In this week’s Dearly Beloved, the advice column from author Michael Arceneaux, a reader wants to have a reconciliation with faith, only he wrestles with whether or not he can find a space that complements both his Southern Baptist church and the political ideology he’s formed over the years. While many would rightfully argue that Jesus Christ matches Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez more on paper than say, Pat Robertson or whatever other old white evangelical male public figure that resembles and behaves like an aging goblin you can think of, most Christian churches remain staunchly conservative, and thus, confining for queer people.
Still, our dear reader would like that old thing back with respect to religion and seeks counsel on how to turn back to God in a region that may not offer the ideal church community.
If you want Michael’s advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start your letter with Dearly Beloved!
It’s a thing.
I am a gay millennial with a penchant for social justice and democratic socialism. I was also raised in the Southern Baptist church, and these two worlds seem to constantly conflict. During the 2016 election, I had a falling out with faith that has lasted until this day, but I find myself wanting to turn back to God. How can this be done when the church communities surrounding me in north Texas don’t reflect the Jesus I know and love?
I want to find a church community that will allow me to walk hand in hand with my partner down the aisle. I want to find a church community that cares about Flint and Puerto Rico and gun violence. I want to find a church community that cares about migrant children separated from their families at the border. I want to find a church community that in the face of police shootings boldly professes that black lives do in fact matter. Is this all asking for too much?
We were not designed to walk on this earth alone, yet I feel like it’s hard to find a Christian community that is willing to walk with me. What should I do?
I’m a recovering Catholic who just published a book entitled I Can’t Date Jesus, so needless to say, I understand your dilemma. The book begins with my first time returning to a church. I’m not sure if it fits every single one of your requests, but overall, it was exactly the kind of church that would welcome our kind with open arms. The sort of religious space that truly lived up to the virtues of Christ — advocating for the poor, disenfranchised, and anyone else suffering from any strain of oppression.
In my case, I had already concluded that my life as a churchgoer was long over, but as I’ve said in the book and to anyone who asks, I completely respect the role religion plays in people’s lives. To your point, it is very difficult to walk this world alone. Faith matters and it is indeed easier to experience faith with a flock of the faithful.
And yes, there are churches like First Corinthians Baptist Church in Harlem and pastors throughout the country that are working to make their churches more inclusive to queer people. Moreover, there are writers like Matthew Vines who pen books like God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships that seek to challenge traditional teachings about homosexuality within the church. The same goes for Dr. Idan Dershowitz, a biblical scholar who recently published the piece “The Secret History of Leviticus” in the New York Times. And there are documentaries seeking the same mission like For The Bible Tells Me So.
There are many, many people out there doing the work, but as you appear to have noticed, that isn’t the case everywhere. To be blunt, I’m not sure you’re going to find a Southern Baptist Church that will give you what you are looking for. They remind me of the Catholic Church in that way. You may be able to find some other church that will accommodate all that you require, but it will likely take quite some time.
Try as many churches as possible. Ask around. Do your research. If you want to find a safe space, get your Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine on. In the meantime, I suggest you do as much as you can to tend to your spiritual health, even if done individually. Or you can find other Christians like you and make your own space. Yes, I know I sound like a bit of an after school special, but finding a Southern Baptist church that’s going to serve you Democratic Socialist realness is as likely as Assata Shakur giving Sweet Potato Saddam a bear hug on the White House lawn.
It’s gon’ take you time, beloved, but in all seriousness, I appreciate your diligence. People like you are going to make Christian churches live up to the ideals of Christ. Some of us didn’t have the fight in us. God bless you and good luck to you.