I’m Not Giving Up
Jun 15, 2018
I’m Not Giving Up
An article by The Rev. Katrina D. Foster
"So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith."—Galatians 6:9 NRSV
When I was asked to share a reflection, I realized how tired I am. I have been fighting within the church to achieve equality and equity for LGBTQIA people for decades. But the good news is that Jesus is not tired. God is still with us. The Spirit is an ongoing, loving, and stubborn presence. The Incarnation of the Holy in the bodies of Rainbow folks and our families and our friends and our enemies is beyond our power to stop or alter.
Jesus is not tired and he loves me and you.
When I think of Pride, I feel a bit weary and tired. I am tired of a weaponized Jesus who is an excuse for hatred under the guise of Religious Freedom.
I am tired. I am tired of this fight. I just want to help others to know the grace and love of Jesus, to know how my life has been saved and transformed by this man. How he has called each of us and knows us by name. I just want to help churches build housing, to help congregations grow in stewardship and help feed the hungry, clothe the naked, reform the prison system, dismantle white supremacy. I just want to teach Diakonia classes. I just want to work for immigrant rights. I want to be of maximum loving service to God and neighbor.
Here are some of the reasons that I am tired, y’all.
I think about Pulse, the slaughter of gay folks and their friends at a club in Orlando, Florida. I remember sneaking into gay clubs near my hometown in the hopes of not feeling alone, police raiding the club and queer folks running for their lives. I remember hiding in the trunk of my car when a truck filled with young men with baseball bats drove into the club’s parking lot looking for fags. I remember the screams of people being attacked and the silence of sirens that never came to help.
More recently, I think of the law, passed on May 4, 2018 in Kansas, which allows faith-based adoption agencies to reject gay and lesbian folks as candidates to adopt children. These agencies will continue to receive state money, taxes paid in part by gay folks, as they legally discriminate against their own citizens.
For my own family, I remember the very expensive legal protections my wife and I put in place when we first married in 1998. Our lawyers drew up durable powers of attorney, health care proxies, wills with addendums to explain why we should receive bank accounts and real property in the event of the death of the other. In fact, we could not visit my family in Florida without making sure we had these notarized documents in case one of us fell ill in my hometown. It was questionable if the other would be allowed to visit in the event of hospitalization.
After the birth of our child, my wife and I had to adopt our own child in 2002. The Bronx Department of Probation came to our home, looked through cabinets and interrogated us. We were treated with suspicion. We had to endure intrusive, humiliating questioning before we were approved to adopt our child. My wife had given birth. She had to sign a document rescinding her parental rights and adopt the baby. We were terrified that the paper seeking to adopt, and the paper rescinding her parental rights might become separated.
I think of all the hate mail, threats of rape and death threats I have received over the years. These have exclusively come from people who claim to be Christian, who claim to love Jesus.
In the ELCA, I think of LGBTQ pastors standing up in 2007 and again in 2009, put the entirety of our lives up for public examination to change its policy toward gay pastors with families. We stood to lose everything: health insurance, housing, salary, ordination, community, everything. But we were called, with many others at that time, and as a continuation of those who had gone before us who had been defrocked, expelled and more, to risk everything for the sake of the gospel.
My little family did risk everything. We did answer the call. We were faithful. We helped change the church and the world, and I am tired, folks. It’s not only my battle.
In some ways, the 2009 Churchwide decision has become a euphemism to blame the gay community for the loss of members in the ELCA which is truly ironic since most of the people voting were straight. Ironic further because we are called to work for reconciliation and to make no peace with injustice.
And again, there was suspicion when I interviewed for a new position at a new congregation, I was asked if it would be “all gay all the time?” It certainly isn’t all gay all the time anywhere.
I think of the Rainbow kids who keep showing up whenever we serve Christ, looking for God in spite of their experiences of the bible being weaponized and Jesus used as a threat against their souls.
When I first began my ministry, I expected the church and the world to someday just love us, and I have built my career as a pastor in this faith.
Sadly, in the 24 years since my ordination, I continue to see is the promotion of fear of the neighbor, identification of the other as the enemy, reduction of gay folks to sexual acts, biblical verses used to justify hatred.
This is a snapshot of my journey. I am tired of fighting for equality. I am tired of stating Jesus loves me on to be told he doesn’t. And to be told, Jesus would love me if I would pray myself straight (I tried, it didn’t work).
I am tired of Queer kids showing up at my congregations desperate to know if Jesus loves them. These kids are part of the family of faith.
I’m just tired of this fight for the recognition that gay folks are equally made in the image and likeness of God.
However, Jesus is not tired and Jesus is not done. The Spirit dances anew in the lives of Queer kids and communities who share a glimpse of the Kingdom among us. The church prays daily, weekly, that God’s will be done and Luther helped us when he taught us that we work to be a part of that will.
Jesus is not tired. God is still with us. The Spirit is an ongoing, loving, stubborn presence. The Incarnation of the Holy in the bodies of Rainbow folks and our families and our friends and our enemies is beyond our power to stop or alter.
Jesus is not tired and he loves me. Jesus loves you, and I do too.