Allow me a moment of reflection
By the time I graduated high school, my allowance had helped fund the Contemporary Christian music scene. Of course, I listened to Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, dc talk, and Jars of Clay. But in my evangelical nerdiness, I knew they were just the pop groups. For me, there was a much better CCM scene if one chose to look for it, namely poor old lu and The Prayer Chain. Liking such an esoteric group of bands made it difficult to connect with anyone that I had not introduced the music to myself. And in fact, one of the only other people in my life I’d ever met that knew who these bands were: Justin Lee.
Just a few weeks before I was to begin my freshman year at Wake Forest University, other new freshman from the Raleigh area gathered to make connections. That’s where I met Justin, and towards the end of the night we discovered our similar taste in music. So clearly, when we arrived on campus, we found each other and hung out, listening to awesome classics like this:
Shortly into our friendship, I remember sitting on Justin’s bed at midnight, talking the night away… while his poor roommate was trying to sleep on the top bunk. For a while, Justin was hinting at something that either I didn’t want to hear or that I was to dense too pick up on. But finally he said it, “I’m gay.”
I can’t remember how I responded, nothing too outrageous to be sure. But I’m sure I responded with something like, “God loves you no matter what.” The implied meaning being, “no matter what the sin.” Homosexuality was a sin, you see. He told me he was gay on a Saturday night, and I immediately took him to church with me the next morning.
You see, I’d already fallen out with my Dad in middle school, because his Church (not mine) had chosen to marry same-sex couples. We kept a good relationship, but almost never breached the topic of Church, a topic that enveloped most of my life. And so, when Justin confessed to me, I responded defensively.
But truthfully, that experience shattered my worldview. I never recovered, although the change was slow. After I transferred out of Wake Forest, I really never talked to Justin again. But from that moment on his bed, I never spoke publicly or privately against homosexuality in relation to Christianity.
Now, I’ve grown into an ally who loves the Bible, and finds no problems within the scriptures to prohibit LGBT pastors or marriages within the Church. And to be honest, I, an existential-feminist-materialistic-ivorytowery-antitheological New Testament scholar, am often not very tolerant of people who interpret the Bible differently. But that’s the amazing thing about Justin, his tolerance and understanding of both sides, and his ability to provide a space for safe dialogue among Christians. So for anyone who thinks they know the answers, or for any Christian who’s been touched by this issue, you owe it to yourself and to yours to engage Justin’s voice, to read his story, and to embrace his love for Jesus.
Several times, since that moment on Justin’s bed, I’ve wished I’d responded differently, that I’d been open to the possibilities… not everyone has to look back in regret like me.