We like to imagine that our lives are made up of choices and that our freedom as individuals is bound up in the degree to which those choices are authentically chosen and un-coerced.
This morning I chose to wake up at 8am. That choice was, admittedly, conditioned by the fact that my daughter needed to use the bathroom and so it was, in a sense, a choice to value her needs (and my desire not to have to clean up her accident) over a competing desire to sleep for fifteen more minutes.
Nevertheless I, at least to some degree, experienced the privilege of choice this morning.
I use the term privilege quite intentionally because many – perhaps most – of the choices we make on a daily basis are a matter of privilege. It’s a privilege that we get to choose what to eat, what to wear, who to hang out with, who to marry, what to do for fun, what to do for work, and countless other choices we make throughout our lives.
And if any of you, in reading my small list of examples above, protested that you in fact did not or do not get to choose with regards to one of those categories, then you merely serve to demonstrate the reality of my claim that choice is a privilege.
Just over 6 months ago I chose to leave a job I enjoyed very much, which I was good at, and a job wherein I worked with people whose friendship I much appreciated.
Or at least it appeared that I made that choice.
In fact that choice was determined, in large part, by a prior choice I had made, one to affirm the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the life of the church and faith.
To be clear, this isn’t the post where I explain how I came to that choice and why. That (series of) post(s) is coming later this week.
Nor is this a post decrying my former employer. I made the choice to leave, and though it’s a choice I suspect would have been made for me eventually, I own the motivations for and consequences of the choice that was made.
Rather this is a post about privilege.
You see, I didn’t need to make the choice I made.
I don’t identify as LGBTQ.
I’m a white, straight, cisgender, male. Statistically speaking, I am part of what is likely the most privileged people group in the history of humanity.
I could have, quite comfortably in fact, maintained my pastoral position at a broadly conservative church that welcomes but does not affirm LGBTQ persons.
I could have even done so while privately maintaining my affirmation of the LGBTQ community. I could have even worked, behind the scenes, to advocate for LGBTQ persons, perhaps even with some hope changing hearts and minds within the congregation where I worked and served.
This would have offered my family a great deal of stability, something we have sorely lacked for the better part of a year.
Instead I find myself unemployed. And while not unemployable, my public LGBTQ affirmation has significantly stifled my pool of viable ministry employers. In most contexts I no longer have the choice, the privilege, of doing the one thing in life I’ve ever felt truly called to do: be a pastor.
I don’t say all this to play the victim or the martyr.
Yes this process has been frustrating. It’s been lonely. There are people quite dear to me who I don’t talk to anymore, who I don’t see anymore. It hurts to have people you love think you’ve lost your way.
And I’ve had it better than most. The pushback I have received (so far) has been relatively benign. I’ve heard about and witness much worse. Our family has been richly blessed by many through this season.
But it still hurts.
In fact, more than once, in moments of heightened anxiety, I’ve contemplated undoing my choice, renouncing my position, and going back to the way things were before.
Of course it would never be exactly the same. But maybe it would be better than this. Maybe I could at least do what I love to do again.
And therein lies the point. I have a choice.
I do not identify as LGBTQ. Therefore I am afforded privileges in our culture that the LGBTQ community is not.
And despite my public affirmation of them, I could renounce that affirmation at any time, make whatever penance was deemed necessary, and things would go back to “normal”.
I have the power to step into this position and I have the power to step back out of it again. After all, I’m still very good at what I used to do.
But LGBTQ people don’t have that choice (despite the poorly informed assumptions of many).
They can’t opt out of their LGBTQ identity for the sake of convenience. Sure they might be able to hide it, many do.
They might bracket it off, deny themselves something that the rest of us wouldn’t dream of forsaking, all for the promise of inclusion. And even then, the suspicious stares, hushed gossip, and misinformed accusations would remain.
It’s a raw deal but one many an LGBTQ person will make for the sake of their faith.
But it’s not a choice, not a real one, not like the one I can make.
And no, I didn’t choose to be white, straight, cisgender or male. But I can choose to acknowledge the privilege those innate qualities afford me. I can acknowledge those things and choose solidarity with those who don’t share my privilege.
I can make this choice. Both my wife and I have made this choice.
And when things are tough, I can remember that the choice I’ve made is inspired by and grounded in a prior choice, one that was made for me, a choice to not consider equality with God something to be grasped, a choice to embrace humiliation, even to the point of death, a choice for the sake of those who had no choice.
A choice to be with us and for us.
This next series of posts will unpack how I came to this choice. I’ll spend some time looking at the relevant biblical material, talking about the usual clobber passages that conservatives use to exclude LGBTQ persons, and offering details about what changed my mind and why.
But a good portion of this space in the coming days and weeks will be devoted to the voices of others. Some of them will be people like me who had a choice and in that privilege chose solidarity.
But many of those voices will be LGBTQ Christians whose testimony has humbled, challenged, and encouraged me in my own walk with Christ. The Church is better for their testimony. And I lament that so many are deaf to it.
But let me say here, before I say anything more, that the choice I’ve made the affirm and include this community is not a choice that was made lightly or for the sake of convenience.
Nothing about this choice has been convenient.
It’s not a choice to bend to the whims and pressures of secular culture.
Nor is it a choice to pick and choose from the Bible, compromise my witness, or any of the other offensively silly accusations that people throw at affirming Christians and LGBTQ Christians alike.
Anyone who says otherwise either hasn’t been listening or, worse, refuses to do so.
Anyone who says otherwise needs to examine the degree to which his/her own theological commitments are bound to certain cultural norms and expectations.
And anyone who says otherwise needs to count the cost of their own witness. What has taking up your cross and identifying with the marginalized cost you?
It cost me my calling. And even though I can, I wouldn’t choose to change a thing.