Q&A: ‘Heavy Burdens’ Author Bridget Eileen Rivera Says the Church Must Be Safe for All LGBTQ Christians

Bridget Eileen Rivera Video on Heavy Burdens and LGBTQ Christians

Faithfully Magazine recently spoke with Bridget Eileen Rivera, blogger of the popular website, Meditations of a Traveling Nun. Rivera is also author of Heavy Burdens: Seven Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church.

In Heavy Burdens, Rivera examines how Christian faith communities alienate and condemn LGBTQ people, highlights the pain of LGBTQ Christians, and outlines a path for churches to develop a better approach.

Associate Editor Timothy Isaiah Cho spoke with Rivera about the themes explored in her book. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Can you tell me a bit about your background and your work?

I was raised in a Christian home, conservative Evangelical. I was part of the homeschool Evangelical movement. And I went to a very conservative college for homeschool graduates called Patrick Henry College. And I guess that’s kind of very central to what has shaped me as a person. I’m still a Christian to this day. I’m still very thankful for my conservative Evangelical upbringing. I feel like it provided me a lot of foundations for life and everything.

Today, I am getting my Ph.D. in sociology and I do a lot of LGBTQ advocacy. And a big part of that right now is that I have a book coming out called Heavy Burdens and that book is about the experiences of discrimination in the church that LGBTQ people have. And I think it’s a very important topic right now, especially as I think that these issues are reaching a point where churches can’t ignore them anymore. So I’m really hoping that this book can be a part of making the church a healthier place for queer people.

You’ve shared publicly your story of growing up in conservative Evangelicalism and realizing that you were gay, and from my understanding, you would consider yourself a Reformed Christian today. Can you talk about the interweaving of those two strands, your theological journey as well as your journey of realizing you were gay?

Yeah, I still see myself as participating in the, I guess, conservative tradition, the more traditional approach to understanding Scripture. I have a lot of Reformed influences on my theology, and I think I could still consider myself Reformed in a lot of ways, but maybe with some asterisks here and there. I grew up in a Reformed Baptist church, and that was probably the single biggest influence on my development theologically. And so I definitely am still influenced by that to this day. And I guess I tend to seek out more conservative Reformed churches in general, though right now I am attending a Methodist Church. But Reformed churches are kind of where I typically find my theological home.

Being raised in a Reformed Baptist church, the way that LGBTQ issues were brought up to me was in the context of the passage in Scripture, where the Bible talks about “vessels of wrath that were prepared by God for destruction.” And this was taught to me within the Reformed context of being a predestined thing, and that this was just the way things were: queer people were vessels of wrath condemned by God and they were going to hell. And it was never necessarily explicitly stated that this is who queer people were. But whenever there were moments, where different things were brought up around sin, around hell, especially vessels of wrath, queer people would be brought up as an example of this. There was one sermon where the pastor was talking about vessels of wrath and he used queer people as an example of this. And it just really, really embedded itself into my mind and really became an essential way that I thought about queer people for the rest of my childhood into my adult years.

I didn’t figure out that I was gay until I was in college. And even then, I didn’t really think of it as being gay, it was just really me starting to realize, “Oh, I’m attracted to women. Hmm. What could that mean?” And I eventually came to terms with, “Oh my gosh, like, this means that I have an experience that makes me the person that my pastor was talking about in that sermon.” And it was absolutely terrifying. Realizing that I was gay was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. And the idea that I could be condemned by God, outside of any control that I had over it, that this was just a predestined thing, that I was a vessel of wrath, it crushed me, absolutely crushed me.

Being Reformed had the perspective that once saved, always saved, you can’t lose your salvation. But then there’s also the other side of that, which is, if you reach a point where you discover that you’re not saved after having thought that you were saved, and that means you never were saved ever to begin with. And so I’m starting to fear that, wondering, “Oh my gosh, like, maybe I was never saved. Maybe I was deceived the whole time.” And it was just, it was a terrifying time. And I really, really started to struggle with the possibility that despite my love for God, despite my commitment to follow him, I was nevertheless predestined to not be saved and to go to hell. Despite no matter what I do, that inevitably, at some point in my life, it was going to just come out and really be exposed that I was never a true believer and was already being exposed because I’m gay.

At the same time, the Reformed church that I grew up in was very, very strong theologically. I went to tons of classes as a child learning all sorts of theology, memorizing scripture. And so I started to have Scripture and what I had been taught battling against these other concepts that I was struggling with. And I started to realize that a lot of these ideas around gay people being condemned by God were a twisting of the Bible, a twisting of Reformed theology to make it say things that actually it doesn’t need to say it shouldn’t say.

I guess a big one for me was just realizing that the concept of “perseverance of the saints” is one that I could hold on to, as a source of comfort in knowing that God really has saved me, that I am his child. And one verse in particular, in the Bible, where it says, “nothing can separate us from the love of God,” that really spoke to me in that moment, and made me realize that this whole thing is so small in the eyes of God, me being gay, me being attracted to women, that is like, such a small thing. It is not something that can get in the way of his grace. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.” And so I didn’t need to be terrified of this experience that I was having because God was going to walk with me in that. “He does not leave us or forsake us.” He walks with us, he holds us in the palm of his hand, and nothing can snatch us away. So grounding myself in though those truths helped me to regain a confidence in God’s love and regain confidence in knowing that regardless of the things and the questions that I was asking, the experiences that I was having, God was going to hold my hand through all of it. He wasn’t going to let go. And he was going to help me work through all of this.

Were there any books or authors that were influential to you as you thought about faith and sexuality, and what was missing that made you realize that you needed to write Heavy Burdens?

The books that I am thinking of that come to mind might sound maybe a little random to some people, but they were actually very influential for me in my own development. The first is Paul Among the People by Sarah Rudin. It’s a tiny little book. Not super large, not super expensive. And I stumbled upon it at the recommendation of a couple of different people. And so several different people had recommended it, I finally bought it, read it. It was the first time that I had read a book that truly contextualized Paul in his time. It truly brought Paul to life, given the situation historically that he was in and the people that he was speaking to, and it was just, wow, so world changing, so eye opening, because Paul, for so long had been taught to me just in a very kind of rote, let’s quote this verse, Paul said this, therefore, this is how it is. And you know, to the point where even verses that talk about women needing to wear head coverings were taken very literally. So I was told that I should wear a head covering when I was growing up. Sarah Rudin contextualizes him, and that really made me realize that we have to look at Scripture as a document that exists in a time and a place, and how easy it is for us to force onto Scripture, to read into it, our own understanding of the world, our own framework for thinking about the universe and read that into Scripture instead of taking time to understand the world that it was written in, and allowing that to then speak to us today, from within its own context. So that one was the first one.

The other one is going to probably sound a little strange to some people. There are two books called Xenocide and Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card. These are fiction books. Orson Scott Card is the author who wrote Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books of all time, and fiction in general has had a huge influence on me as a person, probably more actually than nonfiction books, because I think storytelling just has a way of getting at really profound truths.

So in Xenocide and Children of the Mind, Orson Scott Card tells the story of a girl who grows up in this culture and they believe that certain children within this culture are born and sort of predestined by their god to be his servant in very specific ways. And the way that manifests is they are given some kind of task that they have to repeat over and over and over and over and over again for the rest of their lives in order to serve their god, and they have no choice in this. They have been chosen, they have to do this task. Oftentimes, the task is extremely menial. They have to do it over and over and over and over again. And this girl is discovered to have been chosen by god to serve him in this way, and her task that she has to do is she has to trace the lines in the wood on the floor of a room, up and down the room all day long, one line at a time, all the way up the next line all the way down. She has to do that every day, all day, except for when she’s sleeping and eating for the rest of her life. And so she does it. She’s extremely faithful, she believes that this is doing a service to her god.

By the end of her story, it winds up coming out that this whole thing was actually a hoax. God had never actually told anyone in this culture that there would be anyone chosen to do these menial tasks. It was all not true. But this girl was so convinced that she was doing a service to god that nobody could tell her otherwise, and she could not be reasoned with. So she lived the rest of her days until she was like old and shriveled up and dying, tracing the lines of wood on the floor.

And okay, so why did that story impact me? It really impacted me because I didn’t want to serve God in a way that was meaningless. I didn’t want to serve God and give him something that I thought was this grand display of faithfulness, but actually did not mean anything in the end. And so, for me, that was thinking about celibacy. I am celibate. I do follow a traditional sexual ethic. But I didn’t want that to be something that I just did that was meaningless and had no point to it, that I was just doing it because God told me to do it and therefore I had to do it. I wanted to make sure that this came from a place that made sense to me and that I knew was going to be something that was an expression of my faith that brought meaning to my life. Because I don’t think that God asks us to do things that don’t ultimately make our lives better, ultimately, make us better people in the end. Obviously, there might be things he asks us that make our lives more difficult, but I think in the end, the things that God asks us to do make our lives better. And so I wanted to make sure that if I chose celibacy, that it wasn’t coming from this meaningless place of not having any understanding of why not knowing what the point was, it’s completely meaningless. I’m just doing it because God told me to , but I didn’t want that for myself. I wanted to do it because I really believed that this was the best life for me. So all to say, those books have been very influential on me and thinking about my life, thinking about my understanding of the Bible, and responding to God, in my life through faith.

One of the things that struck me about the book is that you don’t make a case about different convictions about sexuality and faith, but rather, you focus on the many instances of double standards and heavy burdens that are placed on LGBTQ Christians. Why did you decide to take that sort of tactic, to address the topic from that angle? Had you not seen that in other literature?

Yes, 100%. That is the reason why I wanted to write this book. I had not seen any other book that had taken this issue from a perspective of “Let’s step away from the sides and let’s look at this as a whole picture.” I don’t know of any books that do that. Any book that I’ve ever read always has a side that it is defending in some way, and I think that that is a big mistake. I think it creates a false understanding of the queer Christian community, because the queer people that I know in the church can’t easily be divided into sides. A lot of people are really kind of confused about what they think and what they believe, and they’re just wanting space to kind of think through it and explore and try to figure out what God is asking them to do. And you know, they’re wanting to be able to just read the Bible and see what it says, and the actual queer Christian community in the actual world is not this way. It’s not divided into sides. People are way more complicated than that. And so, I wanted to set aside the theological issues that we love to argue about, and be like, let’s actually look at what is actually happening on the ground, what queer experiences actually are in the church. And from there, let’s think about what the implications are for us as a church.

Every person is made in the image of God and God is counting the tears of every queer person in the church, not just the ones that happen to agree with a traditional side. Click to Tweet

So one thing that I do talk about in the book that I do acknowledge is that I do come from a traditional sexual ethic. I do come from a perspective that follows the more conservative reading of Scripture that defines marriage as a union between men and women, for the purpose of procreation. And because of that, I’m celibate. I do come from that perspective. However, I am not the only gay person that is in the church. The queer community is so much more diverse than just me, and my sexual ethic is not the thing that makes the hurt I’ve experienced in the church worth acknowledging, just because I happen to be on the traditional side of things. That’s not what makes my story worthwhile for Christians to hear and consider. I want to see Christians heard and consider the stories of people who come from the progressive side of things who affirm same-sex marriage because those people’s stories are valuable too and they have a lot to teach us about what is going on in the church.

Every person is made in the image of God and God is counting the tears of every queer person in the church, not just the ones that happen to agree with a traditional side. God cares about every single queer person in the church and the hurt that they’ve experienced, the tears that they’ve shed. And, ultimately, we need to have a goal of making the church a safe place for all queer people, regardless of where they might be in the debate over sexual ethics, because as long as the church is saying, “We will treat you well if you agree with us,” then the church is not treating queer people well. The church has to treat queer people well period, regardless of sexual ethics. And so that’s what my book wanted to get at and wanted to get away from these sides and needing to pick a side and just talk about queer people, their experiences in the church, and how to do better.

Other books and podcasts have talked about the damage complementarianism, gender roles, and “biblical manhood and womanhood” have done in the church, but you make a case in your book that these ideas also deeply intersect with the ways LGBTQ Christians experience harm in the church. Can you touch on a few ways that complementarianism impacts the atmosphere or culture of the church in the way it has treated LGBTQ Christians?

Yeah, it’s huge. It’s 100% something that impacts queer people at a very fundamental level. So the whole idea of gender roles, where there’s men and there’s women, and there’s very strict definitions of what a godly man needs to be, and there’s very strict definitions of what a godly woman needs to be – these things create very, very tight boxes that only certain people can fit in. And in my experience, most queer people don’t fit into those boxes. Gay men are often just lambasted by Christians for their effeminacy, condemned for, you know, having limp wrists or dressing in floral attire, or, there’s these gay stereotypes of gay men being effeminate. I can’t even count the number of sermons where I’ve seen pastors make fun of gay men for acting like women. And it gets to this whole idea that being a man is defined by how good you are at removing any vestiges of femininity that you could possibly have in your personality, like purging yourself of all of them, and being a man. Like, that’s how we often look at masculinity. It’s like this absence of anything that could be feminine. And so the most manly of men is the one that is as opposite of being a woman as he can possibly be, and the worst kind of men are the ones that allow themselves to express these things that the culture sees as being more feminine.

Of course, we know and this has been demonstrated time and time again, this whole idea of what is “feminine,” what is “masculine,” it’s very socially constructed. It’s not this kind of objective thing that is the same for all times and in all places. And the interesting thing is that the writings by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood admit this. They actually acknowledge that gender roles are culturally defined. But interestingly enough, and I talked about this in the book, they would say that that’s a good thing that the culture defines what a man should look like and what a woman should look like, and therefore if you want to be a godly man, you need to play in to what the culture says manhood looks like. Same for being a woman. And I don’t think that that is actually biblical.

I think that Scripture calls us to transform the culture and to challenge the way that our culture thinks. And I think when you create boxes, you are by definition creating insiders and outsiders. And just because gay men don’t live up to the perfect ideal of masculinity in our culture doesn’t mean that they aren’t men. Same thing for women. Women are slightly different, and femininity or womanhood is, in a lot of Christian circles, defined by serving the men around you, being submissive to the men around you. I wish I could have included this quote in my book, but there was a really, really good quote in a book I read recently on queer theory that basically talks about how the stereotype of the dyke, the, you know, burly, lesbian dyke, versus the slutty whore, that we’ve got these two kinds of warring things on either side, and women are told you can’t be this burly, unattractive, because no man would ever want you. And you don’t want to be a whore because men are just going to use you, they’re not going to actually respect you. You want to be this like perfect woman in the middle. So, women are defined by how attractive they are to men, how much they appeal to men, how well they serve men, how well they protect their sexual purity. And it’s harmful, it’s very harmful to women, because it robs them of their humanity and defines it instead by how well they’re serving men. And for queer women, the stereotype of the lesbian is again, this, like, you know, big old burly woman that no man wants to have, and this is supposed to be a negative thing because you’re not supposed to be like that. And so it’s very harmful. It creates outsiders, once again, makes queer women feel like they have nothing to offer the church, because they don’t have a man that is giving their life meaning.

In Heavy Burdens, you spend time talking about the idea of gender essentialism in the church, and you draw parallels with other ways that essentialism has caused damage — including racism, misogyny, etc. Can you help define what essentialism is and show the parallels between gender essentialism and other essentialisms that have done lots of damage in the church?

Yeah, so this is a really, really big one. So essentialism is in a nutshell the idea that biology determines your identity. What we are in our body and our biological reality determines who we are. What we are determines who we are. That’s basically essentialism in a nutshell. So gender essentialism is the idea that your sex – your sexual biology – determines your gender identity. So what your sexual biology is determines who your gender is. And it’s something that has a lot of parallels, believe it or not, to Darwinistic thinking. It’s very heavily embedded in an evolutionary conception of human identity that sees everything as a product of natural biological phenomena.

So you see this in the development of conceptions of race. Scientists would look at brain size, the size of your skull, the length of your brows, the size of your nose, and from there, decide a host of different things. They would decide whether you are going to be a criminal, whether you are going to be lazy, if you are going to be crazy. They believed that these biological, physical things defined who people were, and it was used in the area of race 100%, which you alluded to. It was one of the main ways that scientists attempted to prove that people from African and Indigenous communities were inferior to those from European backgrounds. And they would do that, again, by appealing to biology, by appealing to the color of their skin. This is a clear mark of biological inferiority, which means that they are less human. And that was used to just kind of create a whole system where we could define humanity along this hierarchy of less or of inferior all the way up to the most superior human beings.

Of course, we know the history of this. Social Darwinism led to some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. The Holocaust is probably the most notable, and Hitler really believed that he could create a superior race. And his mission to eradicate disabled people and all these different groups is really based upon this biological essentialism. We know that biological essentialism really faded from view after the Holocaust because it was just so evident how perverted it was, how awful it was, the absolute tragedies that resulted from it. It really faded from view. But there has been a resurgence, specifically in gender essentialism, where people have this idea that your sexual biology is something that ultimately determines who you become.

The way that this is proven is through this discussion of how sexual biology has evolved over time. Scientists will look at the scientific evolution of ants, for example, and be like, okay, so we can see how the sexual biology of this ant and this ant, they evolved in this way to create this kind of interaction, and therefore they are who they are. And then this logic is used and applied to human beings. And it’s really interesting. You can actually look at writing from the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, their main book actually refers regularly to animal biology and animal behavior in order to make conclusions about human beings.

I think that there needs to be a willingness to just take a step back and really think about what Christians are saying when they say that who you are sexually determines who you are as a human being. Click to Tweet

And I just think that this assumption that our sexual biology determines who we are, I really think that Christians need to take a step back and really question, “Is this true?” I don’t think that necessarily means that we need to come out and say that sexual biology has nothing to do with who we are. But does everybody relate to their sexual biology in the same way? Certainly our biology is important. We’re all physical beings. But is it really determinative? I was raised with an understanding that people are created in the image of God, and that we are more than just highly evolved monkeys. We are more than just highly evolved biological mechanisms. And so that would speak to this idea that the human identity is more than just a collection of our biological organs all coming together to make us who we are. There’s something more mysterious there. And so I think that there needs to be a willingness to just take a step back and really think about what Christians are saying when they say that who you are sexually determines who you are as a human being. I really think they just need to pause for a minute and think about it and really consider the implications of a statement like that.

From my understanding, you are also of Puerto Rican descent. How has your Puerto Rican heritage influenced both your faith and your journey as an LGBTQ Christian? Are there unique challenges for LGBTQ Christians who are also radicalized minorities?

Yeah, this is like a really big one. So I am Puerto Rican on my mom’s side and I’m Irish on my dad’s side. So I have family in both Puerto Rico as well as Ireland. Actually, I visited Puerto Rico, but I’ve never visited Ireland. That’s something that’s on my bucket list that I’d like to do.

one thing that being mixed taught me is that identity is complicated. You can't just say “My identity is in Christ” and call it a day. Identity is a very complex thing. And saying “My identity in Christ,” it just doesn't cut it. Click to Tweet

My culture is very important to me. I was raised to value both sides of my heritage and to celebrate both sides. So you know, I grew up in a mixed culture, mixed race, mixed ethnicity. And so one thing that being mixed taught me is that identity is complicated. You can’t just say “My identity is in Christ” and call it a day. Identity is a very complex thing. And saying “My identity in Christ,” it just doesn’t cut it. Okay, yes, my identity is in Christ. Christ does define who I am. But like, that’s kind of a useless statement to me, because what does it even mean? At the end of the day, in my daily lived reality in the world that I am in and how I am embodied, in reality, how I am, what my personality is, how I express myself, what the world looks like to me…

Like, yes, my identity is in Christ. But if that means that, like, all of us are just going to, like be absorbed into Christ and lose everything of who we are. Well, I mean, that kind of sounds like, I don’t know, some very mystical religion that I remember honestly being criticized when I was a child, this idea of like, becoming one with the energy of the world, and like just losing your personality, losing your individuality. That whole concept is like a very mystical religious concept that, I don’t know, the Christians that raised me were like, “That’s bad.” You know, Christ doesn’t ask us to lose our individuality. Christ keeps us whole as individuals, even as we are becoming one in him. And that’s the mystery. That’s the paradox of Christianity, that we are one body in Christ with many members, right? Like we are one, but also many. We are unified, but also individuals. That is something that is unique within Christianity, and I think that needs to be remembered when we’re talking about identity in Christ.

Being mixed taught me identity is more complicated. And it was actually because of my experienced as a mixed race person, as a Puerto Rican, that made me comfortable with using language that I guess a lot of Christians are often uncomfortable with, like saying that you’re gay or saying that you’re queer. Because I already had an understanding that I wasn’t saying, “This is the ultimate thing that I am.” This is just part of my experience in the world. And you know, when I like go up to someone and tell them that I’m Puerto Rican, I’m not trying to tell them that defines me ultimately. Obviously, there’s more about me than just that. But this is important. This has a huge impact on my whole life. So I often find that when I’m talking to people of color that it’s much easier to talk about the complexity of identity and the reasons why language is important for queer people in order to name their experiences. Because I think that as people of color, we already have that understanding that we need names to talk about things. And that doesn’t mean we’re trying to create these ultimate identities out of the single one label.

You also asked about what unique challenges queer Christians face who are also racialized minorities. I think that is a really important question to be thinking about. There’s layers of discrimination that people of color face racially, sexually, on gender levels. There’s so many layers. Some people would use the term “intersectionality.” That’s kind of a little bit of a trigger word these days. One thing that I think is important to talk about is that Black trans women have one of the highest murder rates in the country, if not the highest murder rate, because they face so much discrimination, just layer upon layer of discrimination. And so, we can talk about the experiences of marginalization. But we also need to talk about how different effects kind of pile on to people at different times and create just a lot of exhaustion and a lot of isolation and exclusion for people to a degree that, you know, if you are a White gay man, you might think you understand, but maybe you don’t really.

So, for racialized minorities, a lot of times the layers of discrimination are so much heavier, so much more extreme. And there’s definitely a history behind this. Something that a lot of people don’t know is that a lot of our ideas of sexual purity are attached to our ideas of whiteness in the United States. Back when the concept of race was being developed, there was this idea that the White race was sexually pure and Black and Indigenous races were inherently promiscuous. And so sexual purity was defined as something that only White people could have. And so that continues up until today and a lot of the stereotypes that we have, you know, Black men prowling around looking for White women to rape, Black women prowling around as prostitutes looking for White men to seduce. The concept of a Jezebel. A lot of times, Latina women are stereotyped as being these exotic, sexually voracious kind of temptresses. These stereotypes continue to this day, and it impacts the experiences that POCs have because they not only have these stereotypes that they’re dealing with, they also have the stereotypes of gay people being pedophiles and all of this. And when you think about heterosexuality and needing to achieve this heterosexual ideal, that heterosexual ideal is also a White ideal. So if you are a Black gay man, you are not just in order to be accepted by society being told that you need to be straight; you’re also being told that you need to be White, because whiteness and straightness go together.

Every chapter in your book shares painful stories of LGBTQ Christians who experienced harm at the hands of the church. There is a strand in conservative Evangelicalism and Reformed Christianity that wants to be “objective” about issues and wants to ignore or set aside the personal aspects of topics being discussed. Why did you think it was important to include these stories in your book, and do you think that Christians should reconsider the importance of personal stories when it comes discussing topics, such as stories of LGBTQ Christians?

Yes, it is important to pursue objectivity. It is important to want to prioritize being intellectually sound, being well-reasoned in the judgments we make. But we also have to understand the real world impact of what we are talking about. And I think that there is sometimes this idea in Christian circles that rationality and objectivity exists outside of the Fall, that we can reason our way to a perfect conclusion and sin does not impact our judgment at all in any way. We reasoned our way to this, it was logical, it made sense. The Bible said this, the Bible said that, therefore, this, and it’s perfect. And there’s this idea that the Fall doesn’t impact any of that, that sin has not been having an effect on our judgment at all. And the truth is, it does! How people think, how people reason is affected by sin. And so, if we are relying on our intellect, our objective understanding of rationality, to come to the truth, we are going to end up deceiving ourselves. And having this idea that we have the absolute truth when we don’t, we have just created a deception that we get to tell other people is perfect and objective.

I think it’s important to balance our desire for reasoned and informed opinions with real world stories of what is actually going on in the experiences and the subjective realities of everyday people. Because we can talk about ABC, 123, but then we also need to feel what other people are feeling. We also need to see through other people’s eyes. And in doing so, we might discover truths that our reason alone never brought us to, because we are all fallen human beings and we’re not going to see everything. There’s things that we’re going to miss. And sometimes walking in another person’s shoes, seeing through another person’s eyes, feeling what they feel, will expose to us things that we have never considered before, things that we have never incorporated into our little formulas for thinking about the universe. And so, it’s essential that we include real world experiences, real world stories of actual people, actual human beings, in order to have a balanced understanding of what reality is actually like.

Lastly, what are your hopes and prayers for the fruit that will come from people reading your book?

My biggest hope and prayer is for change. The church is not a safe place right now for queer people. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the idea of people needing a safe place. It feels like I’m, you know, wanting the church to become a place where “special snowflakes” can just feel comfortable. But that’s not what I’m talking about. When I talk about the church not being a safe place, I am talking about queer people committing suicide. I’m talking about queer people dying. I’m not talking about queer people being uncomfortable, though that does happen. And that is the symptom of it. But ultimately, what we’re talking about is people dying in our churches, under our watch, under our discipleship.

I have heard so many stories of people who have attempted suicide under the direction of a church, under the discipleship of a church, as a direct consequence of what they were being told. They despaired of life itself. They believed that life was no longer worth living. And there is a reason for this and it is something that can no longer be ignored. And I want that to change. I want the church to become a place where queer people can walk in and actually grow spiritually instead of being crushed. Where they can sit down in a pew and find a space that helps them develop as a person and strengthen their relationship with God, instead of finding their faith completely shattered. And ultimately, I don’t want there to be any more queer people who die in our churches. I do not want to see one more queer person die. And so my hope and prayer for this book is that it can spark change, that it can spark conversations, and ultimately, push the church down a road that will lead to healthier outcomes for queer people.


Faithfully Magazine started 2016/2017 with the mission to keep Christian media diverse by centering our content on Christian communities of color for an ethnically-inclusive audience. In that time, we’ve made an impact on Christian media and achieved meaningful milestones -- such as creating a volunteer Associate Editor role, launching an Editorial Fellowship, and proudly paying our contributing writers. But we need your support to keep going. In addition to partnering with advertisers, nurturing a subscription/membership, and exploring paid live events, we rely on the generosity of readers who see value in our work and in our mission. We invite you to join us, and keep walking with us, in our mission. Every amount, big or small, empowers us to stay the course. Here are a few ways you can join us: We are grateful for your support. Thank you!
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Written by Timothy I. Cho

Timothy Isaiah Cho is Associate Editor at Faithfully Magazine. Timothy’s bylines have appeared in Religion News Service and Reformed Margins, and he has been interviewed for several podcasts including Truth’s Table and Gravity Leadership Podcast. He also runs a personal blog on Medium. He received a Master of Divinity from Westminster Seminary California and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from U.C. Berkeley. Email: timothy.cho (at) faithfullymagazine.com


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