The Deafening Roar of Silence

Orlando. I’m struggling to process my emotions. 50 people dead. PEOPLE. 53 people injured. All at the end of an assault rifle. A rifle filled with the ammunition of hatred for people who are different. He was angered by two men kissing. And so over 100 people were shot and hundreds more affected. It very quickly became official: The worst mass shooting in recent US history. Almost assuredly every victim was LGBTQ or close with those who were. Those 50 died because they were not straight and/or cisgendered.

Gay clubs for decades have been sanctuaries, oases to those seeking refuge from hatred. But in just a few hours, a sanctuary turned into a coffin. A coffin named Pulse. A coffin IMG_20160613_025917.jpgthat so easily could have been my own. The only difference between me and those who died in Orlando is that I do not live in Orlando. I am gay. How easily that could have been my grave. And so I grieve. I grieve that my brothers and sisters died because of one man’s senseless hate. Tears seem to be the only sensible words. My pulse is one with theirs.

But I also have another identity: I am Christian. And it is towards these brothers and sisters that I feel anger. Every queer person I know has chimed up in solidarity with the Orlando victims. Many queer people have reached out to me to make sure I’m okay. Several fierce allies have made known their grief. But Christians, I hear nothing. Christians, where is your grief? I have heard only silence. And make no mistake, your silence is deafening.

I get it, you disagree with my ‘lifestyle’.  I get it, you don’t condone my ‘sexual immorality’. I get it, you refuse to celebrate my ‘depravity’. You’ve told me as much at every turn. When I came out and told people I was gay, my inbox filled up within the hour; all detailing how I was abandoning Christ and embracing a life of sin. When I said I first kissed a boy, you told me that if a man lies with another man it is an abomination. When my heart was broken by a man who cheated on me and crushed my soul, you told me that God was trying to protect me. Believe me, I get it. I get it that you don’t approve of homosexuality.

But O Christian, where is your grief? 50 people died. 50 image bearers of God were needlessly slaughtered. But you are silent.

Why are you silent? Are you scared of accidentally giving approval to same-sex marriage? Believe me, we know you are against it. You’ve told us at every turn. I thought our Messiah wept when his friend died (Jn 11), but I see no tears on your cheek.

Why do you not wail? Are you scared that queer people do not feel the brokenness of the world? Believe me, we know the world is broken. All of creation groans and aches for the restoration of all things (Rm 8), but do you think queer people are different?

Why do you not mourn? Do you fear that your sobs will validate our relationships? Believe me, we know that you think our love is an abomination. But I thought Christ commanded us to mourn with those who mourn (Rm 12), and yet my ears burn from silence.

Why do you not weep? Do you fear giving tacit approval to our notions of theology? Believe me, we know your theological nuances on same-sex relations. But I thought Christ praised the Samaritan, the hated religious group, not for his theology, but for doing what was compassionate (Lk 10), and yet we are abandoned on the roadside.

Why do you not quiver in shock? Do you fear that we might think you love us? But I thought God demanded we love our enemies (Mt 5), yet we stand alone.

Why do you not scream for justice for 50 dead LGBTQ people? Do you secretly believe that their deaths was God’s justice? Believe me, we know you think we deserve death. But I thought Jesus responded to a tragedy by saying that those victims were not worse sinners than the rest (Lk 13), so why are dead queer people any different?

Christians, I only want someone to dry my eyes.

My brothers and sisters, Christians, make no mistake, your silence is deafening. It tells us not only that you think our lives are immoral, but even worse, that we are unworthy of love. It tells us that the religion which screams “love your enemies” deems us unworthy of love.

The Hope of the World

There are days I feel like I’m slipping down a dark well, losing grasp of everything that was firm and secure. Other days I feel like I’m building up a fortress to take stand against the forces of darkness. In the past few months my theology has shifted. My understanding of God has changed. It’s dreadfully scary to witness your core beliefs shift and morph. Where will you end IMG_20160522_165739up? What core beliefs will you shed? What new theological garment will you put on? I know for a fact that the me of three years ago would have considered the me of today a heretic. It seems bizarre, but this has only strengthened my faith. As I let go of my fundamentals, I can only cling to the Holy Spirit. And I pray that in my journeys it is Holy Spirit who guides me.

Today, I realized a seismic shift in my perspective of the work of Christ. For years, the central truth in my understanding of the good news was the death and blood of Christ. God’s righteous wrath poured out on his innocent son to save me from my sins and an eternal, conscious punishment. But that left me wondering about the resurrection. It seems like an afterthought. As though the work was accomplished but it couldn’t end there so the resurrection had to happen.

But no! As the apostle Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (1 Cor 15.14) He is the firstborn, that is, the first of many. What does this mean? Paul goes on to say more:

Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. -1 Corinthians 15.23-24

What does this mean? We have hope. We have hope eternal! But first we must consider death.

The death of Christ was atrocious. It was evidence of the fallen world in which we live in. The priests of God, the high priest, the pharisees, and all those religious people dedicated to bringing the people before God failed in their task. When the Israelites rebelled against God in the desert, Moses prayed to God, interceded on their behalf that they might not be wiped out. Moses stood for them. But the religious leaders turned Jesus over to the godless government, sacrificing him that they might maintain their power. It was a mockery of the service of God.

In the hands of Pilate and Herod, those in charge of administering justice, Jesus the ever innocent, was sentenced to death as a criminal. His trial was a mockery of Justice.

And in injustice and false religion, Jesus’ friends betrayed him and abandoned him. His death was a mockery of companionship.

Death. Death. The death of innocence. In death, justice he was denied, in death his intercessors became his oppressors. In death his friends became his enemies. His blood became death and baptized the barren ground.

In death he was marginalized by his people, betrayed by his government, and abandoned by his friends. It was the culmination of every injustice ever, heaped upon the one who never earned it.

But here, here is where hope springs eternal. In the ashes of the created good, God raised up a ph
oenix. God breathed life into the Christ and restored hope in the world. It is in the resurrection that death becomes life, and failure becomes hope. In Christ’s broken body and spilled blood, millions celebrate new life. We have Eucharist, thanksgiving, all while we circle around a symbol of brokenness.

So we too have hope. In the injustice of our world, we have hope in the justice of the resurrection. In the brok
en reality of family, we given a new reality in the familial blood of Christ. In the brokenness of adultery, we are given the fullness of the faithfulness of Christ. In the brokenness of illness and cancer, we have the hope of a new body. Every dark power that works against the good of the Kingdom of God WILL be overthrown and the justice of God will reign eternal forevermore. Amen.

It is only in the resurrection we have hope. And it is in death that we see how great that hope is.

Christmas and a Dash of Greed

Interac has been running a rather simple campaign this holiday season: “Be in the black” “Debt’s a real nutcracker” etc. And it’s stuck with me. It’s counter-cultural. Our society expects us to have gifts for everyone even remotely dear to us and to rack up hefty credit card debts while doing Money.jpgit. So use interac! I mean, let’s be honest, they want your money, and it helps their bottom line if you use interac. Personally, I doubt a financial corporation actually has your wellbeing at heart, but hey at least you aren’t destroying your future budget!

It’s hard not to be cynical. Everyone at this time of year is angling towards your pocket book, from banks, to department stores, to insurance companies, to non-profits! I personally managed to avoid going into debt for Christmas gifts this year, more from a lack of options than a deliberate choice. Yet the thoughts of spending money, and the pressure to give good gifts was my constant companion this month. The spirit of generosity is an incredible thing to encourage and I love that people want to dig deep into their pockets in order to give gifts. That’s a good thing! Give generously is a joyous strain of Christian living. But something is off when we start sending out lists of things we want, demanding certain types of gifts from friends and family members. Something is off when we are disappointed that we didn’t receive a particular item. Something is off when we start rooting through the wrapping paper for a gift receipt.

Honestly, it scares me. What does it say of me when my emotions are more closely tied to the item under the wrapping paper than to the generosity of my friend, more closely tied to the gift than to the relationship signified by the gift.

Materialism, consumerism, i.e. Capitalism scares me. The thought of greed as an economic standard seems toxic. I haven’t the foggiest on how to go about fixing it. Maybe Interac isn’t all that fair off for starters.

But one thing I do know, the Christ is a constant role-model. And what a picture! That very first Christmas day, a gift we didn’t ask for, a gift we didn’t foresee, a gift in a most unexpected form, the gift we most sorely needed. The supreme God, humbled into the flesh of the created. What a Merry Christmas indeed!

And may you all have a blessed Christmas season!

Anxiety and Tender Love

Warning: may trigger anxiety (writing this triggered mine)

IMG_20151208_162645-2My eyes bolt open.

What little light exists in the darkness of my bedroom is frantically devoured by my eyes. My heart beats at twice the speed of my clock.

Tick. Thump thump. Tick. Thump thump. Tick.

My hands are cold, clammy.

I’m late for work! That’s why I’m awake!

I work at 7:00, I need to leave at 6:00 to get there on time. I check my phone. It’s only four o’clock. Plenty of time left to get to work on time. But no, I’m going to be late. Something is going to happen today. I just know it. I can’t be late.
I brush my teeth, throw on some clothes. No time to take a shower. I can’t be late. I comb my hair (pretending I washed it). I glance at my phone.

4:10.

“Caleb, what are you thinking? You’ve never been ready this early. You have plenty of time to get to work.”

I can’t be late.

I throw on my coat. Where are my keys?! I can’t find my keys! I can’t leave the house without locking it up! Someone will break in. Why today?! I can’t be late. I rummage through my hamper, yesterday’s socks flying as I search the pockets of dirty trousers. Nothing.

Drawers fly open. Flyers strewn across the table. I can’t find my keys! I needed them to get in the house. So they must be here. Somewhere.

I can’t be late! I’m going to be late. This is ridiculous I can’t manage being late.

4:17

“Okay Caleb, deep breathes. You’ve got lots of time. Have a glass of water. Calm down.”

No! No time for that! Stupid! There’s the keys. On the counter, where I always leave them.

*Click*

Door’s locked. Waiting for the elevator.

*Ding*

Ground floor. Ground floor. Ground floor. Why isn’t the door closing?!

This is ridiculous. I have so much time. But something’s going to happen! I’m going to be so late. I can’t even explain this to my boss. I have so much time. There’s literally no excuse for being late. I’ll get fired. I’m going to get fired. I have rent to pay! Where will I live? I have bills to pay! I can’t pay my phone bill if I don’t have a job. If I don’t have a phone how can I go job searching?

4:25

This is stupid. Nothing’s happened yet. Just walk faster. Just make it to work. Breathe. Just breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. BREATHE! Okay, slower. Breath slower. You’re running to work, not running a marathon.

4:40

Okay. I can see my building now. I’ll be fine.

4:41

Nope! Something’s going to happen. I won’t be able to make it.

4:45

I walk into work.

My heart pounding, chest heaving.

I walked into work a full hour and fifteen minutes before I was supposed to leave home. A full two hours and fifteen minutes before I was actually supposed to start work.

This is how I experience anxiety. It’s nonsensical. Nothing makes sense. My fight or flight response is triggered and my body and mind go into overdrive. I can tell you point-blank that I’m overreacting, but that doesn’t keep my body from overreacting. It’s annoying. It’s incredibly frustrating. When my body refuses to cooperate with your mind, I find few things more infuriating.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Often this is turned into a bludgeon for those suffering from clinical anxiety. “You just need to trust Jesus!” But what happens when you already do trust Jesus?

I can’t talk myself out of an anxiety attack anymore than I can talk myself out of a poison ivy rash. I can’t talk myself out of being scared of being late when I’m two hours early. My body is just a little messed up.

This is one aspect of my mental illness. My body is broken. And it is here that the salve of the Gospel meets me. I worship a Lord whose body was broken. And it is in my brokenness that my God meets me. It is in every Eucharist meal, that I am reminded by the bread that my God meets me where I am at, broken, yet loved.

A Year’s Journey From the Closet

The single biggest event in my life was over in an instant. The culmination of years of internal struggle. A decade’s worth of secret keeping was over as soon as I hit “update.”

After a glass or two of wine, liquid courage, I posted a FIMG_20151206_231542-2acebook update, “Sometimes I think boys are hawt.” Followed by a message further describing what I meant by that. And just like that, my secret was out. “I’m gay,” was no longer something I whispered in the dark, but something I had shouted from the rooftop, or more accurately, from my sixth floor apartment to the whole internet.

I spent the months leading up to that point telling certain friends, family members, and coworkers, but there came a point where I couldn’t keep it in any longer.

That was one year ago. I’ve now been out of the closet for a full year. It seems everything has changed and yet nothing has changed.

I learned how to flirt (not very successfully, I still freak out and lose my cool whenever a really attractive man is in my vicinity, but it’s a start). I had my first boyfriend, we shared my first kiss (turns out I rather enjoy kissing). I had my first breakup (I like these much less than kisses).

I had a couple of first dates. These are atrocious yet intoxicating. Going out for hours on end with someone you find mildly attractive, the coy glances, the nervous chatter of two people trying to decide if they like the other, or if the other likes them. The very first steps of a person attempting to share their lives with someone else. It’s beautiful, tragic, and awkward as hell. But finally, it was me trying to open up to someone I could see myself with, an effort to find love and not just me being freaked out that I was going to need to have yet another talk with yet another girl who wanted something more than friendship. I finally understood why people would want a first date (Hint: two people attracted to each other is exciting stuff).

Oddly enough, the biggest impacts of my coming out haven’t been to my dating life—I’m still single—but rather, to my friendships, my religiosity, and mental health. For so long, I lived life at peace with all those around me, while internally I faced the turmoil of having a damning attraction to men; I hated myself and hated how I felt. What is the benefit of living peaceably with those around you when you can’t even live with yourself? This encourages friendships built on a false premise: that I am someone I can never be. My coming out had the unique quality of turning all my friendships on their head. There were some I expected to be supportive, but they shut down our friendship after they sat me down to have a “talk” about how I need repentance and to truly consider what Scripture says. Others I assumed would chew me out, but instead they reaffirmed their love for me and apologized for not being a safe space to question and work out who I was. Such radical, unconditional love blew my mind, and conditional friendships predicated on my being straight (or at least a “non-practicing” homosexual) ate at my soul and self-worth.

In a few short months, every relationship in my life had been rocked. And in those few months I had suicidal thoughts for the first time. I had lived my life for others and what they thought of me (or rather, what I thought they thought of me and demanded of me). Finally I could no longer keep my internal conflict bottled up and I let it spill out and embrace my friends. I remember the constant dinging of my phone as emails, texts, Facebook messages, and comments came pouring in. Each one demanding I validate their opinion of homosexuality. Each ping reflected someone else demanding that their opinion be heard and interacted with. Each ping was another friendship that was potentially on the line. Each ping had me second-guessing myself, “Should I just say ‘haha’ and go back in the closet? Is any of this worth it? And if this many people are up in arms about my sexual orientation, am I worth anything as a non-straight human?” I turned off my phone and wondered off into the Toronto night. Each bus that barrelled by had me wondering if I should step off the sidewalk and take the express route to the afterlife.

Those were dark days. I had to get past the perceived thoughts of others and learn how to live for God and for myself. I meditated on the words of Jesus, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” I realized his words were predicated on the idea that I love myself. A radical concept, because I hated myself: hated how my mind functioned, hated how I was wired to love intimately. Frankly, no neighbour of mine deserved to be loved like that. So why should I treat myself in such a way? It’s only with a healthy understanding of self-love, that one can love selflessly. It seems almost counterproductive, but oh so necessary. A sick doctor cannot heal and neither can an unloved human.

I must admit, there has been no greater feeling than finally being at peace with myself. To live my life openly and to no longer hide who I was created to be. The road ahead is far from clear, let alone easy, after all I’m still a work in progress, but at least I can step forward in confidence and a peace that passes all understanding. A peace rooted in the idea that the Lord of the Universe knows me, knows my name, knows my queerness, and loves me deeply.