So we’ve come to this.
A dualistic, contemptuous, hysterical grapple between two words: yes and no.
And, for an opinion poll, no less.
Not even a referendum.
Give the people enough ammunition to kill one another, but deny anyone the ability to affect the outcome of the war.
Because, it does seem to be war now, yes?
I don’t know about you, but I feel played.
I’m not here for war, and I don’t think you ever came here for war, I think you came here, originally, to breathe deep, to love true and tell your story. To build hearts without fences. To have a conversation with the person who lived differently to you. To learn about love, teach your children about love, and walk freely upon the ground you’ve been gifted.
It feels like the Hunger Games. We’ve been informed of who our enemy is – the other. Told that there are but two options: that one can only live if the other dies, and all of a sudden we have no choice but to fight to the death.
Under these exclusive terms, we cannot co-exist harmoniously. We cannot have a variety of ideologies or lifestyles within one vast nation – it is either yes or it is no – it is either hate or it is love – right or wrong – black or white.
This is a lie.
I want to speak to you, briefly, from a place that cannot be bulldozed by dualism, or dismissed for its ignorance, which is grey, no matter how black and white the conversation seems through the carnage of this week.
From the place of story-telling. From my story.
I am both a queer woman and a deeply devoted Christian.
I’m in a broad minority, as specific as it sounds. There are many ways to be same-sex attracted and Christian. The community of faith I call my own contains every possible interpretation, incarnation, and expression of this. We debate constantly, but we aim to end each day united. We are brothers and sisters that will vehemently disagree with their hands still holding onto one another. The priority is always connection.
This plebiscite has hit our once-united community like a virus. We cannot seem to keep our balance. People are behaving fearfully, reactively, and often out of character.
Among the Christians, there are the affirming, the non-affirming, and the unsure. Even then, the vote is a completely different question to ‘what do you believe?’
It is in essence asking, ‘What freedom would you willingly afford others that believe differently to you?’
I suspect this is where so much confusion has entered in. It is one thing, to respond honestly about what you believe – how you choose to live. It is another, altogether, to participate in deciding the way everyone else should live, regardless of shared belief or not.
This does apply to both sides.
I see my community reeling. Dealing with the confrontation of summarising their personal beliefs, political sentiments and social compassion with one word. The yes versus the no. The responsibility of the church. The validity of an orthodox faith. The sacred metaphor of marriage, the ancient texts continually embraced and negotiated, the desperate needs of our LGBTQI+ friends and families.
I know we are not the only faith group being invited into accelerated reformation through this plebiscite, and of course, accelerated conflict.
I speak not of extremist political groups when I refer to faith groups, by the way.
I do not refer to the ACL, or the people who painted ‘Vote No’ in the sky a few days ago – though I fully acknowledge the hateful and traumatising nature of these campaigns. I acknowledge regretfully, that bigoted trolling tactics are alive and well, but I am not referring to this minority, to which I do not identify.
Rather, I’m talking about my friends – Jesus followers, Allah followers, YHWH followers and others, who have openly grieved and rebutted the lies, propaganda and scapegoating from the extreme conservative commentators.
Those who have also silently grieved the lies, propaganda and scapegoating surrounding their faiths from certain other commentators.
I’m talking about the ones who are desperately seeking a way to give peace and live peace.
The ones who still hold conservative beliefs about marriage, but who are not your enemy.
This story is, in many ways, about them.
The complexity of my sexuality was apparent to me from high-school, and I expressed it slowly and cautiously.
My attraction to women co-existed alongside every early relationship I had with men, sometimes waiting patiently, sometimes forcing its way in, unable to lie dormant.
When I came out, I felt the hot rushes of shame and vulnerability, the mirco-aggressions of judgment and confusion from others, the presumptions from men and women alike. I was proud, but lost, insecure in my outness.
My first committed relationship with a woman was passionate and liberating, but terrifying, too. Though a well-established artist herself, our relationship was intentionally hidden from the public spotlight, whilst I ventured into the industry for the first time. Finding our rhythm forced me off the map, but I wanted to be guided. I was still processing previous experiences of hurt and abuse, and the relationship was consequently strained. I had gained an entirely new universe – one I had longed for for so long – but it reminded me of what I was losing, too.
I was so angry that we couldn’t marry. My chest always felt tight. Even when people seemed supportive I felt as though they secretly thought of me as ‘less’. I was angry that we couldn’t have children that were just ours, and constantly fantasized about scientific breakthroughs that might allow it – before feeling guilty about that too. I felt robbed. I blamed the church.
In my anger, I raged over blind, conservative arguments. I wrote thinly veiled plays about the bigotry of the Christian argument against homosexuality.
I also cheated on my girlfriend, ran cruel circles around a variety of other women and men, and left a trail of confusion and anger in my wake.
In the aftermath of my own behaviour, I blamed the resistance of the conservative right, and threw myself into the cause. I rallied, petitioned, wore t-shirts, and posted earnestly on my Tumblr.
I wanted to be good in love. I just wasn’t.
Then, of course, I met God.
Not unlike my sexuality, my faith was not chosen. It happened to me.
It just was.
It wasn’t an ideology I observed, read a few books on and decided to click subscribe to.
I hated Christianity. I had no interest in religion, no desire to be a Christian, and many, many reasons to reject the movement altogether.
But, God turned up on my front door. He came to me, personally – not as a feeling, or a solution, or a comforting rule-book to follow. He was my friend.
Not energy, dogma or religion.
When I first read the gospels, I did so to detangle myself from the spiritual encounters I had recently had, and prove to myself how bigoted the faith actually was. It was purely research for critical resistance.
Within the first few pages, I was undone.
I remember clutching the book to my chest, laughing, and saying out loud:
‘The Christians don’t get Jesus. THEY ACTUALLY DON’T GET HIM. They think he’s on their side, but he’s not. He’s my ally. He’s on my side.’
The bible made Christianity markedly clear to me.
Jesus hated religion.
He sat with the messy, colourful, rainbow, rejected people that the others considered unclean. He came to their houses, ate at their dinner tables and told them he’d come all that way just for them.
He was not exclusive. He did not favour the scholars, the puritans and the priests. He favoured me.
He told me that I was the light of the world, exactly as I was. He did not judge me as sinner or saint, he did not expose my deeds before me and ask me to repent. He simply welcomed me, told me he’d been waiting for me, that we were family, and that we would work it all out together.
The Jesus of the bible was interested in taking the concept of God out of its stuffy, legalistic box, and replacing religion with relationship.
Eventually, he was killed for such radical activism, dying in pacifism, and in protest.
If he then rose from the dead, which I believe he did, it was for the physical and spiritual freedom of every single one of us, exactly as we are.
I was transformed by my experience of God – I was humbled by it, broken by it and remarkably healed.
Following Jesus probably saved my life, but it didn’t stop me being attracted to women.
At first, it didn’t seem to matter. I took a few steps back from sex altogether – I was caught in some destructive patterns, and gender had nothing to do with it. My overall sexuality was wounded. It was deeply relieving to know that I didn’t need to have sex in order to be loved, in order to give love, and in order to be known. My body closed for business, I started to heal.
Even in my chosen aloneness, the tension of the ‘gay’ debate plagued me.
For the first time in my life, I was friends with people who believed very differently to me. I was sitting at the dinner tables of the ‘bigots’, as one might casually call them. I would interrogate their convictions about gay marriage, and homosexuality, and listen to them explain.
Part of me wanted us to fight. I wanted to convince them otherwise by tearing down their reasoning, by calling them names and calling out their close-mindedness, but I soon realised I was dealing with something so much more complex and nuanced than hate.
They didn’t hate me. They didn’t even blink at my gayness. They were all deeply invested in the difficulty of the debate, conflicted by both their conviction and compassion. They knew and loved gay people. They knew and loved God, and they knew and loved the bible, too. They constantly attempted to find both truth and love in all they read and all they concluded. It was never rash, never based in fear and never without deep consideration. A few of them were same sex attracted themselves, but chose to live either celibately or in solely heterosexual relationships, per their beliefs. It was extreme to me, almost unthinkable, but sitting there face-to-face, with my friends gently sharing their joy in that which went beyond their own sexuality, I could find it within me to respect it.
I could respect it, because they also respected me. They did not diminish the relationships I had had with women, but affirmed them. Through conversations we had together, they recognised my experiences as equal in love, equal in heartbreak, equal in worth. Consummately equal, even if, in their opinion, God invited another way to live.
They afforded me a dignity that I don’t think I’d even afforded myself.
Though they knew about me, my job, my choices, my previous relationships, I never felt excluded. I was not rejected for my opinions. No-one called me a sinner.
They loved me unconditionally. They made their own choices, and they set me free to make mine. They let me work out the tension with the only person who had any authority to really lead me – God.
So I did.
I’m still doing it, five years deep into my faith walk, and now married to a man.
No matter how I choose to live, I am so grateful that very little was imposed upon me in my spiritual formation. Consequently, I cannot impose my personal journey on any other. I wouldn’t want to. Jesus doesn’t work that way.
Religion tells you what path is right and what is wrong.
Relationship tells you it’ll walk with you, wherever you choose to go.
We all take our pilgrimages along different paths.
My theology is both child-like in its simplicity, and ancient in complexity.
I am unfinished in my faith, constantly processing, challenging and learning. In the scheme of things, I know zilch.
Almost every believer I know is in the same position.
We might live evangelistically, but the people I know don’t live or believe in ’empire’ Christianity.
Jesus never came to be the politician, the commander or the emperor. He came to be the servant.
Church and state are chalk and cheese. A revolutionary movement based on grace cannot suddenly decide it wants to live under law again.
Yes, we do marry uniquely, under Jesus. Anyone that came to my wedding can attest to that, whether they loved it or hated it. It means something else, for us. It’s a form of sacred, spiritual worship.
However, we don’t have a right to marriage, as Christians.
We’re incredibly lucky to be able to do it that way at all.
We certainly don’t own it, or its definition.
We are blind, really, to the privilege we have to even profess our faith in our home country without being arrested or killed.
Any claimed laid on marriage by the Christian church is false. It could so quickly and easily be us in the position of the LGBTQI+ community, asking for freedom and understanding about something so deeply inherent to who we are.
I’m sorry, for that arrogance.
So, where is peace?
Is it in truth?
The ‘objective truth’ of this old life and love game we do not yet have access to.
If Douglas Adams was right, perhaps we could parade the number 42 around parliament to settle this bloody opinion poll for us. But, we cannot.
All we have is subjectivity. The only thing that can build a bridge through all of this name-calling, and fear, is relationship.
All we carry as our gifts/weapons (you choose) are our experiences, our beliefs, our convictions and our compassion. When we share these, we are in relationship.
We can have conversations, and cups of tea, and dinners.
We can sit face to face, and admire one another’s differing pilgrimage.
We can drink deeply of the diversity of this nation, and the many interpretations of what living and loving might look like.
We can listen to one another, and accept that the other’s experience is, in fact, their reality.
Telling someone that their relationship with someone of the same sex is wrong, does not make you right. Telling someone that their relationship with God is wrong, does not make you right.
We must co-exist.
Insulting and un-friending those that may vote differently to you on Facebook does not make diversity go away.
Yes, your rejection of others may alleviate the pain of their ignorance for a moment, but that wound is not healed by eliminating the enemy. You do not grow, from entering the echo chamber.
We need relationship.
War doesn’t make your point. It doesn’t tell your story.
Your story is consummately equal, divinely worthy.
No matter which way this vote goes, and no matter what the government decides to do with the results, you must keep telling it.
No matter if your concept of marriage is broken, undermined, denied or made illegitimate by that government, your story is not broken, and it cannot be denied. Your narrative is not illegitimate.
Your worth remains intact.
The worth of your relationship remains intact.
Love is the fire – love is the judge.
I don’t only mean the love between your romantic partner and yourself. Heck, that love will refine you, but it isn’t the challenge here.
I refer to the love you show the person you have been told is your enemy.
LGBTQI+ friends – God is on your side, especially in your persecution and suffering. He knows and he cares.
Christian friends – we are not the Pharisees. Guard your heart against the yeast of it. Seek justice. Rejoice in listening. Share stories around the table. Be blessed by mercy.
Everyone, I know this plebiscite matters. I’m not pretending it doesn’t. It has ramifications, it will steer political decisions, it will shape your rights around family, it has generational liberations and constrictions. A lot of you feel afraid and are hurting, and that is fair, and I know this seems like the culprit, but what I’m really trying to communicate is that no law, no discrimination, no vote, no sky-writing and no angry social media post against you has the power to control the worth of who you are, what you have experienced, and what you believe.
So don’t let it.
To my no voters and my yes voters, alike:
Screw the dualism.
Let’s be Katniss and Peeta.
You are the light of the world.
You are so deeply loved and accepted.
I am honoured to share this table with you, this heart without fences.
I rejoice in our differences, I rejoice in your love, I rejoice in every experience that has formed you and the generations that may follow you.
You are not my enemy.
You are my neighbour, my mirror, my gift.
I wish you joy on the pilgrimage.