Homosexuality and Religion Can Coincide
By: Azure Wall, Daily Nebraskan (U. Nebraska)
November 2, 2006 6:27 PM
(U-WIRE) LINCOLN, Neb. - "No homos go to Heaven!"
Those words -- emblazoned on a T-shirt -- took my breath away.
It isn't that I'm not used to seeing them. A girl can't go to a gay pride parade these days without being informed that "All fags burn in hell!" and that "AIDS is God's Revenge."
But I wasn't prepared for them to greet me outside the Nebraska Union last Thursday afternoon. No, I was just meandering over from Burnett Hall, enjoying the crisp fall weather and trying to keep my red plaid skirt from blowing up around my waist.
As I walked, I thought about that evening's scheduled GLBT History Month banquet. I was excited about hearing my friend Kris Gandara, University of Nebraska-Lincoln's slam poet in residence, read. I was looking forward to hearing what Father Don Hanway, the author of "A Theology of Gay and Lesbian Inclusion: Love Letters to the Church," might have to say.
Then suddenly, there they were. And they had a sign.
"God says: Christ is the only way. All other religion is false. We should love only him. Only his standards rule and we are supposed to judge. He does hate some people."
A crowd surrounded the T-shirt-wearers, and a few poor souls foolishly tried to reason with their spokesman. I lingered for a minute or two, then I stomped my way up the stairs to the Women's Center.
"Are they really allowed to be on our campus wearing those shirts?" I asked.
Jan Deeds, our esteemed director and a fountain of soothing energy, smiled grimly. She observed wryly that free speech is hard sometimes, and she reminded me that I could counteract their hateful message year round.
But I would not be soothed. I stomped back down the stairs with a notebook and pen to copy down all of the language from their signs and shirts.
The crowd still lingered. I wrote furiously, no longer caring how far my skirt blew up. As I wrote, I listened to the gentle pleading of one of the onlookers. He told the T-shirt guys that he knew that God loved him, that he, too, was part of God's plan. My anger dissipated into something more akin to sadness.
You see, God and I have a complicated history. I was raised in a fundamentalist household, replete with tent revivals, scripture memorization and a kooky, Christianized version of the Girl Scouts.
When I was only 4 or 5, I attended an Assembly of God vacation Bible school where they showed us an illustration of souls whiling away eternity in hell. It was during that same period when I caught my first glimpse of (and promptly fell in everlasting love with) Joan Jett. Both images made lasting impressions.
A year or two later, I learned the word "lesbian" in the intermission between Sunday school and church service one morning. An older girl sidled up to me with a copy of the adult Bible study's weekly program.
"Look at this," she breathed as she pointed to the testimony of a distraught mother seeking counsel for dealing with her daughter's lesbianism.
I read it, but I didn't know some of the words.
"What does it mean?" I asked.
"It's when girls are with girls the way they're supposed to be with boys," she hissed.
"Oh," I said.
That night and many nights thereafter I lay in bed and thought about hell. I remembered the flames and the agonized faces of the people who burned in the illustration. I remember them still.
God and I fell out of touch over the years, the way you do with childhood friends and great-aunts. It's not that you mean to stop talking; it's just that you start feeling like you have less and less to say to one another.
Over the years, I've drifted into a sort of agnosticism. I question whether or not one being could be responsible for the creation of both daisies and Fred Phelps. But I continue to be mindful of some of the lessons I learned at church.
I try to do unto others as I would have them do to me. I try to be as generous as my means allow. I try to honor my parents. I refrain from killing people, committing adultery and trespassing against my neighbor. And I try to judge not, lest I be judged.
The T-shirt guys' sign warned, "Judgment day is certain, so we should fight sin and fear him because: THERE IS A HELL."
I'm not sure they're right, but if so, I'm willing to take my chances. I spend my life trying to do more good than harm, and I'm prepared to square off with a couple of guys who stood around waving mean-spirited signs and damning everyone else to the fiery pits of eternity.
The only thing I know for certain is that some mornings when I wake up next to my partner, I feel something shining down on me. Whether it's the Son of God or just the sun, I'm warmed.