This year I was hungry for Pentecost. I yearned for the story– a bunch of people in a room, speaking different languages yet understanding each other. Speaking our truth in our language and working toward understanding of the other is our work in the world, our community and our family.
Pentecost fell on June 4, the day our congregation blessed the seniors in high school as they embark on the next chapter of the journey. Claire McCarron, a senior at Washburn, gave an amazing Pentecost sermon about being a queer Christian. Some see those two parts of her identity as disparate. She seems them as an essential co-existence. As a queer Christian, she experiences Pentecost in her body and clearly sees that now is the time for people in seemingly adverse groups to work toward peace, reconciliation and understanding. Below, with her permission, I have posted sections of her sermon:
I’m a white, female, middle class, polyamorous Christian. These are words that I use to define myself and to explain who I am to others. There is this need we have as humans to label ourselves and put ourselves into categories. I’ve thought a lot about this and I think it has a lot to do with our need to bond with other people like us, the need to fit in.
When I tell my friends I’m Christian they are often surprised. How can a sex positive girl in a polyamorous relationship who goes to protests and marches be part of Christianity? How can I go out to a gay bar and dance late Saturday night and then go and sit in a church on Sunday morning? This is a situation where I don’t fit in with the group, whether that be the gay community or the Christian one.
In our country right now there are stark dividing lines between different groups. The Christians we hear about in the news and on social media are often spreading messages of hate and anger instead of love and acceptance that is at the heart of Christianity. As a result many people I know are turned off to the idea of attending church and reading the Bible, because they see it as hurtful, and because of the way the Christian church has historically and currently oppresses gay people. As a gay Christian, I deal with this conflict every day.
I think that this is an important conflict to discuss along with the Pentecost story. In the story we see people who come from different places and different cultures, who don’t speak each other’s languages, both literally and symbolically. Through the power of God, they are able to communicate and share an amazing experience. This is something that we can make happen in our world, the experience of speaking each other’s languages, to understand each other and listen and empathize. This is something that we can do with God’s help, because God’s spirit is present within all of us. This is our universal connection, the language we all need to learn to speak. This is not only something that can be applied to the intersection of faith and sexuality, but many conflicts. Conflicts between race, gender, nationality, class. This is one of the hardest things for us to do, to acknowledge the problems we have and work to address them. But I know that we have the ability to bridge that gap, because we are all God’s children, just like in the Pentecost story.
I am incredibly lucky that my queer identity has been strengthened and intertwined with my Christian identity and my love for God. I know many people that have felt compelled to choose between the two because they have been taught that you can’t be both, and to me that is heartbreaking. I have struggled with mental health issues over the years, and the people I can rely on to support me through bad times are the people in my queer community here in Minneapolis, and the people of this congregation at Bethlehem. I don’t know if I would be here today without them both, and I am so grateful that I have never been forced to choose between them. This year especially I have had a lot of issues with my depression and anxiety, and coming to church every Sunday was a way for me to calm down and remind myself of God’s love for me. During this time I also grew more close with my friends who are queer, many of whom struggle with the same issues. They had nothing but acceptance and love for me, and gave me support when I needed it the most. I believe that both groups gave me the same important message- you are enough.
Having places like Bethlehem- places where we can learn to speak each other’s languages- is so incredibly important in our current time and place, especially when there is so much hatred in the world around us. While so many Christian churches are telling us to reject our fellow Americans and our fellow humans, it is up to places like Bethlehem to fix the broken relationship between Christians and our larger community, and to provide an example for what Christians are called to be. Doing things like sponsoring a Muslim refugee family, while so many people are declaring them inhuman, or taking children in the youth program to places of conflict so that they can see Christianity in action instead of just reading about it in the Bible. By not only preaching about love and acceptance but actually carrying it out we are doing the work that Jesus did so many years ago. Because of this I can proudly call myself a queer Christian, and I know that wherever my life ends up going I can count on having God loving me for my whole self.