Greetings, Fellow Wanderer

I stumbled upon an old sermon of mine.

Yes, believe it or not, I used to be a pastor in another life. Of middle schoolers. Not adults. Absolutely not. You couldn’t pay me enough.

But, yes, that’s right, someone thought it was a good idea to put 19-year-old Brandon in charge of youths.

For three years, I served at The Springs Church, working with smelly, pimple-y, and rambunctious 11-13-year-olds … and I loved every second of it like a psychopath.

But this isn’t about how I chased children around an unfinished church in camo, commanding them to renounce their faith (that’s another story, one I will probably never share) or that one time I put a kid who couldn’t swim in an inflatable pirate ship in the middle of a pond like a dumbass. Nope. None of those stories for legal reasons. This story is about a sermon. (And this is where I lost all the ADHD friends who drew during the sermons. Yes, I’m referring to myself.)

In the sermon, I talked about Peter. I know. Super original. And about him walking on water. Even more original. And about him denying Jesus. Again … super … original …

But when I stumbling upon the CD this sermon of Peter was recorded on, my first reaction was to throw it away, thinking who the hell keeps CD’s. But for some weird reason, I felt a strong caution in my gut. Maybe Jesus? Maybe the Taco Bell. But I’ve come to a place in my life where if there’s a chance it might be divine, I just go for it and hope for the best. Maybe that’s a good strategy. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I’m trying as best I can to try and hear Jesus again. Back to the story.

So I kept the CD and tried to recollect the sermon because, again, I don’t have a CD player.

From what I remember, I started with Peter claiming he’s the best disciple. He had zeal and passion. He threw himself out of the boat and walked on water to prove himself. To prove he was worthy. To prove he would have faith that could shake mountains like the Teacher said.

Nearly got him killed.

But then we fast forward to another moment in a boat. Another time Peter sees Jesus. And this time, he has nothing to prove. He’s been found faulty, found broken. His faith, his love, is fractured. And he knows it. In fact, when Jesus asks him if he “agapes” Him (loves Him unconditionally), Peter says, “Jesus you know I ‘phileo’ you (I’m probably fucking up the Greek. It’s been a while. And even then, I didn’t have an education. I used the internet like every other evangelical mega-church pastor).”

He knows that in the depths of his being his love is not perfect.

But when He sees Jesus cooking up some fish on the shore, he no longer has anything to prove. He knows his condition.

He throws himself out of the boat.

Peter, the one who denied Jesus’ existence, puts on his clothes (it makes me wonder if he thought he would walk on water), throws himself into the water, doesn’t float this time, sinks, isn’t deterred, doesn’t question the reasons as to why not this time and why last time, and he starts swimming.

And there, by the coals, eating fish with the one he loved, smiling and savoring his final moments with his best friend, soaked, I think he remembered Jesus’ words before this whole shitshow began.

“You will betray me. You will fail. You need to. You need to turn away. So that you can lead those who have left me or back. Back to the love. Because you, above everyone else, will know that your love is broken and sloppy and very conditional. But I love it still. I love. It. Still. And I promise my love will be unconditional and perfect. You’ll know it in the depths of your being. Because the only way my love can be unconditional is if it is loved by a love of conditions. At times my love will be confusing and off. Sometimes you walk on water and other times your swimming your ass to shore. But it’s good. I promise it’s good. And you’ll know that because you’ll walk away.”

I walked away.

After being a missionary abroad, after getting on a mic, shouting to Germans that Jesus saves and that He made me straight (Newsflash: he didn’t), after I saw miracles and not miracles, after I spent my soul on Jesus, I came back and denied Him. Hated Him. Loathed Him. And above all, I did not trust Him.

It was in that space, that space of denial by the fires of the High Priest in shadows of confusion and contempt, that my sexuality could finally dare to surface from the depths, gasping for starved air.

I think people would look at this and say that my sexuality is definitely sinful because it came to the light in a time of rebellion. I thought that too. But talking about it with Jesus, I know that’s not the case.

Just like Peter, that time needed to happen. Otherwise, my sexuality would not have broken from the bonds I put it in. It would be begging for breath in the depths of who I am, thrashing and heaving.

But unchained, on the surface, face cleared of seaweed, and skin kissed with the sun of the day, I can bring that piece of me to Jesus, and Jesus can kiss him with delight. Pure, unconditional delight.

“You will betray me, Brandon. I’m not scared. It has to happen. Otherwise, you would never let me love this piece of you. Sure, you have questions and doubts and your love is sloppy and soggy and broken. But I love it. I love you, and this would have never happened if you didn’t walk away.”

I don’t know where you are in your faith journey. I don’t know if you are the eager believer who shouts “Jesus loves you” at a coffee shop full of worship pastors and their moleskins or the cynical saint sitting at the bar, full of doubt and short on faith. But if you’re the latter, I want to say you’re not lost. You’re on a journey.

If there really is a God who is Love, which I truly and firmly believe with an untrue and unfirm heart, He sees you; He’s not scared or concerned like that one family member. He’s patient. He is kind. And this part of your journey is important, critical even.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sit not down first, and count the cost, whether you have sufficient supplies to finish it? Lest haply, after you have laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who behold it will mock you, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

You’re just making sure this is something you want to finish, counting and running estimates, wondering if this whole circus is for real. Maybe part of it is real. And that part is good and right. Maybe it’s all a wash and poppycock.

Regardless, He sees you. He’s not done with you. And He’s not going anywhere.

And when you’re ready, with your pathetic faith and skeptical heart, He’ll be ready. And you’ll be better for it. I know I am … Most days.

Much love, my fellow wonderer. Safe travels. Better yet, important travels.

How Can I be Gay and Christian — A Look into My Methodology

In recent news, there’s been a convergence of two major groups: Christians and the LGBTQ+ population, two groups that are normally at odds with one another. These animosities are beginning to reach a boiling point as more and more entities are choosing to create space for both identities, challenging the conception that they are incongruent.

An openly gay Christian man is hoping to become the Democratic party’s presidential candidate for 2020; a gay Christian dating app is hitting the market this year; and some Methodist churches are fighting against a recent vote within their denomination, a vote which labels homosexuality as a sin.

As I share these stories, I know there are individuals and communities alike who are angry. The reason I know this is because I’ve experienced it. As I came out as a gay Christian, friends threatened hell, parents left the room, and strangers blasted me about how I’m not actually a Christian. Even with the launch of this post, comments have soared on social media with people arguing vehemently their point and how they’re right.

When Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay Christian man, announced his intention to run for president, crowds screamed “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and major Christian figures like Franklin Graham demanded his repentance. Side note: why hasn’t Graham demanded repentance from other presidential candidates for fraud, embezzlement, infidelity, lying, or pride? I digress.

It’s as if the words “queer” and “Christian” are combustible, but instead of a chemical reaction, there’s an explosion of emotion and opinion.

But why? Why the knee-jerk anger, especially from a people whom Jesus said are supposed to be known by their love? Why is it that I’ve seen multiple YouTube videos of Christian parents throwing out their gay children, while I’ve never seen a Christian parent throw a coming out party for their child? Why is it that, according to San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, highly religious homes are far more likely to kick their kid out for being gay than non-religious parents?

One reason: the Bible, more specifically, how Christians relate to the Bible.

I was defined by being an Evangelical Christian. That identity permeated every moment of my life. At a very young age, I remember coloring in the pews as my dad played the drums and my mom led the Children’s Ministry.  As I grew up, I started volunteering with children and youth at a very early age. I was at church at least three times a week. But I was just getting warmed up. Following my high school graduation, I attended a Christian leadership academy, became a youth pastor, served as a missionary in Europe, and led worship at multiple churches. All of my immediate friends and family were and are Christian. But when those closest to me were confronted with my existence as a gay, Christian man, the majority felt torn, torn between obeying a book or loving me.

“Brandon, I’m trying to love you and your brother,” my mother said through tears, months after my younger brother came out, “but I’m caught between obeying the Bible or loving my son. It’s so hard!”

Without this book, my mom would have no problem loving her sons. Without this book, my friends would not be apprehensive about standing with me on my wedding day. Without this book, people wouldn’t feel pulled in two directions, unable to decide, and scared to form an opinion.

What does this mean? Is the Bible a bunch of garbage written by European men to manipulate and control the populace? Some would argue this opinion. But that is not what I am arguing.

As I said above, I’m a gay Christian man, and many would challenge my existence, claiming those two identities cannot cohabitate one body. But my argument is that they can. My argument is that Christians have been relating to the Bible poorly and that there is a relationship we can have to scripture that allows mothers to love their kids and sanctions peers to stand by their gay friend’s side as they declare their vows. And just as many of my opponents would start with scripture, asking me, “But what about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the two verses in Leviticus? What about Romans one?” (As if they are the first person to introduce me to these scriptures, which I’ve been aware of for the majority of my life because they directly affect me.) That’s where I would like to start — scripture.

There are six verses in the Bible concerning homosexuality. Six. For comparison, according to Blue Letter Bible, there are 16 passages on divorce, 62 verses about pride, and 111 verses concerning money.

For those of us who are gay and Christian, we call these six passages, the “clobber” passages because most Christians use these verses to clobber us. Regarding these verses, many publications and organizations, such as The Reformation Project, QCF, Unclobbered, God and the Gay Christian, Torn, Bible Gender Sexuality, Changing Our Minds (to list a few), all talk about how these verses are contextual and are actually not talking about homosexuality how we think of it today. They are either talking about idol worship that included using boys for prostitution, pedophilia, or a lack of hospitality to the foreigner. They were not talking about loving, committed gay relationships.

But people would argue, “You can’t read into this. You have to take the Bible for face value. It says what it says.” If that is the case, women should be silent in church (I Corinthians 14:34). If that is the case, we should not allow divorce on any grounds but infidelity (Matthew 19:9). If that is the case, we shouldn’t have tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), we shouldn’t eat meat with blood in it (Acts 15:20), we should yield to corrupt government (Romans 13:1-7), and we should cut off body parts when they cause us to sin (Matthew 5:29).

My list could continue for far more than a paragraph, but I think you get it. What’s my point? My point is that we contextualize all the time.

How is it fair to contextualize certain parts of the Bible and then not others? We have to look at what was applicable for ancient Israel or the early church and translate it for those of us who live in a modern world. Scripture cannot stay locked in a cultural vacuum, and I’m not just saying this because it benefits me. I’m saying it because it’s exactly what the early church did in Acts.

In Acts 15, there’s massive dissension concerning Gentiles (non-Jews) who are being baptized. Many are saying that they should be circumcised and follow the Jewish law in its entirety, a list of over 600 commandments, including two of our “clobber” verses about homosexuality.

In the end, it is determined by the 12 apostles that the Gentiles shouldn’t be forced to obey the law. They scrap it altogether. Instead, they gave them four rules: don’t eat meat offered to idols, don’t consume blood, abstain from sexual immorality, and don’t eat meat that was strangled.

In one meeting, the whole law is ruled inappropriate to a different culture and new instructions are given to non-Jews. Why? Who gave the apostles the right to change the rules?

Jesus.

“Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,” Matthew 16:19.

So where’s the law? Should we just scrap all forms of morality under the grace of Jesus Christ?

No. Instead, Jesus gave us a new law. Well, two, actually.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” John 13:34.

Not some of the law. All of it.

The apostles gave instructions that would help the Gentile believers serve God, to help them obey the first law. They did this from a place of love, obeying the second law. They were obeying the teachings of Christ.

In spite of the six verses in the Bible about homosexuality, Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality once during his time on Earth. Instead, he talks about love — about loving your God, about loving your neighbor, and about people knowing you’re one of his disciples because of your love.

Can we say that this is true? Do people call Christians “the most loving people”? Are we known by this today? No, instead we’re known as judgmental and ignorant and hypocritical, picketing queer political candidates and abortion clinics.

Is this love? Or have we done what early enemies of the church did — reimplementing the law out of fear?

As a gay Christian, I know I can exist and hold to my faith because, one, there are contexts to the verses we use to batter LGBTQ+ people that need to be considered, and two, Jesus’s commandment to me was not to be straight. His commandment to me was to love my God and to love people, that’s exactly what I intend to do.