the church and all those I thought were friends and I had given so much too. My family is evangelical Christian and don;t get it, my middle brother hasn;t spoken to me for over a year.

    I am now back at work and reunited with my partner which is nothing short of a small miracle. I have been one of the lucky ones. God loves you, God loves you, GOd loves you… it;s just some of his people that haven;t yet worked it out… they’re too busy trying to sort out back from white and all that legalism that they have lost touch with the true heart of God.

    May you find some healing from all you have expereinced, may you know that there are others out there who have been hurt but are not giving up and may above all you find love, peace and happiness ni your life.

    I am so sad to hear your story… it reminds me of some of my own hurts… slowly, very slowly… they are healing up

    with love

    Ellie xo

  5. Sarah W. August 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    I hope it was ok to leave a reply too… I was overwhelmed with Lynnea’s story…

    Dearest Lynnea,
    Wow- what dark memories you have entrusted us with! You have experienced things that are unbearable to even fathom!
    I could not hold back the tears as I read the unbelievable pain coming from every word. “I’m sorry” seems so shallow, I’m sure. But please know- we all mean it from the depths of our soul. If I were there, I’d reach out and just hug you. (I’m sure I’m not the only one)
    I agree with everything everyone has said. I pray that you find His love, peace, grace and that joy will be abundant in your life. You deserve it and are more than worthy of His unconditional love.
    Please reach out to these people. You stepped out in faith and set aside your fear no matter how great it was and God has placed them in your life. Now, find the healing you so deserve within your heart.
    SO SO SO SO SO much love to you Lynnea.

    In Christ’s Unfailing Love-
    Sarah W. (A different one from the one above ;)

  6. Lisa Salazar August 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    Lynnea,
    I too am a transsexual. Forty years ago, at the age of twenty, I put my faith in Jesus. I was drawn to Him by his words and in them I recognized the voice of the Shepherd. By His grace, I have come to know his voice and it is He who has kept me safe all these years, especially during those moments of despair, defeat, guilt and confusion. You could say that in contrast to you, I did not suffer at the hands of others—I abused myself in the name of God as I tried to exorcize the “demon” in me. I don’t mean this as a patronizing comment, but the physical and emotional scars you bear are evidence of Jesus’ warnings to his disciples (and us) that ravenous wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing would come to destroy the flock. I agree with what Kathy has said about all the horrible things that were done to you “in the name of God” where not from God. Reading about your experiences break my heart, but I am convinced the Lord’s heart broke even more with every abuse you suffered. I do not know you personally, but I suspect God has turned those horrible experiences into facets that reflect His light to others. My prayer is that you will draw many to safe pastures and may His love, peace and grace abound in your life.

    Ellie White Reply:

    OMG Lisa… I shed tears reading this… having been through the exorcism path etc myself… but I still hold that God is love, God is grace and God brings peace.. may you be blessed hun :) xo

    Lisa Salazar Reply:

    Thank you Ellie. And I concur re: God.

  7. Sarah August 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

    Dear Lynnea,
    My name is Sarah, and I, like yourself, endured years of hatred, abuse, discrimination and meanness. First, I am so very sorry you were so sinned by so many “self-blessing” people who the Lord Jesus would NOT call His believers. People can callously call themselves that word, but the Lord knows their actions.

    You are God’s daughter; you are a woman. There is NOTHING wrong with you. You needed to be receiving kindness, mercy and love, and sadly, you, like others like us, did not receive it.

    I am now 50, and thanks to the Eternal Lord, I am still here, doing well, and being the true person I was meant to be. I want you to know that you will see better days–just look at the Lord, become my friend, and don’t ever give up. If you do–the haters win, and you will never fulfill what you are.

    When it seems you are alone, you are not–God is with you, even if you don’t feel it. Be assured of my prayers. For my security, I will only say that I will look for your reply to this message.

    Please don’t give up on the Lord like I did for 12 years–Jesus did not do this to you–people did. Take care and I hope we can talk soon.

    In Christ,

    Sarah
    (TO KATHY: Please give her my email address privately–Thanks SSR)

  8. Deborah August 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    Lynnea, I’m a transwoman and I have to say I understand your grief. some people do some really harsh things when it comes to religious labels. I wish I had the words to say or to even be able to begin to empathize with you but my journey’s been relatively easy with a few rough spots along the way. I’m sorry you hurt and I can understand why.

  9. Lynnea August 11, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Hurt by a church? O sure. Church malice goes far beyond just petty harrassments and social rejection.

    In the name of God, a hospital crew mutinied against me with full authority of HR, all because they refused to work under a transsexual.

    In the name of God, my wife was estranged by a minister.

    In the name of God, a bible worker (when calling on a church prospect and refused entry by the husband), declared, “We are going to end their marriage.”

    In the name of God, I was beaten every day as a child, bound, and sharp objects pushed into my skull. Not one of my assailants were ever punished. Instead, I was given “corporal punishment” at the church school and then beaten again at home for being in an “incident.” And every day, I was called, “faggot!” while nobody would even tell me what the word meant. This went on for years in Christian institutions.

    In the name of God, I was urged to go to a Bible college to study for the mission field with the teaching that if I didn’t I could not be saved. Once there, I was told, “The Bible was not written for us today. None of the promises made are applicable today.” I threw away a university degree for this…and the school wasn’t even accredited.

    In the name of God, over 1/3 of my income was demanded, and yet when I was forced out of a job because I defended workers against a violent manager, I was told I had no faith and others in my family were estranged against me.

    Petty hurt? Come on. These are crimes, plain and simple.

    I as a transsexual am not “gay” and am not interested in your “straight” apology. The truths regarding Messiah are transcendant truths that are beyond what any church tries to reserve to itself while declaring, “ex cathedra nullus salus est.” Make your apologies to God for the years of damage and false witness against him by multiple denominations, and welcome to the effort to bring genuine reform to religious communities.

    Kathy | Canyonwalker Reply:

    Lynnea–these indeed are HORRIBLE events and done with the validation of God and misused in His Name. I can completely understand why you would despise any association with any church. I hear these stories and tell people this was NEVER the heart of God, but the misuse of His Word with the desire of man. THe apology I do is genuine and it is in lieu of those who may do the action themselves. It is an attempt to publicly say, THIS EVIL AND DESTRUCTION IS NOT THE HEART OF GOD.
    I truly am sorry that human beings attaching the Name of God to their actions and words was NOT Him. They caused pain that cause God pain when one of His loved creation was hurt. There is almost nothing worse than spiritual/religious abuse. The one solid thing that crosses all cultures, genders, orientation, ages, races is GOD LOVES ALL. When this one base tenet is removed from the hope in a person, the core God put there is removed. I am sorry that humans attaching the Name of God to their horrendous actions brought you destruction. K