Pioneer Staff Writer, Miranda Foster
It is a beautiful thing to see how understanding people can be.
It’s not uncommon to see communities join together to celebrate the homosexuals, bisexuals, queer, and transgender people. Today, most gender groups are celebrated without hesitation due to the acceptance of a younger generation.
For people like Adam Walker, coming out to family and friends was one of the hardest things he ever had to do. For safety purposes, Walker asked for his true identity to be protected due to any backlash he might receive for participating in this article.
“The first person I came out to was my friend, Shauna, at church camp in 2013. I came out to my mom in 2016,” Walker said.
He was testing the waters upon telling his friend about his sexual identity. When his friend, Shauna, reacted with nothing but love for him, he decided to come out to his youth pastor.
“He [youth pastor] told me I was going to hell. That’s the church that I found the Lord with, so after that interaction it put a bitter taste in my mouth regarding church,” Walker said.
Sometimes homosexual people are turned away at the door when it comes to attending a church. People may tell them they are condemned to hell due to their sexuality; that they live in constant sin and they are okay living outside of God’s law.
Some churches are receptive to homosexuality, but some are not.
According to a study done through Pew Research Center, 36 percent of Oklahomans believe the Scripture is the word of God and should be taken literally in every aspect.
Another 29 percent of Oklahomans believe while the Scripture is the word of God, not everything you read in the Bible should be taken to heart. Statewide, 53 percent of Oklahomans believe homosexuality should be accepted, while only 40 percent discourage it. However, while more people accept homosexuality, 49 percent of Oklahomans are in opposition of same sex-marriage, while only 44 percent of Oklahomans approve.
According to the Religious Landscape Study, 57 percent of Mormon churches believe the act of homosexuality should be discouraged, while 55 percent of Evangelical Protestant churches believe homosexuality within the church should be discouraged. Based on religion as a whole, 58 percent of those surveyed believe homosexuality being permitted within church walls should be discouraged.
Some Christians will argue against the fact that one cannot consider themselves both Christian and homosexual. The two seem to contradict themselves and raise questions for many believers. How can the Bible say that homosexuality is wrong, yet some believe it’s okay to be homosexual? Is there a clear cut answer to the controversy regarding same-sex relationships when it comes to religion?
“I haven’t really been back involved in church, because I was the youth leader for the band in my youth group, and [I] led the worship every Wednesday for youth, and then after that, I just kind of pulled myself away from the church,” Walker said. “Because I read the Bible myself and found out what I found the Bible to say about homosexuality, and it wasn’t what that church believed in.”
It is not uncommon for gay church members to keep their sexuality to themselves in order to avoid conflict. Often times they suppress it and continue to act heterosexual, or they might confess it to someone outside of the church. Pew Research reported that 29 percent of the LGBTQ+ community say they were made to feel unwelcome within a place of worship when they were open and honest about their sexual identity.
“I feel like if I’m around my friends and their friends ask me [if he is gay] I feel comfortable with answering them because I know if I’m friends with this person, their friends are probably open-minded as well,” Walker said. “I’ll be more inclined to have a conversation about it with them because I know they’re going to be open-minded.”
Even now, Walker evaluates his surroundings before determining how open he is about his sexuality.
“If I know that the demographic that I’m around is probably small town rednecks, I’ll probably not be open to talk about it. I’ll say yes and leave it at that. And then probably remove myself from the conversation,” he said.
Walker said he has known he was gay sense he was about five years old. “Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason I guess, because when I was younger, I was very into Disney princesses, and I used to wrap blankets around myself and act like it was a dress, and I had posters of Jesse McCartney on my wall. I credit Jesse McCartney being my sexual awakening,” he said. “At the time, I had no clue why I was infatuated with those type of things, but as I got older, and realized who I was, it all made sense. It was puzzle pieces that were slowly coming together.”
With his family heavily involved in church, at a young age Walker was taught that it was a sin to be gay. “It was hard keeping it from everybody, because I didn’t really come out to my mom until I had solidified who I was in my faith,” he said.
Pastors often preach that temptations are real and can happen to anyone. For many gays the questions are profound: Why is being gay any different than other sins mentioned in the Bible? Why do we as people feel we have the right to condemn someone for their sexual preferences? Is that not God’s place to judge and not our own?
“Because I am a big Christian, I had to really build up my spiritual armor and be able to be educated about what the Bible says about homosexuality to be able to be a Christian and a homosexual, because a lot of people will say that’s an oxymoron, you can’t be a Christian and be a homosexual,” Walker said. “I had to gain the knowledge I needed in order to feel even more confident and set in my sexuality.”
Walker said he dissected the Bible faithfully, digging up any Scripture regarding his sexuality. When it came to verses in the Old Testament, he voiced what many people do: the concept that the Old Testament was void once Jesus came to earth. Stories like Sodom and Gomorrah fell flat, simply because Walker believed that when Jesus came to Earth, the Old Testament merely became stories rather than law.
“What I believe is that everything in the Old Testament is rather a book of stories rather than law, because when Jesus came, he turned a new lease in Christianity. So that old law is no longer in effect,” Walker said. “One of the books everybody likes to use is Corinthians. That’s what a lot of people like to refer me to, is that “A man can’t lay with another man.”
Walker also pointed to other verses in the Bible which state you can’t eat pork, and you can’t wear mixed fibers.
“Regardless, Sodom and Gomorrah isn’t even in effect anymore,” he said.
Some Christians take from the Bible only what they want to, and some people take it more literally than others. People such as Walker make sure to dissect each individual word rather than looking at biblical passages as a whole.
“In the New Testament, I literally think that there’s only three verses in the New Testament that even say the word ‘homosexual.’ It might even be six. And I know that four out of six of the verses in the New Testament use the word homosexual because there were no words for male prostitutes,” Walker said. “So, four of the instances you can take out the word ‘homosexual’ and replace it with male prostitute because that’s what they were referring to in those instances.”
Walker said he has a very different perspective of scripture and stories with it, which differ from other Christians.
“And then Sodom and Gomorrah, that’s when things do get tough. That’s one that a lot of people like to use. I believe that if you look at the wording of the verses, I don’t think that the verse was condemning homosexuals, but rather condemning the idolatry that was taking place. Because there were men worshiping other men and women worshiping women,” he said.
Everybody was worshiping something other than God, placing false gods before God himself,” Walker said. “I think that that is what the verse is condemning rather than men lying with men and vice versa.”
Yet, when people question his lifestyle, Walker said it only makes his belief stronger because he is secure in himself. “It makes me clutch my Bible tighter and makes me that much stronger in my faith,” he said.
Even though Walker previously strayed from attending church, he and his fiance go to Victory Family Church in Norman, because they believe the church is very open-minded. Walker said he feels accepted.
“They love me and want to be around me,” he said.
Yet, Walker still feels tension from some at the church, mostly the older generations.
“In the back of their minds, they probably still firmly believe it’s a sin and that I’m more than likely going to hell. I mean, there’s people that are tolerant of me and love me, but they still think that my lifestyle is a sin. I’ve met few people, even young people, that truly think that it’s not a big deal, that my lifestyle is ‘nothing’ in God’s eyes,” he said.
The 2012 Durso Gates LGBTQ+ Homeless Youth Survey confirmed that 46 percent of the LGBTQ+ community ran away from home because of family rejection of their sexual orientation or gender identity. About 43 percent were forcibly removed from their home by their parents due to their sexual orientation or gender identity and 32 percent were homeless because of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse going on within their homes, leaving them feeling more safe on the streets then within their own home.
Walker counts himself blessed because he is not one of those who was shunned from his own home but his path to find his confidence in being both Christian and homosexual hasn’t been an easy one.
“I wanted to be able to fight for my right to love who I want to love, and to be able to be who I want to be. That way if someone challenges me about being a Christian and being gay, I can say “Yes, I can be Christian and gay, and here’s why,” he said. “I wanted to have that solidified in my mind before I would be able to tell people I’m gay, because then I would be able to have rebuttals and defend myself. I wanted to absolutely make sure I was properly educated biblically on my sexuality, that way when questions were thrown at me, I’d be well-equipped to reply.”
Walker’s journey may not have been smooth, but it has been rewarding.
“After I had done all my research and had really come to the conclusion after praying and talking with God, I was able to decide that who I am as a person was who God meant for me to be,” he said.