Coffee and Existential Dread

I’m walking through the streets of Berlin on a cold spring day.

“Turn right. Now left. Keep going. Now right again.”

The voice is anything but a voice. It’s a feeling… something in my head… my heart… God.

For months I have been engaging with the Holy on this personal level, inviting Him into everything, especially a spring Saturday morning where I’m looking for a cute coffee shop to read and journal like every other basic Christian white girl. “I just love coffee and the Word.”

As crazy as it sounds, He had done it before. A few months back I was led to this coffee shop that was built into the walls of a sunken garden. The moment was so precious. A fountain. Roses. A tasty cup of coffee. All in a hidden location. The moment smelt of mystery and destiny.

Now, I was off again, trying to trust that “still small voice,” but this time, I was lost.

All around stood huge brutalist buildings, none of which had a cafe for me to shelter from the cold. Block after block, complex after complex, and nothing.

My heart began to sink and anxiety filled my chest.

Then, the haunting thought crept up from the depths of my subconscious:

“Maybe this voice is just myself. Maybe I’m making this whole thing up.”

And just like a knot in a beautifully woven sweater, in the smallest most insignificant moment, my faith began to unravel.

Surely if one lost latte was enough to make my faith crumble, we can safely assume it probably wasn’t a faith worth saving, but this wasn’t that simple.

Years of build up had come bursting forth because of one final, gentle exhale.

Pastors passionately rebuking me for sin, all while having an affair.

Leadership refusing to disciple me but happy to leverage my talents for their egos.

Missionaries boldly screaming at me to have more faith and lie about what’s in the Bible.

Starving children attending the church of a fat pastor.

An Indian women weeping in her wheelchair as I prayed for a new leg she had lost, whimpering through breaths, “Why won’t God give me my leg back?”

The latte was too much.

Maybe this was all one big manipulative scheme that had existed for thousands of years to make people obey the whims of leaders. Maybe I’ve been wrong about my faith. Maybe this was all a lie.

And it all came crashing down.

It’s been nearly eight years since that moment, and not a day goes by that I wrestle with trusting God.

The same questions that awoke over a cup of coffee continue to haunt me:

Is He there? Does He exist? Can He be trusted? Or am I utterly alone?

And, to be honest, I don’t know. At times I have felt sweet relief, a fresh warm wind that curls around my hair, caressing me with hope. Other times, I’m lost in the depths of my despondence, screaming into a cave with not even a reverberating echo, a sound-proofed studio, my please absorb into the foam of existential uncertainty.

And if He’s not there, I need to take care of myself. If He won’t look out for me, I need to remain vigilant.

I need to struggle, alone. I need to fight, by myself.

And this shows up everywhere.

I take personal inventory and find a job that will be stable and pay my bills rather than dreaming and risking. I get on dating and hookup apps in an attempt to find a partner or not feel alone for a few minutes because not having a God is only made more painful by not having a partner to walk this earth with.

I feel so alone in any attempt at walking through this life.

I miss the days of dreams. I miss the days of trust. But how does one put the sand back in a broken hourglass? And just like that hourglass, I feel like my time is running out. 20-somethings are allowed the luxury of existential dread. A 30-year-old is not. I’ve got to get my shit together, find a career I’m passionate about, know what I believe, and have a partner to journey this life together with like yesterday.

The anxiety of it all is exhausting. I miss that “still small voice.” I miss His leading. I’m tempted to trust one more time, to risk one more time. But what if there’s no coffee at the end of this spring day? Can my heart take another disappointment? Because hope deferred is more painful than hopelessness, and I’m caught in the tension.

How Can I be Gay and Christian — A Look into My Methodology

In recent news, there’s been a convergence of two major groups: Christians and the LGBTQ+ population, two groups that are normally at odds with one another. These animosities are beginning to reach a boiling point as more and more entities are choosing to create space for both identities, challenging the conception that they are incongruent.

An openly gay Christian man is hoping to become the Democratic party’s presidential candidate for 2020; a gay Christian dating app is hitting the market this year; and some Methodist churches are fighting against a recent vote within their denomination, a vote which labels homosexuality as a sin.

As I share these stories, I know there are individuals and communities alike who are angry. The reason I know this is because I’ve experienced it. As I came out as a gay Christian, friends threatened hell, parents left the room, and strangers blasted me about how I’m not actually a Christian. Even with the launch of this post, comments have soared on social media with people arguing vehemently their point and how they’re right.

When Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay Christian man, announced his intention to run for president, crowds screamed “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and major Christian figures like Franklin Graham demanded his repentance. Side note: why hasn’t Graham demanded repentance from other presidential candidates for fraud, embezzlement, infidelity, lying, or pride? I digress.

It’s as if the words “queer” and “Christian” are combustible, but instead of a chemical reaction, there’s an explosion of emotion and opinion.

But why? Why the knee-jerk anger, especially from a people whom Jesus said are supposed to be known by their love? Why is it that I’ve seen multiple YouTube videos of Christian parents throwing out their gay children, while I’ve never seen a Christian parent throw a coming out party for their child? Why is it that, according to San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project, highly religious homes are far more likely to kick their kid out for being gay than non-religious parents?

One reason: the Bible, more specifically, how Christians relate to the Bible.

I was defined by being an Evangelical Christian. That identity permeated every moment of my life. At a very young age, I remember coloring in the pews as my dad played the drums and my mom led the Children’s Ministry.  As I grew up, I started volunteering with children and youth at a very early age. I was at church at least three times a week. But I was just getting warmed up. Following my high school graduation, I attended a Christian leadership academy, became a youth pastor, served as a missionary in Europe, and led worship at multiple churches. All of my immediate friends and family were and are Christian. But when those closest to me were confronted with my existence as a gay, Christian man, the majority felt torn, torn between obeying a book or loving me.

“Brandon, I’m trying to love you and your brother,” my mother said through tears, months after my younger brother came out, “but I’m caught between obeying the Bible or loving my son. It’s so hard!”

Without this book, my mom would have no problem loving her sons. Without this book, my friends would not be apprehensive about standing with me on my wedding day. Without this book, people wouldn’t feel pulled in two directions, unable to decide, and scared to form an opinion.

What does this mean? Is the Bible a bunch of garbage written by European men to manipulate and control the populace? Some would argue this opinion. But that is not what I am arguing.

As I said above, I’m a gay Christian man, and many would challenge my existence, claiming those two identities cannot cohabitate one body. But my argument is that they can. My argument is that Christians have been relating to the Bible poorly and that there is a relationship we can have to scripture that allows mothers to love their kids and sanctions peers to stand by their gay friend’s side as they declare their vows. And just as many of my opponents would start with scripture, asking me, “But what about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about the two verses in Leviticus? What about Romans one?” (As if they are the first person to introduce me to these scriptures, which I’ve been aware of for the majority of my life because they directly affect me.) That’s where I would like to start — scripture.

There are six verses in the Bible concerning homosexuality. Six. For comparison, according to Blue Letter Bible, there are 16 passages on divorce, 62 verses about pride, and 111 verses concerning money.

For those of us who are gay and Christian, we call these six passages, the “clobber” passages because most Christians use these verses to clobber us. Regarding these verses, many publications and organizations, such as The Reformation Project, QCF, Unclobbered, God and the Gay Christian, Torn, Bible Gender Sexuality, Changing Our Minds (to list a few), all talk about how these verses are contextual and are actually not talking about homosexuality how we think of it today. They are either talking about idol worship that included using boys for prostitution, pedophilia, or a lack of hospitality to the foreigner. They were not talking about loving, committed gay relationships.

But people would argue, “You can’t read into this. You have to take the Bible for face value. It says what it says.” If that is the case, women should be silent in church (I Corinthians 14:34). If that is the case, we should not allow divorce on any grounds but infidelity (Matthew 19:9). If that is the case, we shouldn’t have tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), we shouldn’t eat meat with blood in it (Acts 15:20), we should yield to corrupt government (Romans 13:1-7), and we should cut off body parts when they cause us to sin (Matthew 5:29).

My list could continue for far more than a paragraph, but I think you get it. What’s my point? My point is that we contextualize all the time.

How is it fair to contextualize certain parts of the Bible and then not others? We have to look at what was applicable for ancient Israel or the early church and translate it for those of us who live in a modern world. Scripture cannot stay locked in a cultural vacuum, and I’m not just saying this because it benefits me. I’m saying it because it’s exactly what the early church did in Acts.

In Acts 15, there’s massive dissension concerning Gentiles (non-Jews) who are being baptized. Many are saying that they should be circumcised and follow the Jewish law in its entirety, a list of over 600 commandments, including two of our “clobber” verses about homosexuality.

In the end, it is determined by the 12 apostles that the Gentiles shouldn’t be forced to obey the law. They scrap it altogether. Instead, they gave them four rules: don’t eat meat offered to idols, don’t consume blood, abstain from sexual immorality, and don’t eat meat that was strangled.

In one meeting, the whole law is ruled inappropriate to a different culture and new instructions are given to non-Jews. Why? Who gave the apostles the right to change the rules?

Jesus.

“Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,” Matthew 16:19.

So where’s the law? Should we just scrap all forms of morality under the grace of Jesus Christ?

No. Instead, Jesus gave us a new law. Well, two, actually.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” John 13:34.

Not some of the law. All of it.

The apostles gave instructions that would help the Gentile believers serve God, to help them obey the first law. They did this from a place of love, obeying the second law. They were obeying the teachings of Christ.

In spite of the six verses in the Bible about homosexuality, Jesus doesn’t mention homosexuality once during his time on Earth. Instead, he talks about love — about loving your God, about loving your neighbor, and about people knowing you’re one of his disciples because of your love.

Can we say that this is true? Do people call Christians “the most loving people”? Are we known by this today? No, instead we’re known as judgmental and ignorant and hypocritical, picketing queer political candidates and abortion clinics.

Is this love? Or have we done what early enemies of the church did — reimplementing the law out of fear?

As a gay Christian, I know I can exist and hold to my faith because, one, there are contexts to the verses we use to batter LGBTQ+ people that need to be considered, and two, Jesus’s commandment to me was not to be straight. His commandment to me was to love my God and to love people, that’s exactly what I intend to do.