Arsen doesn’t go to church anymore: “come to change or don’t come at all” – said the pastor of the Evangelical Church, when Arsen confessed he is gay.
Arsen (name changed by his request) explained to the pastor that he had tried to change – “I prayed, I observed a fast” – but he realized that sexual orientation “is under God’s control, if such people didn’t choose their sexual orientation, they are not responsible for it”.
“We have nothing left to discuss” –the pastor replied and blocked Arsen on Facebook.
The rejection from church opened the doors for34 year oldArsen to unite with people like him. They meet once a month to discuss the Bible, especially parts which are used against homosexuals.
“According to Bible God is love” – explains Arsen, “when Jesus said ‘love your neighbor’ he didn’t mean love only a member of the church or the Apostolic Church member, but hate gay, it’s a humanity he is talking about, doesn’t matter who you are, what is your body color, etc.”.
Archimandrite Komitas Hovnanian in the interview to “Aravot” when speaking against gay marriage quoted the Old Testament: “if a male uses another male like a female, condemn the both to death by stoning”.
Arsen has his answers to this kind of commentaries: “the Old Testament has many prohibitions, if we start with it. We have no right to eat pork, we have no right to do tattoos, if a woman cheats on a man, she must be killed by stoning, if a child doesn’t obey parents, they can stone him to death”.
Another story from the Old Testament – for its inhabitants’ wickedness, destroyed by ‘heavenly fire’ cities Sodom and Gomorrah, this is also used by Christians against homosexuals. The LGBT activist Matthew Vines in his article “10 Reasons God Loves Gay Christians” published in “Time” writes, that Sodom and Gomorrah story is about gang rape, not romantic relations. “The Bible explicitly condemns Sodom for its arrogance, inhospitality and apathy toward the poor — not for same-sex behavior,”- says Vines.
For Arsen it’s important to be upright in front of God, not to wear a mask, and if you are gay, but go to church pretending to be heterosexual, it’s a sin for him.
Sexuality, Gender and Faith Diversity Trainer Timothy Kane, who lives in Washington, unlike Arsen doesn’t have concerns about hiding his name. In 1970, when the LGBT rights movement just began in the USA, Timothy’s parents found out that one of their 9 sons is homosexual, and they were not upset about their son being gay, but about the fact that their son won’t be happy in a homophobic world.
Timothy, 53, is from a catholic family. When he was a child, he was attending Mass with the family weekly. Now he attends Mass in special cases, with family and friends or when travelling, but he never donates money, only receives Holy Communion.
“Not giving money to the institutional Church is my personal protest to the ongoing injury inflicted on LGBT Catholics by Church doctrine and (sometimes) Church practice. By the grace of God, one day the Roman Catholic Church will understand how it has abandoned the example and teaching of Jesus Christ when it comes to mistreating LGBT Catholics,”- says Timothy -“The unique quality of religious institution, however, is that they use the power of God to enforce their rules on all of us. When they misuse that power by persecuting LGBT people (and others) in the name of God, they will have to answer to God one day for the sins they have committed.”
Timothy explains that in the USA depending on the leader, some churches focus on helping vulnerable people and on spreading social equality, and some other churches do their job on ground of homosexuality and traditional marriage. The latter, according to him, are out of today’s reality and images of social justice.
As a gay catholic man Timothy always faces “throw the baby out with the bath water” challenge.
“In other words, I do not want to reject everything about the Roman Catholic Church because I have been mistreated as a gay person. The Church continues to help the poor and to work for social justice.”
It’s not about physical violation, when Timothy says mistreatment, he is talking about psychological abuse – the messages of shame he was receiving, which he felt during his years in catholic school and when attending events in church, when he was told that God hates him, and he will go to hell if doesn’t change.
“To me, shame is different from guilt because guilt is feeling badly about what I do, whereas shame is feeling badly about who I am. In my mind, causing anyone to feel shame is one of the most grievous acts any person or institution can do…and ultimately, shame is used against people in order to exert power and control over them»:
Now when Timothy remembers the psychological abuse of church towards him, he quotes The Gospel of Matthew (chapter 18, verse 6): “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
“When I read this verse, I think of myself as the little one who believed…and then who stumbled…because of the shame I felt as a gay person due to the institutional Roman Catholic Church,” – Timothy explains that this temptation was the reason to leave catholic church for him and other LGBT persons, but the love of family and friends helped him be happy with his catholic identity.
According to the stance of the Armenian Apostolic Church, homosexuals can’t be Christians,especially according to the Mother See’s Information System director, priest VahanMelikyan, who said in an interview to “Panorama”: “the one who call himself homosexual, cannot be Christian”. But Timothy thinks that sexuality and spirituality are closely linked to one another, these are two sides of the same coin.
“It may be because those of us who are LGBT have experienced a deep sense of otherness due to homophobia and transphobia that we seek a connection with a God who welcomes all people,”-says Timothy and mentions – “God created our bodies and our sexual desires. Who am I to consider God’s creation imperfect?”
Timothy’s partner is also a catholic. It’s been 10 years they are together, but haven’t decided yet to get married, but if they have wedding it will be the“BIGGEST party ever.”
Arsen also is not in a hurry regarding marriage issues. He thinks that the Church’s leader should receive the revelation from the Creator tostart blessing same-sex couples.
Translated by Piruza Manukyan