Tripp Fuller and I have spent much of the last ten days recording discussions for a class called God After Deconstruction. It’s a “pay what you can” class, and we encourage you to sign up.
Tripp and I are also organizing in-person God After Deconstruction conferences, the first of which is February 9-10 at Drew University in New Jersey. The second in-person conference is April 12-13 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Denver.
We’re also writing a book called God After Deconstruction. Below is an excerpt. It’s part of a chapter that addresses queer issues, the role and power of women, and purity culture.
Traditional views about sexuality and gender prompt some people to deconstruct. Many leave conventional views of God and life to make sense of themselves, their friends and family, and life.
Being honest about their sexual attractions or gender often brings criticism from pastors, family, and people of faith. Some “come out” only to be condemned. Individuals attracted to both men and women were told real Christians could not be bisexual. Some were designated second-class members for failing to marry or have children.
To many Christians, Jews, and Muslims, gender is a God-given binary: Adam or Eve. But a growing number of people consider gender a spectrum, flexible, and fluid. It’s not either/or. Some assigned a gender at birth come to think of themselves otherwise: they transitioned to another gender, embraced no gender, or identified as multiple genders.
“It was already hard for my church to accept me when I started wearing dresses,” said Jerily about her transition, “but when I also dated women, it was too much. To their way of thinking, being trans and lesbian could not be the plan God decided from all eternity.” “I hid my desires to be male as best I could,” said Jack. “And when I finally admitted it publicly, my parents were part of the crowd that bad mouthed me.”
“I’m attracted to women and men,” Frank told us. “I don’t see a problem with it; my wife understands. Just because I’m attracted to both doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with everyone. I’m committed to my partner but know that, in terms of attraction, I’m a switch-hitter.”
Brandon knew his space in the church was shrinking. “Being gay was enough to disqualify me,” he says, “to mark me a sinner.” But one night, Brandon wrestled with God over his sexuality. “With trepidation…I took a deep breath and began to speak, ‘God, I’m gay.’ I heard the Lord say, ‘You can be as gay as you need to be with me…’ For the first time,” says Brandon, “I heard an affirmation that who I was could be a site of acceptance instead of shame.’”
As a professor at a Christian university, Devon advocated for LGBTQ+ students despite a queer-hostile environment. And she did so as a closeted lesbian. Devon was eventually outed and had to resign. “I stayed too long,” she says, “by convincing myself that the acceptance and affirmation of a few individuals on campus would make up for repression and silence from the rest of the community. I was wrong.”
Not only have queer people walked away from faith communities or been ostracized, but a growing number of queer allies are also joining them. “Being anything-other-than-straight is a major factor in people’s deconstruction,” reports Olivia Jackson, “whether or not it affects them directly. Those I interviewed and surveyed were disgusted by how they see churches treating those who are LGBTQ+.” (Jackson, Uncertain, 116-17)
“I was having a hard time believing that just because someone was gay, they were condemned to hell,” says Leigh. “I wasn’t sure I could continue to believe.” Kelly said, “My pastor’s failure to affirm my transgender friend made me decide I couldn’t go to church anymore. Jesus didn’t say, ‘The kingdom is only for those whose gender matches their genitalia.”
Because a sizable number of Christians are not queer-affirming, LGBTQ+ people and their allies are deconstructing.