My Story: From Anti-LGBTQ Christianity to “A More Excellent Way” (1 Cor. 12:31)

New Transcendentalist
6 min readJun 10, 2021

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Last weekend I participated in a protest and passed this out to people I had conversations with:

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My name is Taylor. I’m prompted to write this because Calvary Chapel San Jose is hosting Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who has been very harmful to the LGBTQ community and has even bought mailing lists from David Duke, one time grand wizard of the KKK. I grew up in Calvary Chapel and listened every day to people like Jon Courson, Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith, as well as others like-minded to them, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ravi Zacharias, Josh Mcdowell, Lee Strobel etc. (I was homeschooled K-12.) As one who was intimately involved in this world, I share my story toward “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31).

Myself with Anthony Moss, Author and Artist, whose incredible artwork can be found here: https://anthonymoss.myportfolio.com/

As a result of Calvary I dedicated my life to God when I was 10 years old, and made it my own again at 15 when I resolved to give my life to help the most people come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. In addition to the Biblical/Christian studies I did through homeschooling and church I began a daily personal quiet time. I was never perfect, but I abstained from what they said was impure and focused on “whatever was true, noble, lovely…” I sustained this life for eleven years, through evangelical colleges and being on staff at three churches (a Calvary Chapel, a Southern Baptist and a Presbyterian Church USA).

Seeing behind the curtain revealed a surprising pattern: that these churches really only worked for people that already fit their mold, held together by tricks. A pastor once admitted, “If the apostle Paul had a church next to mine, mine would be bigger, because I know the tricks.” While we said we cared about the Bible and Christianity, it was at best relationships and a social network that made people stay, bolstered by event-planning, saying the right things to donors, the right things to young people, etc. Our well-intentioned use of Christian words and customs added weight and persuaded many people, but was much less substantive than most people knew.

At the same time I was working at these churches, I also played soccer in Spanish-speaking men’s leagues. These churches often discussed the errors of Catholicism or other traditions that some of my teammates were a part of, but when a couple of my teammates came to church, there was little effort put towards them. I was confused to see the energy and resources we put into the nuance of attracting particular kinds of people, while there was rarely time for even a simple conversation about this imbalance. Two out of three of the churches I worked at also read the Bible as prohibiting women from preaching. I accepted this, but I couldn’t stop thinking that apart from the tricks, our “good news” wasn’t that good. It felt like a charade.

In light of the Church’s incoherence I became intentional about listening to the perspective of others. When I was working as a youth pastor, at one of my students’ soccer games I initiated a conversation with a parent I had been told was an atheist. She asked if I had a connection to soccer. I told her I played on a team of Salvadorian immigrants. Her eyes lit up as she told me of the reading and volunteering she had done to help immigrants find their way in our town. I was dumbfounded as she shared her knowledge and experience. In Matthew 25, Jesus says the most important thing is how your community treats the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, and those in prison. She was more Christlike than the Christians I had been confined to my whole life. That conversation was the first of many where I consistently found more love, joy, and peace outside of my “Christian” tradition than within it. I resigned from the church and took an opportunity to study biblical history in Jerusalem.

What I encountered in Jerusalem was unlike anything before. I met monks and rabbis whose awareness of the Biblical tradition dwarfed what I encountered in 26 years of evangelicalism, and their priorities were totally different. Ultimately, I think the main difference was with the way evangelicals read the Bible: “a plain reading of scripture.” It sounded nice, but it became clear to me that I had been reading the ancient Biblical Library as if it were a dictionary, a series of short entries written for the dominant groups of the 20th-century United States. I came to find out that this method of reading the Bible is also what justified slavery in the US. Ephesians 6:5 says, “Slaves be obedient to your masters.” This and other verses were read for centuries to confirm the hierarchies in western culture. Many preachers claimed slavery was “biblical” despite the central story of the Hebrew Bible, the Exodus, being the story of God siding with Israelite slaves disobeying their Egyptian masters. In fact, today’s largest “evangelical” denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, was founded in 1845 with “Southern” as an indicator that they supported slaveholding missionaries. They were “biblical” while abolitionists were considered to be pandering to the mob. The SBC has continued to be on the wrong side of every historical justice movement, from slavery in the U.S. to apartheid in South Africa.

We had about 25 or so people show up to the protest,

LGBTQ people have also been slandered, mistreated and disregarded in our culture for generations. When powerful people read the Bible “plainly” they isolate 6 verses which they think justify the treatment which has given rise to 4x as many suicide attempts as heterosexual people. As if Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” There is no footnote to Matthew 5 or Luke 6 that says this only applies if the poor are heterosexual. There is even a verse that directly addresses what we have been told is the point of the story of Sodom’s destruction: “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49).

When placed in their historical and literary context none of the 6 “clobber verses” have the anti-LGBTQ stance we see in the US-dominant “evangelical” Christianity. In what I thought was the most anti-LGBTQ book of the Bible, Paul’s letter to the Romans, he makes the same argument as Jesus and Ezekiel: just as Abraham was considered righteous apart from the religious law (there was no religious law when Abraham was around), those who are under Christ are not under the law whether Roman or religious, and there is no condemnation for them (Rom. 8:1). The overarching theme of the Biblical Library is that the Hebrew God is on the side of the outcast, period.

For most of the last 2,000 years it has been easier to get funding if you say what powerful people want to hear, and the plain reading in the U.S. was exactly what pro-slavery, anti-womens rights, anti-civil rights people wanted to hear. There are some churches who have taken that biblical message of paying attention to the poor (a little) more seriously, but they may have less exciting music or fewer young people than Calvary Chapel San Jose.

There are many resources on LGBTQ people and Christianity. My favorite is the work of Kathy Baldock who has a great website, and youtube videos of her lectures. To find a Christian community near you that wants to care about people — especially people who’ve been condemned for their sexuality — I recommend churchclarity.org

Blessings upon you. I believe we can live “a more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31).

Taylor

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Taylor Storey is a Cultural Studies MA Student at Universität Potsdam in Germany. He splits time between Germany and the Central Coast of California, where he grew up.

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