I was invited by my friend who is a pastor to speak at a service about healing for people who’ve been hurt my church folk. I didn’t get to record it and a few of my friends wanted to see, so here’s the txt.
I’m Carrie Williamson. I’m a very recent, very broke college graduate. I was born and raised by a single mother in Lexington Kentucky. Both my paternal and maternal grandfathers are preachers. I have been an every Sunday churchgoer since I was 8 days old.
Now, you have to understand the black church to understand my story. The black church was the first place that Africans in America could call their own. It was the one place where people who were low on the social hierarchy could dress up and maybe even have a title. Imagine cleaning up after white people every week then dressing up and being called Deacon or an Usher on Sunday.
Because of black people’s past and current plight in America there is room for lots of insecurity. Human nature makes us want to make others feel inferior so we can feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately in the black church our queer brothers and sisters often are a target. I use the word queer to identify myself and encompass all LGBT people.
I love the church I was raised in. I love the culture of the black church. When you’re raised in a black church, you’re told how to dress, who to marry, where to go, what music to listen to, who to hangout with… etc.. being open and honest about who I am is new… I’m humbled by this opportunity to share and a bit nervous even now.
I saw the flaws in the black church early. As a child and a teen I sat under a pastor (who was my grandfather) that told the women in the church if they couldn’t cook, why would anyone want to marry them? He also used the bible to promote homophobia and even blame victims of sexual abuse by Catholic Priests.
It’s crazy to me how the very place you go to for solace and healing is the place that can hurt you the most. My feelings have been hurt the most at church.
When I was 14, I told my youth director at the time that I had feelings for women. I told her before I told my own mother because I thought she was someone I could trust.
She outed me.
I’m still unsure when or how it happened but within a week of my “confession” all other youth and some members in the church knew. As I result I was forced to tell my mother because I didn’t want her to find out from anyone but me. My mother is pretty laid back and did not freak out but she made it clear she believes homosexuality is a sin and just the other day told me to ask God to take away my desires for women. I laughed.
The youth director that outed me has since moved out of the area and I haven’t confronted her about it. I’m not sure that I will. I’m not really mad at her, as a Christian, forgiveness is something I’m supposed to always be ready to do.
Believe me, if you are going to go to church with black folk, you have to learn to forgive.
My church in Lexington is a very traditional southern Baptist church, especially in the way we dress. Growing up, we had to wear skirts and for the most part, I could deal. As I’ve become an adult, gender expression for me has been fluid. Some days I’m a boy, some days I’m a girl, but I don’t believe anyone should be forced to dress a certain way; especially if it makes them uncomfortable.
When I was around 17, it was very cold one Sunday in February. So with the support of my mother, I wore pants. I could hear the gasps as I walked into the sanctuary. I was a teenager and a bit unprepared for all of the backlash. That Sunday was definitely one of the times my feelings have been hurt in church.
But I learned a lesson that day, to always be true to myself regardless of social pressure, because that’s all it was. I wore slacks to church because it was cold and the world did not end. I could be cold and cater to my pastor’s personal non-biblical preference or be warm and dress for myself.
Jesus went through the same thing. Can I teach for a minute? The gospels record 7 miracles that Jesus performed on the Sabbath. The number 7 in the bible represents perfection and completeness. There are 7 colors in the rainbow, 7 notes on the musical scale.
When Jesus healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda and the man went and told the Jews that Jesus had healed him, John 5:16 says For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
To defend Himself, Jesus says in verse 17, “My father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working”
I believe we can learn a very valuable lesson from Jesus’ miraculous works on the Sabbath. He could have obeyed ancient Jewish law; church tradition or He could have healed a man that had not walked for 38 years. On the Sabbath and other days, Jesus taught, brought sight to a blind man, raised Lazurus from the dead, drove out Evil Spirits and a host of other miracles.
We have work to do. The 40210 zip code here in Louisville KY has 40 churches; A zip code with 40 churches, 3.4 square miles with 40 churches. 33.4 % of people in that zip code are below the poverty level. We have work to do. That area and surrounding areas stay on the First 48 about a homicide. We have work to do. The area has no shortage of churches or liquor stores. We have work to do.
People in our city aren’t eating and church folk are worried about people who simply want civil rights.
Back to what I was doing…
Me wearing pants because I was cold is not to be compared to Jesus performing miracles on the Sabbath, what we can also learn from these miracles is that among other things, He’s a healer.
Jesus bought sight to a man born blind but He also healed me from hurt by church folk.
I understand why people leave church. I have wanted to leave myself, and you may need to leave the particular church you attend if you are not getting what you need but what is important is your relationship with God.
I found God once I lost my religion.
Pastor asked me to talk about reconciling hurt and when I sat down to write this, I realized the process is still going on. I still attend my home church when I’m in Lexington. The pastor speaks out against homosexuality, and there is still pressure to dress a certain way; but It’s more important to me to put a face on being an open queer, Christian. The knowledge of helping a kid like me far outweighs social pressure from church folk.
We must understand that any time we stand up for something and are unapologetic about who we are, there will be resistance; that only means you’re doing something right.
I attend a great LGBT affirming church here in Louisville, Christ Hope and my sophomore year, I started and organization for LGBT students of color on UofL’s campus: BlkOut. I also make sure people who love me with Love only God can provide surround me.
But most importantly, I daily cultivate my relationship with God who provides LOVE that daily leaves me in awe. 1 Peter Chapter 4:8 says Love covers over a multitude of sins.
I am a Christian. I am Black and I am Queer.
God loves me and I love myself.