[Editor's Note: Betty Greene Salwak is a transplanted Floridian living in Indiana with her husband of 30 years and their two children. She began her professional life as a Language Arts teacher, became a sales trainer during her corporate period, and was plucked from the congregation of her church to write a five-year curriculum for the elementary Sunday School. She has been the curriculum director of the Sunday School for the past eleven years.]
I'm straight, married 30 years. I'm a Christian Sunday School director. I'm writing a guest post on Bilerico. Wait. Did I take a wrong turn?
I took a turn all right, but it was in the right direction, just a few short years ago. I came to realize that it was time for me to step up and stand against what I knew was a gross injustice. I was seeing people who claimed to be Christians spewing hateful invective in the name of God against people who were gay. Those malevolent tirades are far and away the loudest shouts being heard by the LGBT community. The only other voice nearly as loud says there is no God.
Those people have nothing to do with the loving God I know, the One whose grace and unconditional love is for all people, just as they are, just as he made them to be. Unfortunately, the voices with that message have been a mere whisper in the wind. It was time to stand and be heard. But how could I get anyone to heed me? I had a lot to learn.
I needed to know more about the gay community. About three years ago a gay friend linked me to my first blog; it was by some guy who called himself "Joe.My.God." Well. Joe's blog was (and is) intelligent, moving, funny, informative, and very very angry at Christians. Links from his blog led me to more, and over the past three years I have developed some genuine and important friendships with gay, lesbian, and even a few straight bloggers. Those Internet friends have been wonderful in sharing their wisdom, insights and feelings. I feel privileged to know them and have been lucky enough to meet a few.
I have learned of the anguish of rejection and the stinging betrayal experienced by those raised in churches which call them "objectively disordered," sinners, even abominations. I've read far too many times of self-destructiveness and even suicides by young people who could not reconcile their faith with the person God made them to be. This has to stop.
I am convinced that the vast majority of straight Christians are ignorant of the terrible impact of their silence, that they would speak up about their support if they knew it would literally save lives. I am doing everything in my power to tell them that this is the time. It is my fervent hope that the civil victory that is imminent will eventually be shared by most churches during my lifetime.
It was on a link from JMG that I found Bilerico; it's been quite awhile since I first started reading and eventually commenting here. I lurked for a long time, wondering if my comments would be welcome. But it was an announcement on Bilerico that led me to my first-ever meeting with and for the gay community last spring. It was the Family Equality Council's OutSpoken seminar, teaching LGBT families and allies how to address the public and the media in terms that would be clear, concise and not inflammatory. I still refer to that handbook, because it appears that my role has emerged as "interpreter" between the gay and Christian communities, two populations that--while not necessarily exclusive--believe they have reason to distrust each other.
While my online friendships grew, I read just about everything I could get my hands on. I have a small but powerful library of "gay and Christian" books intended for pastoral staff, allies, questioners, and LGBT Christians. I have amassed a long list of online resources. My family will tell you that this is like a part-time job for me; I spend about twenty hours a week staying informed. While my own church is quite welcoming in a general way, I dream of the day when we issue a written invitation to the LGBT community. I am making myself available as a resource while I continue to learn more. We've taken the first steps toward becoming inclusive. When someone asks, "What's next?" I want to be ready with the answer.
I think it's important for Bilerico readers to understand that I am not an anomaly. I'm just louder than most, and we can change that, you and I. While I urge my fellow Christians to speak up and welcome you with open hearts and arms, you can tell your story. For it is with your stories, of faith welcomed or turn away, that you will reach hearts and change them.
How I got here is not nearly so important as how I get where I'm going--full equality and a loving, grace-filled welcome for all--with the help of the LGBT faith community.