Upon arriving home from church yesterday afternoon, I noticed a slip of paper stuck in the door. It was a letter from someone that I’ve known for years – a girl that I grew up with at the church of my youth. The well-intentioned letter described her “burden” for me and my soul, begging me to repent and “come home.” One sentence felt strangely like a warning, telling me that she doesn’t know what the future holds, but that I needed to seriously consider my fate. I was a little taken aback by the letter and the wording, but I realize that she is doing what she feels she has to do, and I harbor no resentment. She is genuinely concerned about where I’m going to spend eternity.
I was immediately reminded of a recent visitor to this site who called me a “sodomite” and told me to change my wicked ways, informing me that God had used her words as a final warning for people before. I’ve also received this type of letter in the past from my own grandmother, stuffed with gospel tracts and pleadings to repent and be saved.
While I consider these letters and writings to be little more than scare tactics, I will admit that they make me uncomfortable and even slightly nervous. The paranoid part of my brain tries to convince me that they are somehow connected – that it’s not mere coincidence and that I must be headed straight for hell. Then the intellectual part of my brain kicks in and I realize that these are the same kinds of things that people have been doing and saying to me for years. That’s when I get a little angry.
Even though these attempts by others to make me see the error of my ways may be out of true concern, I am being disrespected in the process. My feelings about religion and God are completely disregarded in a brazen manner when I’m told that I must “come home”, a clear indication that I should return to the church of my youth or one like it. The fact that I’m already going to church is completely ignored. I fall victim to their narrow scope of what it means to be saved or a Christian.
To them, homosexuality and Christianity are incompatible; as long as I’m gay, I’m going to hell. They believe I would be transformed by a born-again experience, redeemed and made straight in one fell swoop. They don’t know about the hours in prayer and the tears that I’ve shed as I begged God to save me and make me straight. They don’t understand the fear that comes from being told who you are, not what you do, will send you to a lake of fire.
Yet, they also don’t seem to understand that religion is a personal thing between a man and his maker. No one else is responsible for my soul, except me. I am trying to figure all of this out for myself – through reading, studying and praying. Maybe I’m not supposed to “lean on my own understanding”, but I figure God gave me reason and I should use it. It’s ludicrous for anyone to assume that I’m not concerned about my soul or where I’m going when I die.
One thing that really bothers me is how my rejection of this type of behavior is sure to be spun as my rejection of God. If I die this week from a heart attack or an automobile accident, there will be those who stand in church and use me as an example of what happens to those who turn God away. I can imagine the funeral, where my true friends mourn my passing while acquaintances lament my terrible fate. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to escape such sentiment, no matter how I live or believe.
While the writer of the letter described her “burden” for me, she has no idea of the burden it is to simply be me. Perhaps if she came to that realization, she might understand that there’s nothing that she can tell me that I haven’t heard before and that she isn’t responsible for my salvation. That’s between me and God, and that’s one “burden” that I take very seriously.