Sacrifice: A Love Letter for Queer Believers, Part 2
A few weeks ago my friend, Timon Lee, shared his thoughts on the true nature of sacrifice in the queer Christian life. He touched on the idea that what the Church has often asked queer people to sacrifice actually misses the mark on what is and isn’t important to give up for those of us who have somehow managed to survive our often hostile faith communities.
Timon discussed how the Church has asked queer people to conform to heteronormative social standards, to abandon their identification with the LGBTQ+ community, and to let go of deeply meaningful relationships which often bring us emotional healing.
His words touched me and got me to question where these false calls to sacrifice actually came from.
Why is it that much of the Church demands queer people to give up their ties to the LGBTQ+ community? Why does much of the Church demand that queer people give up relational intimacy to stay “pure?”
In my experience, straight cisgender pastors and churches have always framed queer sacrifice to me in terms of a cross that all must bare. All people must sacrifice their own way of doing things in order to follow God whose agenda is oftentimes much different than our own. For those of us who are queer, that sacrifice just happens to look much more shocking in today’s culture than it does for heterosexual and cisgender believers.
But is that actually true?
Are the sacrifices that queer people make in faith communities so shocking due to our current cultural norms, or are our sacrifices shocking because we actually tend to sacrifice? And we don’t just sacrifice things that may hinder our relationship with God, but we also tend to sacrifice things that may bring us closer to Christ simply because it was expected of us to do so.
Majority Culture Misses the Context
In my opinion, the sacrifices queer folks are asked to make, especially our ties to the LGBTQ community and in flourishing relationships, is greatly misguided and miss the context in which we actually live.
The idea that queer people must sacrifice their livelihoods to appease God comes from a majority culture view on God; a white, western, cisgender, heterosexual American view on God that is rooted in privilege and both social and economic wealth, and not from a point of understanding marginalized experiences and how they impact one’s relationship with God.
Majority culture has to sacrifice all that they have because their standing in society gives them everything. Someone who owns the world must sacrifice all in order to understand the cost of Christ. We see this in Jesus’ call to the wealthy to give up all of their possessions to follow Christ. The wealthy man who was told to give away all of his belongings was not aware of the hindrance that money had been to him, perhaps because he had never truly been asked or forced to sacrifice many privileges or benefits in his lifetime.
A modern reading of this text may include the privileged giving up their earthly and societal privileges in order to better grasp the call of the Gospel to serve and sacrifice for the poor. This may mean a white man giving up the influence he has in his white suburban church in order to advocate for black people who are directly impacted by police brutality, or a cisgender person risking their own safety in order to protect a trans person in public.
These calls to sacrifice place value on others, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, and clothing the naked, so as do to likewise for Christ. People are often called to sacrifice in areas of their lives that they may not have considered to be potential hindrances because they were simply unaware of the way certain privileges places them at a disadvantage to identifying with Christ who sacrificed all privilege to restore humanity.
The Cost of Queerness
By contrast, queer people are very aware of the ways in which we must sacrifice.
Queer people implicitly understand this warning of having to give up father and mother and children because we have had to do so simply by being queer. Queer children are forced out of their homes for coming out, or even for breaking what is a socially acceptable expression of their gender and sexuality.
About 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+, which is incredibly disproportionate to the population of queer people in America. And this is just scratching the surface of the history of sacrifices that LGBTQ+ people have been forced to make.
Sacrifice can bring us closer to God by stripping away earthly pleasures that, if solely relied upon, may actually keep us from understanding the heart of the Father which is rooted in humility. In Scripture, we see calls to sacrifice wealth, status, security, among other privileges. There is an awareness that we may lose much more than that, including our own lives, in order to do the work of the Gospel. In that sense, all believers should be willing to lay everything aside in order to do the restorative work of Christ.
At the same time, I am not so certain that it is up to privileged people to tell a marginalized group what needs to be sacrificed because as we see in Scripture, the marginalized will always be closer to understanding the heart of God. Queer people will always be closer to the heart of God due to what we have and will continue to endure.
Through our sacrifice, both willful and forced, queer people have understood far more about the suffering of Jesus than the straight white pastors who have told us otherwise.
As Christ lost friends, family, and spiritual community, so have countless LGBTQ+ people throughout history.
It’s not that we shouldn’t continuously look for ways to lay ourselves down to serve others, it’s just that we need to reimagine what sacrifice looks like for people whose entire history is built upon sacrifice and conforming to what majority culture deems to be safe and respectable.
Maybe our ties to the LGBTQ+ community, our relationships, and our way of being are tiny graces, not things that we need to “crucify” to appease God. Maybe costly obedience looks less like refusing these God-given gifts and looks more like following Christ even when our family, friends, and churches have abandoned us. Maybe costly obedience is simply choosing to live.
So I choose to live in the face death as a living sacrifice to God. I choose to receive the unconventional graces that God pours into my life. I choose to trust God over misguided and even well-meaning people. I choose to embrace flourishing as a reality for my life.