Peterson Toscano has been up and the uni and so Auntie Doris has been teaching Third Party to charity shop. Last night I went up to see the show, which I would heartily recommend – it’s playing tonight aswell, if you are a local go see – it’s in Keynes.
Seeing Peterson perform in the past has always been a pleasure, he is so funny. Last night it was a huge pleasure, but it also took me places I try not to go because, just for a moment, I have to take off the rose tinted glasses. The trigger was a poem he read called Riddles and his introduction where he talked about those who have left Narnia but still have the wardrobe tied to there backs, that is those who selectively come out according to how safe they feel & are neither in or out of the closet. I’ve ummed and ahhed about whether to post the following, but feel it’s something I need to share…something people need to understand.
Firstly, to put myself in context for those who may not know me. I am an evangelical Christian (ok, a radical, feminist one but still an evangelical) who goes to a mainstream evangelical church which is slightly charasmatic around the edges occassionally. I am also somewhere between B and L on the spectrum in terms of my sexual orientation, (i.e. I’m predominantly l, but v. v. occassionally aspects of b creep into my mind). The result of that mix is that I take a side C position in terms of sexuality. That is I think that committed same sex partnerships are fine – for everybody else, but my own struggles reconciling the teaching I have heard and still hear publicly proclaimed in churches and amongst many of my Christian friends mean that I just don’t go there, beyond my own imagination…..because it’s easier to balance my sanity and keep my faith that way.
Therefore, I am kind of a stranger in all lands, seemingly not agreeing with the position on this that anybody holds and choosing celebacy out of convienience rather than any conviction it is right. It enables me to stay, in the somewhat mad position of believing God is the creator of sexuality and he intends us to celebrate that by responsibly enjoying sex within committed relationships and also having a tiny part of me that thinks that maybe the teaching within evangelical churches could be right and all sex outside of heterosexual marriage may be sinful and offensive to God, and so to be avoided. Now, I know the reality is this fence sitting is not entirely healthy, but it is what works to keep me sane. I have tried mentally moving in the other directions at various points and the effects on my head and faith become too difficult to deal with.
The effect of taking this position though is it means that I am reasonably ok being out to a number of people at church, because I think that the whole silence around sex and sexuality, outside the heterosexual norm, which is engaged in within the evangelical sub-culture is dangerous and fosters a culture of unbiblical hypocracy. I think that the way churches have operated and approached the issue of sex outside marriage, (i.e. we don’t agree but what we don’t know / don’t acknowledge we don’t have to deal with or what we do acknowledge we will treat in a more negative way to any other sin), is extremely unhealthy and needs to be challenged. The heterosexism (and occassional homophobia) in churches will only be challenged if people start being honest and willing to discuss their differences and reasoning for coming to those positions, in the same way they do other ethical issues – without the hype and without it being in atmospheres of division.
So over the last few years I have left Narnia, and am now to some extent out of the closet. However, because I know that those outside the church would have no way of understanding my lifestyle and decisions I tend not to be “honestly out” to friends and family outside the church. That is it’s one of those things that I think a number of people know on some level but is one of those subjects we don’t discuss and when I am challenged about my long term singleness I just tend to give the “I’m happy being single” line. The reason for this is not normally because I fear their reaction to my sexuality, rather I fear their reaction towards my faith. They all know I am a Christian and I am well aware that my “self-enforced” singleness is something they would view as yet another sign of how evangelical Christianity is a negative set of do nots which messes people up.
I know I hold a position which cannot be justified, and that the secular is sensible enough not to find virtuous therefore, I can’t discuss it with them. The effect of this means I walk around with “the wardrobe on my back”, as the poem says, because it is helping me balance on the fence. It is society’s negative views on evangelical Christianity, rather than society’s more positive, (or atleast indifferent), views on LGBT issues which keeps me with one foot in the closet, but also it is the dominant public messages within evangelical Christianity which keep me holding onto that wardrobe. Yet, through it all I know I am not carrying the wardrobe alone and that each time I feel that I have to deny who I am or ensure that discussion is avoided God who created me fully (and who has intended me to be exactly who I am – both queer and evangelical in a largely secular time and place) is there beside me, absorbing my pain.