Equal Marriage is a great big mess for evangelicalism

I have so many thoughts and I am so damn uncomfortable right now.

First there was World Vision-US last week changing their internal policy to include married gay Christians into their staff. Then 2 days later, their change of heart and apology to their bullying evangelical partners for messing about with the status quo. The utter mess of this heartbreaking saga was just mind-blowing to watch and made me so SO angry.

Then on Saturday, for the first time ever, same-sex couples in the UK were finally legally able to tie the knot, cue delight in the media and horror in some parts of the religious world. Vicky Beeching, a well-known UK theologian and social media expert came out in support of this move and ended up on the receiving end of some pretty horrible verbal attacks on twitter. There was a lot of ugly name-calling and not a lot of grace on display from those who disagreed with her.

It is really tough at the moment to be an evangelical and support marriage equality. Well-known leaders whom you looked up to and were blessed by in times past, equate being pro same-sex marriage with ‘not taking the Bible seriously’ and ‘selling out’. It is always assumed that a person who holds such a view is trying to ‘please man and not God’ and pandering to the media and culture of the day. Some go as far as making support for gays a matter of salvation.

The whole thing is terribly sad and difficult to navigate from within. See, I was raised within this evangelical setting and it is part of my identity whether I like it or not. The whole way that evangelicalism functions, its missional heart, the way it does music and worship and many many things in between, is very comfortable to me, familiar, and, well, I like it. I don’t at all feel like myself within a more formal liturgical setting like, say, Anglicanism. But right now, being evangelical is awkward and uncomfortable and I feel on edge about identifying with a group who is capable of saying the most dehumanizing things about gays without batting an eyelid and still claiming to ‘love the sinner’.

It has been a very slow journey for me, in part certainly because I know very few gays and so I haven’t had to dig too deep, I haven’t had to take a stand, I haven’t had to do anything about my discomfort. But I remember when the Coalition for Marriage Petition first turned up in the entrance hall of my church, and I remember the long list of signatures already on the sheet of paper when I arrived, from people I knew and loved and respected. I remember clearly thinking to myself, without hesitation: “I cannot sign this thing, I don’t remotely believe what it says” and at the same time having this sinking feeling of ” I don’t know how I fit in this group anymore, I don’t know what it makes me, and this horrible feeling of disconnect I am experiencing, I really don’t like it. Am I like a progressive Christian now, am I one of those liberals that most people I know don’t think are actually ‘real’ Christians?”

And the answer, two or three years down the line from this moment, is yes. Yes I am. (because also don’t get me started on bible inerrancy and Steve Chalke). I must surely be a heretic; and to most conservative evangelicals, I am.

All I want to say, I guess, is that I am sorry it is taking me so long to extricate myself from these beliefs. When push comes to shove I want to be an advocate for LGBTQ folks and I will respectfully disagree with people who find this repellent but I am also terrified. I don’t feel like I have all the answers and I don’t feel that I have a handle on all the theological arguments. I know what my heart says, and I know that my mind rebels every day against the weak argument of ‘because the Bible tells me so’ but I’m still wrestling. But I’ll be honest, I am scared. I am sorry that it is going to take a while yet before I can be confident and hold my ground without just resorting to ‘but these are people we are talking about!’ and ‘most people don’t have a gay agenda, they’re just normal people wanting to do normal life!’ because the fact that this is how I feel is not going to wash with people for whom the authority of the Bible and the earth’s axis is on the line. I have dear friends within evangelicalism, I shy away from conflict and yes, I want to be liked, and I don’t know where to go. Just sharing these views with people I know and trust feels like a big deal but I also know for sure that my discomfort is nothing to the harrowing journey my fellow gay Christians go through every day so I am sorry. And go get married and I will come and cheer you on.