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Pride Service Reflection - Juls

Updated: Jul 9

by juls buyaki

part of the beauty of being made in god’s image is that i think the existence of queer people reflects on all that god can encompass. faith is a personal relationship between you and god, which is holy and special, but it can be difficult for queer people in particular to exist publicly in religious spaces. it can feel especially challenging to bring up any kind of grievances with the church, simply because of the identity of the person who is doing the grieving. (and for many of us, it is a kind of grieving process.) i am confident that there is a non-zero number of people here today who grew up in environments where casting any kind of doubt on anything related to religion was treated as a kind of heresy in and of itself. a lot of times we run into this problem of like, god can fix everything and god has a plan and everything in the bible is 100% true at face value. and in a lot of orthodox christian communities this line of thinking is really dismissive of suffering, like ohhhh you only have depression or anxiety because you dont believe in god enough. why are you stressed god will take care of it. except that argument doesn’t really hold water when you go to church every week and you do bible study and life group and go on retreats and play in the worship band and go to confession and memorize the prayers and the commandments and whatever else you have to do when you feel like you have to prove yourself to be “worth enough” to be loved. 

there is almost nothing more disheartening than doing everything in your power to achieve a certain outcome and it still not being enough. you give everything to god and the church and things are still hard and you are still told to just believe. and i think especially for queer people there is often this very obvious barrier into being accepted in the church which is that you can do everything right and still be turned away. it doesn’t matter if you show up and take notes and pass the rest of the tests because being gay is still a sin and you’re still going to hell. like. sit with that for a second. how dehumanizing is that? so at this point a lot of queer people basically have two choices, which is to shut that stuff out (their literal identity) to keep being accepted by their community and also god, or to leave. and that’s not a way to exist. 

when someone responds to a concern or criticism by saying something like “that’s just what the bible says” or “that’s not what we do here” or “have you tried praying about it?” what it often comes across as is, “we don’t care enough about you to make this community more accessible or welcoming or safe for you.” what we have is what we have, take it or leave it. in this way, communities avoid a sense of responsibility for the well-being of those asking. what we hear is that you are both too much and not enough at the same time, and it’s inappropriate to express concerns about god and the church because god is perfect, so.. deal with it. and if this is something you have experienced or are currently experiencing and it is making you upset or hurt or sad or overwhelmed or just plain angry, that is okay. it would be shameful for me to stand here and not validate the suffering that queer people have faced at the hands of institutionalized religion. it is likely that many of you were apprehensive about coming to church today because of your past experiences with religion. and that’s okay. i love you, i’m proud of you, and i’m glad that you’re here today. 

a lot of times we think of any kind of negative emotions as a product of a sinful world due to adam and eve eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of eden. you know, a very human thing, as opposed to the perfect and holy trinity. but in this vein of being made in god’s image, we should remember that jesus, fully divine and fully human, was made in her image, too. as son of god, jesus turned water into wine, raised lazarus from the dead, and fed the five thousand, thus proclaiming god’s goodness to the people through miracles. what would it look like to see jesus as son of man? do you think that he had a hard time turning over the tables in the temple because they were heavy and he was twelve? do you think that his voice cracked during puberty, or that he got blisters on his feet, or danced at weddings?

near the end of his life, jesus expresses a profound sadness about his coming role in dying on the cross to save the world from its own sins. like this scene is literally called agony in the garden. in the garden of gethsemane, he tells peter and the sons of zebedee “my soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” then he prays to god directly: “my father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” later, on the cross, he once again calls to god, “my god, my god, why have you forsaken me?” why are these so important? jesus, the son of god, feels not only sad, but hopeless. not only lonely, but abandoned. 

how many people here have felt like that? 

how many people here have felt ashamed that they felt like that?

i think that jesus being fully human tells us something very important about ourselves: if jesus was able to experience a full range of human emotions, we should allow ourselves to feel that too. if jesus is able to span this dichotomy of divinity and humanity, we can exist as queer and religious too. if jesus loved god and turned tables in the temple and asked god why he was suffering, we can love the church and also have questions about it too. we do not have to separate these parts of ourselves: they inform each other. 

the truth is that religion as a construct will never be perfect because people have a lot of big feelings about a lot of things and sometimes those feelings get in the way of letting people show up authentically, whether intentionally or not. to me, having faith is not about being perfect. i am not asking for perfection. it is about giving myself the grace to say hey god, it is sometimes really really hard to be a queer person in church and that makes me sad and that’s okay. it is about making a space that is safe enough to ask questions, express doubt, and even criticize the practices and theology that are harmful to myself and others. we can utilize our anger and our hurt and our sadness as a tool to create positive change and develop spaces and communities where queer people are not shunned or even just tolerated, but uplifted and celebrated. we can create a space that is yours the moment you walk in the door, whether it is your first time or you come every week or you have taken a very long break from being involved with the church for whatever reason. there isn’t a keypad on the door that you’ll get the code to after taking a class on biblical analysis or memorizing enough prayers. god’s love is not conditional on how palatable you are or how well you follow doctrine. god is big enough to handle all of your emotions. show up to church messy. show up to church messy and confused and angry and scared and sad. everything you feel about god and the church is valid–and so, too, is your love for them. you are allowed to be here in whatever way you need to be, right here, right now, and always.

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