Column: Faith -- It's Not Just for Straight People Anymore

What Pope Francis can teach us about being a believer.

ByLz Granderson
September 24, 2015, 1:41 PM
PHOTO: Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 24, 2015.
Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 24, 2015.
AP Photo

— -- I am not a big holder of things.

I like things but am not emotionally invested in keeping them. I prefer to save that energy for memories, experiences and people.

But there is an item, a thing if you will, that I do treasure and would be hurt if I should ever lose it. It's a key chain given to me by a young man as a going-away present. I was the youth director at our church and though I loved the job the birth of my son made it increasingly difficult for me to stay. Diapers, like most everything else, are expensive. So I announced I was leaving to find a better paying job and on my last day the young man gave me the key chain that reads: "The Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9."

I've gone a lot of places since that day nearly 20 years ago. This week, I found myself on the South Lawn of the White House to join the thousands in welcoming Pope Francis to the United States. I'm not Catholic -- despite the best efforts of those around me in the stands that morning -- but I am a believer. To some this admission makes me naive, to others a kindred spirit, and for those who do not think you can be openly gay and a Christian, I am lost.

The latter was true once ... but now I'm found.

I'll explain. One of the most difficult aspects for an LGBT person coming out of the closet is feeling the need to leave the church and their faith behind. One of the most liberating moments is the day they realize they don't have to. That God is too big for small minds. That the Lord our God is with us wherever we go. So yeah, when I turned my back on God I was lost.

When I learned he never turned his back on me, I was found. And it seems as if I am not alone. According to a Pew study in 2013, 42 percent of LGBT Americans identified as Christian, and today it's up to 48 percent (of that number 17 percent are Catholic in case his Holiness was wondering).

That increase coincides with the election of the people's pope, who hasn't changed the church's doctrine but has changed its tone. Not saying one caused the other but it's worth noting that in his historic 3,404-word address to a joint session of Congress, the pope used most of them talking about the poor and none condemning gays.

So to those people of faith who have a problem with LGBT Americans I say the same Constitution that protects your freedom of religious expression protects the religious expression of everyone else. You don't believe in same-sex marriage? Cool -- don't marry someone of the same sex, problem solved 'Murica style. If you want a theocracy, you'd have to live elsewhere.

For far too long social progressives have allowed social conservatives to be exclusive holder of concepts such as patriotism, family and particularly faith. In some political circles the very mention of the word "family" was treated as code for "not gay" as if LGBT people didn't come from or have families. The same can be said for the way "faith" is used by people such as Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson, men who parade around as if they are the answer to Pope Francis' question: who am I to judge?

I sat for hours on the South Lawn this week, waiting for the Pope's Fiat, sharing tales of my faith and family with those around me. When I first came out of the closet in the 1990s, I thought I had to choose between the two. Today, I see how critical it is that LGBT people of faith do not.

We are not locust.

We are not interlopers.

And we are more than charismatic choir directors. We are part of the body of Christ and whether you like it or not wherever we go, the Lord our God is with us as well. If you have a problem with that, take it up with him.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.

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